For various reasons, these last few weeks has touched me to read (and re-read) several texts by Norbert Lechner. And as I read them I realized that there are underlying (and sometimes explicit) of a number of theoretical ideas that, in reality, are not too appropriate. Taking into account, furthermore, that the ideas that Lechner develops are not restricting him, but rather relatively common in a number of circles of sociology, even when Lechner developed better, so I found it interesting to write about those ideas. And as the intention of the text is critical, then you better give them myths.
Myth 1: The Opposition between Naturalization and Collective Will.
There are two oppositions, which are very common in the texts of Lechner.
The opposition between naturalization -the idea that social processes are as they are, by natural laws – a social vision (or history) -social processes are as they are because, as human beings do: they could Well be otherwise. This opposition is, in Lechner, an opposition between a wrong view of reality -naturalization – and a correct view -historic-, because the social life is the product of our choices and not follow any need that requires it to be in a certain way. The social process is the form itself.
The second opposition is that between processes ‘automatic’ -where there is no will or collective discussion – and between processes of collective will -where the partnership decides to do and where to go. In fact, it is the collective will of the society that defines which is left as ‘automatic’.
Now, I said 2 oppositions. But Lechner treats them as if they were one. So, for example, to a text by Hayek in which this is manifested against the idea that we decide consciously and deliberately the kind of society he opposed the idea of Marx that the men are the ones who decide their own destiny.
But in fact, the phrases are not opposed. One can safely say that men decide their own fate -i.and that social processes are social and there is a natural law that obliges them to be a certain way – and argue that social processes are not determined by collective discussion.
In particular, consider the language. The language is clearly the product of a social process -there is no need for the Spanish is as it is, or that there are dialects that exist, or is kept or disgregue etc – Depends on the decisions of the people. At the same time, usually is not the product of a collective discussion (*).
The point, in reality, is relatively obvious. Because, then, use the 2 distinctions as if they were a oppose finally a vision of a natural society -oblivious to what is decided by the people – a vision of the group’s discussions. Two reasons I think:
The opposition is nothing more than a form of ‘conceptual’ to translate the political opposition between defenders of the market and advocates of the state. The inability of the social sciences to go beyond the public debate it is clear that our distinctions are still distinctions of this debate. And in addition, that this way the opposition, then the contrary politicians are not only wrong, but also have a false view of society.
Because when a sociologist says naturalization, of what you’re talking about is a mistake of the society: That human beings take them as something natural, as something alien to their decisions, something that -in reality – yes depends on your decisions. Nothing more beautiful than to accuse the opposite of an intellectual mistake as basic as that.
And yet, as we said, is a false opposition. Naturalization and collective discussion are not terms of the same dilemma.
Myth 2: political deliberation as an expression of the collective will of the society.
In general, Lechner assumes that the collective construction (whether of the society desired, either of the identity) is a political construction. The policy is the place where we build together a future. Or at least, the policy-when it assumes its basic fact, which is to constitute the collective will from individuals autonómos – is what he should do.
One can have an instrumental vision of politics-as a place where achieving my goals, and where the other’s freedom is an obstacle. In that case, of course, politics is not a way to build collective will, but when the policy assumes the character of interaction of construction, then what occurs is a collective discussion.
But I think that there is an error. There may be political processes that function as a collective discussion -as discussion, as the construction of a common will – but do not necessarily have to include all of society. Why is a collective construction of an elite, where not involving the entire society, not be a deliberation? In the end, the politics of the NINETEENTH century -where clearly there is no representation of the collective will of the society, because a good part of society is left out of it – operates as interaction.
But beyond the above, which is an effect only of exclusion, why is a political process of deliberation to produce a collective will? On the understanding that the collective will represent the wishes and ideas of those involved in that discussion. Because in a deliberation, as in any discussion, there are certain logical (on that account as a better argument, about what is to be said, about why you can’t raise) that produce results that are not necessarily the busados by their participants. A solution of a collective discussion may well be something that should be more to the rules of the debate that the positions that the subjects bring to it. And well they can build, deliberativamente, not about the ‘right order’ of any of them.
And even, beyond this, that it unites social effect of the conversation, why the policy as a mechanism of collective construction? The deliberations of the social occur not only in the political sphere, common construction of a common destiny. Ultimately, there is discussion of collective -say, the expansion of the idea of non-discrimination – that does not happen necessarily (or entirely) by the political sphere. But this is, I think, with the third of the myths -that is about the State.
Myth 3: The need for synthesis in the society.
In the end, an important part of the arguments of Lechner are based on the idea that a society requires an element of synthesis (and, in fact, that element of synthesis is the State). Without a common basis how can you build society? Lechner is aware that societies are, finally, plural, and that -at least in their practices – it is difficult to cease to be, but at least at the level of imagination we can build a synthesis. The topic of how to build a synthesis recognizing the autonomy of individuals (Lechner liked to quote Castoriados in the idea that we are an autonomous society composed of autonomous individuals).
But, do we require a synthesis? (even if it is imaginary). In the end, there are many social practices -from those that produce the rules of football (**) to determine the popularity of certain types of music to the practices that determine the scientific ideas are validated – that do not go through any kind of synthesis at the level of the State. And there is not much they have suffered for it.
Now, one might well think that, of course, there are practices that do not pass through the State on their synthesis, but another thing that does not create a synthesis of ‘society’. Let’s move on for now, the fact of a society that does not spend many social practices, but in general, I think that the need for synthesis is more of a bias of sociology.
At the time of the reformation, a political argument against accepting the diversity, was that it was not possible a social order when the people had different religions. At some point, he abandoned that idea (and the practice), but replaced it by the idea that we needed a consensus ‘moral’. The moral consensus is the basis of social order.
Although the idea of the synthesis does not follow the above, it follows the intention -that in some way requires a unifying point. Now, in the same way that we have discovered that there was a need for unity (in religion or values) on other occasions, why should now appear necessary to use such a unit?
(*) The effect that can have it. The beauty of the language as a model is that all the alternatives in relation to collective discussion are possible, and all work -in the sense of generating languages that are used.
It is possible to generate a language -use – by pure deliberation, by fiat, say, Esperanto. It is possible to regulate a language collectively -say, the French Academy. It is possible that there is collective discussion any -almost any language before the birth of the language academies.
(**) The rules that produce the national championships are synthesized at the level ‘state’, but not the rules that gave rise to the sport in the first place. And in fact, we think that the national organizations of sport in EE.UU do not operate at the State level, and in the end, they usually always have canadian teams.