Social Complexity and Complex Society – In the Middle of a Middle World
PRESENTATION OF A BOOK
Keywords: Evaluative thinking, Mesoscopic irrational rationality, Anti-postmodern society
Theme: The operational definition of social complexity from the meso level and its implications for comprehending emerging anti-postmodern societies.
Argument: Mesoscopic logic is shaped from an irrationally rational standpoint where facts and values are equally important for comprehending complex social reality. More complete understanding includes irrational substance so it cannot derive from science but requires valuation.
Goal: Holistic, an irrationally rational standpoint as both non-relativistic and non-totalizing approach to studying society beyond contradictions between its building blocks.
Abstract: A profound transformation from modern and postmodern to complex societies has been underway since the 1990s. Complex conditions call for developing a new kind of social thought that is as different from modern and postmodern thoughts as they were from eighteenth century thoughts (Wallerstein). The concept of social complexity rests on the incommensurability of its two explanatory axes: vertical and in horizontal. As much as description of every social issue depends on level of description, either from micro, meso, or macro level, it also differs between incommensurable domains that describe each social issue substantively from different value based foundations, such as from the economic, social, or environmental domain of sustainable development. Only when vertical and horizontal axes of social complexity orthogonally intersect they create a coordinate plane in the middle, which enables complex explanation in the evaluative and so in mesoscopic way. In the geometry of thinking, a complex whole is not comprehensible directly and objectively in terms of its constitutive domains, but only by evaluation of overlaps between domains on the periphery, which is in the area of their inconsistencies arising from incompleteness and uncertainty that accompany comprehension in each domain of complexity. One can deal with inconsistencies rationally only in irrational way. Emerging social complexity requires opening of the science to the irrational, without rejecting the rational. Evaluative irrational rationality arises as a prominent driver of holistic comprehension of complex society.
1. What problems this book is setting out to solve?
The present generation finds itself caught in many valid but incommensurable explanations of reality, which gives rise to perceiving society as complex, essentially indeterminate, where the rational clashes with the irrational. Caught between different modes of reasoning, a whole generation loses power to understand itself (Geertz). We are like the short-sighted faced with far- reaching challenges, like a traveller who explores new lands equipped with old maps (Benhabib). Increasingly complex conditions call for a new kind of social thought specifically developed for a blinded generation that must be as different from modern and postmodern thoughts, as they were different from their precedents (Wallerstein).
The book first develops an evaluative methodology for studying complex social matters as semi- ordered from a mesoscopic point of view and then tests methodology with three case studies. The case studies reflect some of the most pressing problems in contemporary societies resulting from their increasing complexity: aggregation problem, integration problem, and organization problem. The obtained findings give grounds for the depiction of an outline for the ‘anti-postmodern’ (Badiou, Žižek) comprehension and ordering of contemporary societies.
The mesoscopic description of social complexity is not rationally scientific but evaluative and so irrationally rational. The description builds understanding on facts and on values, assuring that bias, asymmetry, and incompatibility, not order and certainty is the framework for rational inquiry. The irrational component arises in methodology through recognizing the void (Derrida) in every rational claim (Bourdieu) that results from its indeterminacy (Heisenberg) and incompleteness (Gödel). At the heart of existence and meaning then is not essence but difference, absence not substance.
As the complex world is essentially uncertain, its understanding is not possible without bias and ignorance. To comprehend a complex matter, one needs ‘to sail the void’ (Kepler) between Scylla and Charybdis of ignorance and the unknown, between what is misunderstood and what is not understood at all. In complex conditions the evaluator needs to recognize their own blindness about ultimate truth as a prerequisite for staying in the middle between competing assertions about truth, justice or good. Like Odysseus, the evaluator is a sailor with prejudice who can save the boat only by setting it on the middle path between the most varied biases involved in competing assertions.
Blindness about ultimate truth is for an evaluator not a handicap but original adaptation to darkness in which search for essentially indeterminate and uncertain truth can only take place Just like a bat who navigates through the darkness with ears, the evaluator does not see reality through facts, but through the void, by dividing what is claimed to be known by zero. This is by connecting competing truth claims at the middle where their inconsistencies meet, through what was previously ignored and excluded as irrational.
