ArticlePDF Available

On the social costs of modernization: social disintregation, atomie/anomie and social development

Authors:
On
the
social costs
of modernization
123
ON THE
SOCIAL COSTS OF
MODERNIZATION:
Social Disintregation, Atomie/Anomie
and Social Development
JOHAN GALTUNG
Sénior Advisor, UNRISD, in preparation for the WORLD SUMMIT FOR SOCIAL
DEVELOPMENT, Copenhagen, March 11-12 1995.
Professor of Peace Studies; Universitaet Witten/Herdecke, University of Hawai'i,
European Peace University, Universidad de Alicante, TRANSCEND Member,
International Scientific Board, Swiss Academy for Development.
Geneva, January 1995
Honolulú, February 1995
SUMMARY
he modernization project launched by the West two
centuries ago, was based on three
pillars:
State-logic, Ca-
pital-logic and Ratio-logic; formulated in part by
Montesquieu (France), Smith (Britain) and Kant
(Germany). The logic of the State implied centralization
of coercive power, tempered by democracy. The logic of Capital implied
market forces for economic power, tempered by anti-monopoly clauses.
The logic of Ratio implied secularization for normative
power.
The result
was spectacular, with bureaucracies, corporations and universities being
major carriers of the triple logic, with ring-effects all o ver.
All of this was colored by Western deep culture, with its focus on
dominión over nature; a sharp body-spirit división mirrored in a social
división between merchants catering to the body, clergy catering to the
spirit and aristocracy protecting both but also having ultímate power
(whence grew Capital, Ratio and the State); social atomism
(individualism) with hierarchic organization of people; epistemological
atomism and hierarchic organization of ideas (deductive systems); a
very dichotomous world
image;
and
a
religion/ideology seen
as
singularist
(the only Truth) and universalist (valid for the whole world). Abroad
"modernization" became Westernization, and with the recent
predominance of Economic Man became identified with economic
growth as the key program for the whole world the last decades.
124
Johan Galtung
Much naivete is needed to believe that this can happen without
enormous social costs, whether in the form of the slow but thorough
modernization of the West or the more superficial, but quicker
Westernization of the rest. The costs are there.
The focus of the paper
is
on two basic types of
costs:
destructuration,
or atomie, weakening of direct interaction, deculturation, or anomie,
weakening of compelling norms.
The
result
is
"monadization" (Leibniz) of society
into
mutually isolated
monads steered by egocentric cost-benefits.
This is seen as a process "from nomadism to monadism", from den-
se relatively horizontal structures with norms of compassion for the in-
group, gradually weakened as vertical structures with norms of
submission grow stronger and more world-encompassing un til the latter
also weakens through automation/information. The result
is
an enormous
increase
in
violence at
all
levéis of social organization, the atomie/anomie
syndrome being found in relations to nature, inside the human
self,
at
the micro-level of
the
family, the meso-level of society and the macro-
level of the world society, for instance in inter-nation relations.
A
number of factors are explored for their contribution
to this
situation,
such as economism, secularization, human
rights,
literacy, health, Román
Law,
etc.
But no single factor
is
held responsible for such comprehensive
changes. Epistemological atomism would probably itself be a major
contributing factor.
If
it
is in the weakening of structures and cultures that the source of
so much violence and social disintegration today can be found, then it is
in social development, meaning (re)structuration and (re)culturation that
remedies have to be found. Some examples of rehumanization are given.
The Japanese social construction is seen in this perspective as still hol-
ding out against Westernization. Many, many more are needed. The
situation is serious, and rapidly wiping out advances elsewhere.
I. THREE THESES ON SOCIAL DISINTEGRATION
To go straight to the issue, the first thesis is simply: many human
societies (perhaps most) are in a state of advanced social disintegration
at the cióse of the 20th century, at the threshold of
the
Third millennium
AD.
This does not mean the situation is irreparable. But it does mean
that remedies have to be found and enacted quickly, partly to halt
disintegration (negative social development), and partly to build more
solid societies, not only integrated but less susceptible to social
On the social costs of modernization
125
disintegration (positive social development). Such societies should also
be capable of providing "human security", hereinterpreted as satisfying
basic human needs (positive human development),
or at
least of reversing
processes of human needs degradation (negative human development).
