Saturday, 5 May 2012

Reflection and Society

Thought internalises language which reflects naturally selected sensation. Thus, reflection began as a means to survival but, when survival is ensured, reflection can instead become an end in itself as science, philosophy, art and meditation. Because reflection as a means to survival began as language, reflective beings are social. Social labour successively produced no surplus, a small surplus and a large surplus. The small surplus, necessarily distributed unequally, supported a reflective minority whereas socialisation of technology with equal distribution of a large surplus will release the potential of the majority.

The optimal state is reflection as an end in socialist society. I suggest that education will:

(i) help each individual to identify his interests and abilities;
(ii) equip him with knowledge and skills for self-realising work;
(iii) provide sabbaticals from work so that anyone who wants to can learn about other work activities;
(iv) also provide re-training at any time for a change of direction.

Work that is socially indispensable, universally unwanted and impossible to automate should be reduced to zero. Until then, it should be shared so that everyone spends minimal time doing what no one wants to. It should be impossible to pay anyone to do your share. 

Each individual should at any time have access to eight social relationships:

(i) "family", people we grew up with and have always known, however this is organised;
(ii) teachers/tutors/mentors/guides or one in particular;
(iii) solitude;
(iv) those engaged in the same kind of work;
(v) people with common interests other than work;
(vi) public areas (streets, parks, restaurants, theatres etc) to be visited alone or in groups;
(vii) places to go for the sole purpose of meeting new people;
(viii) discussion and decision-making about matters of concern to society as a whole.

Family has changed throughout prehistory and history, is changing now and will change in future. What matters is that new members of society are encouraged to realise their potential. Solitude is a relationship because society must respect and support it. Most of us work with colleagues. A writer's work is solitary but probably enriched by meeting other writers and readers.

Matters of concern to society as a whole would be:

(i) maintenance of a material and cultural environment;
(ii) defence of the Earth against cometary strikes or against continued ecological consequences of pre-revolutionary society;
(iii) long term preservation of humanity in self-sustaining extraterrestrial habitats.
A non-polluting rapid global transport system would facilitate participation in the eight relationships. Teleportation would be ideal but is probably impossible. Electronic communication would facilitate decision-making but should involve full audiovisual contact between local mass meetings, not, impossibly, between millions of isolated individuals. The technology currently used to conceal and distract can instead be used to inform and involve.
Years ago, a relative of mine who watched television news every evening thought that a major industrial dispute was about the closed shop, not merely about union recognition as I learned by attending a strike support meeting. My relative also thought that the employer who had sacked a shop steward was being bullied by the union which campaigned for her re-instatement! Of course, readers of this article will have a range of views about such issues and do not know the details of the particular case but my point here is that my relative had no access to alternative views and did not even know that such views existed although it should be obvious that a dispute is controversial. She knew that a certain military dictator had restored democracy in his country but not that it was he who had destroyed democracy in the first place. Any view critical of the status quo was filtered out. 

In another dispute, a man crossing a picket line informed me that there was no industrial dispute despite the fact that I had spoken to strikers and had joined their picket line. Seeing my puzzlement, fellow pickets told me that the man was management. The management view was that the people standing outside the building had been dismissed, therefore no longer worked for the company. It followed that the firm was not in dispute with any of its current employees. Then I understood the management view although I continued to disagree with it.
These cases are relevant to the discussion of socialism because withdrawal of labour is a first step towards control of work and unalienated labour. If I thought that "socialism" meant a bureaucratic dictatorship stifling initiative and squandering wealth, then I would have to accept a market economy as the lesser evil (but what an evil, especially now in 2009).

Further speculative features of a future society might be:

(i) human brains in animal-like bodies needing neither clothes nor buildings but comfortable in natural environments although retaining intelligence and technology;
(ii) brain implants bestowing psychokinetic control of immediate environments;
(iii) nanotechnology eating dirt and pollution and excreting oxygen;
(iv) extension of habitable environments not just to other planetary surfaces but throughout solar space;
(v) "intelligent", self-adjusting environments.

No comments:

Post a Comment