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Negotiating Pasts in the Nordic Countries
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A contribution to the popular international and interdisciplinary field of collective memory within a Scandinavian context, this reference presents a number of case studiesfrom the Middle Age to the present timethat discuss how people look to the past for identity and meaning. Acknowledging that many pasts existsometimes harmoniously and other times in conflictthis resource attempts to negotiate the past by analyzing the tensions that occur when individuals with different interests, understandings, and points of view study history and by exploring the inherent desire to develop a consensus between the past and the present. Examining subject areas such as social and cultural history, literature, cultural studies, archeology, mythology, and anthropology, this study expresses how crucial it is to understand the processes of dealing with the past when trying to chart how and why societies and communities change and evolve.

Published: Nordic Academic Press an imprint of Independent Publishers Group on
ISBN: 9789187121180
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Negotiating Negotiations

Theorising a concept–conceptualising theory

Helge Jordheim

At any given point in the history of the humanities there are a number of key words or concepts that keep appearing and reappearing across the entire range of texts and arguments in a way that might serve to identify the historical and theoretical character of a particular period. These are the kind of words which help us determine, demarcate and characterise such historical entities as a ‘paradigm’ or a ‘discourse’ within our own disciplines. Any avid reader will have noticed that a few lines or even a few words in an article or a book can be enough to pinpoint with an astonishing degree of accuracy the time and place of publication of a text, thanks to the concepts in use. Examples of such key concepts from recent decades could be ‘rationality’, ‘structure’, ‘system’, ‘function’, ‘dialogue’, ‘identity’ or ‘global’, only to mention a few, in addition to the prefixes ‘post-’, ‘inter-’ and ‘cross-’. The function of these mostly rather open and ambiguous concepts is to summarise and articulate the theoretical aspirations and ambitions at work in a particular scholarly discourse at a particular time. In exploring their structural relations, semantic layers and rhetorical uses we might be able to identify some of the theoretical presuppositions fundamental to this discourse. To embark on this kind of conceptual analysis, however, also means to undertake a theoretical work in its own right: conceptualising theory –theorising a concept.

In this essay I will attempt to identify some central structural, semantic and pragmatic features of such a key concept, in order to flesh out the theoretical presuppositions and methodological procedures which make up the framework for this book. The key concept dp n=14 folio=14 ?in question, which indeed has been a recurring feature across the spectrum of the humanities since the 1990s, is the one evoked in the title of this book: ‘negotiating’. Upon a closer look, however, we are not dealing with one single word or concept, at least not linguistically speaking, but with a whole number of related words, all deriving from the verb ‘to negotiate’. The most widely used of these linguistic forms is the noun ‘negotiations’, in the plural, and the gerund ‘negotiating’, both characterised by suppressing the syntactic subject and thus leaving the question ‘who negotiates?’ unanswered. This structural and grammatical particularity is going to be a recurring topic in this book. But first I am going to discuss what it means to approach theory and method in the humanities in this way, by focusing on a particular concept and starting our discussions from there.

Conceptual history, conceptual theory

According to the German historian Reinhart Koselleck, who was instrumental in founding the post-war discipline of Begriffsgeschichte in Germany, a ‘key concept’–what he calls a Grundbegriff–is characterised by always remaining ambiguous and multi-faceted: ‘A word,’ Koselleck writes, ‘becomes a concept when the full richness of a social and political context of meaning (die Fülle eines politischsozialen Bedeutungszusammenhanges), in which–and for which–the word is used, is taken up in the word’.¹ The concept, he explains, ‘assembles the plurality of historical experiences as well as a series of theoretical and historical issues in one whole, which is only given in the concept itself and can only be experienced there’.² Even though Koselleck writes about what he terms ‘social and political language,’ not scholarly language in particular, his insights seem to be just as relevant for key concepts in the humanities. On the one hand, it would be naïve to believe that scholarly concepts exist independently of their social and political contexts; on the other hand, words like ‘negotiations’ and ‘negotiating’ find their primary source of meaning, the ‘full richness’ of it, not within the scholarly tradition itself, but in the world of politics and economy.

