Sunday, March 03, 2002

Zenpriest #62 - The Hegelian Dialectic and Social Change

I’m going to take as a springboard this comment by Novaseeker -

QUOTE: "This is a time of great change and dislocation, to be sure.  But it is also our time, the time of our freedom, if we choose to recognize that and embrace it in our lives. We can be our future now, if we only have the courage to grasp that destiny with both hands and mold it as we wish."

I agree totally, but I think it also raises the question of “how”? How do we grasp that destiny, and how do we mold it? Do we simply make individual personal choices and have everyone else do the same? That would seem to me to be a state of cultural entropy in which culture simply continues down a path of progressive disorganization – the only possible end point of which is complete disorganization, or “chaos.”

Some may be familiar with what is called the “Hegelian Dialectic” and some may not, but it is a way of  describing the process of social change: description, not prescription. It is not saying how it “should” occur, but simply noting how it does.

In a terribly oversimplified version -

You start with existing conditions and social values which are defined by a majority or dominant group within a culture, and those conditions and values are generally thought to define the culture.   Hegel did not actually use the terms which are now most commonly associated with his description of the dialectic, but the term used now to describe the “status quo” is the “thesis”, the theory on which the culture is based.

However, those conditions and values, that thesis,  work best (or in some cases only) for the dominant group.  For other subgroups the thesis does not work so well so they come up with an opposing or alternate set of theories, called the “antithesis” (literally the anti-thesis), which functions as a counter-thesis.

These two competing theories struggle for dominance in the culture and  over time end up modifying each other and achieving compromises which are more workable and acceptable to both groups than either the thesis or the anti-thesis.  And, this stage is called “synthesis.”

Remember that this is a description of social change, which is constant.  So, the synthesis is not a steady state or a permanent solution, but instead becomes the thesis against which a new antithesis (counter thesis) arises.
So, if the 1950s and “Leave it to Beaver” and “Ozzie and Harriet” were the thesis, and 2nd wave feminism was the antithesis, and the synthesis of the two is the conditions in which we live today, it seems that it is time for a new antithesis – this time posed by men because the last one was posed by women.

Is the new anti-thesis Game?  Or is there more to it than that?  Are we cycling away from a purely theoretical approach to life exemplified by feminism toward a more pragmatic one like Game, or is Game simply a transition point on the way to a fully developed anti-thesis?  Is HBD actually the anti-thesis?

Some raw meat thrown out for the discussion minded…

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