The Social System

The focus and orientation of one’s intellectual and spiritual life toward what is ‘eternal’ and away from the ephemeral and temporal sphere amounts to ‘Sainthood.’ In many cases, those who have achieved the rare position of ‘Sainthood’ were once in need of spiritual guides to reach that level or position. But once the focus and orientation towards the ‘eternal’ occurs and one’s psychic and physical energies are directed away from carnal and ephemeral desires and towards eternity, there is essentially no need for a spiritual guide. And in many cases, once the disciple reaches the level of the master, the flaws of the master become evident to the disciple, as in the case of Malcolm X with Elijah Mohammed as well as in many other cases. 

But just as there are masters and disciples in the intellectual and spiritual life, there are also masters and disciples in the ephemeral and temporal sphere as well. As Noam Chomsky argued:

“We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the ‘masters of mankind,’ as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the ‘vile maxim’ to which the ‘masters of mankind’ are dedicated: ‘All for ourselves and nothing for other people’ – a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.” 

As Talcott Parsons argued, the most basic and elementary aspects or dimensions of any social system are the ‘division of labor,’ exchange, social order of a ‘Hobbesian’ nature, and the protection of property rights. In turn, a social system needs “organization” due to the interplay and interaction of many different individuals, with “organization” amounting to “a system of cooperative relationships” within a social system. But aside from the aforementioned “instrumental” modes of action, there are also “expressive” and “moral” forms of action which take place within a social system, as Parsons argued. These modes of action include, love, loyalty, marriage, and so forth, which are integral to the function and operation of any social system. 

Institutions – whether they are of an economic, political, or social nature – are then borne out of the roles which individuals play in a society or social system. As Parsons wrote:

“By institutionalization we mean the integration of the complementary role-expectation and sanction patterns with a generalized value system common to the members of the more inclusive collectivity, of which the system of complementary role-actions may be a part.” 

The predominant view of both modern psychology and modern sociology is that the social system overrides and shapes the actions and role of the individual within the social system, as opposed to having one individual override and shape the entire system. How the consensus between modern psychology and modern sociology in regard to how the relationship between individual personality and one’s social system is constituted is manifested in the intersection between the views of Sigmund Freud and Emile Durkheim.

As Parsons noted, one can infer from Freud that “internalization of the sociocultural environment provides the basis, not merely of one specialized component of the human personality, but of what, in the human sense, is its central core.” After all, the individual “ego” or conscious life has the mark of “countless egos” which the individual encounters through the course of their lives, as Freud argued. Thus, rather than blaming the individual or holding the individual to account for their actions and the role which they assume in society, one must blame the entire social milieu and sociocultural environment for the actions and role which the individual assumes for themselves. 

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