The collective-individuative approach views actual systems as more or less distortions of the ideal action system. While Habermasians typically merely speak of distorted communication, we seek to act when appropriate to reduce or remedy distorted collective individuation. Crucially, however, we do not wish to regress to a vapid activism. In a sense, the critical approach to collective individuation takes the Habermasian focus on communication and language–which is symptomatic of twentieth-century philosophy in general–as a metaphor writ large for collective individuation. To the extent that speech parallels action–and because speech is a subset of action–we seek to situate non-distorted communication within the fuller context of non-distorted collective individuation. Non-distorted collective individuation entails interaction free from illegitimate disturbance.
Two ways in which interaction can be distorted are in terms of “force” and “fraud”. Force, within the current context, refers to the threat or actual initiation of non-consensual intervention in the authority, body, or property of another person. Force typically results from the abuse of the systemic resource of power (physical force). Fraud, in the current context, refers to prior or ongoing deception that leads to non-consensual interaction with the authority, body, or property of another person. Fraud typically results from the abuse of the systemic resource of influence (social capital). At the extremes of monetary gain and loss, the systemic resource of money can also be abused in a way that can motivate abuses of physical force or influence. People might be willing to kill in order to avoid great losses in money, and they might be willing to lie in order to achieve great gains. To some extent, broad distortions within the social system can, therefore, be understood in terms of the ongoing use and abuse of systemic resources.
Distortions and disturbances evoke the question as to how to legitimately define, avoid, or settle disputes involving body, property, and authority so as to allow for a sufficiently undistorted and viable action system. Traditionally, the legitimacy of claims to property ownership–whether private, collective, common, or public–has been tied to the legitimacy of the monopoly on physical force held by states and their governments. However, relations of body, property, and authority are also differentiated, defined, and reproduced within civil-societal domains (dominated by influence or “social capital”) and economic domains (dominated by exchange value) simultaneously permeated by political power (dominated by physical force). At a deeper level, accordingly, systemic distortions, dis-integrations, and dis-coordinations arise from normalized relations of bodies, properties, and authorities within the action system that are themselves made manifest and reproduced across the social, cultural, personal, and organismal dimensions. Though the collective-individuative approach does not necessarily require the subversion of existing relations of bodies, properties, and authorities, it typically brings them into question. By including “authority” alongside “property” and “body” within the domain of the question of legitimacy itself, the collective-individuative approach strives to be thoroughly (self-)reflexive and (self-)critical. However, the aim of the critical approach is not to incite or encourage violence. Rather, its primary strategy is to use communicative action mutually and purposefully to understand relations among bodies, properties, and authorities in a way that is most conducive to collective individuation.When addressing actual social systems, the praxeological approach tends to focus on lifeworld integration and systemic coordination. For the sake of analysis, it understands (1) lifeworld integration—pertaining to action orientations or their “subjective” characteristics, such as ends and means—and (2) systemic coordination—pertaining to action consequences or their “objective” characteristics, such as unintended outcomes—as two aspects of interaction either conducive or detrimental to collective individuation. On the one hand, for example, lifeworld integration can involve inter-subjectively meaningful interactions such as consensus formation with regard to relations of property, body, and authority. This can include everything from a marriage proposal or ceremony within civil society to advertising, bargaining, and contracting in market society. On the other hand, for example, systemic coordination can involve responses to price signals that have been unintentionally generated via the mechanism of supply and demand. In this sense, the praxeological approach typically addresses the social system as an integration/coordination problem involving political, civil, and economic aspects. Nevertheless, it is important to keep the other functions and subsystems of the lifeworld/system within our concerns as we focus on the social system—namely, the personal, cultural, and organismal subsystems. Distortions can manifest within any of the four functions—individuation, integration, rationalization, and socialization. For example, excessive neuroses arising from deficient socialization can consist of self-deceptions that lead to distorted interaction. On the other hand, from the critical-theoretical standpoint, neuroses that are symptomatic of oppression may point the way out of distorted interactions.
Due to complexity, modern social systems reach well beyond their lifeworlds. However, (a) reputational subsystems–based on commitment/influence or “social capital”–that permeate fiducial/societal communities [“civil society”] and (b) economic subsystems–based on price signals generated via mutually beneficial exchange–that permeate economic societies [“freed markets”] are, in theory, sufficient for modern systemic coordination. States/governments, therefore, in theory, do not need to exist in order to compensate for supposedly insurmountable limits to peaceful-anarchistic social integration/coordination by colonizing the lifeworld/system with threats or applications of physical force. Rather, laws and jurisdictions that consist of threats or applications of physical force can only legitimately exist because they respond to or seek to avoid actual negative conditions and situations that have arisen from non-consensual interventions (“force”), non-consensual interactions (“fraud”), or unwillingness to provide others access to the minimal means of survival. Ultimately, threats and applications of physical force can only legitimately exist out of the need for restitution, defense, or the need to acquire the basic means for survival. The need for restitution, defense, and access to the basic means for survival, therefore, determines the extend to which juridification–that is, law formation and legal administration–is necessary. To the extent that (a) reputational and (b) economic subsystems would need to be supplemented by (c) legal subsystems within ideal social-systemic conditions, legal subsystems would be merely a means of articulating and clarifying a (cumulative) consensus of (patterned) expectations with regard to relations of body, property, and authority rather than a means of legitimating threats or applications of physical force.
