Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Hegelian Poker

So the reading group reconvened for its first proper discussion in some time, to discuss Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia. I won’t pre-empt the substantive online discussion, which L Magee will lead off when time permits. It may be worth mentioning in passing a new reading group tradition – which somehow got dubbed “Hegelian Poker” – where the members ante (or should that be “anti”?) a gold coin into the centre, but then the rules for how you actually win the pot become rather murky and unclear. One suggestion – quickly rejected – was that if you won a point, you should get a coin, while if you lost a point, you should pay up. Another was that the pot as a whole should go to the member judged, at the end of the discussion, to have presented the best critical appropriation of our common text. The rule that actually appeared to win out (although I can’t seem to remember exactly when that whole intersubjective process of mutual recognition and consensus-building part took place) was that the pot went to the member of the group who proved most incapable of keeping their hands off it for the duration of the discussion – to the point of actually using the coins to illustrate various ways of understanding Mannheim’s text. Who knew how well a stack of gold could represent social groups in all their complex interrelations? I’m still not entirely certain how a bottle cap also sneaked its way into the pot – or how, having done so, it then assumed the role of the totality, in relation to the embedded groups represented by the coins. Then again, it was a Coca-Cola bottle cap, so perhaps there was some metaphoric affinity…

Memorable lines from the session:

“So, utopia is sort of like an irregular verb:

I am utopian.

You are ideological.”


It’s like American tourists – you know, they’re supposed to be awful and loud and brash, and almost none of them are really like that. But every once in a while, you meet one, and it’s like ‘My God! They are just like that!’


So I was standing at the photocopier, and this faculty member walked over, and she started gushing about my dissertation: “I hear such great things about your work – you’re making such wonderful progress – just going great guns!” And I’m just, you know, glowing. And then she said, “So, tell me [name of someone else in the reading group]…” and I realised that she had just confused me for someone else…

I’ll leave it to all of you to discern how each of these comments should have arisen – quite organically, I might add – in the course of a discussion of Mannheim. More substantive commentary on the text with LM’s post. The in-person discussion will pick up next week with Bloor’s Knowledge and Social Imagery – which means it will be a light week’s reading for me, as I’ve already written on this book for the blog.

One response to “Hegelian Poker

  1. Pingback: » Before the Science

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: