Re: entirely social and non-obligatory

john cook (japa@OZEMAIL.COM.AU)
Tue, 23 Jul 1996 11:38:53 -1851

In reference to a posting by xxxx R. Snower asks the questions:

>Are you saying freedom is part of the definition of social? Can >there not be a society which is totally unfree, and still be society?

I'd like to try and address some aspects of these questions.

Firstly (and this might be considered cheating by some) I'd like to
limit the question of "what is society?" to human societies.
Specifically, I'd like to do this in order to highlight problems in
relation to processes of cultural difference.

In answer to the first question I would say yes, freedom is part of
the social. I base this answer in a conception of ideology. A
society relies on the acceptance (at least to some extent) of the
"rules" of that social order. Unfreedom which is not accepted as
being a result of the application of these rules is not experienced as
sociality, but as oppression. This is what revolutionaries rely upon,
the reinterpretation of social hierarchy (founded upon the acceptance
of differentially applied social rules), as social difference (the
understanding of hierarchy as the asocial oppression of one sociality
by another).

In this way sociality at least relies on the perception of freedom on
the part of its constituent actors. The sense of unfreedom is based
in a perception of difference. Sociality relies upon a percieved
freedom in relation to social rules, it is this freedom that makes
them appear "natural" and "right".

Thus, in answer to your second question I would reply, No! there is no
possibility of an unfree society. Total domination percieved as such
cannot be the basis of a society. Domination understood as "natural"
and "right" can be the basis of a society. The contradiction is that
even total domination must have the freedom inherent in it for it to
be understood as "natural". This is part of the inherent instability
of the human social world.

I guess this is somewhat of a culture is false-consciousness argument.