ABSTRACT. The following conceptual writing interweaves lines from canonical texts (in the public domain) by Herbert Spencer and Karl Marx, whom I chose as two immensely popular writers from the same period focused on social theory. The introduction briefly reviews my initial graduate school experience reading primary source material in social theory, with feelings of being lost in a sea of words where sense-making seemed impossible, then tantalisingly deferred. Reading such work required meeting the author on their own terms and gradually developing a conceptual and disciplinary schema to achieve hard-won knowledge and expertise. The text I then assembled here reveals a similar sense of immersion in unknown meaning, an ongoing search for something that makes sense, that can be summarised and that can provide scaffolding for future understanding. The process of meaning-making here, though, is diverted, undermined and played with, revealing a multi-layered process where reading (perhaps) always seems at one remove from meaning.

Keywords: social theory; conceptual writing; Herbert Spencer; Karl Marx; pedagogy; sociological writing

How to cite: Borchard, K. (2022). “Conceptual Writing to Explore Meaning-Making in Social Theory: Remixing Herbert Spencer and Karl Marx,” Knowledge Cultures 10(2): 68–94.

Received 11 June 2022 • Received in revised form 14 June 2022
Accepted 11 July 2022 • Available online 1 August 2022

Kurt Borchard
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University of Nebraska
Kearney, NE, USA

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