REFLECTIONS: THE SOCIAL AND THE ETHICAL

THE SOCIAL

Again, and unless I state it otherwise, I shall speak here from the explanatory path of objectivity-in-parenthesis. Accordingly, I shall speak of the social and ethical through reflecting upon the operations of distinction that the observer performs when he or she speaks of the social and the ethical in daily life.

1) If we listen to the circumstances under which we speak of socialisation in daily life, we discover that we do so only under circumstances of recurrent interactions in mutual acceptance. Statements such as "Now we are working, we are not socialising" or "One must not socialise with the enemy" indicate this clearly. In fact, the first statement means "We now co-ordinate our actions in the commitment of fulfilling a task, not under the emotion of mutual acceptance" and the second one means "We must not enter in relations of mutual acceptance with the enemy because these destroy the emotion of enmity necessary to kill him or her." Accordingly, I maintain that an observer claims that social phenomena are taking place when he or she sees two or more organisms in recurrent interactions that follow an operational course of mutual acceptance. I also maintain that the emotion that makes possible recurrent interactions in mutual acceptance is that which we connote in daily life with the word love. Or, in other words, I say that love is the emotion that constitutes social phenomena; that when love ends, social phenomena end; and that interactions and relations that take place between living systems under other emotions different from love, are not social interactions or social relations. Therefore, when I speak of love I do not speak of a sentiment, nor do I speak of goodness, nor recommend kindness. When I speak of love I speak of a biological phenomenon; I speak of the emotion that specifies the domain of actions in which living systems co-ordinate their actions in a manner that entails mutual acceptance, and I claim that such operation constitutes social phenomena (see Maturana, 1974, 1985).

2) The awareness that love is the emotion that constitutes those phenomena in that in daily life we call social phenomena, also entails the awareness that those relations that in daily life we call social relations entail the living condition of the entities that realise them and, therefore, that whenever we speak in daily life of social systems we refer to systems formed by living systems in recurrent interactions under the emotion of love. Or, in other words, I claim that a system constituted by living systems that through their recurrent interactions integrate a network of co-ordinations of actions in a domain of mutual acceptance is a social system in that domain. Or, still in other words, I claim that it is their operation in co-ordinations of actions under the emotion of love that makes a group of living systems a social system. Finally, I also claim that relations and interactions that do not entail mutual acceptance between living systems are not social relations or interactions. This has the following implications:

a) It is constitutive of social systems that the components that realise them should be living systems. This means that any operation in a social system that denies or destroys the living condition of its components denies or destroys it. This, or course, also applies to human social systems.
b) The class identity of the components of a social system defines the class identity of the social system. Thus, a social system composed of human beings is a human social system. At the same time, it is the domain in which love (mutual acceptance) takes place between the components of a social system that defines the class identity of these, as well as the class identity of the social system. Accordingly, a human social system is defined as such by the mutual acceptance of its components in their condition of human beings. Similarly, a student social system is defined as such by the mutual acceptance of its components in their condition of students. As a human being realises in his or her bodyhood the structural intersection of many different human identities, a human being can participate through the different identities that he or she realises in many different social systems. Finally, anything that denies or destroys the identity of the components of a social system, destroys it.
c) A social system is a system in which its component living systems realise themselves as living systems of a particular kind, through their co-ordinations of actions in the domain of their mutual acceptance. In other words, the components of a social system conserve their reciprocal adaptation in the domain of their mutual acceptance as they realise themselves as living systems in their co-ontogenic structural drift through their recurrent co-ordinations of actions. In human social systems this takes place through languaging. Furthermore, human social systems are networks of recurrent and changing conversations between human beings who are realised as human beings through their participation in the constitution of the social systems that they integrate. Moreover, I claim that language arose in the evolutionary history of primates, that resulted in human beings, as a feature of their social life in food-sharing, caressing, sexuality and male co-operation in child-caring.
d) An entity is a component of a system if it participates with other entities in the realisation of the relations of composition (organisation) of that system. In other words, an observer will claim that a given living system is a member of a social system if he or she sees it participating with other living systems in the co-ordinations of actions that constitute such a social system. Therefore, membership in a social system is not an intrinsic property of its component living systems, but a feature of their participation in its constitution. In general, the components of a system are components only in the relations of composition of it. Due to this, a human being will be seen by an observer as a member of a particular social system only as long as he or she is seen participating with other human beings through the operationality of mutual acceptance in the co-ordinations of actions that define it.
e) When an observer sees that the behavior of some members of a social system entails the negation of others under the appearance of acceptance, he or she claims hypocrisy and lack of sincerity in them. In other words, we make the assessment of hypocrisy or insincerity when we claim that one of the members of a social system that we observe mimics the acceptance of the others by performing the behavior proper to it under a different emotion than love. However, we make such assessment in the members of a social system either a posteriori, that is, after seeing that these have already stopped operating in the acceptance of the others, or through seeing in them other emotions than love as the fundament of their realisation of the behavior of mutual acceptance that constitutes the social system that they appear to integrate.

