mercredi, janvier 15, 2014

Dooyeweerd: The Wielding of Power

David I of Scots & Malcolm IV of Scots (from 12th C charter granted to Kelso Abbey)
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     The moulder of history sees how his ideas are realized, and how the development of civilization is affected in a quite different way from what he had subjectively desired and intended. This is what WUNDT called the heterogenesis of aims in history. In the same way the political law-maker finds the legal norms which he has enacted still imputed to his juridical will as legislator, while they gradually detach themselves entirely from his original conception and intention.

     The shaper of history is only the leader, or perhaps only one of the leaders in a historical group-function (a cultural sphere, a nation, a school, etc.)

     In this group-function the power of tradition in an immensely complicated system of factors — of whose full significance no single contemporary is fully aware individually — forces his formative will along the paths of historical continuity.

     This is what German historical idealism used to call the 'objective Spirit' in history,—if we strip the states of affairs here intended from any speculative idealistic interpretation doubtless connected with this term.

     The historical past with its condensed treasure of cultural factors permeates the present and the future in the normative continuity of cultural development. It is in no one's power to dissociate himself from this supra-individual group-tradition.

The role of great personalities in history.
     With this we automatically touch upon the old controversy about the question whether after all history is 'made' by the great personalities, or if these personalities themselves are only products of a particular supra-individual historical spirit of the times.

     This way of formulating the question is unacceptable. History is not 'made' by men, but shaped, formed only. Moreover, the dilemma of an individualistic or a universalistic-sociological conception of this formation of history ought to be rejected in principle, if insight is to be gained into the meaning-structure of the historical formative will.

     At a primitive stage of culture, civilization seems to be immersed in the lethargy of a rigid group-tradition which the members of a primitive social group undergo in many respects as an unalterable supernatural power. But civilization has got into this state in consequence of the sinful human formative will. The guardians of the group-tradition remain responsible individual personalities. They cannot be denatured to a kind of indifferent passage-way of an unconscious group-will.

     And when, at a higher cultural level, the individual genius interferes with the process of the forming of history, such an individual moulder of history is neither to be simply considered as the product of the group-mind, nor as an autarchic individual, drawing exclusively from his own genius. He is rather nurtured by the rich supra-individual tradition of the group, without which he could never be an individual shaper of cultural development whose free projects open new roads to the history of mankind.

Power as a normative historical mission in the modal meaning of history. Mastery over persons and social-psychical influence.
     What is it that makes a person the former of cultural development in a particular period of history? It is not any casual historical subject that makes, or rather moulds history. For this task power over men in a particular cultural sphere is essential.

     In our previous examinations it has repeatedly been stated that this historical modus of social influence is no brute natural force. Nor can it be reduced to social-psychical influence, a modal shift of meaning regularly found in the treatment of the fashionable sociological theme of 'the leader and the masses'.

     In the present context it is necessary to explain in somewhat greater detail the radical modal difference of meaning between power over men in the process of cultural formation of human society and the psychical mode of influencing social human behaviour. This is the more necessary because in modern Christian ethics inspired by dialectical theology there is often noticeable a real horror of power-formation, which is considered as something essentially un-Christian. In positivistic sociology power is always regarded as a psycho-physical phenomenon, and so it is quite understandable that, according to the usual opposition of facts and norms, mastery over persons was supposed to be an entirely a-normative social relation. But since the analysis of the logical analogies in the modal structure of the historical aspect has laid bare the normative meaning of its law-sphere, it is no longer possible to accept this current view.

     In addition, from the Christian standpoint this conception is hardly to be reconciled with the Divine cultural commandment mentioned in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, according to which the subjection of the earth and the mastery over it is expressly posited as a normative task of mankind. There is no explicit mention of power-formation in the social relations between men in this passage. But without the latter cultural development of mankind would be impossible. Culture is bound to human society, which, in its turn, demands cultural formation, i.e. a controlling manner of shaping the social relations between people. All human power is derived from God as the absolute Origin of every earthly mastery. JESUS CHRIST has said that all power on earth and in the Heavens was given in His hands. The horror of power-formation for the sake of the fulfilment of the Christian task in the cultural development of mankind is, consequently, un-biblical. The Church itself is historically founded in power over men by means of the organized service of the Word and the Sacraments.

     Doubtless, every power given in the hands of man implies a serious risk of abuse. But this state of affairs can only accentuate its normative meaning, it can never justify the opinion that power in itself is an evil.

     The positivistic sociological view that power over men can be reduced to social-psychical influence, eventually (in the case of sword-power) supported by 'physical means', rests upon a fundamental misunderstanding.

     Power over men has indeed a social-psychical substratum in the feeling-drive of submission to the leadership of superior figures. The latter exercise a considerable emotional influence upon their social environment. But real formative power in its original cultural sense does not function in the feeling-aspect of human experience, as little as the formative will in its historical function can be identified with the psychical aspect of volition.

     Wherever real power over men manifests itself, it is always consolidated in cultural forms which transcend the psychical life of the individuals in their social interaction. This is why history can never be reduced to social psychology.

     The construction of a collective soul as the psychical origin of the cultural forms of human society is nothing but a metaphysical speculation. And it is indeed surprizing that this metaphysical construction was laid at the foundation of the positivistic sociology of EMILE DURKHEIM, who at the same time emphatically denied that the social institutions can be examined in a psychological way.

     Power over men, as the irreducible cultural modality of social influence, cannot be realized apart from the other modal aspects of social life, consequently, not apart from the social-psychical relations between men. But in this realization it maintains its cultural modal meaning. Its factual side remains bound to the normative cultural principle of power-formation founded in the Divine order of creation, and cannot be experienced apart from it in its original historical sense.

     Historical power is not an a-normative meaning-figure, but it is the power of a normative mission in the sense of formative control. The possessor of historical power does not possess it as a kind of personal property that he has at his subjective disposal. He has a normative task and mission in the development of human civilization either to guard or to mould culture further, in subjection to the principles laid down by God in His world-order. If he thinks he can trample on these cultural principles, which are elevated above any subjective arbitrariness, he will discover his own powerlessness. Real power to form history can only unfold either in obedient, or in compulsory subjection to the Divine principles of cultural development. This important point is essential to a true insight into the intrinsic meaning of historical power, and it will be explained in the further analysis of the principles of historical development.

     The glory of power has been tarnished because its normative modal meaning was lost sight of.

     It ought to be completely restored in its irreplaceable value within the Divine world-order by considering its modal sense in the light of the Biblical basic motive. For it is of Divine origin and finds its religious consummation (Matt. 28:18; John 3:35) in Christ Jesus as the Incarnate Word, in Whom God's omnipotence finds its pure expression, not tainted with sin.

     It has not been included in the world-order because of sin only. For God created man after His own Image as ruler and lord of the earthly world (Genesis 1:26, 28).

     Through sin the power of man was turned away from its religious fulness; instantly the striving after its [ie "power's"] absolutization came into existence, the disregard for its temporal meaning-coherence, root and Origin. And in this apostate direction of the human craving for power man was reduced to relative powerlessness. The power of the kingdom of darkness revealed itself in the history of the world, — power as the citadel of Satan in its struggle with the power of the kingdom of Christ. This central theme of the Christian view of history will presently demand all our attention.

The romantic quietist conception of God's guidance in history.
     With the acceptance of the human will as an essential formative factor in the historical process, and the acknowledgment of the normative meaning of power as a historical mission, our view of history is inexorably opposed to all manner of romantic quietism. Under the influence of SCHEMING and the Historical School, this quietism — which found a fertile soil in the dialectical Lutheran view of the Law in its relation to Christian freedom — has also penetrated into the conception of history propounded by FR. JULIUS STAHL.
STAHL'S view of the normative sense of historical continuity appeared to be infected by an irrationalist organological trait. What had come about by the activity of the national mind in a supposedly unconscious process, was surrounded by a special aureole of sanctity, because it was due to 'organic growth' and not to the actions of men. And STAHL thinks he can recognize in the unwritten customary law something that grew out of the 'mind of the people' as a product of 'God's guidance' (Gottes Fügung). This ought to have a higher value accorded to it than to legislation in which the human formative will is so very much in evidence.

     But history is never formed without human interference, though the latter is only instrumental with regard to God's government of the world. The interlacing of normative principle and human formative will is founded in the modal meaning of history itself and in the Divine world-order in which its modal law-sphere has been given its proper place. The historical development sets Christianity an eminent, normative task, a Divine mission, viz. the laying of the historical foundation, through the power of Christ, for the realization of Christian principles in this sinful world. This conclusion can no longer be evaded since it has been shown that the historical law-sphere is really the basis in the retrocipatory direction of time for the entire normative dynamics revealing itself in the opening-process of the other normative law-spheres.

     If the Christian principles of justice, morality etc. are to find acceptance in this world, then it is only possible on the historical basis of power-formation in a continuous struggle with the powers of apostasy. True, God Himself guarantees the Honour of His Name, the victory of His Kingdom over the kingdom of darkness. But He uses human instruments in this struggle. Those who in the manner of the quietists make an appeal to 'God's guidance in history', as a kind of an unconsciously operating irrational factor outside of human intervention, corrupt the meaning of this Christian motif. For the latter is a summons to activity, not to resignation. 

(Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol. 2, pp 244-249)