ALİ BULAÇ

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ALİ BULAÇ
July 30, 2012, Monday

Society

“Society” is a construct -- a synthetic, invented concept which does not truly correspond with anything in real life; it is completely a product of modernity. Previously, while such an invention or a phenomenon could not be seen, nation-states felt the need for societies, and thus social sciences, particularly sociology, invented and constructed this idea.

German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936) in the differentiation he made between “Gemeinschaft” (community) and “Gesellschaft” (society), as well as comparative analysis, formulated a great manipulation by social sciences. The modern state, in line with its basic assumptions and foresight, which its existence depends on, made man into “individuals” detached from historical and organic structures, as well as from his own real refuges and support systems. The state then reconfigured these people together from scratch, realizing the construction of what we call “society.”

Society, contrary to what is commonly held and argued, is necessarily a homogeneous, united, entire and monolithic structure. There cannot be any differences within society because differences threaten the monolithic goals; they are thus desired to be done away with. After society comes into existence, as a political and legal extension of this, a “nation” emerges. As in the relationship of the state-nation, sometimes “society” gains priority over the nation and sometimes this is vice versa. Afterwards, the state views society through public law, which is the legal format of the state, resetting differences and variations in society and thus, legitimizing the financial and legal grounds that will allow for its existence.

If society does not have an ontological, historical truth and a real counterpart in life, then human reality that is “essential and primary” must exist in the life of man. In this respect, what is essential and primary in the life of man are communities. The modern mindset feels an incomprehensible discomfort upon hearing the word “community,” despite the fact that it has a natural tendency towards it, and holds the belief that this is concept is only peculiar to religions and tribal structures. The notion of a community should not be based on blood ties (that of family, clans and tribes). Every group that comes together around an idea, philosophy or religious belief is also a community. A community could be secular, just as it could be religious.

While this was formally the case, real communities always arose from religions and it was religions that best protected and developed humanity. Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun connects humanity’s convening (or coming together) to two reasons: The first is tied to ancestral reasons; that is blood and family. The other is “reason,” a shared desire, wish, goal or purpose. The second reason, when compared to the first, requires a higher level of intellectual and moral effort. People connected purely on the level of blood clash as time goes on. As they gravitate toward a higher moral effort, however, they move toward humanity’s prosperity and goodness. Religion is the highest expression of this effort and the last religion, Islam, reflects this.

Every one of the civil society institutions today desires to be a community before the state’s totalitarian pressure. From now on, the historical process will proceed in the direction of communities and away from societies. This phenomenon cannot be ignored in the human domain that is non-Western and has traditional structures alone, but in Western societies like America, France, England and Germany, which are at the heart of modern Western cultures.

This is different from tribalism. Social scientists and intellectuals who promote their ideologies cause agitation by showing this universal tendency as tribalism. This development rips apart and disjoints with certainty the cultural tools that make up the secular or national character. What will come to the fore, as natural expressions, are communities and cities which are their centers.

Similarly, the connection made between communities and the wild, village or nomadic life has no history or basis for humanity. The nation-state universalized the historical category in which it arose, relegating the extended family, which is the foundation of civilizations and urban life, communities and the larger-scale human assemblages to a sort of primitiveness. In fact, in the much more extensive and ancient history of mankind, we see that the transformation of the nomadic and village life opened the door to city life and civilization. From the two universal categories one is nomadism and small village life and the other is city-life and civilization. Society is not seen in either of the two human categories. Society and the nation can be overcome, but the city and civilization will carry on.

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