[ox-en] Individual and society
- From: Robin Upton <robin2009 altruists.org>
- Date: Tue, 01 Dec 2009 16:33:50 +0700
[Converted from multipart/alternative]
Stefan Meretz wrote:
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.
Agreed. Suggestive of the scarcity implicit in money (if you spent it on
this, you can't spend it on that).
Could society need people's selbstentfaltung?
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),
I see relationships as crucial for selbstentfaltung, so perhaps people
in more traditional, relationship rich societies have a greater degree
of this than in Western, materialist societies -- that's if it can even
be compared between people.
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".
Historically, the inclusivity of "all people" is a relatively new one;
for most of human history it's been "us" and "the others". I think it is
greater horizons/reach of technology that has brought this about.
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
You mean if one person doesn't have selbstentfaltung, no one does? I'm
not sure I'd go that far.
...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.
Do people need to be oppressed?... I can understand the motives of the
few who arrange this, but I don't agree that it's necessary.
agree that the current system has an immense amount of inefficiency in
it (e.g. how many people work hard at arguing about who gets what). My
standard example of how deeply competition is embedded in our economic
system is the creation of the 486SX
I prefer the Cuban approach to diplomacy, which is to make themselves
useful to other countries (e.g. by sending doctors).
As the ecosphere is running down, people are becoming increasingly
interested to derail the train which is taking us over the brink.
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.
I'd say "How do we get there (no tanks) from here (tanks in the hands of
organised psychopaths with a history of pushing people around).
Part of the answer is to have discussion such as this, to share ideas
with others and become clearer in our own minds. Another part is doing
what we believe in, selbstentfaltung. As the failure of coercive
hierarchies is becoming clearer, more people are doing this, in an often
coordinated but decentralised fashion.
I think the fundamental problem is that *societal needs may differ
from volunteer needs*.
And they may not differ. This is the other possibility.
What does /'volunteer'/ mean in this context?
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.
Do you mean "I need coercion"? We are all coerced by the laws of physics
(f=m.a etc.). I have heard some very dire predictions about how hard it
will be to live and grow sufficient food on this planet for us all, so
that may be setting some limits how we behave.
The next question then is: How can a coercion system look like which
does not damage Selbstentfaltung?
I think we have it. It's called 'the world'. I've got many ideas about
my selbstentfalten which I can't yet realise, because the world is not
yet ready - either materially (there is insufficient communications
infrastructure) or spiritually (too many other people running round with
exclusive ideas of property). For sure, there are extra systems of
coercion in the shape of scarce fiat money, ideas about prices etc. but
these only limit us in as much as we follow them. At the moment, many
people do, especially in the "rich" world.
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 system we love to hate is worthy of both emotions. It's a
psychopathic system, but it's what we have. As it says on
http://www.anti-capitalism.com/anti-capitalism, if we can make a
functioning alternative and capitalism is dead in the water.
"people are coerced to execute societal necessary tasks as part of
their normal lives..."
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.
Peak oil is predictive of less energy to spend fighting, less
travelling, less making stuff we don't really need. So expect smaller
groups of people with less atomised lives. I think that if the scale of
our social environs is decreased, concensus will be easier.
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
At the risk of over simplifying, the rhetoric has generally got sweeter
and sweeter (which I take as a good sign, since it expresses our
ideals). The reality has gotten undeniably larger in scale, and may
perhaps have gotten more and more psychopathic???
These two trends seem to be an ever larger reality gap, one that is
starting to get corrected even now. I am expecting the pace of this
correction to increase rapidly over the next few years.
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?
Fighting is a time honoured way of expressing sincere intent to differ.
Be warned that people often fight back unless you have obviously
superior fire power. This could be bad since too much fighting, apart
from cracked heads could mean not enough planting.
I want to start from the observation that the individual and the society
are not in all cases opposites.
I wonder what people would have made of this statement a hundred years
ago? 500? I just stopped and looked at it out of context and thought
about the depth of alienation it implies. Here in Bangladesh, people
draw a sharp distinction between the government (= them in Dhaka, rich
and corrupt) and the society (=us, me and people around me). They have
one word which means both "family" and "world", and strangers are hailed
as "brother", "uncle" etc. The fact that it needs to be stated reveals
the degree of alienation in the materialist western world - something
that though it is painful to contemplate, may be worthwhile; I hope that
we will start to see it heal, as the great correction manifests.
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.
Different, perhaps, but not opposites. My body is not opposite to a cell
which makes it up.
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
Yes. Note how the focus on "ownership" of personal material objects
(e.g. printed rectangles of paper) creates a tension which is not
associated with selbstentfaltung of say, singing in a choir, helping
others on a project to build strong city walls.
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).
While the market system was coming in to Bangladesh, there were markets
only on a couple of days a month - the rest of the time people helped
each other for free. Gradually, the number of market days increased and
people stopped giving to each other on non-market days. Contractual ties
replaced social ties, money replaced community good will. I see none of
this as inevitable (money was forced on people down the barrel of a
gun). I do some things for salary, some for free, as I think we all do.
Anyone here charge their friends for conversation?
[small world]...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.
This was the line of thinking which lead me to define "sympathy" as
fundamental to altruistic economics.
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,
I agree with you, but years of discussing with people in 'normal'
society have underlined what a strange way of thinking this is for
alienated people. In one sense, I can understand why - just look at a
laptop - are you saying that "we" made this laptop? Companies make
laptops, people don't.
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: http://en.wiki.oekonux.org/Oekonux/DrawingBoard
I would be happy, if you add my thoughts.
Ditto, in as much as you think they're relevant.
P.S. I'm currently reading the great /Masanobu Fukuoka/ (One Straw
Revolution) which perhaps explains some of the farming focus. He
explains that 'minimal interference' is quite a good maxim for food
production. Not only organic, but lack of ploughing, compost, chemicals
Contact: projekt oekonux.de