Collective consciousness, social cohesion, social inclusion and social exclusion

January 13, 2008


Bateke Mask, Icicles, Full-Moon He is a young doctor literally without borders who chose to work with AIDS patients. When he was forced to leave his own strife-torn country as refugee he left behind his family including the woman he hopes to marry. She too is a doctor and because of his political situation, she was forced to leave her country recently as well. At the time she left, the safest African country seemed to be Kenya.

For awhile he accepted what his newly adopted country offered him as work: he joined the ranks of over-qualified African-Canadian security guards. While living through the horrors of everyday violence in his home country, he was able to sleep at night because his family and friends provided an almost impermeable sense of social cohesion. Alone in Canada, working at a job that offered no future, exiting the role of professional health care worker, his sense of self, of his identity was profoundly shaken. Then the nightmares began. Why is it that trauma as mental illnesses is integral to a western medical system yet depression, PTSD are not a prominent part of the medical profession in Africa where people are faced with struggle for the most basic human needs, such as freedom from violence, minimal nutrition and even water?

As he follows the violent eruptions in Kenya his first concern is finding a way to secure safety for his life partner. He feels that if she were here beside him in Canada that the two of them together could survive.

Meanwhile he has found another job. It seems ironic yet fitting that he works with the most at-risk Canadian populations, the urban homeless. He is learning rapidly that most of those living on the streets are mentally ill. Of this group how many are First Nations and Inuit? How many are women? These are the groups who are most vulnerable to social exclusion and who will not find the health care they need in the public system but who will never be able to access a private system.

As I read about the public/private health care debates I cannot help but think of those who are excluded. Even as a newly arrived immigrant, I want to believe that he will not be of those. I have met so many immigrants particularly from Africa who remain underemployed for their entire work lives in Canada. Will our desparate need for doctors faciliate the process for him and his partner? Perhaps even their perspective will transform in some small way, a system that has come to depend on market solutions for all social problems.

How would I present this topic as a part of a robust conversation where divergent voices could be heard including First Nations, Inuit and immigrant students to enhance their understanding of social history in Canada and comparative social histories (particularly with other OECD nations)? How can I share the relevance of Derrida’s urgent call for a need for philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view? What tools can I develop to enhance cross- and interdisciplinary readings without sacrificing legitimacy (academic capital) based on a system of closed disciplines?

tag cloud: Open Source, memory palace, memory work, sociological imagination, governance, Derrida, cosmopolitical, democracy, liberal democracy, social democracy, economics, elite studies, vertical mosaic revisited, Jeffrey Sachs, Stephen Harper’s relation to the Calgary School, wealth disparities will intensify, vulnerability to social exclusion, human rights, judiciary, Canadian elite studies, academia,

Concepts

Ccollective conscience as used in modern societies a way of describing how an entire community comes together to share similar values. French sociologist, Émile Durkheim (1893). Other forms of collective consciousness through a sociological imagination include solidarity attitudes, memes and extreme behaviors like groupthink, herd behavior. Herd behaviour through a political science lens is explored as a weakness in governance as in mob rule. Through a spiritual imagination collective consciousness is discussed as an outcome of meditation and self-realization.

Timeline of social history related to changing interpretations of the concepts of social consciousness, social cohesion, social inclusion, social exclusion in process . . .

1789 Thomas Jefferson in correspondence to James Madison argued that majority rights cannot exist if individual rights do not (Jefferson 1989).

1893 French sociologist, Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) published his first book The Division of Labor in Society in which he “argued that religion plays an important role in uniting members of segmentary (i.e., clan-based) societies through the creation of a common conscience or consciousness (conscience collective). The contents of each individual’s consciousness largely coincide with those of others, and such a society is therefore integrated by mechanical solidarity, or the mutual likeness of its members. As societies become more differentiated and individuated, the division of labor increasingly requires a new morality of specialized service. Organic solidarity, based on a “categorical imperative” of specialized, yet mutually supportive social performances, displaces the need for a collective consciousness (Swatos nd ).” (1893), and his third one, Suicide (1897), contain significant and mutually congruent analyses of religion in the context of a focus on other sociological problemsand guiding figure in the influential French or “Durkheim school” of sociology. Born to Jewish parents in Epinal, in the Eastern part of France, his father was a prominent rabbi in the region, while his grandfather and great-grandfather had been rabbis before him. As a youth, Durkheim himself was apparently destined for the rabbinate but instead entered on a course of secular education. At the École Normale Superieure in Paris, he concentrated on philosophy but also explored a wider range of political and social issues. Among his eminent classmates were Henri Bergson, Jean Jaurès, and Pierre Janet. After a year of study in Germany (1885-1886), Durkheim secured a position at Bordeaux in 1887. There he taught pedagogy and social sciences until 1902, when he was called to a professorship of education (later changed to include sociology) at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he remained until his death in 1917. Although he had already emerged to prominence at Bordeaux, Durkheim became a leading figure in French intellectual life during his years in Paris, and his work exercised a strong influence in official educational circles as well as the social sciences (Swatos nd).”1895 French sociologist, Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) published The Rules of Sociological Method which presents “Durkheim’s distinctive sociological approach, with its emphasis on the reality of society (versus the individual level), the need to study social facts as things (choses) , and the comparative, analytical method (Swatos nd ).”