Therefore, the observer claims that hypocrisy allows some individuals to participate in the actions that constitute a particular social system while under a hidden emotion that negates it. A social system, in which the emotional contradiction hidden by the hypocrisy or insincerity in which some of its members live becomes apparent, either disintegrates immediately, or it undergoes a structural change that results in the disappearance of the insincerity of those members, or hypocrisy hides again the emotional contradictions, or it goes on with the exclusion of its insincere members. In other words, a social system can persist in the presence of hypocrisy in some of its members as long as these continue performing the actions of mutual acceptance, but it is unstable because insincerity always shows up in conflicting actions due to the emotional contradiction entailed in hypocrisy. In other words, it is the behavior of mutual acceptance between the components of a social system, not their sincerity, that is essential for its continued realisation. However, sincerity is essential for its stability and its existence through the emotional health (absence of emotional contradictions) of its members. Furthermore, our normal participation in the social systems that we integrate takes place under the implicit assumption of sincerity, and I claim that if we were to look into it we would find that it normally prevails. Indeed, I claim that, because love is the emotion that constitutes social phenomena, without the prevalence of sincerity the primate evolution that gave origin to humanity would not have taken place.

3) The components of a social system realise themselves as living systems in the composition of the social system that they compose. At the same time, a social system exists only in the dimensions in which its component living systems realise it through relations of mutual acceptance in their recurrent interactions. As a result of this, a social system recursively operates as a medium in which its component living systems conserve organisation and adaptation in the dimensions in which they compose it. Or, in other words, the behavior of the components of a social system that constitute it as a particular kind of social system become specified through their participation in its composition. Or, still in other words, a particular living system is a member of a particular social system only as long as it realises the behavior proper to the composition of that social system, otherwise the living system is not a member of it, or the social system disintegrates. This has several consequences:

a) Social systems are conservative systems. The new members of a social system learn the behavior proper to them in it as they contribute to its constitution through their participation in it. If this does not occur, the new member-to-be does not become a member, or the new member is dropped out. At the same time, a member of a social system that begins to behave in a manner that is not proper to it stops being a member of it, and is ignored or treated as alien, or its behavior is adopted and becomes an innovator.
b) Each social system is constituted as a network of co-ordinations of actions, or behaviors, that its components realise through their interactions in mutual acceptance. Due to this, there can be as many different kinds of social systems as configurations of networks of co-ordinations of actions can be realised by living systems while interacting in mutual acceptance. As such, a social system is a dynamic system in a continuous flow of changing co-ordinations of actions that remains the same as long as these stay contained within the configuration of co-ordinations of actions that defines it as a particular social system. In these circumstances, change in a social system, consists in a change in the configuration of co-ordinations of actions that constitute it, and can only take place through a change in the behavior of its components.
c) As social systems are constitutively conservative, social change can not take place as a result of the normal operation of a social system; and, at the same time, if change takes place it does so at the moment at which the new behavior becomes included as part of a new standard behavioral repertoire in the social system. As a result, if the new behavior of some of the members of a social system can not be integrated as part of a single social network, the social system disintegrates or fractures into two or more new social systems.