Hence, we are working with a set of concepts, or perhaps rather a dp n=15 folio=15 ?conceptual or semantic field, characterised not so much by its sharp demarcations and intersubjectively accepted definitions, but rather by a richness of meaning and experience at work within the concepts themselves. This plurality of meaning and experience should not be seen as a weakness or even a problem, in the sense of something that needs to be tamed and controlled, in favour of more precise and sharp definitions, but rather as a productive source of ideas, approaches and insights. I am going to use this introductory essay to review and discuss some of the levels of meaning and experience at work in these concepts, as a way of laying out some of the perspectives to be employed.

On a very general level I would argue that the main point of thinking about objects in the field of the humanities in terms of ‘negotiations’ is to suggest a theoretical structure which is genuinely dynamic, where there is no stable, unchangeable centre around which everything else revolves, or, to put it differently, no absolute standard setting the pace. In a process of negotiations, no one can avoid re-evaluating and changing their positions in answer to impulses and suggestions from others–hence, no one and nothing remains exactly the same, exactly identical. In ‘negotiations’ as a theoretical concept, we are faced with a highly complex structure of positions and relations, which, in spite of its complexity, is moving, evolving, changing. In the wake of the linguistic turn, of structuralism and post-structuralism, conceptualising the world in terms of ‘discourses’, ‘epistemes’, ‘systems’ and ‘grids’, which often tend to ‘freeze history’, this is a potential we should not leave unexplored.

The following essay consists of three sections. In the first I will discuss the structural aspects of ‘negotiation’ and ‘negotiating’, how these concepts can be said to impose a certain structure on the material we are studying and what kind of structure this is. In the second section, I will try to fill this structure with content or substance, exploring the historical and semantic layers inherent in these concepts, primarily with reference to the commercial, the political and the managerial meanings. Finally, in the third section I will discuss the pragmatic implications of these structural and semantic characteristics and look more closely at the different kinds of scientific practice following from the conceptual presuppositions. As a dp n=16 folio=16 ?conclusion, I hope to emerge with a set of ideas which will fuel the following empirical and theoretical discussions in this book, as well as in future research. To begin with, I will say something about the tradition that more than any other can be said to be responsible for introducing the concept of ‘negotiations’ into the humanities during the last decades: the so-called ‘New Historicism’ or ‘Cultural Poetics’.

Negotiations in New Historicism: Greenblatt revisited

Among the works of the literary historian Stephen Greenblatt, who is often seen as a kind of godfather figure for the trend in the historical humanities referred to as ‘New Historicism’, is his study from 1988 Shakespearean Negotiations: subtitled The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England. It could be claimed that it was Greenblatt, in this and other books, together with his now famous colleagues Catherine Gallagher, Lynn Hunt, Louis A. Montrose and Thomas Lacqueur, who coined ‘negotiations’ as a theoretical concept for historical and literary research in general at the end of the twentieth century. But as any reader of Greenblatt will know, his efforts at developing a theoretical framework for this conceptual innovation have beeen rather sketchy, to say the least, to the extent that we are dealing with a scholarly or even stylistic attitude rather than a full-fledged theoretical approach.

One of the major issues in Greenblatt’s ideas has been the criticism of both Formalist and Marxist theories of art and history, which, in spite of their opposite claims regarding the role of art in society presuppose the same stable dualism between the world, society or history on the one hand, and art (mainly literature and drama) on the other. The whole idea of ‘negotiations’ should be read as a way of breaking with or even eclipsing this stable dualism in favour of a much more complex and dynamic way of thinking about art and society. Indeed, this entire dualist or binary structure is put into motion:

[…] the work of art is not itself a pure flame that lies at the source of our speculations. Rather the work of art is itself the product of a set of manipulations, some of them our own (most striking in the dp n=17 folio=17 ?case of works that were not originally conceived as ‘art’ at all but rather as something else–votive objects, propaganda, prayer, and so on), many others undertaken in the construction of the original work. That is, the work of art is the product of a negotiation between a creator or class of creators, equipped with a complex, communally shared repertoire of conventions, and the institutions and practices of society.³

