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Title of the proposed research: State, Society and the Individual.

A Research on Social Integration

I Modernity is the output of a long historical process, by which Western society has radically changed its structure. The process of its evolution has not been an aseptic one: on the contrary, modernity emerged out of conflicts and crises, so it was neither [a pacific nor [a unitary construction! "#ardt and $egri, %&&&: '()*&+. ,et, my assumption is that the conflictual character of modernity and its ambivalence "more freedom, yet within the social constraints of rationality and control+ was possible only within a comprehensive process, one of its main determining factors being the evolution of new ways of production and distribution of -nowledge "Thompson, .((/+. In my theoretical perspective, the structure of modern society is connoted by functional differentiation: society is no longer based on hierarchy "e.g. on socially differentiated ran-s+, but on functionally autonomous social systems "e.g. law, politics, economy, science, family+, which are in a heterarchical relation with each other "0uhmann, .((*: *&* ff.+. 1arly modernity inaugurated a new connection between social actors and society, by stressing the relevance of sub2ectivity as a way to control and limit the increasing power of social systems, which were becoming more and more comple3 and autonomous. 4 number of social devices were produced by modern society to guarantee the interconnection between an increasingly comple3 and differentiated society and the individual. The discovery! of the individual allowed new connections between social systems and social actors5 social systems referred to the rationality of individual actions much more than to the number of ascribed duties and privileges related to social position. 6hilosophical individualism was lin-ed to the idea that the individual was responsible for his actions, since he could operate in conformity to reason. 7eason was a universal principle, and as such one could discriminate between the rational and irrational aspects of human conduct. 8y referring to rationality, individuals could ma-e their actions consistent with a socially shared rationale. In the perspective of social system theory, the relevance of the individual produced new forms of structural coupling between psychical and social systems "0uhmann, %&&/b: 9:)//+. In the age of solid modernity "8auman, %&&&+, sociologists could hardly avoid references to the individual as an organi;ing principle of social relations. <n the contrary, recent sociology has made the reference to the individual ever more problematic. =ocial processes are becoming more and more autonomous from individual intentions and motivations: Weber>s Zweckrationalitt, by which a rational control of means is sufficient to guarantee the social actor to reach his goals, is now even

more incapable of e3plaining social processes and transformations. The modern conception of ris"8ec-, .(:'5 ?iddens, .((&+ has created a representation of the contemporary world, pessimistically based on the in)transparency of present)day comple3ity. 4gainst this theoretical bac-ground, the individual seems to be no longer capable of legitimating the order of society as a whole, since he has lost his own social bearings. II 8y referring to the system theory as developed by $i-las 0uhmann, I may start from a clear) cut definition of society, to be intended as the whole "none e3cluded+ of social communications. This definition is from the outset compatible with globalising processes, in so far as it provides sociology with a theoretical description of its ob2ect as Weltgesellschaft. Indeed, since the system theory stresses the role of communication for the definition of society, referring to any nationalistic "or regional+ conception of society ma-es no theoretical sense at all. Thus, the state does not set the borders either of a nationally delimited society, or of the political system "0uhmann .((:+, since it may be understood as an organisational structure of political communication. 4s a matter of fact, the worldwide convergence on the level of economic, 2uridical and political structures is connected with the increasing non)national character of such institutions as the mar-et, 2ustice)courts, and even the state, supposed to be in crisis with regard to its traditional functions within the national conte3t. <n the other hand, one may notice diverging processes regarding the actual well)being of individual and collective actors, as it is connected to the increasing ine@ualities of richness, power, and status between those who live in the first and in the third world. Moreover, notwithstanding the increasing gap between the first and the third world, recent years have witnessed what 8ec- "%&&&, p. 9+ has effectively described as a -ind of bra;iliani;ation of Western society!, that is a process by which the differences in terms of social welfare and labour)stability between Western countries and the third world, which were typical of the industrial modernity, tend to vanish: what Western society has ac@uired in terms of stability and certainty comes to be affected by uncertainty and precariousness, producing a somewhat parado3ical confirmation of convergence theories. Thus, convergence and divergence seem to be the two sides of the comple3ity of our contemporary globalised society. 4re convergence and divergence different levels of the same phenomenon, now transforming the world as we were used to thin-ing ofA <r could we imagine these phenomena simply! as conse@uences of modernityA 8y improperly adopting ?iddens> formulation, we may suggest that actual transformations lin-ed to global processes are outputs of modernity, or, as it were, the conse@uences of the stabili;ation of the modern functional "world+ systems "e.g: the political,

