Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты


A peculiar commodity: the relation



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A peculiar commodity: the relation


There exists such a difference between things and persons, which makes it impossible to simply apply the logic of handling one of these categories to handling the other one. The point is that things can, while persons cannot unambiguously be by their attributes classified into one of the above-mentioned three groups. Regarding persons, when we try to tra­ce down their attributes in order to explain social phenomena their causes turn out to be relations instead. For instance, someone in majority exerts his influence differently from someone in minority (Moscovici, 1976).

Relations have a logic that is quite different from that of attributes. That gets particularly evident if we compare how does that logic work when one wants to define his/her social identity in terms of attributes or relations, respectively.

Let us see, e. g., the attribute of a fine crop of hair which, if necessary, may clearly differentiate my social category from that of bald-heads. In this ca­se the attribute and the social category are somehow interrelated: if I want to switch over to the other social category I may be compelled to give up my attribute and assume that of the other group. On the other hand, if I want to exchange my attribute for theirs I have to accept that the moment I sha­ve my head close, as a result, I will belong in some way among the bald-heads.

A well-known tendency is connected with this relation: as soon as a mar­ked­ly different attribute (e.g., skin color) is noticed on someone s/he is ma­de sus­­ceptible to be classed in a social category detached from the category of tho­se who noticed the difference. And, on the other hand, when a group of peo­p­le de­fines their social identity as categorically different from that of others, they are willing to develop also an attribute that is just as different (cf. the skin-heads).

Completely different is the case when two social categories differenti­a­te themselves along some relations and not attributes. Unlike attributes, the value that characterizes a person in terms of a relation can be detached from the social category to which the person belongs. E.g., I may belong to tho­se who are the majority in some regard, the other group being the mino­ri­ty. It is then possible that I change groups without ceasing to be a majority per­son, for my very joining may have changed the other group from minori­ty to majority status. Or it may also happen that I be­co­me a minority person without changing groups, if some of my fellow-members shifted their group.

Therefore, when a totalitarian state tries to apply the same logic to per­sons’ relations by which the traditional processing industry handles the things’ attributes, then everything turns upside down.

So far, the authors of folk-poetry of jokes have taken a greater interest in this upside-down situa­tion than those who should reckon with it for some serious mat­ter. When, for instance, we want to get rid of a harmful effect of a certain attribute, the technology of exterminating the very last specimen of the things carrying this attribute guarantees 100% success. This is turned inside out by the following joke applying the technology to relations instead of attributes: “Are there cannibals among you, gentlemen?”, the missionary asks the natives. “No, sir”, their spokesman replies. “We ate the last one yesterday.”

This paradox turning things upside down, however, immediately assumes a serious coun­te­nance when we realize that the basic psycho-socio-economic problem the second modernization has to deal with is just connected to relations. The point is that



THE OPTIMUM FUNCTIONING OF A MARKET ECONOMY REQUIRES THE RELATION OF PERFECT COMPETITION, I. E. ONE THAT NO MONO­PO­LY OF ANY OF THE ECONOMIC ACTORS RESTRAINS.

And, on the other hand,

THE OPTIMUM FUNC­TIONING OF A PLANNED ECONOMY REQUIRES THE RELATION OF PERFECT MO­NO­POLY OF THE PLANNING AUTHORITY, I. E. ONE NOT RESTRAINED BY THE COMPETITION OF OTHERS.

Now, in fact, the actual psycho-socio-economic relations by the early 20th century it became manifest that competition and monopoly do constrain each other and, thus, for the optimum running of either a market or a plan­ned economy various totalitarian states of the second modernization pe­riod by the peculiar processing industry they run have to transform these am­biguous relations into an unambiguous one (either competition, or monopoly).

As to this processing industry whose raw material is the above ambi­guous relation, two paradoxical statements have to be done. According to the first one



THE COEXISTENCE OF COMPETITION AND MONOPOLY IS ITSELF A COMPETITION,

between interests in competition and interests in the monopoly. On the other hand, if this ambiguous relation as a raw material gets successfully pro­ces­sed, than the exclusiveness of either of the two relations turns out to be the final product. But

BOTH THE EXCLUSIVENESS OF MONOPOLY OVER COMPETITION AND THE EXCLUSIVE­NESS OF COMPETITION OVER MONOPOLY IMPLY MONOPOLY.

Whenever in the 20th century the human processing industry func­tions by the principle of the market, it only intervenes in the spontaneous events to protect the market from the monopoly and guarantee the undisturbed com­petition. And by this very intervention the compe­tition between mono­po­ly and competition got changed for the monopoly of the competition. This was the main trend in the development of that kind of totalita­rian sta­tes which had been represented by the fascist Italy and the national-socialist Germany.

With this type of totalitarian states it is customary to state that contrary to Bolshevik-type totalitarian states, their economic development does not break off but continues uninterrupted after the collapse of the political regime, becau­se allegedly these systems have not undermined the market, the basis of economy.

But there is more to it than that. These totalitarian states tried to process their raw material in such a way that the market should be ensured the personal condition of perfect competition (as was expressed by such elements of their propaganda as the promotion of dangerous living, the cult of heroes), while those factors of the economic life get eradicated which is believed to be carriers of monopolies (Jewish businessmen, trade unions, etc.)

“Are there cannibals among you, gentlemen?’ – “No, sir, we ate the last one yesterday.” The paradox of the joke I quoted above is dead se­rious: in order to eradicate monopoly, the fascist and national socialist totali­tarian state made itself the possessor of an unprecedented power monopoly.

The determination of the totalitarian state to shape human raw material failed in the case of fascist, national-socialist totalitarian states not be­cau­se the technology of processing has been morally abject but because of the abo­ve logical absurdities as a result of which the system itself undermined its existence.

In this regard, completely different was the Bolshevik-type society. This difference is not the one that the dominant ideologies of both types of totalitarian state kept in evidence as something exaggerated to cosmic proportions (which shows another facet of their similarities).

The boundaries of differing were determined by the fundamental similarity that both types of totalitarian state were organized by extending the successful technology of processing industry from things to persons, while again both used that double heritage of the world war: soldiers produced from civilians and the know-how of such a processing.

What does differentiate the Bolshevik-type society within these boundaries is that here the human processing technology, when applied to make ambiguous relations unambiguous, is practiced in the interest of planning, in or­der to protect it from the competition and guarantee the undis­tur­bed monopoly of the planning authorities.

The human processing technology has in any case a paradoxical effect turning intentions upside down. But

A FASCIST-TYPE STATE IN ORDER TO GET THE MARKET PRO­VI­DED WITH THE COMPETITION ERADICATES COMPETITION AND PROTECTED FROM MONO­POLY CREATES MONOPOLY

while

A BOLSHEVIK TYPE STATE IN ORDER TO GET THE PLAN PROTECTED FROM THE COMPETITION ERADICATES COMPETITION AND PROVIDED WITH THE MONOPOLY CREATES MONOPOLY

By the first paradoxical connection the social structure that is to be built un­der­mines itself, while by the second paradoxical connection it establishes itself. The difference between the two kinds of paradoxical social structure is especially important to keep in evidence in or­der to see why the fascist-type totalitarian states collapsed after the world war while the Bolshevik-type totalitarian societies began to expand. One can­not simply attribute this to the historical eventuality of the fortune of war.




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