The book concludes that this blind generation can proceed on its uncertain path toward some better future only through darkness, from nothing to nothing. This means in absence of absolute essence, except in absence of nothingness (Nagarjuna). Since nothingness is the single absolute that cannot produce void and exclude difference so it has exquisitely liberating, creative and integrative potentials that are indispensable for developing strong mesoscopic agency in transformative complex conditions.
2. What confusions does this book wish to clarify?
a. About complexity as a mesoscopic, not micro or macro concept. At present, the science of complexity taken as a whole is still little more than a collection of exemplars, methods, and metaphors (Heylighen). The majority of approaches study complexity in a disorganized state as it appears microscopically with random behaviour of the individual parts in a larger system (Bar-Yam). Disorganised complexity found its place in theories of informational entropy, stochastic, hierarchical, dynamic, or computational complexity and a quantitative approach. Weaver, on the other hand, developed the concept of organized social complexity. It is an object of study in the philosophy and sociology of science, in the post-positivist tradition and in pragmatism, in addition to critical realism, systems theory, social constructivism, post-structuralism, and the qualitative method.
The two prevailing concepts of complexity seem to overlook the central importance of mesoscopic complexity as a semi-ordered concept, especially relevant in studying of society as a partly ordered and partly disordered entity. Social processes are developing in the middle where their formative contradictions meet, struggle and provisionally resolve in concrete situations. The meso level is located precisely where the substrate of sociality is generated (Goldspink) so it can present society in its natural, essentially inconsistent and irrational, yet more integrative perspective than micro or macro as mere theoretical perspectives.
The concept of complexity should not be stripped of its complexity by presenting it uni- dimensionally, as only a micro or only a macro concept. Complexity is essentially a hybrid concept between order and disorder (Stacey) so it is essentially a mesoscopic category, which intermediates between contradictions. The word complexity comes from Latin ‘plexus’ means ‘braided’, from which is derived ‘complexus’, meaning ‘braided together’.
The book finds Simon’s concept of ‘double complexity’ especially valuable. Double (or dualistic) complexity is a result of the fundamental principle of uncertainty, as well as of the observer’s bias. Bias is a result of his irrational interface with the rational objectification process. One needs to understand both sides of complexity, due to indeterminacy and due to bias, which asks to distinguish irrationality in its objective and in subjective induction. In consequence, complex social reality exists, so to say, twice, in things and in minds, outside and inside of agents (Wacquant), both directly and indirectly (Peirce), vertically as well as horizontally. The two sides of complexity can make sense to one another only from the middle ground that arises in the intersection between them at the meso level.
b. About aggregation in absence of a uniform common denominator. An explanation of the laws that link the individual to the collective level is of the least developed aspects of the social sciences (Coleman). All sciences reveal a micro-macro divide, and even the most advanced have not reconciled the two levels theoretically (Turner). Collective choice theory in economics actually exhibited, that it is impossible to reconcile the gap with an aggregation procedure that is both rational and democratic (Arrow).
The most important obstacle to the standard aggregation approach is that it will usually be impossible to settle on which core value and which specific observed characteristic of reality should apply as the common denominator that unifies the diversity of social reality. The methodology of social research has offered a range of alternative strategies of aggregation in situations when facts are not fully commensurate: the non-aggregative (descriptive), the fully aggregative (compensatory approaches, social weights, maximizing utility) and the intermediate (multi-criteria) approaches. The possibility of synthesis is sometimes ‘recovered’ by exploring contradictory claims in inputs to syntheses, or by comparative understanding. Besides, various procedures were proposed for ‘qualitative synthesis’, such as meta-narrative, textual narrative synthesis, and framework synthesis.
Alternative approaches narrow the aggregation problem by adopting various strategies of avoidance (Barnett). Sometimes no specific value prevails in aggregation simply by treating all involved values as equally relative. In other cases, the substantive concerns are replaced with concerns on how to collect ideally fitting data and how to calculate the most appropriate version of trade-off coefficients between incommensurable concerns. Some methods do not have a conclusive or unique solution or they aim to understand only limited topics. Others reinvent commensurability by introducing various substitute overarching meta-categories.
