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Re: [ox-en] Balancing need and Selbstentaltung by governance?

Hi all, hi StefanMn,

as you may expect, I would like to object against some assumptions you 
gave, and I want to support others. I will take a philophical excursion, 
which results in some fundamental thoughts, which I also posted here:

On 2009-11-04 20:22, Stefan Merten wrote:
Recently once again I thought about the problem of balancing need and
Selbstentaltung. I think this is the fundamental question which
concepts like Christian are struggling for: How is the societal need
balanced with Selbstentaltung.

From my POV "balancing" is the wrong term to raise the problem 
adequately. It implies that indidividual needs and societal necessities 
basically contradict each other, which is the reason that there have to 
be a "balance" between the opposing sides. From a philosophical Hegelian 
POV this perspective of problem is given within the "logics of essence" 
(german: "Wesenslogik"). In this way of thinking two opposite parts 
stand against each other and exclude each other. Binary either or. In 
some cases binary logics are useful, e.g. in computer science as far as 
the machines are concerned, but in other cases they are not. Like in the 
case we have here. I will try to show.

Indeed it is the pressing question for all transformative

The question of _societal mediation_ -- which from my POV is the right 
reformulation of the balancing-question -- is one of all societies. To 
put it more simply it is the question about how a running society 
emerges from individual actions.

Currently we live in a society where societal need
and Selbstentaltung are not balanced [#]_.

Today we live in a society where we only can observe germ/seed forms of 
selbstentfaltung, because, as you know, selbstentfaltung is not a purely 
individual type of self-development (which may operate on costs of 
others), but it is at the same time part of a societal development: My 
selbstentfaltung is only possible, if others can do their 
selbstentfaltung in an unlimited fashion -- and vice versa. Thinking 
this straight forward, we can understand, that this does not only 
include people we personally know, but _all_ people, or, more 
philosophical: the "general other". This implies, that there is a 
societal structure of mediation where selbstentfaltung for all is 
possible. Clearly, we don't have this type of societal mediation today. 
Thus, currently selbstentfaltung in the full meaning of the word is not 

When we are heading for a
society which is based on peer production, in the final state
Selbstentaltung and societal need are balanced, however. And I'm
sure that mankind is smart enough to make this possible ;-) .

I am sure that a society is possible, where "balancing" is no longer a 
topic, because the society _is_ ruled by selbstentfaltung.

.. [#] If you think longer about it this already is indeed a good
       question: Is everything which is produced / labored for now is
       really part of a societal need? Are tanks a societal need?

In a capitalist country tanks can clearly be a societal necessity, e.g. 
to fights against other countries or to suppress the own people. There 
are numerous examples in history.

You have to answer the question of societal necessity from the societies 
own premises, even if you dislike the outcome. Your rejection of tanks 
as being "not needed" comes from a virtual standpoint outside. This only 
can lead to a moral critique ("tanks are a bad thing..."), but not to an
evidence, that tanks are not needed in a particular society. Thus the 
question is: How does a society functions which does not need tanks? 
This again is the question of _societal mediation_, but now more 
precisely: a societal mediation, where individual needs (no need for 
tanks) result in a societal outcome, where tanks are not necessary for 
that society. Or shorter: A societal mediation where individual needs 
and societal necessities are identical.

       However, the question of what is a "real" societal need and
       what not is a also a old and hard one and probably only
       solvable in practice. I leave this out here.

However, by thinking in terms of balancing you will always have this 
question on the table.

I think the fundamental problem is that *societal needs may differ
from volunteer needs*.

And they may not differ. This is the other possibility.

If I analyze it that way then the fundamental answer is simple: If
you want to satisfy societal needs then you need coercion.

Yes, this is the logical consequense based on your assumptions.

if we think of a society based on peer production the societal needs
*need* to be satisfied: If people struggle for mere existence they
can not Selbstentfalt at all. Selbstentfaltung needs a society where
everybody is cared for.

Again, you are thinking in the mode of opposites: the society on the one 
hand, and the people ("everybody") on the other. As we will see later, 
this does not make sense if we think of selbstentfaltung in terms of 
"caring for me as a pre condition of caring for others -- and vice 

Of course coercion of any kind is a contradiction to Selbstentaltung
- that is probably why we don't like it. I agree that it is a bit
hard to accept but I think it is important to make that point
explicit: If we can not do everything by volunteerism then we need
coercion of some kind.

This, in my view, is the logical but wrong consequence.

The next question then is: How can a coercion system look like which
does not damage Selbstentfaltung.

Each coercion system not only damages selbstentfaltung, but prevents 

The standard answer of capitalism or Christian's model is to use
abstract coercion by rewarding people with benefits they are only
allowed to enjoy if they somehow contribute to the societal needs. I
agree that this is one sort of coercion and we are all sooo used to
it. However, obviously this sort of abstraction introduces all kinds
of alienation and the problems accompanied by this alienation. In
particular it is an automatic system which is beyond the control of

On the given fundament of society capitalism is the most rationale 
system to mediate opposites. And there are a lot of opposites: use value 
and exchange value, work and capital, production and consumption, 
economics and politics etc. Yes, its rationale produces alienation, but 
it also requires and produces (limited) freedom of the individual, which 
is a precondition for the emergence of free software and the like.

The alternative IMHO is to create an explicit governance scheme where
people are coerced to execute societal necessary tasks as part of
their normal lifes. The big advantage of such an explicit governance
scheme is that it is subject to political decisions. Contrary to
blind automatisms as just outlined political decisions are able to
take into account different situations of people.

