jctv (J):HOME




Doing versus being



It has been argued, usually rather informally within the circles of development workers and by some sociologists, that if you superimpose the ethic of doing, with the precision that doing requires, on a society that is more concerned with being, that is struggling with its being, then doing becomes a means of being, is subsumed by being. In other words the doing becomes ritualised: the doing becomes more important than what is done; the movements are emptied of their primary purpose and filled with a purely symbolic one. But that is glib and wrong. It supposes that doing has its own legitimacy, a legitimacy that is independent of being. It doesn’t. Western societies are just as concerned with being as any other society. In so far as a society can have a concern. Their doing may perhaps make them forget their being. That is attractive. People in the West certainly are what they do and they do a lot so as to forget who they are, if only for a while. They are happy in the professional roles they write for themselves. That is alright. There is nothing wrong with that.

In any case, being, doing and having are all forms of using, of the body using its environment to cope, maintain and develop itself. Having claims the privilege of use and gives status. Doing uses the environment directly and socialises us, for others might well take a stand on the way someone is using their environment, especially if those others are part of it. And being is a kind of doing and having rolled up into one. To say: I am a man, is to say that I have and do what men have and do. I cannot be withouth having a body and doing things with it. The ritualization of doing having and being can be found everywhere; it just takes different forms depending on the situation. In the West happiness is found in the absorbing charm of having and doing. Is that so different elsewhere?



Contact me at: jacob@voorthuis.net

copyright © jacob voorthuis 1994-2011

All written material on this page is copyrighted.

Please cite Jacob Voorthuis as the author and Voorthuis.net as the publisher.