The Social Contract

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “the Social Contract”. Political scientists use the term to describe good-faith relations consent between government and the governed which constitutes what is called “legitimation”. It is, in those terms, what is called “the consensus” or the condition of “unanimity”. Social peace is largely the result of all parties respecting and adhering in good faith, and not in bad faith, to the social contract. It’s this social contract that gives us the term “nation-state” those being the people and its government. When the social contract breaks down through bad faith actors, this stable relation between nation and state also breaks down. This is called loss of legitimation. This is pretty much the situation today. When we speak of “bad faith” then, it is because one or more parties has broken the social contract.

You may have also heard the saying “truth to the friend, lies to the foe”. When governments lie, or when hypocrites rule, or when people lie to one another, you have a state of war that, in the extreme, amounts to a “war of all against all”, or you may have a divorce between state and nation when neither party considers itself bound to uphold the social contract that is the basis for unanimity or consensus. If the social contract is irretrievably broken or discredited, only a revolution can restore social order by writing up a new social contract. Revolutions only break out when the old social contract is already broken, typically through the disease called “decadence”. There is, thus, a dialectical relation between social revolution and social decadence.

What we call “post-truth” or “post-rational” is, in effect, a breakdown of the social contract. Bad faith governments and politicians lie with impunity and equally the people lie to each other. A man like Bernie Sanders insists on a “political revolution” and a new social contract between the government and the governed precisely because he sees that the old social contract is irretrievably broken, and he believes passionately that health and health care can serve effectively as the core feature of a new social contract. He knows that the old one is discredited and dead and now is little more than a zombie even as certain politicians pay lip-service to it, yet break it in practice — the hypocrites.

Everyone sees today, I think, that many politicians lie and act in bad faith. And yet, for merely partisan reasons, their supporters continue to support them in that bad faith, and so are just as complicit in breaking the social contract as the politicians they support. And, of course, one of the bad faith practices that undermines the social contract is the practice of “plausible deniability”. The reason many people find this practice shocking is precisely because it breaks the social contract.

When Pope Francis, rightly, laments that “duplicity is the currency of the day” — the normalisation of lying and hypocrisy, and our acquiescence in that, in effect — this means that the social contract is irretrievably broken and must be replaced. Another way of describing the social contract is “the peace of the land”, so there can be no peace if the social contract is broken, and this problem of legitimation actually extends beyond just America.

You may recall, from earlier posts, our brief reviews of Rosenstock-Huessy’s unique interpretation of the pattern of modern revolutions in his Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man. Based on his interpretation of that pattern, he anticipated yet a conclusive revolution that would seal and close the Modern Era, and he anticipated that the core value or principle of this revolution would be “health” — another term for “integration” since integrare means “to mend”, “to heal”, “to make whole”. Such a revolution would establish a new social contract, in effect, and he seemed to understand the principles of ecology and social ecology long before most people had even heard of the word “ecology”. But when we survey the situation today in many jurisdications, we see that the existing social contract is broken also, and that there is a new insistence and persistence that health and well-being, in all its forms, be made the centre-piece of a new social contract, so we can conclude that we are in a pre-revolutionary situation.

Such a principle of health and well-being (which Gebser, too, might call “the vital centre”) will necessarily include all the aspects of the human fourfold — the mental, emotional, spiritual, and natural aspects — and so must necessarily be integral in those terms, for otherwise too narrow an understanding of health will not hit the target for which it pretends to aim. To be successful, the new social contract must include, in its terms, all four of these aspects of human well-being. Earlier revolutions only specialised in one aspect.

This would, indeed, constitute a major transformation of society, for it would mean recognising human beings in their fourfold aspect as creatures of nature, creatures of emotion, creatures of thought, and spiritual beings as well. So any new political or social revolution must recognise and acknowledge this four-dimensional or quadrilateral character of the human fourfold. This would, of course, bring about Blake’s anticipated new consciousness of “fourfold vision” and Jung’s “integral Self” or what otherwise might be called the “ecodynamic Self”.

This seems very likely when one considers how many people, working in different areas, are nonetheless articulating a common new fourfold or quadrilateral description of human being and of reality. They are, in effect, working out the terms of the new social contract.

That’s a good way of describing it.


