Comparison as reflective and affective practice: orientations towards the middle and everyday comparisons
Stefan Groth (University of Zurich)
Paper short abstract:
Based on a research project on orientations towards "good averages" and "happy mediums" in the spheres of work, leisure and dwelling, the paper asks for the role of comparisons and their affective and reflective dimensions.
Paper long abstract:
Occurrences of normative orientations towards an 'average' in diverse fields - such as debates on work-life balance and medium achievements in the workplace or goals to keep up with average performances in leisure sport - are increasing. Such orientations towards the middle are a form of social comparative. In contrast to competitions, they do not seek the best, but rather a medium position which is socially constructed and gains traction through its relation to relevant social categories: Instead of being defined by objective or neutral factors, they are placed in reference to situated criteria. Friends, family or colleagues serve as points of reference rather than objective scales. What is understood as the 'middle' is dynamically constructed and is contingent on personal living conditions. The 'middle' is flexible as it compares positions - in terms of income, housing situation, performance and other criteria - to the specific social context. Comparisons play a central role in this in at least two ways: (1) they include explicit reflections about subjective goals and standards of comparison and (2) they include affective dimensions influencing comparative categories and criteria. The paper aims to scrutinize the relation between both and asks for the interplay and overlaps between reflective and affective dimensions of comparison.
Comparison as social and cultural practice