1989 Sanford Levinson published Constitutional Faith in which he argued (1989:60) Note that the US Constitution states that unlike a pure democracy, in a constitutional republic, citizens in the US are not governed by the majority of the people but by the rule of law (Levinson 1989 ).”Constitutional Republics are a deliberate attempt to diminish the threat of mobocracy thereby protecting minority groups from the tyranny of the majority by placing checks on the power of the majority of the population. The power of the majority of the people is checked by limiting that power to electing representatives who govern within limits of overarching constitutional law rather than the popular vote or government having power to deny any inalienable right.[41] Moreover, the power of elected representatives is also checked by prohibitions against any single individual having legislative, judicial, and executive powers so that basic constitutional law is extremely difficult to change. John Adams defined a constitutional republic as “a government of laws, and not of men.” (wiki)”

Webliography and Bibliography

Jefferson, Thomas in correspodence to James Madison. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393.

Levinson, Sanford. Constitutional Faith. Princeton University Press, 1989, p. 60

Swatos, William H. Jr. Ed. “Durkheim.” Encyclopedia of Religion and Social Science. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Hartford, CT. http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/durkheim.htm

to be continued . . .

CC Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008. “Collective consciousness, social cohesion, social inclusion and social exclusion” January 13, 2008.

See also

CC Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008. “What is Being Done in the Name of Social Cohesion?” << Speechless. March 12, 2008.

One Response to “Collective consciousness, social cohesion, social inclusion and social exclusion”


  1. Another point in the timeline you may wish to consider is in the writing of Ludwig von Mises. In particular, his work Human Action looks at nexus of individual and group in developing an economic understanding. One interesting portion can be found at http://www.mises.org/humanaction/chap8sec1.asp

    “Society is concerted action, cooperation. Society is the outcome of conscious and purposeful behavior.

    This does not mean that individuals have concluded contracts by virtue of which they have founded human society. The actions which have brought about social cooperation and daily bring it about anew do not aim at anything else than cooperation and coadjuvancy with others for the attainment of definite singular ends. The total complex of the mutual relations created by such concerted actions is called society. It substitutes collaboration for the–at least conceivable–isolated life of individuals. Society is division of labor and combination of labor. In his capacity as an acting animal man becomes a social animal.

    Individual man is born into a socially organized environment. In this sense alone we may accept the saying that society is–logically or historically–antecedent to the individual. In every other sense this dictum is either empty or nonsensical. The individual lives and acts within society. But society is nothing but the combination of individuals for cooperative effort. It exists nowhere else than in the actions of individual men. It is a delusion to search for it outside the actions of individuals. To speak of a society’s autonomous and independent existence, of its life, its soul, and its actions is a metaphor which can easily lead to crass errors.

    The questions whether society or the individual is to be considered as the ultimate end, and whether the interests of society should be subordinated to those of the individuals or the interests of the individuals to those of society are fruitless. Action is always action of individual men. The social or societal element is a certain orientation of the actions of individual men. The category end makes sense only when applied to action. Theology and the metaphysics of history may discuss the ends of society and the designs which God wants to realize with regard to society in the same way in which they discuss the purpose of all other parts of the created universe. For science, which is inseparable from reason, a tool manifestly unfit for the treatment of such problems, it would be hopeless to embark upon speculations concerning these matters.

    Within the frame of social cooperation there can emerge between members of society feelings of sympathy and friendship and a sense of belonging together. These feelings are the source of man’s most delightful and most sublime experiences. They are the most precious adornment of life; they lift the animal species man to the heights of a really human existence. However, they are not, as some have asserted, the agents that have brought about social relationships. They are fruits of social cooperation, they thrive only within its frame; they did not precede the establishment of social relations and are not the seed from which they spring.

    The fundamental facts that brought about cooperation, society, and civilization and transformed the animal man into a human being are the facts that work performed under the division of labor is more productive than isolated work and that man’s reason is capable of recognizing this truth. But for these facts men would have forever remained deadly foes of one another, irreconcilable rivals in their endeavors to secure a portion of the scarce supply of means of sustenance provided by nature. Each man would have been forced to view all other men as his enemies; his craving for the satisfaction of his own appetites would have brought him into an implacable conflict with all his neighbors. No sympathy could possibly develop under such a state of affairs.”


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