One of the most useful understandings we gain from Marxist and post-Marxist readings on culture is the idea of ‘cultural reproduction’. This is never discussed in any Safety text on culture (https://safetyrisk.net/culture-silence-in-safety-cultural-capital/ ).
The reproduction of culture is generated primarily through narrative, existential being, lived myth and ritual, metaphor, mimesis, Poetics and tradition. In the words of Ricoeur, these are ‘preliterary’ and formed through ‘primordial discord’. He argues that humans are ‘living metaphors’ that ‘envision’ living as a ‘praxis’ in a Poetics of the Self’. This is why in SPoR, Poetics is so important to understanding an ethic of risk and culture (https://cllr.com.au/product/poetics-flyer-module-22/ ).
All of this sounds quite academic but simply means that there is a mode of living, interpretation, culture and understanding that pre-exists text, definition and linguistic control. Even when the engineering-behaviourist worldview comes to linguistics (of which it knows zero) it thinks through the lens of control. It seeks meaning through a dictionary. It believes culture can be defined and understood linguistically, with a study of linguistics.
This is also why I have not and won’t write a book on culture. This is why culture is best understood Semiotically and Poetically. This is the way First Nations People’s understand culture.
There are other valid worldviews outside of the engineering/behaviourist worldview but, these cannot be known without tackling a Transdisciplinary approach to knowing. To learn in a Transdisciplinary way, one must suspend one’s agenda anchored to engineering/behaviourism, to ‘entertain doubt’ and ‘attend’ (Rogers) to other worldviews.
Unfortunately, many of the texts on culture in Safety are written by engineers/behaviourists who have no expertise in culture, philosophy, historiography, hermeneutics, religion or semiotics. This is why the more Safety writes on culture, the more confused it becomes.
This is because the behaviourist-engineering worldview cannot cope with either ‘’wicked problems’ (https://safetyrisk.net/culture-as-a-wicked-problem-for-safety/) or ‘radical uncertainty’ (https://safetyrisk.net/radical-uncertainty/ ). Indeed, the more Safety tries to control culture through an understanding by this worldview the more all it can recommend, is to not talk about it (Busch).
This is why the best reading for people in Safety is NOT from this worldview.
So back to Ricoeur.
If you want to try to understand Ricouer you can read here:
- A Poetics of the Self. Ricoeur’s Philosophy of the Will and Living Metaphor as Creative Praxis
Why is this relevant to Safety?
Paul Ricoeur was one of the most distinguished philosophers of the 20th Century (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ricoeur/) whose ‘philosophy of the will’ has much to say about how the safety industry creates and believes its own myths.
Of course, no text in safety on culture discusses any of this.
You will never see the work of Mircia Eliade, Mary Douglas or Joseph Campbell discussed in any Safety text on culture. This in itself says a great deal about the shallowness of how Safety tackles wicked problems.
This is how the myth of objectivity in Safety is maintained, by not knowing (https://safetyrisk.net/research-basics-for-safety/) and the cultural reproduction of myths of engineering and behaviourism (https://safetyrisk.net/you-can-fool-someone-some-of-the-time-but-you-can-fool-safety-all-of-the-time/ ). And rather than actually tackle the criticisms of another worldview, one must then criticise the source of that worldview rather than address its basic arguments or read outside of one’s own worldview.
In this way Safety myths can be reproduced and maintained (by cultural reproductive dynamics not understood) and compliance remains in place. This is all maintained under the rhetoric of having an open mind and a willingness to ‘learn and challenge one’s own thinking’.
Ricoeur discusses the ‘mytho-poetic nucleus’ of how we create ‘society’. He discusses how myth and symbol create their own world (as Safety does) and how demythologizing is essential to understanding myth. Engagement with myth/ritual transcends the mindset that thinks life (and behaviour) can be controlled, predicted and known objectively. This is why Ricoeur is so good at dismantling the myths and ideology of positivism.
The trouble for Safety is this: none of what is discussed in this blog offers any ‘fixing’ or ‘controls’. So, what Safety does is hold to its myths/symbols of linear enactment, certainty and dis-embodied brain-centric knowing. It then makes the world fit this paradigm with no answer for why people do what they do indeed, it never asks such a question (https://safetyrisk.net/researching-within-the-safety-echo-chamber/).
If you are interested in researching beyond the confines of the engineering-behaviourist worldview you can register for the following workshops in Europe or Canberra:
- In Vienna from 26-30 June (https://safetyrisk.net/workshops-with-dr-long-vienna-austria-26-30-june-2023/) and
- Canberra 18-21 September 2023 (https://spor.com.au/september-canberra-workshop/).
These workshops will help you move away from: the engineering/behaviourism/positivism approach to safety, identifying with Safety and the myth of objectivity and, discover methods that actually work to humanise risk (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/).
Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below