2.2. Tetrasociology and Values
Reimon Bachika, Japan
A New Theory of Society
Tetrasociology, formulated by Leo Semashko (2002), is a remarkable sociological theory. It is a multidimensional, critical theory of individual and social life. Semashko proposes a new model of society centering on its four basic resources: people, information, organization, and things/technology. In this respect, the theory is quite simple but it is rather complicated when it comes to societal coordination, which I will touch upon briefly in a moment. Tetrasociology is a theory with many political implications. It strives toward greater democratization. Its main political suggestion concerns a reformulation of the idea of stratified social classes based on property and social power into classes that are non-hierarchically ranked, based on the reproductive employment of people. In this sense, this theory is future-oriented. With an emphasis on values, it displays great moral concern for the well-being of all people everywhere. Further, it advocates the use of Esperanto as a common language to enhance world-wide multi-cultural communication. Beyond that, this theory recognizes the role of religion in society, and it advises religious leaders to unify their religious views in the manner of the Bahai religion, which offers a universalistic vision of all beliefs. Methodologically, this theory is both scientific and practical. It offers a relatively new statistical methodology based on quantifiable indices as well as a cultural technology for effecting social harmony. With all of this, Tetrasociology is a systemic, holistic theory that touches on all the important aspects of individual and social being. As such, it indeed is a remarkable sociological endeavor.
Having only minimal knowledge of systems theory, I lack competence to review this work in that respect. So I will only comment on the perspective of values and belief, which have been central to my own study of the sociology of religion. But in order to discuss the value perspective, in this systems theory, I must touch briefly on its main features.
Apparently, the main focus of tetrasociology is society. Semashko, so to speak, casts his net on society itself, "the social" in his words, to catch its main components and to describe their varying appearances and functioning. Deriving from the four resources, the basic social components of society are: human, informational, organizational, and material. Further, the reproductive structures of society are described as spheres. These are: the social sphere; the information sphere; the organizational sphere; and the technical sphere. It is these spheres that Semashko would like to see as the basis for rethinking social classes, grouping people in their main occupation either in humanitarian, informational, organizational, or technical employment. Remarkably again, Semashko conceives of individual human existence in a similar fashion, and reformulates the concept of the human personality accordingly. He sees individual persons as microcosms, constituted by variants of the same components as the social macrocosm. In people these components take the form of needs and abilities: human, informational, organizational, and material needs and abilities. Semashko then describes the four dimensions of personality as follows: character as the human component; consciousness as the informational component; will as the organizational component; and the body in all its relations as the material component.
To repeat, people, information, organization, and things are the main social specimen that Semashko catches in his net. However, on opening the net, these specimen, as it were, spring forth in various transformations and categories of phenomena. The picture of society becomes complex. Resources are said to be static constants and their descriptions constitute "social statics." Societal structures are the structural constants and are treated as "social structuratics." Two other constants that Semashko elaborates are reproductive processes, described as "social dynamics," and states of development, as, "social genetics" - the latter two less important for present purposes. All four constants are said to be "coordinates" of society, which constitute "a four dimensional continuum" of social, human reality. It is the connections and relationships of the four constants and their various appearances that are the object of tetrasociological inquiry, which generates qualitative and quantitative descriptions.
Tetrasociology and the Value Perspective
Let us turn, now, to the value perspective in Semashko's work. I will begin with two pertinent quotes:
"Ignorance of sphere classes [non-hierarchical social classes] … led in the past to total social disharmony in all its manifestations: class struggle, exploitation, wars, crime on a mass scale, terrorism, clash of civilizations, conflicts between religions, unfair distribution of wealth and power, a predatory attitude to[ward] nature, [in a word to] ‘one-dimensional man.’(H. Marcuse's term)" . . . "Total disharmony in the social world creates total disharmony in the traditional social actors: castes, estates, branch classes [hierarchically ranked social classes] . . . Sphere classes are new and harmonious social actors [that will realize] prosperity in the 21st century. (Semashko, 2002: 76, words in square brackets added). "The essence of a person’s humanitarian needs and abilities . . . consists in love [for] people, including self . . . Love is the pivot of personality, the backbone of the individual’s character . . . [Love] does not impoverish, but rather enriches each person both with regards to satisfaction of humanitarian needs and the development of humanitarian abilities . . . It is only in love that persons are not estranged (alienated) from each other . . . It is only [in] the state of love that [we find] ideal, harmonious, balanced relations between people; only the state of love ensures people’s true prosperity, true equality between them, freedom, fraternity, justice, humanness. Without love, the supreme feelings and values constituting the individual’s spirituality lose [their] authenticity and prove faulty and defective" (Semashko, 2002: 55, words in square brackets added).