In his introduction to Shakespearean Negotiations, Greenblatt discusses some of the implications of this theoretical stance: First, art or literature as such must be seen not as the product of a singular genius, but as a ‘collective creation’,⁴ in the sense that ‘collective beliefs and experiences [are] shaped, moved from one medium to another, concentrated in manageable aesthetic form, offered for consumption’. ⁵ Studying these collective cultural practices implies what Greenblatt has called ‘a poetics of culture’.⁶ Second, these processes of negotiation are bound up with ‘modes of aesthetic empowerment’, ⁷ referring to the ways in which cultural objects or practices, for instance literary works, acquire a specific kind of ‘social energy’, that is, a capacity to ‘produce, shape, and organize collective physical and mental experiences’,⁸ such as laughter, tension, fear, sorrow, and so on. Third, these negotiations do not only take place within one specific historical context or one particular discourse, but across the centuries, in terms of ‘a historical process, a structured negotiation and exchange’, which in hermeneutical terms is referred to as a Wirkungsgeschichte. Greenblatt writes:

Whereas most collective expressions moved from their original setting to a new place or time are dead on arrival, the social energy encoded in certain works of art continue to generate the illusion of life for centuries. I want to understand the negotiation through which works of art obtain and amplify such powerful energy.

In anticipating some of the articles in this book it should be stressed that works of art are obviously not the only cultural products, expressions and practices containing a powerful social energy. A similar claim can–and will–be made on behalf of other objects and genres, such as history books, museums, school tours and monuments. dp n=18 folio=18 ?‘Mimesis’, Greenblatt writes, ‘is always accompanied–indeed is always produced by–negotiation and exchange’.¹⁰ Similarly, the cultural materials involved in such a process of negotiations can be very diverse and include genres and generic distinctions, scientific theories, political struggles and aesthetic interests, as well as physical objects, such as clothing, bodies and houses.

However, ‘negotiations’ is by no means the only concept evoked by Greenblatt to describe these processes. Recurring words used more or less synonymously are ‘circulation’, ‘transactions’, ‘manipulations’, ‘mediation’, and ‘improvisations’, their main common feature being that they do not indicate any kind of stable structure or dualism, but, without exception, movement. ‘Why are we obliged to speak of movement at all?’¹¹ Greenblatt asks at one point, rhetorically, thus stressing the fundamental issue in his entire theory: how cultural materials are moved across the shifting boundaries of time and space, and thus how nothing remains the same, stable or identical, but how everything is swept away by the process of history, understood as a process of negotiations and exchange.

Nevertheless, the title concept of the work and probably the concept most closely associated with Greenblatt’s work is and remains ‘negotiation’. And the main question accompanying all his writing is summed up in the following way: ‘Above all,’ he asks, ‘how is the social energy inherent in a cultural practice negotiated and exchanged?’¹²

In place of a blazing genesis, one begins to glimpse something that seems at first far less spectacular: a subtle, elusive set of exchanges, a network of trades and trade-offs, a jostling of competing representations, a negotiation between joint-stock companies. Gradually, these complex, ceaseless borrowings and lendings have come to seem to me more important, more poignant even, than the epiphany for which I had hoped.¹³

In this quotation–just one of many examples–the concept of ‘negotiation’ is placed firmly in the context of capitalist discourse and practices, of trade, commerce and mercantile language. As we shall see later, this is also the most prominent and durable layer of dp n=19 folio=19 ?meaning, historically speaking. On the one hand, the importance Greenblatt ascribes to the commercial aspects is due to the fact that Shakespeare is part of an emerging literary market in which aesthetic pleasure, money and power can be used as currency; on the other hand, it serves as a more general analysis of the conditions of artistic production in different historical epochs. In a thoroughly Marxist fashion the market is also linked to the question of power, of subversion and containment. The question arises if the negotiations can, in some cases, lead to a subversion of the existing power-structures, or if they will always lead to a reaffirmation of social and political hierarchies through containment and co-optation. Critics of New Historicism in general have pointed to the fact that in this theoretical framework there seems to be no real possibility of subversion, that, indeed, this is where the process of negotiation, of perpetual movement and change; stops, or more precisely, where it is contained.¹⁴ This is not a question we shall discuss at length here; we simply draw attention to the fact that all processes of negotiation, without exception, are imbued with relations and mechanisms of power which must be accounted for when these processes are described and analysed.