economic, legal system, science etc.+. If we assume the functioning of those systems on a global level as a constitutive character of modernity, globalisation may be intended simply as the stabilisation of one of the main characters of modern society. 4lthough on the operational level functional systems converge geographically "they tend to wor- on a global scale+, yet they diverge and remain separate and autonomous with regard to their own functions: functional differences and identity of reference may thus coe3ist. =ince society is now to be conceived as a global system, barriers between $orthern and =outhern countries, the first and the third world, seem to diminish. <n the one hand, Western values and life)style are spreading through the media on a global scale5 on the other hand, the Western world is being affected by phenomena which once were typical of the third world "insecurity, social e3clusion, labour fle3ibility and so on+. 4nyway, divergences do not disappear. <n the contrary, they crop up as ineliminable side effects! of globalising processes. 8y delimiting the analysis to the sole political system, one may as- himself: how can the state find a renewed role in the above summari;ed globalising processesA Moreover, do globalising processes produce, as one of their outputs, a decreasing power of the stateA 4nd does that ma-e the e3planatory potential of the concept of the state even wea-erA 4s stated above, the @uestion of the theoretical understanding of the transformations that are involving the national state has contradictory e3planations: some spea- of it as an effect, others as a cause of globali;ation. <ne may thin- of the state as the bastion of modernity and globali;ation "?iddens .((&+, the globalising processes coming out of political decisions within the state, whose powers get stronger, instead of wea-er "7obertson .((%+. <r, assuming a different stance in describing globali;ation, one may set the political dimension outside the conceptual category of the national state "8ec- .(((+. $o matter how @ualified, the role of the state seems to monopoli;e the current debate on globali;ation, giving renewed relevance to the couple state)society, even in the pessimistic hypothesis of a loss of state sovereignty "8orghini %&&9, p. :*+. Indeed, despite the decreasing capacity of the state to control its territory regarding communication and economic processes "thin-, e.g., of new media and international mar-ets+ the social control of the population remains state)owned. 6eople are not li-e money, ideas, goods: they are still strongly nationali;ed!, deep)rooted in their country, its language, culture, traditions "Bolo %&&C, p. :&+. III =tate and society! was a successful formulation for the conceptuali;ation of society in the early sociological thought, since the separation of the social from the political and economical dimensions was essential for the establishment of sociology as a scientific discipline "Donas, .(':+,

conse@uently allowing a separation between state and society theories. $onetheless, in its theoretic development, the concept of society has remained bound to that of state, as if, according to an old tradition, the political system would still be able to assume a leading or dominating role compared with other systems of society, thus representing the unity of society in the society itself "0uhmann, .((:+. Indeed, if one starts from a different conception of society, considering it as the whole of social communication, one may notice how much "and in what sense+ elements, other than the state, may be considered as responsible of new way to intend society and its functioning. My attention will here be focused on communication media and on new media in particular, as alternative forms to produce effects on social communication. Eommunication studies have shown that media have always influenced social change "Mc0uhan, .('%5 Innis, .(:'+, demonstrating how in modern society communication became even more disconnected from social interaction. Indeed, whereas in traditional societies the stability of -nowledge and social structures is lin-ed to the reproduction of communication within face)to)face relationships, print ma-es communication increasingly independent from the actual co)presence of social actors. In other words: the evolution of communication media has led to a progressive loss of relevance of the integrative function of interaction "0uhmann, .((:+. This is particularly evident in the .(th and %&th centuries, characterised by the development of mass media. Indeed, the so)called old media F press, radio, and television F wor- only by e3cluding interaction from communication. That produces a peculiar relation between the individual and society, since communication channels, opened by mass media, are unidirectional: they tal-, but nobody may reply "von Goerster, .(*%+. $ew communication technologies, as developed since the seventies, re)establish a variety of possible conte3ts for social interaction: for the first time, the Internet allows a communication from many to many, at a certain time, on a global scale "Eastells, .(('+. Moreover, -nowledge becomes in principle even more accessible to everyone, not only to a narrow hierarchy "=tehr, .((C+. Eastells describes this development as the emergence, above all in the H.=., of a new technological paradigm related to information technology. This paradigm, named informationalism, is one of three different and unrelated phenomena "the other two being: a. the economic need for managerial fle3ibility and globalisation, and b. the social claims for individual freedom, and free and open communication+, whose casual historical coincidence gave rise to the dominant form of social organi;ation in our time: the network society. 4ccording to Eastells, even if technology cannot be considered separately from other factors able to produce social change, its own dynamics deeply shape the material structure of society. 4 new information processing technology with a new, deep impact on -nowledge emerged: a technological paradigm based on the increase of human ability to process information "7heingold, .(:/5 =imon, .(:%+. <nly information processing and its impact on

-nowledge give this technology a revolutionary character able to replace former paradigms "Eastells, .((', %&&.+. What happens now to the individualA What happens to social processes in connection to new forms of social communication and political organisationsA Those are the main @uestions upon which I intend to structure my research pro2ect. The pro2ect aims at describing the structural changes connected to the new communication media, ta-ing into account how society reproduces itself, how the individual can participate to this process, and whether the state can assure social integration. 4ssuming the theoretical hypothesis developed in 0uhmannIs Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, the pro2ect will attempt to adopt the evolutionary perspective regarding the structure of society, media and semantics in order to observe and re)describe the relationship Individuum, Staat und Gesellschaft. What humanities and social sciences have overloo-ed regards the shift from modern to postmodern society is 2ust the above mentioned re)activation of social interaction for the reproduction of society. Gor our purpose we cannot underestimate how computers have already significantly changed information processing in different ways. Indeed, the social structure of present society is characterised by an increasingly inclusive communication, whereas modern society prevented the individual from participating to the social processes because mass media could not allow the individuals to interact with society. In this structure, can the Internet ?ala3y! "Eastells+ contribute to solve the problem of participation, by allowing a positive effect on the distribution of information and the interaction on a global scaleA ?iven that inclusiveness and the possibility of interaction characterise present society, can we say cybernetics, as supposed by von Goerster, may re)activate the feed)bac- effect, the interaction between individuals and societyA In other words, may cybernetics actually perform a function of integration of the individuals in the society, much more than the traditional inclusive mechanisms doA 8y adopting both the theoretical perspective of 0uhmann and von Goerster and empirical studies on EME, I would li-e to investigate the integrative function of new media as compared with traditional conte3ts "e.g. family, community, social class, citi;enship, national state, law and rights+, to which an integrative role has always been imputed.

=tefano Magnolo

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