A Political Vision for the Organic Model
by Robert W. Hoffert
Robert W. Hoffert is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 175-185, Vol. 5, Number 3, Fall, 1975. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Considerable effort has been extended to demonstrate the inclusiveness of the Whiteheadian metaphysical stance. The appropriateness of this philosophical vision has been extensively explored within the domains of the natural sciences, mathematics, the social sciences (particularly. sociology and psychology), aesthetics and theology. Perhaps there is no primary dimension of human experience and reflection which has been as impervious to Whitehead’s categories and distinctions as has been the political life of the species. A faith that the system will exhibit its applications within politics remains largely unsubstantiated.
The few available attempts to link Whiteheadian metaphysics with political categories can be illustrated in the works of A. H. Johnson and Samuel Beer.1 Essentially, they become exercises in identifying which existing political alternative -- liberal democracy, social-revolutionary democracy, fascism, etc. -- is most synonymous with Whitehead’s formulations. Johnson, for example, claims that Whitehead provides a philosophical foundation for liberal-democratic systems much as Hegel does for Marxian communism.
Samuel Beer’s The City of Reason is a rigorous philosophical investigation with numerous insights of genuine significance. Nevertheless, his central thesis and the central thesis of Johnson’s works are nearly identical: a philosophy of liberalism is to be articulated on the basis of Whitehead’s metaphysics. Beer argues that humanity is inwardly or personally free by virtue of its reason. The logical extension of this condition, he contends, is that persons also should be free outwardly or politically. It is the liberal vision in politics which seeks a society that will protect reason in both personal and public life.
Critical evaluations of Johnson’s work, undoubtedly, would center on his handling of Whitehead’s philosophy while similar evaluations of Beer’s argument would focus on his understanding of liberalism. Johnson, for example, avoids any effective differentiation between the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels of Whitehead’s analysis, assuming that they are mere duplications of one another. Beer ignores the fundamental sense in which it is liberalism in modern thought and experience which has totally trivialized reason by making it a mere calculative device for self-interest, passionally and habitually understood.
But Johnson’s and Beer’s technical problems aside, their approach to the question of relating Whitehead to politics remains a relatively unsatisfying one. In short, tracing out the political content of an organic metaphysical posture should not begin by placing an imprimatur upon the available historical option which most nearly or most easily "fits" the pattern. Rather, it would seem to be more appropriate to construct a novel political vision reflective of organic philosophy’s own paradigm. What would politics look like from within the organic model? Not, what would organic politics look like within the liberal model? What would be the distinctly "political" content of life from an organic view? Not, what would be the distinctly "liberal" content of life from an organic view? The foundational task, it would seem, is not to search for the least trouble-some available political category, but to construct a unique political response coherent with the metaphysical structure. The appropriateness of Whitehead’s philosophy for politics is tested by its ability to articulate a coherent and persuasive political vision and not by its adaptability to pre-cast political horizons.
Undoubtedly, part of the explanation for the absence of a genuine statement of political philosophy by organic philosophers is the seemingly apolitical character of Whitehead’s system. Both the dominant contemporary characteristics of politics and the prevailing interpretative perspectives on politics seem alien to the world as sketched by Whitehead. The conscious application and manipulation of authority, compulsion, rights, and artifices of all sorts are incongruous within a system of natural organic persuasion in which consciousness itself is but an echo of reality. Although we are looking for a distinctly Whiteheadian statement about politics, the difficulty in discovering Whitehead’s political applications may direct us to an external stimulus for help in initiating speech in this new tongue. It is my suggestion that the theoretical work of Karl Deutsch provides us with one of those external stimulants which may spark conversations conducive to the articulation of a Whiteheadian political philosophy.
Two assumptions have been dominant in my thinking. (1) There is a substantial degree of analytical similarity between Deutsch and Whitehead. (2) Although Whitehead’s broader philosophical framework aids in an analysis of Deutsch by providing a richer, supportive philosophical context for evaluation of the Deutschian response, it is, likewise, aided by Deutsch’s work. Deutsch offers a political vocabulary and context which, at a series of critical junctures, suggest prefigurations of organic philosophy’s own political theory. This paper is an attempt to state some of the analytical similarities between Deutsch and Whitehead in the hope that they will provide organic philosophy with a clearer sense of the terrain upon which it can discover the form and content of its own particular political speech. At most, this discussion is an experiment: an attempt to use Deutsch’s politically related notions as a catalyst for the fuller expression of Whiteheadian political concepts.
