sábado, 9 de julio de 2016

The Ideal of Universal Communication




The ideal of universal social communication according to G. H. Mead, Mind, Self, and Society (§41, "Obstacles and promises in the development of the ideal society", 326-28).


It is possible for the individual to develop his own peculiarities, that which individualizes him, and still be a member of a community, provided that he is able to take the attitude of those whom he affects. Of course, the degree to which that takes place varies tremendously, but a certain amount of it is essential to citizenship in the community.

One may say that the attainment of that functional differentiation and social participation in the full degree is a sort of ideal which lies before the human community. The present stage of it is presented in the ideal of democracy. It is often assumed that democracy is an order of society in which those personalities which are sharply differentiated will be eliminated, that everything will be ironed down to a situation where everyone will be, as far as possible, like everyone else. But of course that is not the implication of democracy: the implication of democracy is rather that the individual can be as highly developed as lies within the possibilities of his own inheritance, and still can enter into the attitudes of the others whom he affects. There can still be leaders, and the community can rejoice in their attitudes just in so far as these superior individuals can themselves enter into the attitudes of the community which they undertake to lead.universal communication

How far individuals can take the rôles of other individuals in the community is dependent upon a number of factors. The community may in its size transcend the social organization, may go beyond the social organization which mkes such identification possible. The most striking illustration of that is the economic community. This includes everybody with whom one can trade in any circumstances but it represents a whole in which it would be next to impossible for all to enter into the attitudes of the others. The ideal communities of the universal religions are communities which to some extent may be said to exist, but they imply a degree of identification which the actual organization of the community cannot realize. We often find the existence of castes in a community which make it impossible for persons to enter into the attitude of other people although they are actually affecting and are affected by these other people. The ideal of human society is one which does bring people so closely together in their interrrelationships, so fully develops the necessary system of communication, that the individuals who exercise their own peculiar functions can take the attitude of those whom they affect. The development of communication is not simply a matter of abstract ideas, but is a process of putting one's self in the place of the other person's attitude, communicating through significant symbols. Remember  that whiat is essential to a significant symbol is that the gesture which affects others should affect the individual himself in the same way. It is only when the stimulus which one gives another arouses in himself the same or like response that the symbol is a significant symbol. Human communication takes place through such significant symbols, and the problem is one of organizing a community which makes this possible. If that system of communication could be made theoretically perfect, the individual would affect himself as he affects others in every way. That would be the ideal of communication, an ideal attained in logical discourse wherever it is understood. The meaning of that which is said is here the same to one as it is to everybody else. Universal discourse is then the formal ideal of communication. If communication can be carried though and made perfect, then there would exist the kind of democracy to which we have referred, in which each individual would carry just the response in himself that he knows he calls out in the community. That is what makes communication in the significant sense the organizing process in the community. It is not simply a process of transferrring abstract symbols; it is always a gesture in a social act which calls out in the individual himself the tendency to the same act that is called out in others.

What we call the ideal of a human society is approached in some sense by the economic society on the one side and by the universal religions on the other side, but it is not by any means fully realized. Those abstractions can be put together in a single community of the democratic type. As democracy now exists, there is not this development of communication so that individuals can put themselves into the attitudes of those whom they affect. There is a a consequent leveling-down, and an undue recognition of that which is not only common but identical. The ideal of human society cannot exist as long as it is impossible for individuals to enter into the attitudes of those whom they are affecting in the performance of their own peculiar functions.


Parece que este ideal de la comunicación total es sólo eso, un ideal sólo aproximable en una dimensión abstraída de la actividad humana (como es la comunicabilidad universal del dinero) o en pequeñas comunidades de creyentes especialmente integradas y homogéneas. No se ve cómo podría convertirse en un ideal factible en una civilización a nivel mundial, por muchos progresos que hagan la globalización, la estandarización y la alienación. De algunas cuestiones coyunturales a estos "progresos" imaginables hablábamos en nuestro artículo sobre el Apocalipsis de la Comunicación Total. Que no lo veamos, ese Apocalipsis—la comunicación parcial es esencial para el funcionamiento normal (o sea humano), que no digo bueno, de las comunidades humanas. Y los apocalipsis, mejor dejarlos para el fin de la Historia.






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