These quotes amply testify to the importance that Semashko attributes to values and harmony. He particularly stresses the importance of the latter. According to him, it is social harmony that, of all universal values, can save the world from self-destruction. According to him, social harmony is the oldest humanitarian value that already appeared in Homer's poems, that was understood by Aristotle as "the golden mean" and "the proportionality of the parts in a totality. Leibniz thought about "pre-established harmony." "The harmonious person" became an important idea of humanism. In Dostoevsky one finds expressions like "the beauty that will rescue the world." Semashko himself understands social harmony as the desire for and aspiration to balance between the spheres of society and between people, an ideal that may not be attainable, but efforts to achieve it are nevertheless deemed to be of paramount importance for humankind.
Besides social harmony, Semashko discusses also the broader value system. He observes that industrial, bureaucratic society created a system of values including liberty, ownership of property, devotion to work, legal equality, personal advantage, independence, enlightenment, pluralism, pragmatism and democracy. He sees liberty and ownership of property as the pivotal pair of the system, and the value of liberty as the centre of its axis. on this basis, values such as justice, love, brotherhood, tolerance, non-violence, peace, humanism, equality of opportunities and the harmony of humankind were thought to develop. However, in the bureaucratic reality of the 19th and 20th centuries these values were overturned by injustice, hatred, enmity, intolerance, violence, war, lack of humanism, growing inequality and one-dimensionality.
Semashko’s conclusion with respect to the value system is that bureaucratic organization, which was based on hierarchically ranked classes, was the main cause of social disharmony and negative values. If, in turn, societies could be organized based on sphere classes in accordance with the main employment of people as mentioned above, and if the political structure could be adapted following the same principle, social harmony would be greatly enhanced and positive values would follow in the wake of this social reorganization. Seen concretely, the four sphere classes would comprise people of different economic and social status but with similar expertise in various occupations and professions. Thus, not economic and social status but common employment in either the humanitarian, informational, organizational, or technical sphere would gradually create a new class consciousness. This reconstruction, according to Semashko, would eliminate class antagonism. Ideas, in common, of contributing to society would grow more and more in people’s consciousness, and lead to a more harmonious society, in place of benefiting from social organization through augmenting one’s power and wealth. It is in this sense that Semashko speaks of "the law of sphere harmony" that would replace "the law of disharmony" that naturally resulted from "the branch organization" of earlier, industrial society.
Culture: Values and Symbolizations
The question that I will now focus on is: How do values fit into Semashko’s systems theory? No doubt, moral concern, positive social values, and the ideal of social harmony are central emphases in Semashko’s thought. How are these morally noble thoughts integrated into Semashko’s sociological theory? That values are important to individuals is explained with respect to human character. Values are the humanitarian component of personality. The nature of values is not explained. As for social harmony, Semashko repeatedly mentions that it starts with harmony in the hearts of individuals (Semashko, 2002: 59, 88) but at the same time he stresses that people can develop good attitudes only when social harmony is being effected through "the sociocultural technology [engineering] of harmony," through the creation of "sphere democracy" (Semashko, 2002: 80-81). Thus, as is also indicated in Semashko’s conclusion with respect to the value system, values in effect are explicitly seen as tied to social structure and social organization. Social harmony will follow naturally when the right reorganization of society is put in place. Individuals and associations/organizations are not discussed as agents of social change.
Evidently, the point of societal organizational is crucial. It is the organization of societies that determines who has the political power to implement social policies that, in turn, bear on people’s lives. Political power and economic power are major bones of contention, and not just in capitalistic societies. Material fortune or misfortune befalls those who can manipulate these goods or fail to do so. Also, to a great extent it is involvement in organizations that determines what the individual’s share will be. Semashko, therefore, is largely right in his insistence on the importance of the reorganization of social classes as central.