4) We human beings exist, as such, in language. For this reason, human social systems are systems of co-ordinations of actions in language; that is, they are networks of conversations. Accordingly, different human social systems, or societies, differ in the characteristics of the different networks of conversations that constitute them. At the same time, daily experience shows us that we affect each other in our bodyhoods through our languaging and emotioning in the course of our conversations. Indeed, we know from daily experience that we can recognise the members of different societies and different cultures through the different manners in which they handle their bodies, and that to grow in a given society or culture entails acquiring a particular manner of being a bodyhood. Let us see how it is that this takes place:

a) Each particular network of conversations, in which the people who realise that network operate in mutual acceptance, constitutes a social system. Thus a family, a chess club, a town community, a political party, a secret society, or a group of friends are all systems of co-ordinations of actions in language, and as such are networks of conversations that are social systems only to the extent that the people who realise them operate in mutual acceptance. As a result, and regardless of our awareness of this, we move in daily life through a network of conversations, entering and leaving social systems according to whether in the flow of our languaging and emotioning our behavior entails accepting or rejecting coexistence in mutual acceptance.
b) As we realise our conversations through our interactions, and our interactions are realised through our bodyhoods, any change in our bodyhoods is liable to result in a change in our conversations. Conversely, because we interact in the realisation of our conversations, and our interactions result in changes of our bodyhoods, our bodyhoods change in the course of our conversations in a course contingent on the flow of the interactions that constitute them. In other words, as changes in our conversations result in changes in our bodyhoods, changes in our bodyhoods result in changes in our conversations.
c) We human beings participate in our daily life in many different social systems which, although independent as domains of conversations (different cognitive domains) affect each other as their realisations intersect in our bodyhoods (see section on 'Cognition'). Due to this, every conversation in which we participate has consequences in our bodyhoods and everything that we do in our bodyhoods has consequences in the conversations in which we participate. Or, in other words, the manner of recursive (dialectic) involvement of languaging and bodyhood results in the conservative character of social systems: as a particular social system is realised and conserved through the participation of its members in the network of conversations that constitutes it, the network of conversations that constitutes a particular social system specifies the characteristics and properties that its members must have as they realise it.

5) A social system is a closed system that includes as its members all those organisms that operate under the emotion of mutual acceptance in the realisation of the network of co-ordinations of actions that realises it. Due to this, the boundaries of a social system are emotional ones, and appear in the behavior of its members as they exclude other organisms from participation in the particular network of co-ordinations of actions that constitutes it. In the human domain this exclusion is usually justified with some rational argument from the perspective of the explanatory path of objectivity-without-parenthesis, and the emotions of rejection, shame or sadness, which, alone or in combination, arise when a social boundary becomes explicit in language, are negated. That these emotions should arise in us, however, reveals that in the core of our biological flow, as we grow up as healthy social entities, we accept all living beings and, particularly, all human beings, as members with us of a broad social domain that we have to learn to subdivide as we grow up as members of a particular culture. The denial of the presence of these emotions in us, when we rationally make explicit the boundaries of a particular social system, also blinds us about the emotion, and not rational, character of these boundaries. Daily life reveals this as it shows that social boundaries can only be crossed through emotional seduction and never through reason.

6) A change in a human social system takes place as a change in the network of conversations that its members generate. However, as the bodyhoods of the members of any particular social system become what they are, and generate the behaviors that realise it through their participation in its constitution, the normal interactions of a human being in a social system to which he or she belongs are confirmatory of it and of his or her membership in it, and contribute to the production of members that confirm it. Social systems are constitutively conservative systems; due to this, human social systems can only change if their members have experiences that trigger in them changes in bodyhood that result in them no longer participating in its constitutive network of conversations. For this to happen in any particular human social system, its members must have experiences outside the network of conversations that constitutes it. This can take place for any human being as a member of a particular social system fundamentally in two ways: a) through the encounter with other human beings in a network of conversations that do not confirm it, or through the experience of situations that do not belong to it; and b) through interactions that trigger in us reflections upon our circumstances of coexistence with other human beings. The first case usually happens when we encounter actual foreigners, either when on a trip abroad or when visitors come to us, or when we move beyond the normal ranges of our community. As a result of such encounters and experiences, the course of our structural drift may take us outside the domain of structural changes that are conservative of the social system to which we belong, and we become heretic in it. The second case usually happens when we live situations in which we fall in love, or in which, through the braiding of our reasoning and emotioning, we distinguish our circumstances and consider them in reference to our desires of coexistence with other human beings. If, when this happens, we do not like those circumstances as expressions of our manner of living with other human beings, and take action, we stop being conservative of the social system in which this takes place, and become heretic in it.