And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Humanist Structuralism vs. Communitas (Ritual/ Tribalism)

The structural way of relating to others is throught our roles and status in society. If you're a shopkeeper, a waiter, a banker, or a mechanic, there's a certain way that this structural role invites you to interact with others, and that interaction depends on whether they are customer, boss, employee, or investor. In each case, there is a structured way of interacting with them. With the customer, we might expect politeness and joviality, with the boss a sense of deference, and with the employy a sense of supportiveness or sterness. That's not to say that there's only one way of interacting, but that the structural role determines the range of possible interactions... The point is that structure is about our place in the institutionalised hierarchy superorganism that is society.... what remains the same wherever we look at humans living in community is that aside from a few exceptional moments in time, there is always a structure. Always a skeleton which organises individuals according to their status and role in the society.

Communitas is not nearly so easy to define. It's worth remebering that Turner's synonym for Communitas is anti-structure. This fits neatly with the simplest definition he gives of this second mode of human interrelatedness. He writes, "For me, Communitas emerges where social structure is not. Turner illustrates this complex relationship between Communitas and wonderfully by drawing on the eleventh chapter of Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" where the Taoist sage writes, "We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the centre hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want." This relates beautifully the relationship of complementary opposites between structure and communitas. The pot is the solid structure and communitas is the emptiness inside where all the magic happens. Without the emptiness, there's no pot and without the solid structure, there's only a block of matter.

With structure, the way of relaying to our fellow humans is regulated by our positions in the society's superstructure, in its' status hierarchy. The communitas way of relating, on the other hand, is more existential. As Turner put it, it involves the whole man in his relation to the other whole men. In contrast to the norm-governed, institutionalized, abstract nature of structure's interrelatedness, communitas is a spontaneous, immediate, concrete way of relating to others. It is what many would call authentic. John Paul Sartre called the structural way of relating to others Bad Faith.... In communitas, you are not a waiter, a boss, or a great artist. You are a unique human, who I am meeting in this momenet and doind a dance with. We are figuring out how to relate to each other and who each other are in an intoxicating back and forth that is immediate and spontaneous.

In structure, out behaviour is guided in rules and laws. In communitas, our behaviour is guided by conscience and compassion. The spirit of communitas isn't a rational, cognitive process. As turner put it, communitas has an existential quality over against structure's cognitive quality. It comes from a space of feeling. It's spontaneous, immediate and concrete.

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