Though the ideal action and social systems are peacefully anarchistic, they remain regulative ideals towards which to strive. Moreover, even if peaceful anarchy were achieved, new generations would need to be successfully socialized into existing ideal communities. Due to a combination of deficient socialization and misunderstanding, there will likely always need to be some formal means of dispute resolution within the scope of each community. To achieve defense and restitution and to avoid excessive conflict in an optimal way, people in less-than-ideal conditions need specialized enforcement and ultimate courts of appeal within various jurisdictions. In this way, they can establish mutual understandings of public, common, collective, and private property. They can be mindful of the need for mutual understanding of the body at local and intimate levels. They can make manifest their mutual respect for each person’s authority.
Various exclusive jurisdictions could exist side by side in a manner that allows exit and entry from one to another in order to provide comparative and competitive standards among jurisdictions. Moreover, one’s exit should come before violations of the rules rather than serve as a means of fleeing the requirements of restitution or defense within a given jurisdiction after such violation. This would assure that justice is served. As long as we do not live under ideal social systemic conditions, we must be anarchists in theory but “competitive minarchists” in practice. Because the legitimacy of states/governments rests on negative conditions, they need to be kept in check through constant questioning of their power. At an abstract level, the classical liberal tradition has done a good job of such questioning. Unfortunately, in the real world, state power has generally increased. Modern states tend to legitimate expanding threats and applications of physical force via both existing law and ongoing legislation. In Western democracies, new legislation is closely tied to electoral politics, as played out through the public media.
At one extreme, the regressive left understands “civil society” as merely an extension of government. They understand it as an arena for “policy formation” and “participatory democracy”. Hence, they tend to view things in terms of juridification, and they see themselves as government clients and voters. Their logic seems to be, “If only we could pass this law . . .” To the extent that social conditions call for restitution and defense, minimal juridification is welcome and necessary. Nevertheless, the ideal social system remains both conceivable and possible as peaceful anarchy or competitive minarchy. Hence, not everything should be panoptically understood and governed via the domain of laws and states. Moreover, laws are rarely, if ever, passed by unanimous consent via communicative action. The fetishization of juridification, which is both ideological and systemic, leads to excessive juridification, whereby a bloated accumulation of formal laws intrudes on the lifeworld of ordinary people. Excessive juridification is a way in which “force” colonizes modern lifeworlds/systems by penetrating them with non-consensual interventions.
At another extreme, the regressive right tends to view social systems merely in terms of market relations. They understand things in terms of commodification. Accordingly, they view themselves as producers and consumers of exchange value, and they view social-systemic problems in terms of market vs. state. When they do acknowledge “civil society”, they see it merely as an extension of the market populated by charitable services. However, from the critical standpoint, one distinctive feature of civil society is the social production of use values rather than merely exchange values. People acting together within civil society–properly understood–voluntarily bring about entities (“goods”) and activities (“services”) that increase utility directly and that are not for sale. To the extend that market production provides inputs for the individual and social production of direct utility in civil society, commodification is welcome and necessary. Nevertheless, the productivity of direct action via social production in civil society goes well beyond merely the market.
The critical approach is, therefore, concerned about excessive commodification that involves things that *can* possibly be for sale, such as charitable services or babysitting or prostitution, being misrepresented as and mistaken for things that *cannot* possibly be for sale, such as genuine charity or genuine parental love or romantic relationship. We are concerned about the type of excessive commodification that confuses things that one does for free with things that one does for money. Genuine charity, parental love, and romantic relationships are things that are possible to do for free but which are *impossible* to do for money. By fetishizing the production, purchase, and sale of goods and services (exchange values), the regressive right encourages excessive commodification. Hence, distortions in interaction arise where things that are for sale get confused with things that are not for sale. Excessive commodification is a subtle way in which “fraud” colonizes modern lifeworlds/systems by penetrating them with (self-)deceptive and non-consensual interactions.
Establishing and maintaining an adequate consensus with regard to relations of body, property, and authority will require elements of forgiveness, restitution, and compassion. Though people may have their differences, they can ultimately avoid violent conflict via mutual respect for body, property, and authority. Collective individuation includes respect for boundaries and dissent; boundaries and dissent entail privacy and mystery. The principle of liber(aliz)ation entails a moral obligation to respect the liberty of other people. It precedes the negotiation of any “social contract”. It cannot be treated as merely an exchange value; it is not up for bargaining. At the same time, the ideal action and social systems are both conceivable and possible as peaceful anarchy. Within the current context, we understand liberty as freedom from non-consensual interventions (“force”) and non-consensual interactions (“fraud”) with one’s body, property, and authority. Regarding property, therefore, people within ideal social-systemic conditions will establish and maintain an adequate consensus backed by a common registry of ownership regarding who owns what for the sake of avoiding non-consensual intervention. Most importantly, in the spirit of collective individuation, they will establish property rights in a way that allows everyone to either retain or acquire access to at least the minimal means for living a good life. Property claims will exist within the full dimensions of (non-)rivalry and (non-)excludability, so that private, collective, common, and public—not to be confused with government- or state-owned—forms of goods will be welcome within the scope of consensual claims. Regarding body, people will be mindful of the need for mutual understanding at local and intimate levels. Regarding authority, they will have mutual respect.