Transactional horizons

Every situation is defined socially through language categories. These categories are themselves situated on horizons that frame thought. They are sort of "highways" of thought, that is to say very wide roads whose ends cannot be seen. In thought, we “circulate” every day on 5 highways at the same time (I don’t advise you to try to do it practically…), namely the motorway where we classify all what we do or see doing (the activities), the one where we put the people to whom and the things to which we are connected (relationships), the one where we estimate what we believe (values), the one where we look at ourselves (self-images), and the one where we reflect on what that we want (motivations).
 
Each of these thought highways is used countless times and intertwine all the more. If we could scale our heads globally, it would be a tangle of highways. Fortunately, they only exist in thought and not materially ... No risk of pollution either when you think about it (it is only when you stop thinking for yourself that spiritual pollution can reach us ...) . In short, in our mind there is an infinity of operations of networking, connections, associations, inductions, deductions and conclusions, and endless repetitions of these operations. All this invisible and more or less conscious activity is done thanks to these "thought highways", or "thought horizons".
 
I call them "transactional horizons" because they are the horizons through which the actors negotiate their exchanges. These horizons are mediate their transactions, hence they are "transactional horizons". They are abstract supports of transactions. In other words, we are discussing "through" these transactional horizons. They are what connects us with something greater than us. With nature, as this is our natural way of being. Cultures and structures have clothed them with innumerous variations. But the basis is the same: we use transactional horizons to adjust behaviors reciprocally. They are expressions of the Self (Mead, 1934) in specific ways, that actually intertwin: the entrepreneurial self, the relational self, the moral self, the identitary self and the motivational self. Their diverse configurations are channelled by and channeling communication, as they are the most pragmatic channels for the pooling of ideas that then are translated into words. This pooling is so strong that sometimes we just don't find the right word, or it doesn't exist, to tell what we imagine. Hence, words only reflect (often very imperfectly) our ideas about things. If we make sentences it is ultimately always to clarify what we feel.

This verbal trial-error process is a reflection of the inquiry that really starts with the five bodily senses. Inquiry (Dewey, 1938) is a recursive process whereby reflexivity works as constant inner-dialogue between the body and the mind, conceived here as two different forms of the same thing, that is a "being". The five senses (touch, smell, hearing, sight, taste) are the primary channels for the physical experience of the world and the human language, the infinity of words, are the primary channels for the psychic experience of the world. Transactional horizons are connecting these channels. They are not a "thing" per se, they do not have the same kind of physical existence that nature has (humans being a form of existence within nature). Transactional horizons do not exist as human beings and human languages can exist (words written have a physical existence; they can be seen by another being). They exist in abstracto, that is in the form of the projections that human beings are able of. This specifically human ability is the capacity to express re-presentations of reality in physical forms. Words, arts, constructions, etc. are expressions of symbolic meanings, they are embodying or incarnating the minds that have explored them and expressed new thoughts leading to new concrete realisations. 

The motor of this movement is human nature itself. The ability to represent things, usually called the symbolic language, is the fate of human beings. It's indeed a very ambiguous blessing... This little joke was just here to prove that, if you somehow laughed, it is because you know what I am talking about, without naming. Hence, it is proof of the capacity of human being to use physical words to represent abstract ideas. So, where were we?... Ah! yes... human nature is driving human to express things in abstract ways. Human being are abstracto lovers; they want to know (Homo Sapiens). For those who are really not good at latin, just consider that Sapiens means Wise. Humans are wise in the sense that they have understanding in the form of judicious rationality (exerting reasons on the basis of the principle of prudence). This makes it therefore only logical that prudence, based on the conservation instinct (Darwin), is the basis for the development of abstract strategies of ever more important complexity, as this complexification is the principle of conservation. Recent developments in natural sciences have shown that cooperation, rather than competition, is the natural principle and suggest that humans should behave more closely to this natural law (Biomimetism). It will be a long way to go... And if we can go there will mainly depend on whether we are able to curb global warming. But there might be hope that this might still be possible, as the search for mutual understanding is always there. Communication, nowadays more and more mediated by social networks, has never been so intense than in the time of the Covid pandemic. This itself is proof that, when attacked on the physical, humans compensate on the intellectual level. Not always very intelligently of course... But nevertheless this is and will always be the human trend, as its nature is to survive thanks to extraordinary intellectual capacities, which is not unlimited of course... While alive, human beings therefore are in constant exchanges with others, and this is where they come to use transactional horizons. 

You must at least be able to reach a minimum threshold of mutual understanding in order to interact. It can even be limited to gestures, looks, smiles. But if we want to exchange more precisely, we must be able to access the classifications made by others and relate to them by comparison. Communication is always based on listening (if the discourse goes only one way, it is ideology, that is to say a construction based on the links made by a specific actor, erected as unquestioned truth). Communication is therefore the opposite of dogma (which is the "poorest" one-way communication form because it is not enriched by interaction with others, and at least partial integration of others’ points of view). There is communication as soon as we are able to discuss the ways in which we can classify things, designate them, assemble them, transform them. However, to do this, it is necessary to recognize common horizons on which we can locate things. Human language is precisely the tool for human communication, that is, what fosters the translation of subjectivity into commonly shared "horizons". It is therefore the representation, and more precisely the re-presentation, of the thing felt that is made possible by human language.
 
