Press "Enter" to skip to content

the society as a coercion, or a return of Durkheim

One of the features that the reports of the UNDP have been reflected, I think, in all their reports is the idea of the lack of choices of personal actions, because -well – the ‘society’, ‘the system’ (whatever) said that he had to go in a certain direction, and there was more to follow that direction.

Now, what I thought was the fact that if the society is composed by multiple autonomous agents (or at least, outside of my control), so subjectively I’ll always experience the society as an imposition. This is because all the consequences of the actions of others to produce a framework, a social situation that I have not created and imposed -as a background to the action itself. At the time of deciding I have to deal with a social situation that has been created by multiple decisions of multiple actors.

The only way around that would be, or that the other actors were not autonomous (they were controllable by the actor) or the actions don’t have consequences (so that they did what they did the other, would not affect my possibilities of action). Now, on the one hand, the second is impossible. Actions have consequences, that’s why we chose a certain option over another). And in regards to the first point, all control will always be partial, both have decisions to others, there will be no form of total control; and the ability of an actor to make all the decisions is very limited finally.

In other words, the situation is unavoidable. Not even the creation of a collective actor to take the decisions for all solves the issue. A system with three actors: Pedrito, Pablito and Danielito the creation of a collective actor that does is add a new actor, so that we would have now a system with four actors: Pedrito, Pablito, Danielito and (Pedrito+Pablito+Danielito). Each one, again, self-employed and making each one actions whose consequences would be subjectively, for each actor, external, an imposition.

Now, all this long digression on a system created by autonomous agents is experienced subjectively as an imposition, makes us see that, in the end, the good of Durkheim was not so wrong. It also shows that, in reality, his idea that the society is shown to us as something that resists our actions does not imply undermine the capabilities of the actors (in fact, the argument of this post is that precisely this result is based on the capabilities of the social actors in order to precisely act)