The structures of negotiation: reciprocity, symmetry, conflict

Before going into the diverse and shifting historical meanings of ‘negotiation’, it might be useful to map out some of the linguistic structures at work in this concept, or rather in this conceptual field. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb ‘to negotiate’ can have four meanings. Used intransitively, not taking an object, ‘to negotiate’ means ‘to communicate or confer (with another or others) for the purpose of arranging some matter by mutual agreement; to discuss a matter with a view to some compromise or settlement’. Used transitively, on the other hand, with an object, it can either mean ‘to conduct a negotiation or negotiations about (a matter, affair, etc.)’ or ‘to arrange for, achieve, obtain or bring about (something) by negotiation’. The third meaning specifies the judical or commercial meaning already implied in the second, whereas dp n=20 folio=20 ?the fourth, which also seems to be of some relevance here, indicates that ‘to negotiate’ can also mean ‘to find a way through, round or over (an obstacle, a difficult path etc.)’. However, it is the first two definitions which interest us most here.

For a basic structural representation of the process of negotiation, the key elements seem to be communication, purpose, object and agreement. Obviously, negotiation presupposes communication. You always negotiate ‘with’ someone, or, to underline even more the element of reciprocity, negotiations take place ‘between’ two parties. However, it might be important to remind ourselves that these two different parties do not always constitute two different (groups of) physical beings. A useful term for understanding how subjects negotiate with themselves is autopoiesis, in the way this term has been adapted to sociological material by the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, referring to the production and organization of the self.¹⁵ In a similar manner, the past, or rather the manifestations of the past in the present, books, letters, ruins or monuments, might be turned into a kind of negotiating parties, when they are addressed in certain way by the interpretative subject. Furthermore, there is a purpose to all negotiations. The parties involved want to achieve something, a particular goal. This might be a common purpose shared by both parties, but often there is more than one purpose at stake, distributed among the participants, making the whole process much more complex and unpredictable. The object of the negotiations, which might be the same as the purpose, but also differ from it, is normally represented syntactically by a prepositional phrase, introduced by ‘about’. Finally, both purpose and object might in turn set themselves off from the implicit goal of the negotiations, which, structurally speaking, is to reach an agreement, or a compromise.

Through these key elements we obtain a first and very general impression of the vast dynamic possibilities inherent in the concept of ‘negotiations’. Firstly, there are at least two parties, though not necessarily two (groups of) individuals, attuned to and affected by each other; secondly, we are faced with a wide range of purposes, objects and goals, overlapping, but still distinct from each other, to which the different parties adhere and which they want to achieve; thirdly, and most importantly, to reach an agreement the individuals dp n=21 folio=21 ?involved will have to change their positions, to move in the direction of each other, according to the idea of compromise, where, at least ideally, the parties will meet halfway. At this point, at the latest, the theoretical implications become obvious. As already mentioned, the concept of ‘negotiations’ represents a possibility of freeing our thinking from binarism, from thinking in polarities, from splitting the world into black and white, good and bad, simply because, as we shall see shortly, the concept itself presupposes that the positions involved are not fixed, but remain in motion. Ideally these positions will be approaching each other, converging towards an agreement and a compromise, but even if the negotiations are not successful, the process itself causes the positions to constantly shift and change. In framing a historical process as a process of negotiations, there is no way that any of the elements at stake in this process can be represented as fixed or stable. On the contrary, the logic of negotiations will keep them moving, shifting and changing.

To proceed in our attempt at conceptualising the process of negotiation we have to introduce some qualifications. Indeed, the process itself seems to be dependent on three factors: the degree of conflicting interests, the degree of reciprocity, and the degree of symmetry. Starting from communication as an exchange of ideas, knowledge or information, it is necessary to qualify this exchange in terms of the level of conflicting or shared interest. Hence, we could imagine a gradual scale where the idea of negotiation, somewhere near the middle, is flanked by the Habermasian utopia of ‘the ideal speech situation’, where the participants are ‘motivated solely by the desire to reach a consensus about the truth of statements and the validity of norms’,¹⁶ on the one extreme, and by the open and in some cases violent conflict of interest, power and authority, or, if we chose to follow Habermas’ long-time antagonist, Carl Schmitt, by open war, the possibility of killing and being killed, on the other.¹⁷ Negotiations, then, will never be motivated solely by ideals of truth and validity; there will always be an element of interest, mostly conflicting interest and, hence, of power, driving them forward. On the other hand, negotiation also presupposes that the wish to communicate, to make yourself understood and to understand your adversary is still present, keeping the display of power and interest at bay.

dp n=22 folio=22 ?