In the same vein, they should be capable of enhancing the eco-systems,
building diversity and symbiosis (positive nature development), or at
least of halting processes of eco-system degradation (negative nature
development). To this should be added a world dimensión: if the world
is a society of societies that society should also be integrated (positive
world development) or processes toward disintegration should be
reversed (negative world development).
Four spaces of development (Nature, Human, Society, World), and
for each one a more modest negative task and a very ambitious positive
task. A tall
bilí!
In addition, these lofty goals may not even be compati-
ble:
a disintegrating society may also be more
flexible,
capable of
mee-
ting new challenges; and an integrated society may also be too rigid to
take on, creatively, new tasks. But that all remains to be explored.
Dramatic, somewhat apocalyptic statements like the thesis above
are frequently heard nowadays. They can be brushed away as more
cases of drama supply to meet a perennial drama demand. Another,
less reassuring interpretation, would be that there might be much truth
to them. At this introductory phase of thestory to be told in these pages
one point should be made: a thesis about social disintegration is not in
and by itself a statement about eco-crisis (depletion, pollution, over-
population
or any
combination of
the
three),
about
misery,
unemployment,
low or negative economic growth, or violence and war. The statement
is about society as something
sui
generis,
of its own kind,
as
sociologists
have always insisted. "Social disintegration" in addition as another
problem, closely related, perhaps even moresignificant
in its
consequences
than all the other global problems alluded
to
as nature, human and world
development. And being different the problem will hardly yield to reme-
dies designed for thed problems. New approaches are called for.
So,
let us identify social disintegration as a global problem, among
other global problems, distributed on the
spaces
of the human condition
used above, adding the "space" of
time,
so far used mainly for ecology,
and culture:
SPACE: GLOBAL PROBLEM:
NATURE: ecological degradation, population
HUMAN: poverty/misery, repression, spiritual alienation
SOCIETY: economic underdevelopment; social disintegration
WORLD: massive violence, war (inter-state/inter-nation)
TIME: non-sustainability
CULTURE: inadequacy
126
Johan Galtung
The four global problems italicized above have already received ge-
neral attention to the point of being the basic foci of the many endeavors
by the United Nations under the headings: "environment" (for nature),
"human
rights",
"development" (for society) and
"peace"
(for
the
world),
with
a time
dimensión added recently; "sustainability". Although nobody
is in favor of non-sustainable solutions to the problems of environment,
human rights, development and peace this is a useful reminder of the
importance of solutions being reproducible, if possible even self-repro-
ducible (as opposed to stop-gap measures or measures that consume
more problem-solving resources than they produce).
The other three problems on the list above have not entered the
general discourse, yet. There are reasons for that. The specialists on
"spiritual alienation" would be religionists andpsychologists, on social
disintegration social scientists in general and sociologists in particular,
and on the possible inadequacy of mainstream (meaning Western) culture,
religionists
again,
cultural anthropologists, philosophers. In other words,
new expertise, so far mainly limited to UNESCO meetings. They do
not carry the same weight
as the
natural sciences,
economics,
and security
studies assumed adequate for the problems discussed.
The three additional problems are also found in the core of the
dominant social formation, in and of the West, questioning individual
internalization, social institutionalization, and the culture. Lives lived
without meaning, societies disintegrating, cultures without
answers,
are
serious problems sui generis; notonly side-effects or side-causes of the
problems of eco-breakdown, misery and
war.
Moreover, they are strongly
related.
For the second thesis we need a simple definition formula: social =
structural + cultural. By "structure" we simply refer to "patterned
interaction", the macro, gross, general picture of "who relates to whom,
how, when and where". This is social traffic as seen from the top of
Empire State Building, not by watching drivers from the corners of
Fifth Avenue and 42nd street in NYC. The key word is pattern, not the
individual variations. There are no individual ñame
tags.
Human beings
appear as "driver", "cop", "pedestrian". The structure changes over
time.
The term is inseparable from the term "process"; there may be
stability, secular trends up or down, cycles (with any period, like the 24
hours and 365 days cycles in the example above).