A question that arises, here, concerns the degree of significance of societal organizations with respect to social change. Structural change is not the only type of social change. Change takes on many faces. It may occur in various areas of society, not just in the political arena. There are both rapid and slower occurrences of change in all four of Semashko’s spheres, depending on circumstances, historical conjunctions, the influence of specific social, political, and religious movements, new inventions in various fields, and eventually the propagation of new ideas and theories - including those of Semashko. Again, some events have great consequences, as for example, the student movement in the 1960s, the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, and the nine/eleven terrorist attack on the USA in 2001. However it occurs, change seems to be a built-in phenomena of society and culture, but it is not one-directional. For all of this, sociocultural processes of change are hard to understand. As far as most social agencies are concerned, the concern is to know what types of social change are most desirable, and most effectively brought about at a particular historical junction.
More importantly, there is our problem of values. I do not conceive of values as factors or variables in social life, nor as attitudes held by individuals that may result from social organization, as Semashko emphasizes. To me, values are cultural elements that must be discussed in a theory of culture that does not lose sight of human nature. A theory of culture, in my view, should be as important as a theory of society, because, as I argue below, culture is a reality sui generis, distinct from social reality. And recently we witnessed "a cultural turn" (Robertson, 1992), a considerable development of culture itself, in the study of culture, of which cultural studies is only one variety. In advanced societies there has been enormous outgrowths of popular culture, which is mainly expressive in quality.
I have argued elsewhere that symbolizations and values constitute the core of culture (Bachika: 1999, 2000, 2002). The main point in my argument is that symbolizations and values are distinct core elements of culture, entailing distinct functioning, even though in reality these core elements are intertwined and therefore infrequently distinguished theoretically. Stated succinctly, symbolizations are cognitive devices, initially means of constructing new meaning. Seen theoretically they are modes of being and behavior. Values, in contrast, are ideas of being and behavior, that derive from behavior, and function as evaluations of meaning.
In a pre-theoretical understanding it is clear that a value is very different from a symbol. When discussing culture, many authors focus either on symbols or on values. In order to see how they relate to one another, it is important to see differences as well as similarities (Bachika: 2001). Both are means of meaning construction, but in a very different way. To repeat, symbolizations are mainly cognitive in mode. Values, or valuations, while also cognitive, are mainly evaluative in mode. A short description of Buddhism and Christianity will clarify what I mean.
Buddhism is the religion of the Law of all existence. The most important characteristics of the Law are interdependence of all existence (in Japanese mujo: non-constancy) and non-independence of human self (muga: no-self). These are complementary concepts. They imply that suffering is part of life, but also that liberation of suffering is possible. These are the four noble truths of Buddhism, which are symbolized by means of a wheel of a chariot. A wheel goes around and around and around. Ever the same rotation suggests, among other things, the unchangeable nature of the Law. (The idea of recurrence probably comes from the Indian view of reincarnation, a repetition of births). Christianity, on the other hand, has a very different system of symbolizations that probably developed out of very similar experiences within nature and reflections on the mystery of human existence, but developed within the worldview of Judaism. A primary element in the origin of the latter is the creation myth. A divine Being creates the first humans in its own image, but creation partly ends up in failure. The creatures rebel against their maker and sin becomes part of daily life, necessitating salvation. Christianity came to believe in Jesus as the redeemer, and the Cross became the core symbol of Christianity.
Both Buddhism and Christianity are cognitive belief systems that nevertheless have very different symbol systems. The core problems they focus on are suffering and sin, respectively. Amazingly, these religions are very similar in what they value most. Their main moral commandments are the same: prohibition of killing, stealing, sexual promiscuity, and lying. The nature of morality in Christianity and Buddhism is different, that is, as a cognitive system, but the underlying valuation is much the same.
