The Social System

The social system is part of the action system.  The social system exists in the societal dimension of the action system.  In a functional action system, the social subsystem fulfills the subfunction of integration according to the standard of respect.  Integration involves the coordination and realization of plans for seeking mutual happiness in a consensual manner.  It is intimately related to respecting other people as ones who should actively seek happiness according to the principle of liber(aliz)ation.

There are four aspects to the functional social system: the (1) fiducial, (2) communal, (3) political, and (4) economic.  Moreover, each aspect involves a corresponding resource: (a) commitment, (b) influence, (c) power [in the narrow sense of physical force], and (d) money [in the wide sense of exchange value].

The fiducial aspect of society, or fiducial society, involves the ongoing process of collective individuation through (a) commitment to the principle of collective individuation.  Within fiducial society, people mutually maintain a minimal degree of unanimous consensus with regard to basic values of flourishing, respect, rationality, and responsibility.  These shared values form the bridging social capital that leads to the possibility of solidarity and coexistence among diverse collective and personal identities.  Commitment is what we commonly know as integrity and includes elements of respect, rationality, and responsibility.  One can access the resource of commitment via appeal to another’s value-rational motivations.  For example, one might motivate another to action by saying, “You value your authority, body, and property, so you should defend it in the best way possible!”  The point behind such an appeal to another’s value-rational motivation is to get them to reason and act consistently according to their own deeper values (flourishing, respect, rationality, responsibility).  In this example, the target of the appeal may not have immediately realized the connection between her responsibility for her own authority, body, and property, and her ability or desire to competently defend it.  After hearing the appeal, she may then reorient her action in a way that prepares or enacts self-defense–for example, by enrolling in a course in basic self-defense.  The fiducial aspect of the social system corresponds to the personal aspect of the larger action system because people are the ultimate source of moral choices and ongoing commitments.

The communal aspect of society, or societal community, involves consensus formation and peaceful dissolution through the resource of (b) influence.  Influence is the ability to persuade others to abandon, adopt, or maintain particular commitments, whether in terms of beliefs or values.  In the functional social system, influence rests on the “unforced force” of the better argument or example, so that people with greater expertise in a certain area of knowledge or experience will tend to have more influence in their area of expertise.  It is important not to confuse power in the narrow sense of physical force with influence.  Influence includes the ability to direct others by means of their consent, but not with any economic reward (by means of money) or physical threat (by means of physical force).  Shared experiences, tastes, ethnicity, race, gender, sex, or orientation, typically form bonding social capital and lead to concrete and varied relationships within societal community.  Crucially, within the ideal societal community, there is no requirement or expectation of unanimous consensus with respect to matters of personal and collective identity.   Rather, unanimous consensus pertains only to (1) the minimal values of flourishing, respect, rationality, and responsibility based in fiducial, political, and economic society.  Moreover, unanimous consent pertains only to (2) the bodies, properties, and authorities affected by specific actions and interactions.  Within the ideal societal community, people (i) respect that others have diverse experiences based on their unique bodily, cultural, social, and personal existence; and people simultaneously (ii) seek to avoid non-consensual interventions and interactions with other’s body, property, and authority.  The communal aspect of the social system corresponds to the societal aspect of the larger action system because legitimate influence facilitates localized integration and coordination.  Fiducial society and societal community together make up civil society.

Civil Society
Social Subsystem Fiducial Communal
Related Subsystem of Action Personal Social
Resource Commitment (Bridging) Influence (Bonding)

The political aspect of society, or political society, involves primarily defense and restitution through the exercise or threat of (c) physical force [power].  Defense involves the avoidance or mitigation of harm in the face of deliberate or negligent threat. Restitution involves compensation for past harm.  Again, it is important not to confuse power in the narrow sense of physical force with influence.  Influence includes the ability to direct others by means of their consent, but not with any economic reward (by means of money) or physical threat (by means of physical force).  That is what we mean when we say that within a functional social system influence is based on the “unforced force” of the better argument or example.  Another possible role for political society is the provision of basic welfare.  However, the provision of basic welfare can only be legitimate if it is backed by the unanimous consent of the governed.  In such cases of unanimous consent, basic welfare could, in theory, be provided independently of government.  A basic income guarantee (BIG), for example, could be one of the most efficient and least paternalistic ways of collectively providing for basic welfare.  It could be a formal and effective way for expressing and implementing a willingness of all to provide access to at least the minimal means for survival.  The political aspect of the social system corresponds to the cultural aspect of the larger action system because both concern maintaining a persistent institutional framework within which collective individuation can take place.

Lastly, the economic aspect of society, or economic society, involves the production and distribution of goods and services.  The guiding principle of economic society is mutually beneficial exchange that typically involves (d) money.  The economic aspect of the social system corresponds to the organismal/instinctual aspect of the action system because both involve adaptation, and the economy primarily involves providing for bodily needs and material well-being.  Political and economic society together constitute the political economy.

Political Economy
Social Subsystem Political Economic
Related Subsystem of Action Cultural Organismal/Instinctual
Resource Power (Physical Force) Money (Exchange Value)

Although all four aspects of the social system have distinct features, political society is unique in that its legitimacy is contingent on the existence of deliberate or negligent harm.  If there were no such harm, then there would be no need for defense or restitution.  Moreover, if there were no deficient welfare, then there would be no need for provision of basic welfare or a basic income guarantee.  Since in the ideal action system every person would respect every other person as one who should actively seek happiness, there would be no deliberate or negligent harm among adults.  Moreover, there would likely be enough prosperity for everyone to achieve basic well-being and to provide those in need with at least basic welfare, and there would also be enough voluntary compassion to effectively provide basic welfare for all independently from any government.

The Cultural System