In light of the idea of communication and depending on the degree of interest, there might also be varying degrees of reciprocity at work in the process of negotiation. Obviously, if all communication is one-way, in terms of messages, orders or speeches, and the addressee is refused the possibility to respond, negotiations cannot take place. On the contrary, there must be some kind of two-way communication, in which all participants can speak their mind, at least in principle. Reciprocity in communication presupposes recognition, in the sense that the parties in the negotiations need to recognise their adversaries; they cannot just ignore or overlook them. Recognition, in German Anerkenung, is a major topic in Hegelian dialectics and in later social theory, for instance in the work by the Frankfurt philosopher Axel Honneth, entitled in German Kampf um Anerkennung, from 1992.¹⁸ As Honneth’s title implies, and as we shall discuss later, recognition and reciprocity are not just conditions of negotiation, but also objects or goals, something the persons involved want to achieve. Another example of non-reciprocity in communication can be found in Foucault’s theory of discourse as a system of rules and mechanisms disciplining and controlling the individuals, but not really recognising them as such. Hence, there is no room for negotiations.¹⁹ As already mentioned, this idea of discourse as a closed system of power without the possibility of negotiation, protest or subversion, has at least to some extent been adopted by the New Historicists and led to the critique that their theories are ‘totalistic’²⁰ and depict society as a ‘monolithic power structure’.²¹ Correspondingly, the lack of reciprocity, recognition and hence, of negotiation, contributes to one of the major weaknesses in Foucault’s writing, at least in his early work: he excels in mapping out the structures of a discourse or an episteme, according to his idea of archaeology, but he has great difficulties in describing how a discourse changes, turning into something new and different, not least due to the absence of a creative and innovative subject.²²

Finally, the process of negotiation can be discussed in terms of the degree of symmetry, i.e. if there is a symmetrical, or rather an asymmetrical relationship between the participants. This question is related to the questions we raised above about polarization and reciprocity, but presents a somewhat different angle. Negotiations dp n=23 folio=23 ?can be said to be symmetrical if the participants find themselves on more or less the same level, generally speaking, in terms of a level of power, of knowledge, or of wealth, just to mention a few examples. Asymmetry in negotiations, on the other hand, occurs if one of the parties is situated at the top and the other one at the bottom of one of these hierarchies. However, as Reinhart Koselleck has pointed out, asymmetry can also manifest itself in the semantics and rhetoric of negotiation. He discusses in a famous article what he calls ‘asymmetrical counter-concepts’, in which the opponent is addressed, but not recognised and which thus can only be used by one of the parties in the negotiations. They are what he calls ‘binary concepts making a universal claim’.²³ Being counter-concepts they always come in pairs, such as ‘Greeks and barbarians’, ‘Christians and pagans’ or ‘humans and sub-humans’. These concepts are asymmetrical in the sense that the ‘barbarians’, ‘pagans’ and ‘sub-humans’ are not recognised as partners in a negotiation, not even as enemies in a conflict, but are shut out from civilisation or from humanity altogether. These kinds of semantic distinctions obviously exclude the entire idea of negotiations because there will be no one to negotiate with, only oppression, delimitation, and if we look at this century, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

To conclude this section, I would claim that studying different kinds of historical processes or exchanges in terms of ‘negotiations’, political, social or aesthetic, means not only to look at these processes as communication, with an object, a purpose and a goal, but also to focus on conflicting interests, reciprocity and symmetry. Even if these factors are not all present to the same degree, as we have seen above, they are preconditions for negotiations to take place at all.