By "culture" we mean the what and why of interaction; and the
what not/why not important
in
explaining missing
interaction;
the
structure
not
there,
the absent link of interaction. Whereas interaction is between
actors (and patterned interaction is the mega-versión of the single inter-
act);
culture is within actors. But it may be shared: patterned culture is
On the social costs of modernization
127
the mega-version of the individual why and why not; the mutual rights
and obligations of interaction, the expectations, on binding normative
culture.
The second thesis can now be formulated: at the roots of social
disintegration is a twin process of destructuration and deculturation,
heading for structurelessness and culturelessness. Following Durkheim
we shall refer to culturelessness as anomie; and then introduce a
neologism for structurelessness, atomie. Of course we have not come
that far. Society is not yet a heap of mutually isolated social atoms,
individuáis; and there is still much binding normative culture around.
But we may be on the way.
To where, to what? To a society of Leibniz' monads, fully
self-
sufficient? Obviously not, for human individuáis can hardly survive in
total isolation. But we can easily imagine inter-action reduced to a thin
minimum, like some
e-mail
contact; making society a set of isolates
more than a structure relating positions fdled with individuáis. In other
words, the actor would be the isolated individual as such, not the indivi-
dual as, for instance, pater familias, as "head" of the family, as CEO
("Chief
Executive Officer") or SEO
("State
Executive Officer", the
head of state/government). And the normative culture informing these
individuáis about what to do would be centered on that which serves
the individual. No interacts, only acts.
In short: at the end of the road winding through history and into the
future we see a social formation ("society" may no longer be the term)
basically atomized into
individuáis,
thinly and weakly related, each acting
out of egocentric cost-benefit. We are cióse to this state of atomie, but
there is still some interaction left. We are also cióse to anomie, where
the only binding normative culture left would be individualized cost-
benefit
analysis.
Anarchy would be another term, bellum omniumcon-
tra omnes, homo homini lupus. The social fabric (le tissu, el
tejido),
the
social body, lo social, falls apart.
The third thesis might read something like this: we are at a stage in
human history where the problem is not only whether interaction
structures between individuáis, groups and countries are right or wrong,
but whether there is any structure at
all;
and not only whether the culture
defining right or wrong is right or wrong, but whether there is any
normative culture at all.
On the road we would expect a number of social phenomena.
First, we would expect the focus of interaction to shift from "mutual
rights and obligations", a reciprocal mix of egoistic and altruistic
128
Johan Galtung
orientation, to an egoistic orientation of "what is in it for me". For
organization members the shift is from reciprocity to "what can the
organization do for me". Like predators they descend upon macro-
organizations like State and
Capital,
preying
on
them for individual benefit,
then withdrawing with the booty. Meso-organizations, like NGOs
including parties, trade unions, churches, are used as stepping stones.
Micro-organizations like families and friends are not spared. Spouses
will demand services like sex and security, and in addition "freedom"
(particularly husbands). The offspring sees the family as a launching
platform in Iife and offer little or nothing
in
return after, and even before,
take-off.
Second, we would expect increasing corruption at all levéis of social
organization. By "corruption" we mean a way of using organizations
for egoistic purposes, influencing decisions by injecting resources (money,
sex) into the process; corruptor or corruptee acting out of egoistic cost-
benefit analyses.
Third, with social nets, organizations, decreasing in significance and
the social knots, the individuáis, on the increase, we would expect
increasing mobility out of
nets,
relations and organizations; indicating
that they have been used. After exit there may be entry into new ones,
or into individual monads. People will vacate bonds between spouses,
parents and children, siblings, friends, neighbors and colleagues,
frequently and easily. New relations may become increasingly thin,
shallow.
Fourth, we would expect increasing violence at all levéis of social
organization. There would be no absolute, binding norms standing in the
way, no homo res sacra hominibus. Other human beings inside the
organizations will be seen as substitutable, the relationship being so thin
anyhow, henee as expendable. Outside the organizations they will be
seen as resources. The utility supposedly accruing from violent acts
will be weighed against the disutility of punishment, and the probability
of detection/punishment. As violence becomes pandemic the latter
probability will tend to zero given the asymmetry between the ease of
committing a crime and the difficulty of detecting it.