27 responses to “The Social Contract”

  1. Patrick Linton says :

    Aloha Scott,

    I have been reading and appreciating your posts for a few years now. Thank you for sharing so much information, insight and assimilation of extremely important material. I especially appreciated your recent post on The Social Contract. In particular, I aligned closely with the ideas put forth regarding health as the suggested basis for a new social contract with all that such a transition would require as individuals and collectively as a society. This parallels much of my own thinking and models I have developed over the past thirty years. Often have I imagined what a society would be like if health and well being (broadly or holistically understood) were embraced as the central organizing principle of that society. However, the models I developed both from professional experience and intuitively were five fold in nature, not four fold as you have suggested. Expanding from the conventional three-fold model of holistic health that usually encompasses body, mind and spirit, the model I developed twenty years ago doing healthy community work at the time in Hawaii encompassed body, mind, spirit, relationships with nature and relationships with each other in community. The spiritual aspect was both the heart-based, vital center of the model as well as the essence that radiated throughout the other four aspects or vectors of the model. If you are interested in dialoging and sharing/comparing models, please contact me directly by email and I would be happy to do so. Kind regards. Pat Linton, Cheboygan, MI.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Odd. I didn’t receive notification of this comment. WordPress being sloppy again I suppose.

      Yes, we can discuss such integral models in terms of the requirements of a new social contract. There is a “quintessence” or fifth factor, and this is what Gebser calls “the diaphainon” and what Blake calls “Albion” and this fifth factor is what coordinates and synchronises the four, and draws them into mutual relationship. Likewise, neurologists often puzzle about the mysterious “integral principal” that preserves the body’s diverse systems and energies in relative equalibrium (homeostasis), which coordinates and synchronises those functions.

      In any event, you can contact me at coyote1 at sasktel dot net.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    New Year’s Day started off pleasant enough. Then a water pipe burst in the basement. Messy.

  3. Steve says :

    So haunted by these video’s.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Why some self-described “spiritual” people are taken in by conspiracy theories — again, it’s the attempt by the narcissistic self to appropriate for itself what does not belong to it.

  5. Steve says :

    “Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”

    ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

    I pretty sure Nietzsche would disagree with you on this one Scott, I know I do. Maybe you don’t read enough world history. Many aspect of human history are very very brutal, revealing human being to be not so evolved or civilized as we might hope but only ‘half-decent’ creatures. Humans still have a lot of animality to master and shadowy elemental forces to cope with. The forces of intentional destruction exist only in the souls of Humans, not in Nature. Human beings have the pack-animal pecking order tendency ingrained deep in our psyche. Power is the name of the game right now and it can seduce its wielder and create GREED. Buddha named the three main calamities of the human soul: ignorance, greed and cruelty. The future will see our current civilization as the most barbaric in history. Conspiracy theories in my opinion are no brainers. I don’t expect anything better. We have hardly exited Plato’s cave. Maybe we have a toe out. Humanity in the mass is subject to the programs which direct Organic Life as a whole, and in which man is individually insignificant. In his state of psychological sleep his behavior is not directed by his own mind, but is controlled by the group mind. Anyway, I absolutely disagree with you on this point. Could 9/11have been an inside job? Wouldn’t surprise me at all. Just talked to a friend who was stupid enough to get this vaccine, having all kinds of health issues now, one being that he feels like he’s loosing his mind. How many little robots will stand in line to get that shot. I have on my shelf a bottle of Ivermectin that will kill Covid in one day. Watch Dr. Pierre on youtube bitch out congress for pushing the vaccine over Ivermectin which has no side effects. You think way too highly of people Scott. Humans are just about worthless at this time in history. Re-reading Brave New World at the moment. What a guy!!

    • Scott Preston says :

      There is a thin line between reasonable suspicions of conspiracy and unreasonable superstitions. The conspiracy theories that Taylor is alluding to are unreasonable superstitions, and that is always a problem with the return of the repressed. It also brings with it anxiety and paranoia to the ego consciousness and could easily lead to the problem of what is called “psychic inflation”.

      This is what Taylor is talking about. It’s actually an old problem which is known in authentic spiritual traditions as the pitfall of “spiritual pride” and this is what Gebser means by “psychism” as distinct from spirituality. “spiritual pride” is otherwise called the sin of self-righteousness, and that is essentially what is being referred to in the Gospels when it is said that “pride goeth before a fall”.