The aggregation problem remains unresolved as long as alternative approaches fail to explain how to aggregate findings with dissimilar common denominators without wasting their qualitative difference. Incommensurable valuations impose a mesoscopic approach to synthesis, which introduces horizontal diversity into a vertical algorithm of aggregation to account appropriately for the radical diversity of complex wholes.
c. About social integration as mesoscopic, neither divisive nor totalizing. Even though social integration is a core concept of the social sciences, there is a greater consensus among scholars about what threatens it – increasing social complexity is among the most prominent causes – than about what promotes it. Scholars more actively criticize existing operating principles and methods of social integration than they contribute to the organization of social conflicts (Touraine). One of the reasons for the failure of ruling integration models is an overly simplified comprehension of integration logic. Classical theories offer explanations with two interrogating mechanisms of integration, such as between mechanical (from above) and organic (from below; Durkheim), between centrality and marginality (Comtois), or between institutions and agents (Marx). When simultaneously unfolding integrative mechanisms act against one another, they distort integrative endeavours into battles for status and prestige. Practicing divisive strategies is among the main drivers of further social disintegration.
As a response to the antagonistic approach, Giddens proposed the structuration theory of social integration. In his model, integration is a result of cohesive connections resulting from an agency (concrete relations and cooperation), but also from structure – the rules, and resources that give similar social practices an ordered form. In his model, organic integration is a framework for mechanical integration, which is itself a framework for organic integration. Micro and macro as opposites accommodate one another spontaneously in a two-sided connectedness, ‘double hermeneutics of structure and agency’.
This is sociology’s version of the invisible hand. Direct micro to macro hermeneutics aim to rationalize processes that are not fully explainable since they are emergent, they in a way arise from nothing, without previous plan or specific scope. This does not permit one to force explanations of the unexplainable through black box methodologies. Gould could find no excuse for referring to miracles and magic in science when we fail to find any natural explanation. The book proposes instead a methodology that overcomes the black box with a mesoscopic explanation, in which magic is replaced with irrationality as a driver of integration.
3. What previously unknown or unfortunately neglected story is this book planning to tell?
In socially complex conditions, practically everything is to a certain extent neglected and excluded from the centre. The indeterminacy and incompleteness of truth enforce on us rational bias, void, exclusion of difference, blindness, and vagueness. In these circumstances, exclusion of difference is not the result of error. From the irrational aspect of the excluded, exclusion, rises a new ‘standard of normality’ in turbulent times of social transformation. The book shows that ignorance in contemporary societies can essentially diminish only by establishing broad and equally effective exclusion at the meso level of complex society between its contradictory incommensurable domains. Freedom to exclude is a precondition for impartially revealing society’s exclusion-inclusion map. The pattern of society’s structural unconscious (Derrida) becomes visible only on the frontiers of exclusion where ignorance meets ignorance. The void arising from my ignorance is invisible only to me, but it is highly visible from the perspective of many others with an entirely different bias. Ignorance then disappears only when different biases agonize one another as equals, between protagonists that relate to one another as the excluded to the excluded.
What is necessary for the social entity to emerge always produces exclusion (Lorey) – both externally by prohibiting entry to outsiders but also internally by institutionally ignoring the aspirations of included but unfitting members (Hayden), such as opponents, minorities, and subcultures. The formative basis of every social whole is discriminative inclusion or ‘inclusive exclusion’ (Carbado) when members are included only as ignored and forgotten. Membership in a formal system is then as much about inclusion on the grounds of similarity as it is, albeit less visibly, about the exclusion of incompatibility as something irrational.
Yet, acts of exclusion clearly precede acts of inclusion. Inclusion can arise only on the rubbles of previous exclusion. It then seems reasonable to insist that exclusion of the irrational is more fundamental for the understanding and ordering of complex matters than the inclusion of compatible contents.
4. How is this book different from all other books?
It is different due to the open and thus resolutely non-disciplinary and intermediating character of its challenge. The book does not contribute scientific understanding but is evaluative. It is not asking about truth but about overcoming divisiveness invoked by pursuing incommensurable claims about truth.
