Prolegomena on Theory: Rector, Actor, Other

Mitchell Atkinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the Prolegomena, I present the major social-theoretic reference motivating the text, Isaac Ariail Reed’s rector-actor-other triad and how rector-actor dyads in complex series form what he calls chains of power. I discuss Reed's reliance on a discourse theory approach, and I suggest that his indebtedness to Foucault leaves him without a habitual, phenomenological grounding for the subject positions he uses in his work. Reed’s theoretical insights are far too useful to found on “thin” discursive methodology. There is also the much-discussed problem of accounting for the possibility of change in social life. Foucauldian episteme, in their “dispersion” seem not to be amenable to social developments, positive or negative. For Reed, the “others” in his social theory can come in three forms: enemies, scapegoats, and slaves. I posit a fourth type of other, the invisible. I also put forward a methodological approach for understanding others through habituation and typicality. I also introduce the concept recoil, developed for this text, which is a block on protention (“expectation” in the living present) related to typification. Perhaps the key social-phenomenological contribution of the text is that alterity as invisibility is founded on what I call recoil, which acts to inhibit expectations related to the types associated with marginalized populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContributions To Phenomenology
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameContributions To Phenomenology
ISSN (Print)0923-9545
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1915


  • Actor
  • Alterity
  • Chains of power
  • Flint
  • Habituation
  • Marginalization
  • Other
  • Rector
  • Reed
  • Typicality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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