The semantics of negotiation: politics, economics, management

After having discussed the linguistic and social structures at work in the concepts of ‘negotiation’ and ‘negotiating’, we turn to the different layers of meaning, which might be of different historical origin but which are still present in the concepts today, as part of their ‘richness of meaning’, their ‘plurality of historical experience’, dp n=24 folio=24 ?again to cite Koselleck. In the following we will move, historically and semantically, through three such layers: the commercial, the political and, finally, the most recent one, found in contemporary management literature. Far from offering a comprehensive history of the concept, the following few examples are intended solely to map out some of the semantic material informing its meanings and uses. Even though the concept in use in the humanities today has been ‘sanitised’ and given a purely abstract meaning, there is no doubt that the experiences invested in the concept and the ways in which we put it to work are still very much historically determined.

Etymologically, ‘negotiation’ derives from the Latin verb negotiari meaning ‘to do business, to trade or to deal’. The piece of business in question, the work to be done, or even the difficulty to be overcome is called negotium. In Middle French, the word has gone through a series of semantic changes: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1484 negocier is used in the sense ‘to operate, proceed’, in 1556 in the sense ‘to do business’ and in 1559 in the sense ‘to discuss in order to reach an agreement’. Similar developments can be found in other Roman languages, such as Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. The French noun négotiation has an even longer history dating back to the fourteenth century, but experienced more or less the same semantic development from ‘commercial activity’ to ‘discussion aimed at reaching an agreement’.

To obtain an impression of the semantic and discursive field mapped out by the concepts ‘to negotiate’ and ‘negotation’ it might be useful to look at the ways in which these words enter a non-Latin language. This move from one language into another, from Latin to German, is documented in Zedlers Universallexikon from 1740, in which approximately 30 Latin forms deriving from either negotiari or negotium are listed.²⁴ The list starts with negotia publica, ‘the affairs of the state’, and ends with negotium meum ‘an affair, where all profit or damage comes back to me’. By far the longest articles are the ones concerning negotiator, in the sense of ‘someone who conducts the business of other people and in their name’ and negotium gestio, which is defined–over more than three pages of extremely dense German prose–as ‘conducting affairs according not to actual or only presumed contracts, where there is no explicit dp n=25 folio=25 ?permission or order to undertake these affairs, mostly because the person who could have given this permission is not present’. Obviously, these are concepts of Roman law, which in the eighteenth century was still to a large extent the basis of the judical systems of most European nation-states and thus regulated both political and financial interactions. But there is also the more general word negotiiren, deriving, as is indicated, from the French négocier: ‘Among businessmen,’ we read, ‘it means to trade, to do business, to perform your occupation’; ‘among politicians,’ however, ‘it means as much as to complete the affairs at a court or other places according to the orders given’. Negotiant, it is added, ‘is the one who trades, or the businessman’, negotium ‘the actual trade or affair’.

Returning to the discourse of the humanities in the post-war era, we find more or less the same layers of meaning as in the Corpus Justinianum and in the history of the Romance languages. The changing semantics of the verb ‘to negotiate’ and the noun ‘negotiation’, oscillating between political and economic meanings and discourses, serve as an indication of the changing foci and perspectives of the humanities in general, but also of transformative processes in society at large. Unsurprisingly, in the politicised decade of the 1970s, the concepts are used mostly in connection with political conflicts, with war and peace, often in discussions about how to end violent conflicts by means of mediation. The parties involved are often groups, states or institutions. This entire set of meanings and uses is summed up in the title of a work from 1973 on European security and policy edited by Wolfgang Klaiber and others: Era of Negotiations.²⁵ In this semantic era, this paradigm or discourse, other linguistic experiences and semantic resources are not suppressed, but rather politicised, redefined in the broader context of politics. This also applies to economic and management semantics, which, in a wide range of books, reports and studies, are put to use for political purposes.

In this heavily politicised context there is one question in particular which tends to surface in all debates on political ‘negotiations’ and ‘negotiating’: to what extent do these relationships of power necessarily involve a kind reciprocity. In opposition to one another we have, on the one hand the empiricist and positivist view that power, dp n=26 folio=26 ?as Jeffrey C. Isaac puts it, is ‘a one-way relationship of behavioral causation’, and on the other hand, the Marxist and dialectical view that even slave-owners in a sense are in a reciprocal relationship with their slaves, as described first by Hegel, then by Marx.²⁶ The idea of negotiation is based on a fundamentally dialectical view of political and social life, or of the world as such, as exemplified both by the Socratic dialogues and the Hegelian dialectics of Herr and Knecht. Furthermore, the idea of negotiations has entered Marxist thought through Antonio Gramsci and his concept of ‘hegemony’. In the bourgeouis society, Gramsci claims, ideological power is as much a matter of persuasion as of force; it is never secured once and for all, but has continually to be reestablished through the ever shifting, ever negotiating play of ideological, social and political forces.²⁷