The book develops a concept of evaluation with mesoscopic ‘irrational rationality’ that is rational on irrational grounds. Evaluation balances between the rational and irrational. First to open the rational for the irrational, and science for evaluation, by asking about the irrational foundations of truth claims. Second, to assure that irrationality remains rationally bounded since it deals with the irrationality of the rational, not with the irrationality of the irrational, which belongs to art.
Evaluation does not interfere with what rational method explains. Its task is not to supervise analytical thinking but to deal with the consequences of its exclusivism, by connecting related contradictions on irrational foundations of their bias. Evaluation is intermediary between contradictions only because it remains blind about ultimate truth. Blindness is the evaluator’s natural adaptation to darkness, in which the search for truth and order can only take place in complex conditions.
5. Why does that matter? To whom?
A profound transformation from modern and postmodern to complex societies has been underway since the 1990s (Wallerstein). Contradictory forces drive transformation that brings about irrational situations with perverse outcomes. In an increasingly complex world, it is unclear which among competing theoretical models gives the most appropriate approximation of reality. Making statements about collective challenges like those arising from unsustainable development, social disintegration or safety, invokes incommensurable choices. Governmental interventions in complex situations trigger tragedies (Hsieh): no matter which collective optimum is emphasised, it always imposes exclusion with involuntary and illegitimate trade-offs that are progressively disruptive to social stability. As social complexity grows, both the sources and severity of possible ability to respond to transformational challenges is decisively declining precisely when far- reaching decisions are most needed. Inability to cope with new complex challenges has left the present generation incapable of anything but impotent inspection of cumulative disaster (Fromm).
The decreasing capacity to govern complex social processes results in negative trends, which breach system thresholds in all main social domains due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity of ecosystems and structural inflexibility of political institutions with extreme economic stratification of society into rich and poor. If the present trends continue, it is difficult to imagine any scenario that does not involve catastrophic social disintegration (Coffman). Independent studies steadily report that a strong majority of the world’s population, between 60% and 80%, already feels excluded because it does not feel represented by their governments anymore (United Nations; Eurobarometer; Henning; Halpin, Summer).
This book is addressing concerns of the excluded majority by explaining how present complex social conditions work in favour of generational aspirations to achieve a more positive future.
6. A narrative description of the book’s themes, arguments, goals, place in the literature, and expected audience.
Contemporary societies are becoming increasingly irrational. In the civilizational march to the rational heavens finite beings aim to conquer the infinite with a constrained framework and then subjugate it to their small world. Increasing irrationality arises as a side effect of exercising rationality too far, beyond what can be explained rationally, such as when searching simple answers on complex questions.
Then irrationality can never disappear, as a sort of impurity, from rational enterprise. Just the opposite! It increasingly reveals itself as its very essence (Derrida). That part of reality, which is contradiction and internal opposition. This suggests we need a more coherent model for comprehending social reality, which could be rational in the irrational frame, by a rationally consistent elaboration of the irrational (Sedláček).
This book develops a mesoscopic understanding of social complexity. Giddens identified a social field of the radical middle. It is radical because it involves incommensurable oppositions, and it is middle because it is non-exclusionary in relation to exclusionary domains of complexity. Radical middle imposes no dogmas or doctrines. In the first place, paraphrasing James, it is just a method, only a corridor in a hotel lobby, which leads to many different rooms or theories, each branching away from it into their incommensurable niches. Each niche obtains its distinctive place in a matrix of relations between contradictions of social complexity at meso level. Meso-matrical resolution of contradictions, even though only evaluative, enables holistic representation of socially complex matters.
The complex society in its natural condition exists as a matrix of matrices. There is no doubt! We do indeed live in the Matrix where clear distinction between rational and irrational blurs. Yet this is not a binary type of matrix but the matrix of the middle world. The meso-matrix does not reduce our options to either accepting or rejecting illusions. The choice is not between reality and illusion, between the red pill and the blue pill. We need to take part of both! We can only live in illusions of the matrix because there is no total understanding beyond any constraint, doubt, and vagueness. However, a person can also choose to become a self-aware mesoscopic agent. He or she applies the mesoscopic reasoning as a deconstructively constructive mechanism to dissolve ignorance and invoke synthesis, by intermediating between indeterminacy of the known through ignorance of the knower, this is between different instances of void through the void.