Fifth, we would expect increasing mental disorder, assuming that
human beings are not made for high levéis of atomie/anomie but for
interactive human togetherness, guided by mutual
rights
and obligations,
in
thin and thick human relations, definitely including the
latter.
Conduct
indicative of mental disorders, such as drug consumption, alcoholism,
sexoholic and workaholicbehavior, perverse physical and verbal violence,
are also efforts
to
fínd identity in tighter and thicker human interaction,
and
in
the deeper recesses of the
Self.
They are outer and innerjourneys.
130
Johan Galtung
particular Other, not to anyone of the same kind (in other words, the
relation is non-substitutable). The definition of "secondary" would be
based on the opposite
pair:
"specific"
("thin")
and universalistic, meaning
treating everybody of
the
same kind, satisfying the same (low) number
of characteristics, the same way. The classical examples of primary
relations would be to cióse relatives; the more remote (cousins four+
removed, for instance) being treated the
same;
and friends. And enemies.
But it would also include colleagues and neighbors, work places and
voluntary organizations. In short, kinship and friendship, vicinity (also
community) and affinity, workship (also school) and worship. High
interaction frequencies will rub off; over time small-and-thin relations
will be thicker and less standardized. For all six cases some collective
Self is defined, offering identity and some security in return for some
altruism.
Let us then introduce another variable, so often missing in social
analysis: size, the sheer number of people involved. Let us divide
organizations into "small" and
"big",
the dividing linebeing roughly the
upper limit to the number of people a human being can identify, and
relate to, positively and negatively. The order of magnitude would be
102-103.
Since primary relations are based on identification, we arrive
at the simple conclusión that big-and-thick is impossible. Secondary
relations will tend to be big (and vice versa); only when small can they
be primary.
Thus,
human interaction structures come in two basic modes: thin-
and-big, and thick-and-small. Letus cali them Alpha, thepyramid, and
Beta, the wheel. In modern societies Alpha is organized by the three
pillars of society, State, Capital and Civil Society, in the form of huge
bureaucracies (including armies and universities), corporations, and
people organizations. But inside Alpha small, informal Beta structures
of people with primary relations, such as colleagues who become friends,
or enemies, would be nesting; growing in cafeterias, over repeated
encounters in lifts, some evolving into super-Beta relations known as
love.
Seen from Alpha they all introduce personal and subjective elements
in the impersonal, objective atmosphere of a perfectly constructed Alpha,
with everybody substitutable, even if this means alienated. Alpha people
are right: those who spy on Alpha centers for state and corporate secrets
often use Beta networks, including love relations, to get access, like the
classical secretary making extra photocopies for a friend.
Let us then introduce a third variable, vertical versus horizontal, here
seen as relational, not only relative,
as
exploitative, grossly asymmetric
in terms of net benefits. Why do people enter such vertical, exploitative
relations? Because they may have no choice, forced by coerción or
On the social costs of modernization
131
tradition. The alteraative to exploitation may be starvation (Marx on
capitalism). The result is vast action spaces for people on top, strait-
jackets at the bottom; material enrichment on
top,
impoverishment lower
down. Challenges on
top,
routines at the bottom. In horizontal relations
this is better distributed; gross asymmetries lead to break-ups in thin
relations.
Alpha tends to be vertical. Layer can be added to layer, in principie
covering all of humankind through processes of globalization in one big
pyramid or hierarchy with a single apex. This projection of the State
would be known
as
World Government, and
the
corresponding projection
of Capital as the World Market. The present G7 has aspects of both.
But so far alphaization is clearly more pronounced at the regional than
at the world
level;
the European Union as seen in the Maastricht Treaty
being
one
example (the Soviet Union was another, but State and Capital
were more clearly merged into one pyramid than in the EU or the U.S.).
Beta can be both vertical and horizontal (Gamma). A tribe run by
chiefs and shamans, villages run by Big Men and land-owning families,
families run by a pater familias, marital relations under conditions of
patriarchy (and the infrequently found matriarchies), or the small farm/
firm with very tight and very authoritarian relations under the "boss"
are thick and small and also vertical. And they can be horizontal like in
kinship and friendship/enmity groups, among neighbors and colleagues;
with other human beings in general, in worship and workship.