This ability to symbolize (starting with drawing, then words and abstract concepts) is entirely characteristic of the human species. However, animals also have more or less developed symbolic capacities. I do not enter here on this far too broad question, which goes beyond my point. What I postulate, and this will be my main point here, is the fact that the sharing (communication) of things is done through five major "transactional horizons", namely activities, relationships, values, images of self and motivations. Why five? My premise is not the product of an intellectual construction, of a spiritual vision, and even less of a revelation. It is based on the most basic observation, at the sensory level: we have five senses. Touch, smell, hearing, sight and taste. I think it reasonable to envisage a continuity between the sensitory and the intelligible. Because if language is a translation of the sensitory into something intelligible, then the "transactional horizons" which are our "communication highways" are anchored in our five senses. A social transaction is therefore also a translation of the sensitory into the intelligible, and vice versa. It is in this fundamental sensory translation that all the other translations are grafted: interpersonal communication according to all its modalities, including the translation from one language to another (with precisely the additional difficulty of keeping the sense when going from one language to another). There must be a minimum agreement on "transactional horizons" for communication and translation to be possible.
 
It is because we agree to agree on the fact that this or that thing is an activity, a relationship, a value, a self-image or a motivation that we are able to discuss that thing. This does not mean that we agree on the thing in question, but at least we agree to treat it as something situated on a common horizon of thought. For example, a nail. We can find all kinds of nails, and we can nail all kinds of things together. But we will all agree that a nail is above all a tool which, associated with another tool (the hammer), allows us to hold things together. So we commonly associate it with everything we can "do" with a nail, and we say that a nail is used to "nail". So the thought horizon "activity" is solicited. We will even tend to judge others by saying that they do not "know how to plant a nail" ...
 
We do similar associative operations when we say, for example, that equality is a value, that such and such a person is in relation to such and such, that trust depends on self-image, or that such attitude betrays one’s motivation. We use these common "horizons" to exchange, negotiate, interact, transact. These are the tools of social transformation. The “transactional horizons” are therefore symbolic tools thanks to which we negotiate visions of the world. This is precisely where the Self is built. By referring to George Herbert Mead, one can see the Self as resulting from a negotiation with what I want to do (the I) and what is expected of me (the Me). This negotiation takes place across these horizons which then erect dominant modes of action: when reference is made to activities, we are in the entrepreneurial mode of action; we evaluate and negotiate our performance, the efficiency of our endeavours (first of all in the sense of actions taken). One can also negotiate the Self in relational terms; the relations I would like to have and the relationships that I actually must have. Values ​​are also negotiated; what I think is right and what is expected of me, what I think I should consider fair, is also negotiated. Identity elements are always negociated; what I feel myself to be and what others perceive of me or what I should be supposed to be in the eyes of others. And then the motivations are also strongly negotiated: what I want and what I am supposed to want.
 
The "transactional horizons" therefore preside over modes of action (entrepreneurial, relational, moral, identitary and motivational). Of course, these modes of action influence each other, and in any situation (or in any definition) there is a mode that takes over: it is the dominant mode through which a "way of seeing" is instituted which is supposed to be the most natural way there is, especially through the power relations of the actors involved. The transactional horizons are modes of structuring the social because they are modes of designation. The power to designate, the legitimacy to do, all this depends on social positions and the power relations they reflect. When we favor the designation of things by a  certain transactional horizon, then a particular social order is instituted.
 
The dominant social order today is the neoliberal order of production, performance, return on investment, growth, etc. All this is very strongly centered on the entrepreneurial mode of action and the other modes of action - the relational, moral, identitary and motivational modes of action - are subordinate to this entrepreneurial mode of action. What is currently happening with climate change and the struggles for more environment-friendly policies is a modification of this configuration where we have critical discourses on the entrepreneurial mode of action which leads us precisely to this dead-end of climate change, with demands to return to other modes of action, to give them greater importance. In particular, the relational mode of action, including the relationship with nature, how we relate to the environment, the values ​​that are linked to this (self-image as a being that is part of nature and not who exploits it as an inexhaustible resource).
 
In conclusion, “transactional horizons” can be seen as the drivers of social change. The structuring of the social can thus be clarified by paying attention to the horizons of thought, and to the corresponding modes of action, which govern social transactions. It is possible to see how claims are heard or not, by observing why they are "audible" or not: it is a question of relating the "form" given to things by the speaker to the "form" dominating the context of interaction. When the gap is too large, his "speech" is not heard. When there is no gap, his speech is "invisible", it merges with the rest. The actor's agency therefore depends on his ability to navigate between the inaudible and the invisible.
 
Daniel Stoecklin
20 November 2020