7. An annotated table of contents, with a brief description of the contents of each chapter.
Chapter I. Social Complexity
– Complexity is dangerous
– Stuck between simplicity and chaos
– Conformity of evolution
– Mesoscopic social complexity
Chapter II. Aggregation Problem
– Aggregation Problem
– Core concepts
– Micro vs Macro
– Resolution in the Middle
o Horizontal Extension
– Evaluative basis of synthesis
Chapter III. Integration problem
– Integration Problem
– Core concepts
– Design of Experiment
Chapter IV. The Organization Problem
– System and Antisystem
– Organization Problem
– Complementary Inconsistencies
– Antisystem structure
– Oscillating Society
Chapter V. Complex Society
– Simple in complex way
– Governed from the middle
o Between groups
o Between capitals
– Sail the void
Chapter I (‘Social Complexity’). The concept of social complexity rests on the incommensurability of its multiple constitutive domains in vertical (micro, meso, macro) and in horizontal explanatory axes containing (at least) three distinctive domains at the meso level, such as the economic, social and environmental domain of sustainable development. Vertical and horizontal axes orthogonally intersect to create a coordinate plane in the middle, which enables the mesoscopic description of a given complex social matter.
To comprehend a concept of meso, one first needs to acknowledge two opposite poles of existence. One can explain opposites integrally only by adding a third, intermediate category that stays between opposites so it can involve part of both, as bi-modal and hybrid in character. Socio- economic development is, for instance, a hybrid category that connects between economic and social development despite their incommensurability.
The meso level is integrative because its categories apply the ‘doctrine of the middle’ (Malthus). The doctrine discloses no generality about inquired issues and lays no principal claims to any reality beyond itself (Olshewsky). It is only a bridging principle. An intermediate category translates between opposites only peripherally, without questioning core oppositions. Oppositions resolve neither with a compromise on principal concerns nor with the exclusion of non-fitting elements. Core disagreements resolve through their peripheral overlaps between domains in hybrid and non-principal (irrational) contents and thus in an inverted and inconsistent way, in what they essentially are not.
In the geometry of thinking, a complex whole is not comprehensible directly in terms of its constitutive domains, but only by evaluation of marginal overlaps, a cyclical, partly deconstructive (void) and partly by constructive synthesis of multifaceted meanings in the overlap between their inconsistencies. Circular methodology deconstructs insights obtained from the previous step of synthesis as incomplete. This calls for another step in synthesis, which is complete in the specific respect, but not in some other respect, which calls for another cycle of destruction and creation (Boyd)… Incompleteness is then a prominent driver of synthesis when dealt with in a circular way and mesoscopically where inconsistency meets inconsistency. In cyclical procedure, synthesis opens to the irrational, without rejecting the rational. Synthesis from the meso level does not aim to institute irrationality in place of rationality but to negotiate their passage through the middle world, simply in a complex way, by opening the black box of the canon and replacing it with mesoscopic reasoning.
Three Case Studies test the mesoscopic methodology of social complexity. The first two studies are evaluative in methodology as well as in the object of their concern.
Chapter II (‘Aggregation Problem’). An aggregation problem (Scriven) is apparent in the impact evaluation of private or public investment that produce non-cumulative outcomes. Leopold properly recognised the incommensurability of impacts so he left assessment results in a disaggregated form. However, he failed to observe that cross-sectional impacts as hybrids are only weakly incommensurable, so they are aggregatable to some extent. Ekins and Medhurst have acknowledged this but did not implement the finding consistently, only horizontally, not also vertically. When we remove the inconsistency, fragmented assessment results first partly aggregate into a square input-output matrix of impacts on the meso level, then they synthesise correlatively and interpret evaluatively. This methodology is circular. It can produce holistic results only provisionally so they can never assert themselves as totalizing structures of dominance.
Mesoscopic methodology locates the origin of the aggregation problem in exclusion of horizontal difference. The Study suggests that assumption of incommensurability of social facts at the meso level has superior synthesising potential compared to the assumption of commensurability at the micro level precisely because mesoscopic aggregation is evaluative not mechanical. It does not dismantle qualitative difference in forming a more complete understanding, so its holistic aspirations are considerably less exclusive. The mesoscopic aggregation is less determinate in terms of universality but nevertheless more connective and explanatorily rich. It is not less ignorant because of abolishing exclusion, but because of incorporating the excluded remainder to synthesis methodology in its natural, irrational manner. In this way, mesoscopic synthesis is a constructive enterprise as much as it is deconstructive to itself, by becoming less exclusive to complex contradictions and more evaluative.