Horizontal Alpha structures can also be imagined
(Delta).
At present
electronic communication, like Internet, may serve as an example, as
long as the information superhighway has atopography without centers
and peripheries. Transportation superhighways tend to be rooted in big
urban centers reaching
into
the peripheries. However, peripheries could
be connected, leveling the center-periphery gradients. In the same vein,
the
information super-highway willprobably develop even steep gradients
(like toll gates); and we are back to traditional Alpha.
As pointed out repeatedly, societies, or social formations more
generally, as we know them, are mixes of Alpha and
Beta.
The question
is how strongly either one is articulated. So let us answer that question
in terms of "strong" and "weak" for both, giving four combinations
(Alpha/Beta is not a dichotomy):
Figure 1: Human social (trans)formations: Structural macrohistory
Alpha strong
Alpha weak
II.
Traditional society
I. Primitive Society
Beta strong
III.
Modera society
IV. Postmodern society
Beta weak
132
Jolían Galtung
The story, as reported here, follows the double line, and starts in the
bottom left
comer.
A humanity divided into small mobile groups, clans,
lineages, small enough to be "in-groups", with primary relations
dominating, essentially
kinship.
A tight
net
of mutual
rights
and obligations
spun inside the
group,
possibly with negative or
no
relations at all toward
the out-groups they would encounter
on
their
wanderings.
They, precisely
they, would probably be conceived of
as
categories of
people,
noteven
with the differentiae specifícae given to them by Alpha logic in terms of
their social positions and their qualifications for being allocated to such
positions. The in-group would be
too small to
develop layers of verticality
beyond gender/generation and for that reason be well integrated socially
and
humanly.
The
weak point would be not only the thin
or
empty relation
to othergroups, but also that integration may be too tight, "suffocating".
With sedentary ways of producing for a livelihood and ahigher level
of agricultural productivity—one family working onthe land producing
enough surplus for 1.1, even 1.25 families the material basis was laid
for the classical caste-systems:
Figure 2. Non-manual castes: Four systems.
First
Second
Thírd
Fourth
Fifth
Europe
clergy
aristocracy
merchants
workers
outcasts
women
children
India
brahmin
clergy
kshatriya
warriors
vaishya
merchants
shudra
workers
outcasts
women
children
China Japan
shi'h shi (samurai)
bureaucrats, intellectuals
nung no
farmers
kung ko
artisans
shang sho
merchants
outcasts outcasts
women women
children children
The history of traditional society becomes to a large extentthe history
of the relative power of the upper layers in what has to be an Alpha
structure, unless the unit (eg., the village)
is
small.
One possibility is the
ranking order indicated above; with the European and Indian systems
being quite similar, and the Chínese and Japanese also quite similar
(thus,
formulas like "Indo-European" and "Sino-Japanese" apply not
only to languages). Another possibility, as pointed out by Sarkar, is a
circulation of castes, in the order kshatriya-brahmin-vaishya-shudra (the
kshatriya enter to créate order after the people have had their say, but
they are culturally so primitive that the brahmins enter to restore culture,
On the social costs
of modemization
133
but they are economically so amateurish that the vaishya have to put
the economy in order, but they are soexploitative that the shudra people
make revolts, and so on).
At this point solid vertical distinctions between people and élites have
emerged. Alpha structures, mainly local,
are being
articulated.
Modernity
brings that process further in Alpha strictu sensu: country-wide,
hierarchical, with a well-defíned specifícity in social relations stipulated
in written contracts, and a universalism opening the positions in the
structure forcitizens satisfying well-defíned, explicit qualifiers. Diffuse,
particularistic relations have to be weeded out from the Alpha garden,
ultimately to look like the orderly French gardens that emerged at about
the same time (not baroque!). For Beta relations, please use time after
working hours, and weekends.
As Alpha becomes more dominant, Beta not only becomes recessive,
but starts disintegrating. One reason is simple: individual time budgets.
