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Systems Theory and Society: Authority, Society, Culture, and Individuality

Society is not a System; not without Autonomous Individuals

A System, properly defined, is regulated either internally (such as an organism) or externally. The more complex the system, the greater its need for internal regulation, with the need for such internal regulation rising with the amount of complexity and the number of independent variables which need to be regulated. Institutions are built to be timeless rather than timely, and therefore are never designed with an eye to metabolic regulation, homeostasis, or adaptation. They are built to withstand external forces, through sheer immovability, and therefore are extremely weak to becoming pointless in changing contexts, or succumbing to internal entropy which is integral to its continued functioning, and cannot be dissipated deliberately and systemically. 

Lack of Self-hood (Lack of self-awareness and self-regulation)

Lack of homeostasis

  • Self
  1. ego -- the knower rather than the known
  2. the uniting principle, underlying all subjective experience


Authority is a Derivative Product of Autonomy

Individuality is not "merely" a state of grace, a right, a privilege, or a source of enjoyment, but a survival mechanism: within Systems Theory, a Virtue necessary to continued existence. An artificial scarcity of Autonomy exacerbates all other forms of scarcity. Authority is the predominant mode of artificial scarcity, eliminating the possibility of Adaptation and Habitation by Autonomous Individuals. The contrast between the Closed-world assumption and the Open-world assumption illustrate just how many more solutions are available to a less formal but more self-aware and autonomous system, as the number of solutions are not limited to those solutions for which there is a formally valid and well-examined truth-value. Experimentation is possible to a much higher degree, to a much smaller scale, and to only those persons or groups who feel it necessary or useful.

Counsel adds to Autonomy and Dignity, rather than displacing them.


Success and Failure of Institutional Adaptation

"Anti-fragile" Systems are systems capable of Adaptation and/or Habitation Failing Institutions cannot adapt to Autonomous individuals, and must Habitate by eliminating Autonomy, displacing it with Authority and Command

The difference between a free man and a slave is a receipt, legally defining him as property -- nothing more.


Autonomy is an Integral Principle of Society

Autonomy is an implicit and largely unacknowledged component of our social agreements and institutions, including:

  • Deterence -- which only functions upon an autonomous individual to be socially influenced to not use autonomy in a way that may be considered socially destructive
  • Precedence -- guide to uses of autonomy in socially constructive behavior; what is permitted, and what rewards or returns might be expected
  • Mens Rea -- meaasure of the autonomy of choice that an individual has made, in the question of performing a behavior which may be seen to be criminal (Murder is an autonomous, premeditated choice, while killing in self-defense is an event which happens to an individual, and is not a matter of choice, but of circumstance)
  • Original Position -- Virtues such as Empathy and Imagination; Autonomy of processes and conclusions
  • Contract Law -- contracts must be entered into voluntarily, and not under handicap or duress
  • Responsibility -- measure of the constructive or destructive use(s) of Autonomy and Authority
  • Justification of Representative Government -- Consent or Dissent of the governed citizens
  • Equity -- that the law forms a minimum of justice, and that equitable outcomes require far higher standards of intelligence and wisdom, and greater consideration of the scope and detail of the circumstances at hand

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