Chapter III (‘Integration Problem’). Social disintegration is among the most urgent problems in postmodern societies. It is not that social sciences and politics do not recognise its importance, especially in the EU. Durkheim showed that integration is either ‘organic’ pursued from below, micro to macro, or ‘mechanical’, imposed from above (macro to micro). However, practicing divisive strategies of integration in complex conditions is among the main drivers of further social disintegration.
Giddens dismantles divisiveness of the classical formula by approaching integration with his circular structuration theory, which relates the macro system as a whole to its microscopic parts, and its parts to the whole. The theory explains integration with a chaotic principle that mystifies the meso level of integration by locking explanation into a black box where micro and macro can somehow spontaneously accommodate one another directly and neutrally, similarly as demand and supply spontaneously balance on a free market.
The Case Study instead approaches integration as a mesoscopic process consisting of three measurable categories. The first is ‘strong balance’; it measures mechanic integration between domains of (territorial) integration – Physical, Social, and Economic. Second is ‘cohesion’ as a correlatively obtained measure of organic integration; it measures the strength of peripheral overlaps between integration domains. The last is the newly introduced ‘weak balance’ that measures mutuality if cohesive ties are weaved in an emancipatory way for all included. This is a hybrid category, embedded in the previous two measures: it is obtained correlatively (organic aspect), but it nonetheless measures how balanced connections are (mechanical aspect). Weak balance identifies the distinction between cohesion, which is one-sided and asymmetrical, as on a globalised market, imposed on everybody leaving all without workable alternatives, from cohesion that is symmetrical and mutual between essentially diverse but equally valued domains, as between trusted partners, friends or lovers.
The Case Study suggests that mechanical and organic integration can become effective in complex conditions only to the extent that they enhance the weak balance between integration domains. Vertical integration needs to become less exclusive for unfitting members so that it can also enhance overlaps horizontally, such as by increasing the multitude of social possibilities. Analogously, the most valuable horizontal integration must in parallel reaffirm core concerns of vertical integration, by securing that people adopt a more socially responsible attitude to legitimate integrative aspirations of others in their free interactions. Freedom and order do not relate directly micro to macro but through the meso level, where they first discover less exclusive strategies for integrating incommensurable concerns.
Chapter IV (‘Organization Problem’). The first two cases relate to the complexity of systems (institutions) by example of their rather primitive holistic strategies, aggregation and integration. They are primitive because they impose exclusion, even though decreasingly, on diversity at a micro and meso level. Yet, the book aims to explain social complexity, not complex systems. It is dealing with the complexity of society, not of institutions. Social complexity is comprehensible in its natural condition only from an antisystemic point of view. Antisystem applies an alternative holistic approach that is not based on the inclusion of (weakly) compatible contents but on the exclusion of exclusion of difference.
Observing the problem, Agamben asked how to create a community with ‘the inclusion of the excluded as excluded’. The most vocal representatives of the excluded parts of society are antisystem social movements (reformist, revolutionary, or autonomist; RRA). They are protagonists of the third case study. Movements want to change, transform or even abolish the official system but they suffer from a severe organisational problem. On the one side, they refuse vertical organization, as their exclusion is precisely the result of uniformity of over structured society. On the other side, their preferred horizontal organization is incapable of shaping large- scale actions with wide-ranging social impacts.
The Case Study first observes that to resolve organization problem, movements need to abandon programmatic similarity as their core connective principle and institute in this role their inconsistency. Movements are usually more radical in program than in action or vice versa. Their program-action footprints are inconsistent unless they enter into coalition with movements that have symmetrical opposite footprints. This organization strategy reconstructs their internal consistency but only in a heterogeneous way so that it does not imperil their principal distinctions. Three coalitions arise among RRA: quasi-, semi- and orto-antisystemic. They complement one another in mobilisation of followers, production of alternatives to the system, and in capacity to defend the boundaries of their autonomy.
