Or: is there really no such thing as society?
Just doing the final preparation on the presentation
Norms and Deviations of Modern Information-Environments for Young People
tomorrow in Moscow. It is a bit worrying, in particular as thinking about it I am getting so aware about the major flaw of most of the debates and research: naming the youth, shaming the technology and blaming the bad spirit of our times.
The other day I went to see “The Iron Lady” (surely too favourable for her) – and it became shockingly clear in which way part of the critic of her politics had been to some extent mislead, rejecting her favoured orientation on responsibility, taking the burden away from the state but not seeing that her actual point had been very much a different one: the refusal of taking the sociability of humans into account. With this she fell, of course, far behind even Aristotelean thinking. Aristotle, as well known, discussed four core matters: chremastike, oikonomia, eudamonia and not least phronimoi – all relating to each other and all only in this interplay elements of what he considered as “good society”. With this he had to reject any fundamentally orientation on chremastike (as orientation on pure maximisation of profit) and also any “pure” private property.
What we surely could learn from Thatcher is just the opposite what she said: There is such thing as society – and we need to destroy it. This is what happened under rulership, this happens currently in Hungary, Greece, Germany and so many other countries – not only within the EU but also for instance with the revival of religious fundamentalism under the conservative Turkish AKP-government (closely going hand in hand with more severe breaches of human rights not least against the Kurds) …
Coming then back to tomorrows lecture, it is getting so clear to me that the core deviation is twofold:
- the withholding of rights of (not only) young people to fundamentally and closely control the process of production (production in the economic sense and the production of the social) going hand in hand with
- the withholding of knowledge.
Surely the latter is a matter where I may be in part guilty myself. Of course, teaching in academia is also about “making existing knowledge available”, i.e. providing information. But isn’t it much more about developing knowledge, allowing – and demanding – serious research?
Universities – but in general any kind of teaching, social development should accept the need of time as core ingredient of knowledge.
If I will actually say what I prepared, I will end with a reference to Schiller who stated in his Letters upon the Æsthetic Education of Man.
Moreover, as the sensuous impulsion controls us physically, and the formal impulsion morally, the former makes our formal constitution contingent, and the latter makes our material constitution contingent, that is to say, there is contingence in the agreement of our happiness with our perfection, and reciprocally. The instinct of play, in which both act in concert, will render both our formal and our material constitution contingent; accordingly, our perfection and our happiness in like manner.
So true, we have to return to this much shared reasoning,
- the Marx/Hegelian view on freedom as insight into and understanding of necessity
- Spinoza’s understanding of freedom as acting with reference to the necessity of the own nature
- or to use then Schiller’s words of the famous conclusio:
Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.
If we teach and allow such real play, computer games will surely not be a problem at all. – And there we are surely at the point of blaming ourselves for not taking enough initiative and following the rules of individualists rather then allowing phronesis to develop. And this is surely not least strictly against Thatcher’s and others attempt to destroy society as much as it is against the call for big society – doesn’t this speak volumes that both slogans come from the same father of thought (obviously a motherless child).