Natural society

Is there such a thing as “natural society”? The difference between the traditional and modernist outlook is that the former believes in it and the latter does not, at least if “nature” is taken to refer to anything substantial and not simply to content-free abstractions like freedom and equality. The traditional standpoint is that basic institutions like family, property, religion and ethnic affiliation are natural. Secondary features and particularities of line-drawing vary here and there, but the institutions themselves are tied to basic human realities that don’t change much and require social relations—if they are to function at all well—to settle into certain forms that follow a logic and order of their own. That natural logic and order are affected by circumstances to some extent, and they can be supported or disrupted, but for the most part they go their own way and we can’t make of them what we will.

Advanced modern thought of course rejects all that. Ethnicity is constructed, family is whatever we accept as family, religion has no content of its own, and property has a bad conscience even though it has turned out surprisingly hard to abolish or change as an institution. That outlook is held with extraordinary absolutist vehemence. To reject it, to think those basic social categories have to do with important realities that can’t be made into whatever people want, is not simply to hold a different view of things. It is to be racist, sexist, homophobic, fundamentalist, and a greedhead—the personification and agent of everything that is worst and most oppressive in humanity.

Vehemence and unwillingness to discuss are not always a sign of strength. It’s obvious that complex functional systems don’t vary all over the lot but much more often settle into specific patterns that can rarely be changed at pleasure into something very different that remains stable and functional. The catastrophic consequences of trying to do away with property and markets in favor of the guided or administered economy have become too obvious for even modern political discussion to obfuscate. The great stability of biological species—each one a specific organization of life—is notoriously an awkward point for Darwinian theory, which requires that at some point one species slide smoothly into another. Even dialects of American English turn out to have a surprising inner stability, and do not simply blend into each other as a result of better communications.

So what conceivable reason is there to think that one can reconfigure social relations relating to e.g. sex, which scientists say has been with us for a billion years, or ethnicity, which is so closely tied to common habits, attitudes, and historical connections needed for unforced cooperative life in common, into whatever form is needed to comply with absolutely formal and therefore eternally more demanding abstractions like freedom and equality? And if such a thing were possible, how could any limit whatever be set on power? Wouldn’t the result be a limitless totalitarian system and the abolition of humanity? Surely the current dogma, that such distinctions are meaningless and in any rate we should think so because the alternative is so horrifying, is the very reverse of the truth.

7 thoughts on “Natural society”

  1. Tomorrow, remember too the blessings liberalism showers upon us
    From the traditional standpoint basic institutions like family, property, religion and ethnic affiliation are natural. […] Advanced modern thought of course rejects all that. (—from the log entry)

    Where is liberalism’s rejection of all that taking us? The following is a glimpse of the answer from California, and below it is one from Minnesota as reported at today:


    “Wed Nov 24, 2004 04:12 PM ET

    “By Dan Whitcomb

    “LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God—including the Declaration of Independence.

    “Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday […].

    ” ‘It’s a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful,’ said Williams’ attorney, Terry Thompson.”

    [The following glimpse is from]

    “Happy ‘Holidays’: From a schoolteacher in Minnesota: ‘By the way, I asked one of my Somali girls if she thought GI’s should be able to celebrate Christmas in Iraq. She said, “NO, it is a Muslim country.” I responded, “Well you get to celebrate Ramadan over here.” She replied, “Yes, but you are a country of NOTHING.” ‘ “

    [Thanks, liberals! When we give thanks tomorrow for our blessings, we can include heartfelt thanks for having become a country of NOTHING, as even this Somali schoolgirl recognizes, and a country in which all mention of God, even in our founding documents, is STRENG VERBOTEN!]

    “If a tree falls and an expert doesn’t hear it, is there a sound?” Yes, the sweetest, most melodious sound in all creation: the sound of entropy being brought clanking, screeching, grinding to a halt.

  2. Monarchy is natural
    This line of thinking supports the monarchist position since a monarchy is a natural organization of society, not ordered by constitutions, legistlation and judicial fiat.

  3. I disagree
    You say: “Is there such a thing as “natural society”? The difference between the traditional and modernist outlook is that the former believes in it and the latter does not.”

    That is not true, several modernists like Locke and Rousseau believes in the existence of such thing, although their concept of the natural society was different from the traditionalist one. The whole Human Rights discourse is based on the presumed naturalness of its ideals (jus naturalism).

    Some counterrevolutionaries (Armin Molher) criticized to the naturalism and the notiond of “natural order and natural law” for its use by liberals and other revolutionaries.

    • I was painting with a broad b
      I was painting with a broad brush, and couldn’t discuss every point, so I tried to avoid or at least fuzz the issue Mysterious Stranger raises by opposing the “traditional” view (the view generally held traditionally, which would not include all views of modern counterrevolutionary intellectuals) to the “modernist” view, which I think does rely on construction as the explanation and necessary justification for any actual social institution. Locke and Rousseau both want a contractual basis for any social setting that goes beyond isolated families living in the woods. As to the human rights movement, they seem very reluctant to talk about natural law — there was a big fuss when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court in the U.S. because he DID talk about natural law — and prefer to spin out their demands from the evolving consciousness of international society, or from wholly formal and content-free concepts like freedom and equality, and not from any substantive understanding of the nature of man and human society.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.


Leave a Comment