The organization problem resolves with the establishment of the Antisystem structure between three antisystem coalitions. This hierarchy is a fluid, temporary, often a latent setup that activates only when necessary and dissolves afterward to reappear in a modified set-up somewhere else. The structure may not always be present but it must be accounted for by the System as very much alive.
Emergence of the antisystem structure decomposes the initial antisystem conflict between society and the system (state), between freedom and order, between ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ (Pasquino). Initial antisystem conflict decomposes into two separate confrontations: first, a conflict between competing structures (system’s vs. antisystem’s as bad against bad, order vs order) and second, between competing agents and between interest groups (good against good, freedom vs freedom). Deantagonisation of social relations will free enormous potential for cooperative undertakings among members searching for a middle-ground between different manifestations of the good instead of against the bad.
In semi-ordered complex presentation, society is free from any structure. It can oscillate between opposite structural orderings (systemic, antisystemic) and so between radically different exclusion principles. The precondition for attaining this freedom is that a right of exclusion (ostrakismos) against ignorance is available to every legitimate political subject assuring that the power of krátos in demokratia (Rossiter) is allocated among them in a balanced way. Political subjects can face one another as excluded now, no more as excluded against included. They are related in an increasingly evaluative manner, through the void of illusion, of nothing, instead of through the essence of something.
Chapter V (‘Sail the Void’). A concept of semi-ordered complex society infers that we live ‘in the middle of a world which is a middle world’ (Smith). The key to the explanation of complex social matters is mesoscopic thinking, which belongs to an ontological formation of anti- postmodernity that is a middle-ground synthesis between its antagonist precedents, ordered modernity and chaotic postmodernity. Anti-postmodernity wants to recover things like objectivity and concepts about the whole, but simultaneously accept the criticisms of postmodernity about the primacy of freedom, incoherence, and vagueness in relation to the ordering of macroscopic structures.
Mesoscopic thinking is characteristic of a mesoscopic agent. This is a self-reflexive person who is active in discovering their own irrationality by enlightening themselves about the particular ways in which he or she is (self)blinded as an ignorant knower.. Mesoscopic agency is contingent on how much an agent knows not only about the features of an inquired complex social issue, which is always incomplete, but also about themselves as constrained knower who is developing self- knowledge (Kadushin). When reflexive in this sense, an agent can step outside, or beyond itself to observe its own observations, or ‘see itself seeing’ (Ankersmit). The mesoscopic agent uses self- knowledge to learn seeing complexity through the agency, or indeterminacy through inconsistency, which essentially means seeing the void through a void.
Knowing your own void, by making the unconscious conscious, is the best method for dealing with the void of other people (Jung). Even though unable to find a solution for complex contradictions, the mesoscopic agent at least discovers a middle-ground where bridging can take place in a non-exclusive way by opponents themselves. The mesoscopic agent helps opponents to see their void by illuminating that their concerns are of course legitimate but also incomplete and even marginally overlapping so their disagreements can provisionally resolve in a concrete situation. The mesoscopic agent is reminiscent of the ancient Greek character of the stranger guest-friend, Xenos, who comes from the land between established worlds so it can intermediate between them. Xenos as an intermediator invokes a less exclusive situation for all, in which he or she will gain, in fact, the most, without ever asking for reward, simply by becoming less a stranger and more a friend to hosts.
Yet there can be no happy end of the story about social complexity since complexity is only a transitory stage in a life cycle of every society, merely bridging between old and new normality. The present generation cannot know how present complex conditions will resolve. This is nevertheless not fatal as long as we can assure mesoscopic handling of contradictions between the alternative futures, which we aim to achieve. This would assure that our future is far less ignorant, considerably more connected and more considerate, of non-conforming aspirations of many (others) for a better life for all. The concrete shape of our future is then less important. What is nevertheless quite certain is that our future depends on which set of exclusion-inclusion principles will decide it. Yet, the concrete shape of the exclusion map is an emergent result of political processes, formal and informal, in which citizens have a decisive role. The only recipe this book can give is that people need to take responsibility for shaping the positive future they wish to live in, and then take part in communal prefigurative actions at the meso level in peripheral overlap with many radically different aspirations of others.
Bojan Radej, July 2019