An initial disclaimer is both appropriate and necessary. I know of no evidence that Deutsch ever placed his theory within a Whiteheadian philosophical context. Furthermore, he offers no explicit references to any Whiteheadian intermediaries. Henry Nelson Wieman, for example, in The Issues of Life and Man’s Ultimate Commitment, discusses many specific political questions in a style and with substance quite similar to that offered by Deutsch, but Deutsch gives no clues to indicate any consciousness of Wieman’s work.
The purpose of this discussion, however, is not to create something "ex nihilo". Neither is it to plumb the depths of Deutsch’s "intentions" in order to discover the "true" sources of his thought. Nevertheless, we may discover a coincidence of related insights, assumptions, and analyses. If this does turn out to be the case, we will want to examine the possibility that the more comprehensive scope of Whitehead’s thought may serve an important interpretative and supporting role for Deutsch’s investigations of political life, which, in turn, may supply Whiteheadian studies with a focus for distinctly political problems.
This paper will not be a comprehensive, in-depth study of the Whitehead/Deutsch interrelationship of ideas, working through their contrasts and dissimilarities as well as their affinities. Frankly, Deutsch will be used solely for instrumental purposes -- as a device to re-enforce our expectation that the enterprise of delineating an organic political philosophy is worthy of vigorous effort and to stimulate our thinking about the substance of that enterprise. My procedure shall be to highlight a series of considerations prominently involved in the political view of Karl Deutsch and to attempt to relate them to the Whiteheadian philosophical stance. The range of Deutsch’s concerns will be reflected although many distinctions and important counterpoints will not be mirrored in these discussions.
I. Political Models
According to Deutsch, knowledge involves symbolizations which match, in significant respects, that which is symbolized. Symbols of particular things, events, or ideas (or sets thereof) and the organization of these symbols form a symbol system or "model." Consequently, what we know or will come to know about political phenomena reflects the operation of symbols within a symbol system or model. Since political knowledge is expressed though a symbol system, an important concern will be the adequacy of the model. Deutsch suggests six evaluative criteria which constitute the fullest statement of the standards he utilizes for the appraisal of such models. Political models should be: (1) relevant -- they should reflect the empirical system they attempt to symbolize; (2) economical -- they should simplify that which is being modeled; (3) rigorous -- they should apply the same operating rules and assumptions of the scheme at every level of the system; (4) combinatorially rich -- they should be able to generate webs of relationships or patterns throughout the system; (5) powerful organizers -- they should have relevance or correspondence to processes beyond the range of their initial concern; (6) original -- they should give insights beyond the highly probable visions of everyday language and experience.
In important respects, a superficial reading of Deutsch may suggest, erroneously, a fundamental hostility to Whitehead’s metaphysical approach. Deutsch casts aspersions on "becoming entangled in the metaphysics of any absolute causality concept" and ridicules "metaphysical convictions" (NC 13f). However, if Whitehead’s concept of speculative philosophy or metaphysics is properly understood, the gap between the two positions all but disappears. Although this is a characterization, it is with considerable justification that Whitehead’s "metaphysics" can be understood as model-building on a grand scale. As Whitehead says, metaphysics "is a method productive of important knowledge. [It] is the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted" (PR 4). In short, it is the organization of symbols into systems productive of knowledge -- a model.
The evaluative criteria for models used by both Whitehead and Deutsch are nearly collapsible. (1) Relevance: Whitehead insists that the test for any imaginative metaphysical construction is its applicability to empirical reality. If a model does not agree with the facts, "a fundamental reorganization of theory is required either by way of limiting it or by way of the entire abandonment of its categories of thought" (PR 13). Life’s richness is to be discovered m the realities of life and not manufactured in isolated theories about life. (2) Economy: Whitehead says, "The useful function of philosophy is to promote the most general systematization of civilized thought" (PR 25f), suggesting that symbol systems will offer a coded shorthand for the variety of particularities within concrete settings without jeopardizing their intelligibility as unique occasions of being. (3) Rigor: Rigor is a concept closely related to Whitehead’s discussion of "coherence." The requirements of system coherence are met by including all obvious elements of experience and by integrating them consistently throughout the model, Perhaps Whitehead’s concern receives more definition as viewed from the negative side. Incoherence in a metaphysical system is the arbitrary disconnection of first principles. If rigor is lost, the relevance of the model for empirical reality is imperiled as well. (4) Combinatorial richness: Whitehead evidences a similar concern when he speaks of the expansive potential of metaphysical generalities throughout the entire scope of both the philosophical model and reality. "Metaphysics is nothing but the description of the generalities which apply to all the details of practice" (PR 19). (5) Organizing power: Closely related to the above, Whitehead insists upon the relevance of systematic analysis across the entire range of reality. The model must continually propose the general character of the universe in each of its characterizations of particular facts. (6) Originality: Whitehead issues the call for "speculative boldness" in the construction of the philosophical model (metaphysics). Yet he always warned that this must be balanced at all times "by complete humility before logic and before fact" (PR 25). The problem, he suggests, is that philosophers are neither humble nor bold. Instead, they tend to reflect and normalize the dominant trends of their more circumscribed environments. This is another version of what Deutsch calls "trite" models -- models lacking in both originality and basic relevance.