Alpha requires full attention, because the jobs provided by Alpha are
full time jobs, and because the occupants of Alpha positions are not
supposed to think Beta thoughts. Some Beta structures have to go,
starting with suchd work structures
as
extended families and traditional
villages. Cities are to Alpha what villages are to
Beta:
liberatingpeople
from the stranglehold of very tight human relations in a village, trien
suspending them in the thin air of urban anonymity.
Cities provide more space for Beta structures than villages for modern
Alpha structures. However, these Beta structures are decreasingly
related to work and increasingly to leisure, leading to the well-known
pattern in many modernized countries today: villages gradually being
con verted from
sites
of agricultural producción
to
sites of weekend leisure,
and to some primary and tertiary production, plantation and tourism, for
far-away buyers.
We
now have to introduce a
thesis,
or rather an hypothesis, important
for the following: A Beta structure is natural to the point of being indis-
pensable for human beings. Only Beta type relations cater to the whole
person and give the person a sense of belongingness. This should not be
confused with identity or sense of meaning of life; that can be enjoyed
also in an Alpha structure, even in a non-structure (Formation IV). To
belong
is
to have a home, somebody to relate
to,
somebody who knows
more of the story than any bureaucracy can do. The argument is not in
favor joint or nuclear families, different sex or same sex
unions,
with or
without children. The argument favors some Betaunit, thick-and-small,
with more total relations.
134
Jolian Galtwig
Objection: if Beta is the natural structural environment, how is it
possible for Alpha to expand at the expense of Beta?
Answer: because Alpha has much to offer in the short run. For
those on top Alpha offers the material fruits of verticality; power,
challenges. For those lower down the gains may tum into
losses,
but the
costs of being marginalized may be still higher. The Alpha lure, you are
in it!, even as a peón in the post office in a village in East Bihar, or
second speed EU member, is there. For Alpha holds out a reward for
good behavior unknown to
Beta:
upward mobility, if not for
you,
maybe
for your offspring.
In
Beta there
is
always room for improving
the
relation,
to become a better friend, a better neighbor. But if
an
attraction of Beta
is precisely its horizontality, then there is no way up. Ñor is there any
way down. There is a way out: if you do not
behave.
The problems, and
the attractions, in Alpha are vertical. In Beta they are horizontal:
belongingness versus loneliness.
One formula often used for modern society is Alpha forproduction,
Beta for reproduction. From Alpha the work output may be considera-
ble.
In Beta human beings are repaired, maintained, sustained.
Formation
I
would show high levéis of stability, keepinghumans intact,
leaving few traces on nature as the work output is negligible and the
consumption of natural resources likewise.
Formation II leaves more traces. There will be monuments to the
glory of the upper castes: temples (mosques, churches) for the clergy,
forts for the warriors, market places, banks etc. for the merchants;
poverty forthepeople; all wrapped together
in
cities.
But even if human
beings are exploited and repressed, they still belong somewhere,
sustained, repaired. Reproduced.
In formation
III,
however, production starts outstrippingreproduction.
The output is phenomenal. Alphas of all kinds get deeper roots and
expand geographically and socially, coveringever larger territories, not
only countries govemed by
states,
but empires governed by mega-states.
The production of goods/bads and (dis)services outstrips what anyone
might have imagined. But Betas are disintegrating, and not only the
extended family and the traditional villages. The nuclear family splits
not only between husband and wife, but also between parents and
children, and among siblings. Neighborhoods break down when people
move geographically too frequently to sustain relations based
on
vicinity.
Invariably the same will apply to friendship and to affinity: neither can
survive the high levéis of social mobility, sideward, upward, downward
of modern society. Worship under the same God may still remain. About
God, however, see next section.
On the social costs
of modernization
135
The transition from primitive to traditional was
made
possible by the
agricultural revolution, growing plants and breeding cattle in
a
relatively
sedentary, basically Beta
way.
The transition from traditional to modern
was made possible by the industrial revolution providing the goods, the
scientific revolution providing the knowledge, and the transportation-
communication revolution extending Alpha reach.