In the 1980s, this dialectic takes on a different form altogether, as the political paradigm is replaced by an economic one and, simultaneously, the institutions are replaced by individuals as the subjects of negotiations. Again, this fits with the often fiercely liberalist atmosphere of the era, when politics all but abdicated in favour of a purely economic rationality. However, the dominating discursive paradigm is not business or trade, but management. In the last couple of decades ‘to negotiate’ and ‘negotiations’ have become more or less household words in what we often refer to as ‘management literature’, and and used in a huge number of popular manuals, and indeed in more scholarly, or semi-scholarly books, with such alluring titles as How to Win Any Negotiation, Without Raising Your Voice, Loosing Your Cool or Coming to Blows,²⁸ or Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas in Bargaining.²⁹ Though seemingly a far cry from the questions raised in this book, even this completely instrumental approach to the ideas and strategies of negotiation can be helpful in mapping out some of the important characteristics of this conceptual field. For instance, it becomes very clear that negotiation is some kind of strategically aimed dialogue between two or more partners, each deeply concerned about the outcome and with clear and biased interests. Negotiations can be ‘won’; it is just a question of how to win them, preferably without being angry, but by means of seeing through the communicative schemes of your opponent. The entire management literature takes as its starting point the idea dp n=27 folio=27 ?that ‘everything can be negotiated’. This does not merely imply that everything might be seen in the perspective of interest and advantage; it also represents a conception of most things as fleeting and changing, most situations as susceptible to influence, and of human interaction as dynamic and active, in accordance with the approach to research in the humanities that we want to advocate here.

In investigating the relevance of the idea of negotiations in the field of humanities, we are referring to a process of semantic and conceptual expansion taking place from the 1980s and onwards, introducing this idea and these concepts into new and different contexts. As I discussed at the beginning, during this period, ‘to negotiate’ and ‘negotiations’ are becoming key terms in the broad, diverse and rather amorphous field of cultural theory, cultural history and cultural analysis. In the article ‘Pleasurable Negotiations’, published in a reader on cultural theory and popular culture, Christine Glendhill gives us her view of the role and functions of this concept:

A notion frequently deployed in various contexts is that of ‘negotiation’. It is the purpose of this piece to suggest that this concept might take a central place in rethinking the relations between media products, ideologies and audiences–perhaps bridging the gap between textual and social subject. The value of this notion lies in its avoidance of an overly deterministic view of cultural production […]. For the term ‘negotiation’ implies the holding together of opposite sides in an ongoing process of give-and-take. As a model of meaning production, negotiation conceives cultural exchange as the intersection of processes of production and reception, in which overlapping but non-matching determinations operate. Meaning is neither imposed, nor passively imbibed, but arises out of a struggle or negotiation between competing frames of reference, motivation and experience.³⁰

In spite of the abundance of vague and abstract notions such as ‘textual and social subject’, ‘cultural exchange’ and ‘non-matching determinations’, Gledhill succeeds in highlighting some interesting and highly relevant conceptual features, such as how the idea of negotiations can help us avoid ‘overly deterministic approaches’, how it presents us with a model of meaning ‘production’ and to dp n=28 folio=28 ?what extent negotiations take place between ‘competing frames of reference, motivation and experience’. The same can be said about the question of meaning, a kind of meaning; however, which is ‘neither imposed, nor passively imbibed’, but is the product of a process of continuous negotiations. This is what the historical individuals and groups are all struggling for in this book: to be able to control the kind of meaning produced and invested in a specific historical situation. Gledhill then goes on to list different kinds of negotiations taking place in the cultural sphere: ‘institutional negotiations’, ‘textual negotiations’ and ‘reception as negotiation’. She even points out how the tradition of feminist film-analysis, to which her article belongs, threatens to foreclose prematurely with respect to critical and textual negotiation because the meaning of a cultural product is always given and fixed through a specific political position.³¹

Even though the conceptual semantics