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The Global System, the Net and the repositioning of Politics:a new Social Complexity

The urgency of a repositioning of politics and the power system is also confirmed from the interesting process of the growth of political movements and pressure groups which, no longer recognizing themselves in the traditional hegemonic ideologies and political party system, are taking on responsibility for confronting the Sovereign on social issues generated from below within networks of public discussion. This is a sphere of discourse that has been overly reshaped by the domination of the economy (which is itself also destined to regenerate from below), as well as by Weberian mechanised petrification and, above all, by the technocracy  and techno-science which have almost completely replaced the natural environment with an artificial environment shaped and structured by technology . This weakened sphere of discourse, on the contrary, should absolutely try to regain its decisional spaces, taking into account the views, issues and movements that have “bloomed” in a multireticular configuration.

The key objective is to govern globalization, a complex process that requires complex thought (and transnational strategies) and that is evolving autonomously, almost in a sort of autopoiesis . Consequently, it is tending to emerge as a mega self-referential system capable of generating and reproducing the elements that structure it.

The complexity inherent in the globalization process and risk society forces us to recast the categories of political action – above all that of the public sphere – and to broaden our horizons of thought and action. That’s to say, we need to “develop a political system that doesn’t merely follow the rules, but changes them, a political system that’s not just of politicians, but of society, that’s not just of power, but of configuration, an art of politics” (Beck, 1993: 25). Another reason for this is that the vast majority of those fundamental rules were created in a context of a strong nation-state, in which the dichotomous categories domestic policy / foreign policy were more than valid. This complex rethinking of theory and praxis, as they were conceived in industrial modernity, is part of the perspective of radical modernity (Kumar 1978,1995), in which the element of reflexivity – here taken to mean self-analysis, the recognition of an increased complexity, and the existence of other cultures  – has attained significant importance, from both a theoretical and conceptual point of view and from a practical-strategic perspective.

To borrow from Beck, industrial modernity, with all its institutions of control and protection, has undergone a radical process of aging, one of whose implications has been the oft-remembered Risikogesellschaft, which inevitably leads it to self-criticism. To put it like Luhmann, in the age of globalization, the sphere of that which is technically controlled has become hypertrophic compared to the sphere of that which is non-technically-controlled. And since technology and its new powers – the outcomes of which are, at least for now, difficult to evaluate – brings new risks and uncertainties at the global level, we can certainly claim that the technological praxis, together with the advent of the global market, has made the worlds of life far less certain.

Communication constitutes a socio-cultural space within which the shared meanings, symbols and cultural practices geared at the processes of symbolic mediation and reducing complexity are promoted and shared. In other words, communication allows the values, knowledge and behavior patterns peculiar to a social system to become ruling castes creating balance and consensus. Contrarily, it can also allow for the establishment of new theoretical and practical paradigms, guidelines and beliefs. It is a process that represents a kind of multidimensional circuit which innervates the world-system in its entirety, as well as individual social systems and the social interaction networks that exist between the actors that make up the network. And it’s precisely through communication (and language) that social actors (and, why not, people) have constantly shown themselves capable of not only adapting to the environment but also of transforming it, and of accepting cultural objectifications, as well as denying them or calling them into question.

Reflexive modernization and the global risk society, having immeasurably extended the limits of social action and, in particular, the praxis, make the extension of an ethically-oriented praxis absolutely necessary. This should be based on a communicative ethic which can’t be anything but the result – a far from given result – of a rational process of intersubjective acquisition and, of a simultaneous and profound awareness of the “new” responsibility and the urgency of its universalization.

Therefore, social experience is based, on the one hand, on the continuous mixing of mutual relations and the complex dynamics between the self and the values which coincide with the social purposes, and, on the other hand, on a constant mediation between the conflicts that inevitably arise out of the multiplicity of interests involved. These conflicts must be – and this is what ethical conduct and, even more so, “real” communication (ethics) consists of – resolved through rationality. Politics are born and grow, in a certain sense, precisely to fulfill a strategic role as a system for the mediation of conflict.

Taking an overall view of the new communication world, it must be emphasized that the Network of Networks (Internet), the absolute protagonist of our times, has emerged as the only (meta) message-medium responsible for global interconnection – a new complex ecosystem (1998, 2003).This metamedium of ambiguous and ambivalent elements is capable of simultaneously causing the end of the social bond (or at least its weakening) and also strengthening the synapses that link the hubs of the network system in which knowledge, culture, and strategies of action and cooperation (social capital) are developed.


P.S. The systemic networks of social relationships define the rules for inter-individual (intersubjective) exchanges, encouraging, because of the trust and cooperation that they require,  the achievement of objectives geared towards the realization of the “public good” and / or a collective interest. This can imply – in as much as it’s not a given – a greater awareness of the importance of compliance with the rules and “civic sense”. Altruism and cooperative behaviour tend to emerge, in this sense, as real “social engines” of development. See J.S. Coleman (1990), with particular reference to the work’s second part which addresses the basic question of “social capital” and the following topics: social exchange systems, relationships and systems of authority, systems of trust, collective behaviour and effective rules (demand and creation). See also another “classic” of scientific literature: Robert D.Putnam (2000).

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