As a final effort to illustrate the similarity in methodological perspectives between these two men and to cut through some of the distastefulness associated with words such as "metaphysics" and "speculative philosophy," a brief word on dogmatism seems to be in order. It could be argued that Deutsch recoils at the thought of metaphysics because of its association with systems spawned through "a priori," dogmatic assumptions. Such systems have been abandoned and discredited and remain unreconciled one with the other. In terms of a test of dogmatism, Whitehead agrees with the chorus of criticism waiting for the metaphysical constructs of any latter-day absolutizers. However, if metaphysics is essentially model building, as I think it is in Whitehead’s system, the test becomes not certainty, but progress; not finality, but creative advance; not dogmatism, but symbolization. If you are convinced, as both Whitehead and Deutsch are, that all knowledge rests on a system of symbols -- acknowledged or unacknowledged -- then model building or metaphysics is an essential activity for human understandings. Whitehead summarizes this point well: "Metaphysical categories are not dogmatic statements of the obvious; they are tentative formulations of the ultimate generalities. In philosophical discussion, the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly" (PR x, 12). Throughout this discussion of symbol systems, the central significance of a political model consistent with the organic paradigm has been underscored. A metaphysical structure is not a tool for dogmatic tyranny, but a basis for intelligibility in all arenas of experience, including humanity’s political life.
Substantively, Deutsch suggests that a political model should be organized in accordance with a theory of communications. Such a model focuses upon the processes and flows of the political system as the most relevant perspective for the understanding thereof. Communication is the transference of "a patterned relationship between events" (NC 82). As such, it is a process which cements organization. Quoting Norbert Wiener, Deutsch reinforces his own argument:
Communication alone enables a group to think together, to see together and to act together. All sociology requires the understanding of communication. What is true for the unity of a group of people, is equally true for the individual integrity of each person, The various elements which make up each personality are in continual communication with each other through control mechanisms which themselves have the nature of communication.2
Deutsch argues that a process model -- such as his communications model -- offers the most significant theoretical analogue of political reality. That is, it is confirmed by the data it symbolizes and is productive of new insights about that data.
Deutsch’s substantive content for the political model is quite congenial with the analysis of Whitehead. For Whitehead, the basic fact of his model is "process." "Nature is a structure of evolving processes, The reality is the process" (SMW 70). Process involves movement from prehension to prehension (concrescence). The similarity of this perspective to communications theory is striking. Deutsch portrays communications theory as the transference of a patterned relationship between events. For Whitehead, prehensions are processes of unification of events into an integrated pattern and, thus, not merely pattern transferences but pattern creations as well. Nevertheless, both views stress process, ordering, interrelationship; in short, a related theory of communications. Prehensive unification is the process which "cements" many actual entities into the unity of one (satisfaction). This movement from diversity into greater unity is at the very heart of both communications theory in Deutsch’s model and process metaphysics in Whitehead’s model.
As the Wiener quotations suggests, this process of communication has relevance at both the macrocosmic level ("societies") and the microcosmic level ("actual entities"). Whitehead’s model explicitly illustrates this insight and its applicability to communications theory at both levels of analysis, although the microcosmic aspects are frequently undifferentiated, in Deutsch, from the macrocosmic ones. Whitehead reminds us, "In every grade of aggregation there is the necessity for expression" (MT 39). He gives this insight a dynamic dimension through a metaphysical structure built around the communications flow characteristics of the entire universe: from the concrescence of a single actual entity to the transmutation of the most complex societies.
By placing Deutsch within the context of Whitehead, we can consider not only the relevancy of his model to the political phenomena it attempts to make intelligible, but we also can give thought to the organizing power of a communications model in terms of its coherence with the general character of the universe. It is only in terms of this broader context that a political theory’s substance can hope to attain insights of greater breadth and validity than those of the myopia of academic "departments" or of the arbitrariness of de facto power. Furthermore, the rediscovery of this link between theory and the general character of the universe is an invaluable advocacy for the reintroduction of nature into political philosophy’s conversations. It is, after all, only when nature has been lost in all but its most sentimental forms that political speculation can be satisfied merely by artifices of utility and instrumental efficiency.