      I have my own reasonable suspicions about conspiracies. Take the propaganda about the pandemic “hoax” or the denialists or those who underplay its significance. Follow the money as usual. There are powerful interest groups such as the police, the military, corporations etc that fear the taxpayer money-pipeline in terms of funding, tax reductions or subsidies will be diverted to serve social problems like covid. They don’t want that to happen, so they launch “think tanks” or astroturf organisations that spread denialism and propaganda about a broad range of health issues. They’re protecting their place at the trough. So that is my conspiracy theory, and I think it’s quite a reasonable one since it fits the evidence. It’s a conspiracy against the public.

      And I have a reasonable suspicion that things like QAnon are just such an astroturf conspiracy to spread lies to divert and deflect attention from that very thing — the real conspiracy being to fleece and defraud the public that goes by the name “trickle up”.

      And a whole lot of self-described “spiritual” people have swallowed the toad whole.

      • Steve says :

        I agree with you on the QAnon thing. Yes, reasonable suspicions of conspiracy and unreasonable superstitions are important to discriminate.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I have on my shelf a bottle of Ivermectin that will kill Covid in one day.

      The pandemic has pointed up quite a bit about us in just a couple of years. Among them, how apparently, supremely uncomfortable we are with simply not knowing.

      In the political mosh pit, one side is saying that Invermectin has been proven to reduce or eliminate serious complications and deaths while the other side is saying that Invermectin has been disproven to reduce or eliminate serious complications and deaths in Covid-19 patients, but…both claims are false. The efficacy of Invermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 is in the process of clinical trials, the results of which are inconclusive to date. Ergo, health professionals are recommending the use of Invermectin to treat Covid-19 only in clinical trials. Not as dramatic, but there we are.

      Why are we so uncomfortable with not knowing?

  6. Steve says :

    Perhaps my last comment was harsh. But………what a mess we are as humans.
    I have a friend who is a Virologist and a front line M.D. I asked him if he would get the vaccine. He said absolutely not. He would quit before he would do that.
    He said they skipped 5 to six steps to push this thing out faster. Doesn’t trust it at all.

  7. Steve says :

    “Certain concepts that have made their way into modern humanity are in dire need of revision. If we commit ourselves seriously to Anthroposophical thinking and feeling, we face great, not small, decisions. We confront the need to take seriously a phrase often used by Nietzsche–the `radical reevaluation of all values’. This phrase needs to be taken very, very seriously. The achievements of modern times stand in dire need of radical re-evaluation.

    Rudolf Steiner

    • Steve says :

      “Behind the ideal values there stood prophets and geniuses in their day, with creative inspiration and fire. But when monuments have been erected to the prophets and the geniuses, and the streets have been called by their names, a chilled and mediocre culture comes into shape which no longer endures a prophetic spirit and a new spirit of genius.”~ Nikolai Berdyaev

  8. TheOakofNormal says :

  9. steve says :

    The commonsense understanding of time is that it is a direct, linear flow from the past through the present to the future. Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on this idea of human, historical time. The organisms are classified into fragments in time and location, and systematized. This systemization emphasizes the differences among them. Species that were originally brothers and sisters became divided in people’s thinking, by being made into distinctly different things.
    Transcendent time, or time as it exists in nature, is a continuous moment of the present. When one sees and operates within that time and space, it is the unity of all things that is perceived.
    The idea of time that people generally accept came into being with the invention of the calendar and the clock. But a clock, with its needle going around a series of numbers, is just a means of counting.
    Time does not simply flow mechanically in a straight line in a fixed direction. We could think of time as flowing up and down, right and left, forward and backward. As time develops and expands, multifaceted and three-dimensional, the past is concealed within the instant of the present, and within this instant of time is concealed the eternity of the future.
    It is easy to liken the flow of time to the flow of a river. But even the phenomenon of water flowing in a river presents challenges of perception. When you stand on a riverbank and look at the water, you can clearly see that the water is flowing in one direction. But if you are in a boat moving at the same speed as the water, the river does not seem to be flowing at all; rather the riverbank appears to be moving upstream. As a Zen master once said, “The river does not flow. The bridge flows.

  10. Benjamin David Steele says :

    It’s unsurprising that Rosenstock-Huessy “anticipated yet a conclusive revolution that would seal and close the Modern Era, and he anticipated that the core value or principle of this revolution would be “health”.” The emphasis on health has been central to Western thought for at least the last two centuries of modernity.

    I wrote about the historical context in the following post. I was more broadly focused on identity, but much of my commentary was about health. You can particularly see that with the obsession over neurasthenia in the late 19th to early 20th century. Our present concern with health didn’t come out of nowhere.

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