Based on my view of culture, symbolizations and values - which I cannot explain here at any length - one can say that religious leaders need not unify their religious outlooks. on the contrary, it is culturally salutary that many different symbol/meaning systems enable people to marvel at the width and depth of the human mind. It is intellectually gratifying to continue to develop them. As diversity of biological species is a sign of the wonder of Life, so diversity of cultures, artefacts, scientific theories and so on are expressions of the wonder of the human mind. Let a thousand flowers bloom! on the other hand, it seems both easier and more useful for religious leaders to unify their moral outlooks and to rally behind common values that are already out there. The human heart is not as diverse and complicated as the human mind. A thousand flowers come only in a variety of blue, yellow, and red, the three main colors.
Why would a declaration of common core values be useful for the future of societies? Defined as ideas about being and behavior, values are, as Semashko implies in his view of harmony, a matter of inspiration and enlightenment. These attitudes cannot be imposed. Values, social or spiritual, profane or religious, should not be seen as commandments or norms. Religious communities should be, of all things, spiritual and moral communities, inspiring people toward happy and peaceful lives. If religious bodies would get behind one set of core values, compatible with secular formulations, both religious and secular thought would become more plausible and respected.
A theoretical implication of this view is that values are not necessarily tied to any specific symbol/meaning system, nor to any form of social organization. Values belong to a distinct "sphere" of human reality: culture. Within social reality they represent its specific tone: morality. I maintain, in a similar fashion as Semashko, that morality and ideals of living must be upheld by society, but also by individual associations and organizations. It is these which should be the most rational existences in society. Certainly, there are many exceptionally virtuous individuals, but, judging from individual human nature, humans are naturally selfish, wishy-washy in their mind sets, and from birth, on, in need of mental orientation. And yet, however dependent one is on society and fellow humans, to live meaningfully one needs a sense of autonomy.
Toward a New Enlightenment
Semashko dreams of a new enlightenment and a new world order. Interestingly, these ideas seems to have reached a measure of maturity during his Marxist education, in the heydays of the Soviet Empire, although probably in the ‘Marxian white nights’ at St. Petersburg! I mean, influence from Marx seems considerable. Semashko critically focuses on the Unterbau of society and class structure. He criticizes the value of liberty that he sees as the focal point of the axis of the value system from which, like a Pandora box, many evils have escaped into society. He wants to improve on equality - without absolutizing this value - between the various classes, men and women, the younger and the older generation, giving voting rights to children. He even envisions a new, non-violent revolution to be realized through "a sociocultural technology [engineering] of harmony."
One particular image in Semashko’s vision seems to be blurred, the image of culture. He appears to have conceptually neglected culture. Though much concerned with the cultural content in the "informational sphere" and "human character," culture as a term is not part of Semashko’s conceptual scheme. Society is philosophically defined as "social space-time." I would add the dimension of culture to this core concept (making it four dimensional, too). No doubt, the study of culture was not central to Marx, and in a certain sense, neither to the other classical sociologists like Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons. The relations between individual and society, social solidarity, collective consciousness, rationality, social stability and the like were their central concepts. None of them developed a new theory of culture (Martindale, 1971; Guy, 1974). Present societies are less saddled with social than with cultural problems: family life, personal human relations, diversified life styles, an overdose of materialistic and hedonistic values, the new ‘dogma’ of postmodern uncertainty, the moral problems of biochemica/biological engineering, and so on. Transforming or improving societies is no sinecure. Among the many things one needs to be concerned about, attention to power relations and value systems is, no doubt, most crucial. But the enlightenment that present-day societies and people are most in need of is enlightenment of the human heart.
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_____. (2000). "Values and Sociocultural Change" Paper presented at the Research Council Conference of the International Sociological Association, University of Montreal, Canada.
_____. (2001). "Adoption of Universal Values: Creating an Ethos for community for the 21st Century" Paper presented at the International Conference organized by Research Committee 07 of the ISA (Futures Research) and the Palas Athena Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 17-19, 2001.
_____. (2002). Religion as a Fundamental Category of Culture. Traditional Religion and
Culture in a New Era. Reimon Bachika Editor. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick (USA) and London (UK): 193-220.
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Reimon Bachika, Professor, Dept of sociology, Bukkyo University, Kyoto, Japan. President ISA RC 07 Futures Research, International Sociological Association