Political decisions are at some point decisions of the majority against 
a minority. Its logic is completely contrary to the consensus principle 
you favor: consensus is reached if no one needs to object. In a coercion 
framework you need majority decisions, because you want people to do 
things they don't want to do from their own. Forcing people to do things 
they don't want to do _is_ coercion. In a freedom framework, people are 
free to do what they want and what they mean is usefull and necessary.

Capitalism can imaginate itself as a realm of "freedom", because the 
coercion is exported to the alienated logic of the commodity and money 
system: This system applies the coercion to you in a very effective way, 
and you are "free" to fulfill the demands in any way: Do what you want, 
but do fulfill alien demands!

Historically the unpersonal domination was a step forward away from the 
former system of personal domination. Political majority decisons you 
propose, made in order to apply coercion seem to be a step backward in 
this sense.

If you think of combining the consensus principle in order to apply 
coercion, then I think this would immediately fail. People would 
massively object, so that you are forced to turn consensus into majority 
decisions. Consensus can only work in a framework of non-coercion.

Ok, if I reject your proposal to have a political or democratic system 
of coercion in order to map individual needs and societal requirements 
-- how would I solve this problem?

I want to start from the observation that the individual and the society 
are not in all cases opposites. If they would, they would fall into two 
completely separated realms, which is obviously not the case. Actually 
we _are_ creating society. Thus in some sense we as individuals are 
identical with society, in another sense we are not. This ambiguity can 
not be grasped by an either-or logics. For this case Hegelian philosophy 
proposes "logics of notion" (german: "Begriffslogik"). The logics of 
essence are not wrong, but they are not always adequate. So the logics 
itself should not be thought in an either-or fashion, too.

The notion ("Begriff") is the way to overlap ("übergeifen") the opposing 
parts, which both constitute the field you try to grasp by that notion. 
So the notion is on one hand a "synthesis" bringing the opposites 
together to really something new. On the other hand it does not 
eliminate "thesis" and "antithesis" (the opposites), but they are 
preserved in form of moments of the overlapping notion. So this process 
of sublation ("Aufhebung") is threefold: abolish (the opposites 
exclusing each other), preserve (the opposites as moments requiring each 
other), and advance (the power of the new totality).

Maybe the following example makes this more clear. On one hand the 
individual and the society are clearly opposites, and will ever be: I am 
not the society, and the society is not me. On the other hand, I am a 
societal individual potentially able to realize _all_ opportunities 
society offers. Society is not a separated entity, but is constituted by 
us. In this sense, I am identical with society, and society with me. 
This is the reason why societal human being and human society are one 
notion, where the individual and the society are moments of that notion.

If you want to analyze, how the relationship between the individual and 
the society is about, then for capitalism you discover fetishism as 
being a self-organizing mode of "moving things" (i.e. the commodities), 
which result in alien demands coming from "the society". In this case 
the "opposing moment" of individual vs. society is converted into an 
absolute principle. It appears, that individual and society are 
opposites by nature. But be sure, anyhow the alienation is about, the 
other moment of potentially being identical with society is always 
there. Otherwise selbstentfaltung (and society in general) would not be 

Selbstentfaltung is a notion in the Hegelian sense, too. The two moments 
are the individual needs on the one hand and the societal necessities on 
the other. I used the stronger word "necessity" for the society, because 
it is more than a "need", but this not so important.

Although both moments remain opposites -- individual needs and societal 
necessities are not identical -- at the same time, they are identical. 
The first is obvious. Individual life and thus needs are only related to 
some clipping ("Ausschnitt") of the whole society, because the whole 
society requires much more functions than being relevant for the 
individual. The sesond is not so obvious. The given clipping of society, 
which is relevant for me, does include the functionality of the whole 
society. If the individual needs are fully covered by the societal part 
being relevant for me, then my needs and the whole societal nessities 
are identical, because they are in conjunction.

There are two reasons why each societal clipping contains the whole 
society. First, the core functionality is the type of mediation between 
all members and functional parts (institutions etc.) of the society. 
Only in transition periods you may have different types of mediation 
concurrently, but in stable periods one type is clearly dominant (e.g. 
mediation via work, value, money in capitalism). Thus the type of 
mediation which constitutes each clipping of society does also 
constitute the whole society and vice versa.

Second, selbstentfaltung of one individual requires the selbstentfaltung 
of the others in a general sense. This results from the network type of 
these logics: The "other" of me requires the selbstentfaltung of his/her 
"others" as each of them require the selbstentfaltung of their 
"others" and so on. According to the "small world assumption" this 
network of reflexive selbstentfaltung only has a maximum "distance" of 
seven people. So if all of my farest neighbors can realize their 
selbstentfaltung, then all people do it and then the whole society offers 
all conditions necessary to do so.

Can then there be a "rest" of society which is not covered by those 
completely different people of the world? I don't think so, where should 
it come from? Such a society bases on differences and developments, which 
constitute the unity of the society. In such a society, I am not 
identical with that society, but it is "me", which is reflected by that 
society and not an alien principle.

For all of you being sceptical about Hegel and prefering Marx: Marx 
entirely used Hegelian logics for his work. One difference is the claim 
of Marx, that Hegel does not ground his philosophy in material 
existence, but only in ideas. This exactly was my prejudice before I 
read Hegel. From my experience Marx assumption is not true. And if you 
need another authority: Lenin said, that you are not able to understand 
Marx if you did not completely understand Hegelian logics.

I also put some of these thoughts to the `drawing board`_ where I'm
still trying to gather all these important questions and ideas.

.. _drawing board:

I would be happy, if you add my thoughts.


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Contact: projekt

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