Nature and politics

Here are some relationships between beliefs about nature (the nature of the world and of humanity) and political beliefs.

If you think that humanity and society are not especially malleable by a political elite (but nevertheless destructible and enslavable), then you think, in particular, that the way things are and the way people are is pretty much the way they are going to be. You think that the significant alternatives to the way things are is not some other healthy way things might be, but slavery or death, disaster, things falling apart, the end. The role of the government is limited to the following:

a) to preserve society

b) to enslave (or more mildly, to feed on) society

c) to harm or destroy society

You think, furthermore, that the way things are right now, the government is already either preserving, or harming, or enslaving society, but is not in any significant creative sense molding society. You believe, therefore, that the way things are is in large part a detailed reflection of their detailed nature - rather than being imprinted on their malleable nature by the creative state. You think that the productive economy is not run, either secretly or openly, by the government, as that would grant the government creative powers which are denied it by the vision of society as not especially malleable. You may believe that the government has the power to defend, but apart from this you are liable to view government activity as harmful and possibly parasitical.

A subtlety which I did not take into account in the preceding discussion is that the vision of society as non-malleable is not necessarily a vision of society as not subject to spontaneous change. It is a vision of society as not subject to deliberate change (such as by a political elite). Like the weather - it changes, but it is hard to influence.

On the other side: if you think that humanity and society are highly malleable then much of this reverses. You believe in the capacity of government to effect significant positive change in society. More interestingly, this leads to the idea that this has already happened and is happening, which leads to a whole set of (in my view mostly delusional) ideas about the way the world is right now. You are liable to see the government's hand everywhere. Depending on how much positive creativity you assign to the government, you may see society as essentially nothing without the state, as something which, if it has any form at all, necessarily has the form imposed on it by the artist, i.e., the state. You are liable to have difficulty distinguishing totalitarianism from free societies, as you see the government's hand everywhere in both societies - and, in consequence, you are liable to become a totalitarian yourself.

You are liable to believe that society is largely an intentional creation of those who seek to mold it. You are liable to give rather a lot of credit for positive changes to political and other activists who have advocated for those changes. (A contrasting view is that political activists are essentially epiphenomena, having scant actual causal power, though limitless capacity for self-congratulation.)

Share this