But how about the transition from modern to post-modern? As we
are talking about destructuration anything removing human beings from
direct interaction would count. A key word is tele. Direct interaction is
multisensorial; no telecommunication so far goes beyond the auditive
and visual. Interaction is till there,but it is trimmed down, stripped, more
naked. As anyone talking over the telephone without watching the fa-
cial expression and thebody language will know information gets lost in
the process. And as anyone comparing telefax to telephone knows, the
tone of voice may say more than the words. So the term "information
revolution" will not be used, not for the obvious reason that what is
conveyed is often disinformation, but because of the high level of de-
information when so much quality is lost. Information retrieved from an
encyclopedia or CD-ROM is not the same as information conveyed by
a loving parent or concerned teacher (but the two obviously do not
exelude each other).
Symbolic interaction via words or other symbols, whether arriving
on ordinary or information highway substitutes for direct human
interaction. The term
is
symbolic revolution, from proclamad on of ediets
via modem media
to
automation-robotization. Alpha
is
there.
But human
relations are not.
An image: Los Angeles, 1992. Certain parts of the
once
magnificent
city are wastelands. There are streets and buildings, even shops, even
if waste is piling up all over, the buildings are derelict and the shops are
barricaded. More importantly, they are all disconnected from each other,
there is not even a concept of neighborhood. Nobody knows who is
next
door,
ñor do they
care.
People
come,
goods and services are peddled,
they disappear. At night everything is locked up, dark, desoíate.
And that is when the marauding gangs take over. They are the new
nomads; the city-scape is their resource. Unable to survive in nature
they know how to survive as hunter-gatherers in the urban wastelands;
hunting
cars,
gathering their
contents.
They are the producís of formation
IV, crystallized as a new formation I, preying on the wasteland, fighting
rival
tribes,
including
a
pólice tribe hunting and gathering gangs, LAPD.
Strong Beta structures re-emerging. Ready for a second eyele?
There is a logic to this. Alpha has not disappeared, but has become
136
Johan Galtung
very lean and mean, devoid of human content (thus, in Figure
1
we are
talking about "weak", not
"zero"
Alpha).
Thereis work output, although
some quality may get lost in this dehumanization process. Much more
disturbing is the question often raised by the ultímate stage of
dehumanization: not only is the interaction symbolic rather than direct,
but the receiver, and sometimes also the sender, is even a non-human, a
robot. And robots do not crave for Beta
groups,
they are custom-tailored
for a high Alpha life expectancy.
So
the disturbing question
is
obvious:
if
robots do so much better, for what purpose do we have human beings
at all?
The first answer is obvious: even if robots are better at production,
humans are better at consumption; in fact, the whole purpose of the
exercise
is to
libérate human beings from dirty and
dangerous,
humiliating
and boring work, leaving all of that to robots so that human beings can
concéntrate on creative and non-programmable tasks and enjoy the
fruits,
as consumers.
The second answer would be more reflective, taking into account
that robots also have to be reproduced, sustained, with energy and spare
parts inputs, perhaps also reprogramming. The total cost-benefits, even
done in the most naked economistic way, may turn out to be less obvious
with the destructuration bilí in.
The third answer may point out that not so much is lost anyhow.
With the symbolic revolution not only production can be carried out in
loneliness; the same applies to consumption. There is
a
neat isomorphism
between assembly line production,
in series
and bureaucratic production
in parallel, on the one hand, and a magazine circulating in an office (in
series),
and a family consuming TV programs next to each other (in
parallel) on the other. All four cases are based on action (like turning
nuts in assembly lines or zapping TV at home), not on interaction.
The sum total is not only Alpha but perverted Alpha. If now the
thesis of a human need for Beta as something natural is correct, we
would expect Beta
to
be sprouting. But what kind of Beta? Alpha supplies
all goods and services, leaving few opportunities for green production
on the side. If Alpha is dehumanized anyhow, then why not treat it as
such? To whom do you feel more attachment, to your fellow corruptor/
corruptee, perpetrator/victim, or to an abstract, symbolic structure?
On the social costs of modernization
137
Let us summarize some of the points made:
Figure 3. Formation structural dynamics: Some basic factors.