Making communication the substantive core of a political model intends much more than a simple affirmation that politics involves message transfers. Obviously, if such pabulum exhausts our intentions, few persons would challenge the claim, and few persons would understand why it was pressed with such vigor. Viewing politics as communications, however, is an assertion that the specific content which should be most studied, described, and analyzed in order to understand politics is that of our political "conversations" -- overt and covert, symbolic and concrete. H. Mark Roelofs expresses this insight through his restatement of Plato’s and Aristotle’s notion of politics as speech: "Politics is talk" (LMP 19).
Both Whitehead and Deutsch wish to speak of "quality" and "value" and both wish to be, at the same time, rigorously empirical. Is this marriage of intentions an available option? A common assumption in modern philosophy and social science theory is that a rigorously empirical theory is, at best, indifferent to qualitative alternatives. By studying the operations of their models and the concrete systems they represent, both men suggest they can offer an understanding of the qualitative aspects of reality without compromising on the empirical character of the reality being symbolized by their models, and this, largely because of the immersion of their models in the empirical structures.
Deutsch says, "Quality is recognized by the matching of two structures" (NC 87). In other words, a correspondence between some part of a "recognizing system" and that which is recognized establishes a "quality." Whitehead also offers a relational concept of quality within his model, but does not mirror Deutsch’s "matching" explanation. Qualities, according to Whitehead, are particular facts of relatedness within and between the micro and macro levels of reality. As such, they are not imposed on acts or even through the matching of a recognizing system, but are disclosed or experienced in the transactions of interrelationships. They are, themselves, events rather than the mere ingredients of events or reflections upon events. This qualitative infusion in empirical particularity is commonly termed "ingression" by Whitehead and refers to the presence of universality in particularity or the modal amid the relational.
"There is reason to suspect that many of the qualitative problems in social and political science may turn out to be problems of matching in social communications" (NC 88). Whitehead gives this view of Deutsch a broader context which expands its suggestiveness. His view begins with concrete experience. This fact may be obscured because Whitehead says that these qualities are "universals." But they are not "spooks" derived from mystical visions or empty heads. These qualities are suggested by and implicit in all experience. William Christian summarizes Whitehead on this point most effectively:
Universals of relation are forms of synthesis in the data of feelings. The kind of being universals have is potentiality. They are possible forms of definiteness of actual entities. Certainly universals transcend actuality. But they transcend actuality as possibility, not as some more perfect kind of being. Assumptions of the traditional theory lead to the substitution of universals for particular qualitative facts and particular facts of relatedness. (IWM 239)
Qualitative considerations in any area of human life, including humanity’s social and political life, entails the actualizing of possibilities through relationships communicated within a paradigm or model. This is an empirical problem, but it is more than the mere quantification or cataloguing of matching structures of actuality. To a meaningful extent, this suggests the task of metaphysical theory, or, more narrowly, metaphysical political theory. New visions of qualitative relatedness must be grasped and communicated through appropriate and comprehensive symbol systems. A metaphysical political theory is not confined to the wistfulness of castles in the air, the dustiness of history’s anteroom, or the adding and subtracting of quantitative relationships under a reigning paradigm. It can and must see the world anew, articulating a structure which makes these qualitative departures intelligible and available for public life.
Closely related to the discussion of quality is a consideration of values. More frequently than may be sometimes apparent, notions of value, like those of quality, slide into the form of either a transcendent reality or a despotic personal decree. Deutsch intends to challenge both of these alternatives. He characterizes values as priorities giving shape to qualities. No system can operate without preferences or priorities among its various relationships. This suggests that aggregation or quantification is, in a number of significant ways, a result of the priorities of valuations utilized in determining various matched structures or qualities. Deutsch says, "In its crudest and simplest form, a ‘value’ is a repetitive preference for a particular class of messages or data that is to be received, transmitted or acted upon in preference to others" (NG 178). Values serve an ordering function within such a model.
Whitehead has a somewhat parallel view. The "subjective form" of an actual entity is what it is because of the qualities that constitute it. That is, by matching itself with eternal objects (possibilities) a relationship is established (qualitative feelings) which constitutes an actual entity’s subjective form. Valuation is the prehension of an eternal object by an actual entity. This establishes preferential orderings through positive prehensions which incorporate their data in the syntheses and negative prehensions which exclude their data. In the former instance, that which is positively valued establishes the qualitative character of each respective concrescence. Whitehead’s discussion of the formative elements provides the potentiality in relation to which priorities are established within the framework of systemic processes.
