A bridge is not built for an end in itself, it is made to surmount the obstacles. It is a way. It’s bowing is an abstraction, which is only visible and useful because there are stones holding it up. We can see society in the same perspective: a way, to survival. To live harmonically in society is essential to the human existence, and to reach this point, a connection between the individual and the collective it’s necessary, a connection that not only brings a meaning to life, but also brings safety.
Evolution has not made the human being self-sufficient, but the capacity of building relations with the others gives them a great advantage compared to the other species. The harmony between the individuals and the associated efforts determinated the success or the failure of the groups before the hindrances. So, the most efficient groups were able to shape the environment for their own benefit. Thus, new structures were being formed, and the human beings were growing as groups.
But, as the arch were no longer able to accomodate the changes, the structure of the stones had to be rethought. And this became the dynamics of the society: the arch is abstract in it’s essence, and the stones reify it. But the stones must be organized according to their singularities, to lead to a better aggregation, that becomes efficient to the society gear.
The society (as an arch) is analyzed by several fields of science. For example: in biology, it is seen as the group of species the coexists in a space, and it’s relations. In the human and social sciences, the society is the core, the source of analysis, debates and discussions, which has even generated new fields of study, like the sociology. [i]
It is noticeable that the society is like the arch, it remains. What changes is the organization of the stones, in other words, the way that people interpretate it as human beings, with new laws, rules, habits and traditions. This can be confirmed by several philosophers in the course of history, as we are about to see.
For Aristotle (4th century BC) the human being was already seen as a social being, Zoon Politikon [ii]. This implies that men were born to form families (a social bond), and that those families together would form communities and cities in the future. To live in society, according to Aristotle, assured men a dignified life, grown in the basis of good mores and good virtues. It was considered natural to the human being to form social bonds (thought that would be criticized by the contractualists, more than two millennia later, as we will see).
“Law is order, and good law is good order” [iii]
In this quote we can see how Aristotle points to the society as an “arch”. As the society would naturally undertake the life in group, and for that it would establish rules and laws in order to preserve the social bonds [iv]: good stones (laws) would build a good bridge (the order).
This Aristotle point of view would be ratified by Giles of Rome (1243 – 1316), in the Middle Ages, when he affirmed the importance of living in society to acquire virtues – meaning that the laws would bring good mores to the people, ensuring the order.
There is, therefore, a clear idea of bridge (as arch) and stones to reify it in these analysis of the human behavior as a group.
Against Aristotle’s point of view there is Thomas Hobbes, a famous contractarian who said on his masterpiece “Leviathan”, that men, in their state of nature are fighting against each other, aiming their own interests [v]. As a solution, they signed a social contract, giving power, legitimacy and sovereignty to someone in exchange of the rule of law. By giving power to this person, people could mutually protect themselves in society, being safe. It’s clear, therefore, that Hobbes looks at society as the only viable way of living, despite human beings getting to it in a different way than Aristotelian’s point of view. Society, once more, like in all history, is interpreted as an abstraction similar to the arch (perfect, the only viable way to human life); however, the interpretation of how society reached order and security changed from Aristotle to Hobbes.
In Modern Age, we come back to the point of view of society as imperative to human life. Defending this theory there is Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), physician and philosopher who believed men must serve the nation (seen as a coordination of united people). By doing that, people would be united in society: “By working for our own nation under the correct principle, we work for mankind” [vi].
This dynamic is regular through human history, and it’s possible to see similar movements in Brazilian’s society, emphasizing our society and the following theme:
(Against women’s suffrage) / (In favor of women’s suffrage)
(Picture – Reproduction “Correio do Paraná” – Andressa Katriny/CMC)
Only in Brazilian’s most recent laws women were allowed to equally participate with men in the electoral process.
The rupture in the genres’ distinction, socially accepted until then, was consequence of historical pressure and happened that time by expressing the contradiction of arguments used for women’s exclusion in political affairs. There was, therefore, a renovation of the society’s structure for this new social setting [vii].
It is noticeable that defining the best way to arrange stones is an impossible task, giving the dynamic mentioned above. There is no way to predict, but by experience, a social arrangement which does not result in less violence or in bigger economic progress and individual happiness.
Therefore, the conception of society as an arch and the only way to order is noticeable in human history (from the Ancient to Contemporary Age). However, interpretations (composed of laws, costumes and tenets, for example) create different links: harmonize themselves within its particularities. The only thing given as right is that this phenomenon is dynamic.
[i] LOPES, Sônia. Bio: Volume Único. 1st Edition. São Paulo: Saraiva Publisher, 1999. pg. 551.
[ii] FEOLA, S. Zoon Politikon: a condição natural de autoridade. 81f. Dissertation (Master’s degree) 0- College of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences. Department of Philosophy, University of São Paulo, 2012.
[iii] Aristotle, Greek philosopher (384-322).
[iv] ARANHA, Maria Lúcia de Arruda. Filosofando: introdução à filosofia/ Maria Lúcia de Arruda Aranha, Maria Helena Pires Martins. 2. ed. rev. atual. São Paulo: Moderna, 1993. pg. 194.
[v] HOBBES: a instituição do Estado. In: Vinicius Berlendis Figueiredo. (Org.). Filósofos na sala de aula. São Paulo: Berlendis Publisher, 2007, v.2, pg. 46-76.
[vi] MAZZINI, Giuseppe (1805-1872): Deveres do Homem. Translation: Antônio Piccarolo e Leonor de Aguiar. Digital Source book on paper. Italian thinkers. Classic Jackson. Volume XXVI. W. M. Jackson Inc. Rio de Janeiro, 1950. Scanning revision for Portuguese of Brazil and eBook version: eBooksBrasil.org. Part IV.
[vii] The Electoral Code approved by Decree No. 21,076, of February 24, 1932 and subsequently inserted in the 1934 Constitution in art. 108, caput: voters are Brazilians of one or other sex, older than 18 years who enlist under the law.