Only communication communicates

Society emerges out of communication; however, society is the communication, not the people who communicate. Furthermore, only communication communicates. Human beings do not and cannot communicate.

On the other hand, society cannot control or steer a human being’s thoughts or perceptions. Psychic systems, though structurally open to social systems and organic systems, are operationally closed. A psychic system is a not a subsystem of society; it not a passive receptacle for social content (from one side) or physiological content from the other side. As Hans-Georg Moeller argues,

Society cannot “socialize” a mind–socialization is a “do-it-yourself” project as far as consciousness is concerned. No parent, teacher, preacher, or government can directly interfere in the mental operations of consciousness. How we structure our consciousness is ultimately decided by our own consciousness.” (Luhmann Explained : From Souls to Systems, 83-84)

However, while minds and bodies are excluded from social system operations, “persons” are included. Moeller continues,

[C]ommunication systems ascribe individuality to “persons.” This is how they are able to resonate with the psychic complexity in their environment. Social systems develop . . . a semantics of “persons” or “individuals” so that communication can be properly addressed and can form proper conceptions of “entities” that correspond to ongoing activities of consciousness that irritate communication. Inclusion is the term for the manner in which social systems can recognize persons. (84)

We might say that persons are counted, and if a human being is not treated as a person s/he isn’t included in the social system. In the Pre-Civil War American south, slaves were not counted as persons.  And when it came to the political system, women were not counted as persons until 1920. Women were counted as persons in a number of social systems (they could spend money in the economy, for instance), but not in the political system.

If a particular woman could be counted as a person in some function systems but not in others, then there can be no unified subject–no individuals in the old sense of undividable (indivisible).  In a functionally differentiated society, individuality is defined as uniqueness rather than indivisibility.

The psychic system that society cannot control exists outside of society, in the environment of society. And this psychic system cannot participate in society because it is not a part of society and society is not a whole made of parts.

In contrast, in the old stratified society an individual was indivisible; she was one person and she was included in one household–that’s all. One’s “natural” place was within a household. Your family name was everything. A person was part of a family and, therefore, participated in a family. The family, in turn, was a part of society and participated as a family. This was a society of wholes and parts.

Quoting Moeller again,

[The] individual can no longer be an in-dividual in the traditional sense of indivisibility. In order to exist as  a social being, he or she has to divide him- or herself: ‘He or she is in need to musical self for the opera, a diligent self for the job, a patient self for the family. What is left for him or herself is the problem of his or her identity’ (Luhmann 1989, 223). (89)

This problem cannot be solved by following a moral code that is applicable to all of one’s activities.  For instance, the only thing that matters in the economy is money, not kindness or patience or humility or generosity.

The father confessor who had to take care of the sanity of the individual souls of Old European individuals is replaced by the New European psychiatrists and therapists who now look after the multiple selves. . . . It is now more or less obvious that even subjectivity is not the essential core of human existence, but rather a semantics tightly connected with a type of social differentiation, namely functional differentiation. (Moeller 89-90)






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