chapter  6
21 Pages

Deconstructing the problem of social order

Actually, both Freud and Durkheim conceived of human nature as fundamentally dualistic, and they thought of these dualisms primarily in terms of Schopenhauer's and Plato's concepts of the idea (or representation) versus various metaphors for the will. This means that the thinkers that concern us here thought that the individual is a potential enemy of society and civilization at all times, but additionally, they also thought that society and civilization were potentially detrimental to the individual. This latter aspect of their thought gets lost in modernist accounts of their legacy. Dualisms abound in contemporary as well as ancient thought, of course, but what sets Freud and Durkheim apart is their Schopenhauerian assumption that will and idea are mutually antagonistic, yet constitute a dialectical unity, such that they result in inescapable tension, and, above all, that the will is more powerful than the mind. By contrast, modernists follow the Enlightenment narratives in assuming that the mind can rule the passions that stem from the will, while postmodernists seek to jettison the entire vocabulary of dualisms as an oppressive narrative. Interesting but widely different consequences follow, depending upon which of these assumptions one pursues in analysis: Freud, Durkheim and many of their fin de siecle colleagues will find more, not less, aggression and other manifestations of the will in modern, so-called civilized societies. The modernists develop positivistic models for controlling and predicting human aggression, which have been largely unsuccessful so far. And postmodernists do not trouble themselves with violence, aggression, or barbarism as primary concerns. They admonish us to be comfortable with uncertainty.