Alpha
Beta
Growth
Exploitation
Alienation
Primitive
weak
strong
low
low
low
Traditional
strong
strong
high
high
low
Modern
strong
weak
high
high
high
Post-modern
weak
weak
low
low
high
Why do human beings engage in such exercises? Because the grass
is greener on the other side. We seem to be fascinated with what is
missing, and take what we have for granted; assuming it will remain
there forever and not be eroded by the relentless search for the new.
Till we end with a very bad deal, indeed.
Of course Primitive Man becomes fascinated with the growth, and
with the
glory,
produced by traditional society. So, as Ibn Khaldun points
out, the desert tribes knock down the gates and storm the city, sharing
in the
power and
the
glory,
ultimately running it down for lack of asabiyah,
solidarity (a premonition of the theory underlying the present paper).
And in the same vein Traditional Man becomes fascinated with the
tremendous growth and power, with the national, regional and global
reach achieved by Modern society. He no longer knocks down any
gates,
but he joins as a humble immigrant, at the margin of the host
country Alpha structures, contributing to destructuration both places.
He carne from reproduction without production and enters production
without reproduction. He participates in building The Wealth of Nations,
at the expense of The Moral Sentiments; thepoint-counterpoint in Adam
Smith's brilliant reflections.
III.
A MACRO-HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: CULTURAL
TRANSFORMATIONS
Let us now try the same story from
a
cultural point of view, focussing
on binding normative culture, and particularly on
the
source of normative
culture, religión and such secular successorsas national-ism, state-ism,
capital-ism, science-ism. Religión contrasts the sacred and the secular;
the awe-inspiring, that which cannot be touched, and the ordinary, the
profane. In many religions there is also a third category: the evil, to be
feared, to be avoided, and if possible, destroyed. Obviously, people are
not born with, but into a
religión.
There may be
a basis
in thephysiology
138
Johan Galtung
of the brain (and elsewhere). But details
are
learnt.
But what would correspond
to
Alpha
and
Beta? There
is the
theological distinction between the sacred
as
immanent, inside human
beings and nature,
and as
transcendent,
in a
God residing outside
the
planet, above. That god may be a Mother god (like
in
Japan) or
a
Father
god, but
in the
Occident
(as
defrned by theabrahamitic religions, Judaism-
Christianity-Islam) this takes the form of Father-Sky, the Father in
the
Sky. The opposite would be Mother-Earth; the Earth that gives birth
to
our livelihood, the Earth that nourishes us,
and
ultimately receives
us
upon death.
Immanent religión
is
more horizontal, transcendent religión more
vertical. But rather than dividing religions in immanent and transcendent
it might be more fruitful to talk about immanent and transcendent aspects
of religions. In the three occidental religions the transcendent aspect
is
dominant; in addition there is Evil, presided over by Satán. Prayer and
submission to God are the adequate approaches. In immanent religions
meditation in Self and compassion with Other may play similar roles.
However, immanent religión has
a
dark
side,
tending
to
beparticularist
rather than universalist.
The
sacred nature
of
Other may apply
to the
in-group
only,
not
to
the
out-group.
Themessage of transcendent religions
like Christianity and Islam (but not Judaism and Shinto) would be that
you
are all in it, all
protected from above.
The
condition
is
that
you
submit and pray.
Figure 4. Human social (trans)formations: Cultural macrohistory.
Transcendent strong
submission
11.
Traditional society
III.
Modern socicty
Transcendentweak
I.Primitive
society
IV.
Postmodcrn society
Immanent strong
compassion
Immanentweak
The story, then, would run approximately as follows.
Primitive society would be protected by strong ingroupnorms, being
tight and cooperative. Outgroups may prove friendly but also may not;
so
any
notion
of
the sacred would
not a
priori extend
to
Other. They
would have to prove themselves, not by submitting to the same Father-
Sky,
but by
relating cooperatively. They become human
by
being
accepted parts
of
the social network,
not by
any abstract human-ness
(that is probably Occidental).
Traditional society might also need some transcendent deities
particularly protecti ve of the upper layers of society and more accessible
by them than
by
coramon people. Religious relations have
to
mirror
social relations.
But the
social unit
is
still small. Transcendence
and
immanence can be combined.