Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Anarcho-Symbolist theorists (1864-73)

1. Arthur Fisher Bentley


Arthur Fisher Bentley (1870-1957)

Academic, journalist, political activist, independent scholar. Worked with John Dewey on the foundations of logic and communications theory. Known in American political science as the pioneer figure in the study of group behavior, of "pressure groups" and "interest group activity."

* Bentley was convinced that the activity of human beings in groups is the fundamental datum available to describe and understand the social behavior of people. His early book, The Process of Government, was his attempt to fashion a tool for analysis of human behavior in strictly empirical, descriptive terms.

* Bentley sought to reject all reliance on ideas, ideals, concepts, and what he derisively called "mind stuff." What groups were, what they did, what they sought, were to be found in observation and description, with no anticipatory conceptual framework or limiting paradigm to bias the observation and so distort the description. "Bentleyan" came to mean descriptive of activity, free of "mind stuff" but with purposes and goals contained in the activity and stated in the description. "The Augean stables of classical and post-Machiavellian political theory were to be cleaned of their noetic dross and concern with 'human nature,'" writes Leo Weinstein in his entry on Bentley in The Routledge Dictionary of Twentieth Century Political Thinkers. "Thereafter, group activity in all its overlapping and intersecting phases would allow an anoetic description, free of mind stuff — the complete and true science of humans."


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