Although the specific content of their responses is divergent, both Whitehead and Deutsch struggle to develop a model which is simultaneously relevant to that being represented and conceptually coherent. They tackle problems of quality and values and attempt to give these factors significance in terms of shared public processes symbolized by their models. From this perspective, questions of priorities are not abandoned to the whims of chance or to the inscrutability of otherworldly or psychic arbitrariness. In short, political priorities emerge, not from the cradle of private wish fulfillment nor from the isolation of a holy mount, but from the crucible of an empirical world, from the need for common purposes in and for that world, and from a metaphysical structure which makes these activities intelligible.
Much of modern political science is absorbed in the various facets of power analysis. Power is often closely associated with acts of the "will" which are, in turn, understood as functions of consciousness. Quite possibly analyses such as offered by Whitehead and Deutsch which undercut the primacy of consciousness might have a rather unique perspective in regard to power (NG 98; PR 245, 408; AI 252). Deutsch begins his discussion by focusing upon the limitations of power rather than the efficiency or potentialities for power as is most frequently the case today. "Power cannot accomplish more than a succession of random impacts on the environment, unless there is some relatively fixed goal or purpose by which the application of power can be guided and directed" (NC 110).
Power which is not qualified by overarching goals or purposes is seen by Deutsch as the ability to resist growth. However, power which is coordinated with a more comprehensive scrutiny of intensity of support, morale, skills, resourcefulness, and goals is a "currency in the interchange between political systems and all other major sub-systems of the society" (NC 120). As such, power offers a kind of supplemental instrumentality.
Power is thus neither the center nor the essence of politics. It is one of the currencies of politics, one of the important mechanisms of acceleration or of damage control where influence, habit or voluntary coordination may have failed. The essence of politics is the dependable coordination of human efforts and expectations for the attainment of the goals of society. (NC 124)
Quite similarly, Whitehead places power within an instrumental construct. As with Deutsch, the autonomy of the constituent elements in process can, to some extent, resist the interrelated functioning of the system. To this extent, it is possible to speak of their "power" to resist growth. There is no compulsion for an actual entity to accept the lure of its subjective aim. Whitehead expresses this more in terms of the freedom of the entity in self-determination than of its "power" to resist growth. At best, power is instrumental as it is for Deutsch. "[Power] can protect; it cannot create" (AESP 135). Viewed from outside the organic model this is an essentially negative concept of power. More precisely, it is, as John Cobb argues, persuasive power (GW 90; PS 3:153).
To many, this seemingly negative or instrumental character given to power in the works of Deutsch and Whitehead is interpreted as a hostility to politics in their theories. Seldom is there any sensitivity that they may be pointing to the great irony at the very heart of all political relationships. Political power in its most positive and creative mode is not a thing, or a capacity or a property. It is a relationship. As such, it cannot be "had" unless it is simultaneously given. Both the receiving and giving of power is a by-product of persuasion, debate, empathy and negotiation; in short, of communications. Power, as suggested by Deutsch and Whitehead, is essentially a question of responsiveness in a context of mutuality and not control in a unidirectional process of extraction or coercion.
VI. Love and Justice
Whitehead and Deutsch suggest that the development of political life and the advancement of the universe is accomplished through persuasive power rather than coercive power. If reality is essentially summarized as a process of communication, this conclusion is hardly surprising. "Love," it might be argued, is another conceptual statement of this persuasive factor. Deutsch refers to it and amplifies its implications through discussions of faith, humility, sin of pride, evil, curiosity, grace, and spirit.
Whitehead’s model gives additional light to this discussion. Although he has almost no explicit references to "love" in any of his writings, it can be argued that the essence of Whitehead’s universe is love. That is, the universe is formed through the active involvement of unique entities with one another. This way of relating one actual entity to another actual entity is the essence of each entity’s relationship to every other actuality. The way one actual entity receives the feeling of another actual entity is an essential part of its final satisfaction. If the feeling is openly received, a transformation occurs within the recipient whereby there is a taking in of the quality which was given. This is the activity of love; a transformation whereby we take in that which is given to us and make it an integral part of ourselves.
Love is a persuasive "lure" or "urge." Does this emphasis upon a persuasive force imply a bartering universe? Or, more pointedly, are White-head’s creative processes so ineffectual that the best they can do is to "persuade"? Don’t the positive factors of the system have any compelling force? Whitehead insists that in persuasion there is a compelling power (although not coercion) and that this power is rooted in truth. Persuasion is the expression of love: it respects each actual entity’s freedom while compelling a response in relation to its truth. Force and coercion represent the absence of love and the irrelevancy of truth, Love is a compelling power which persuasively moves actual entities in their continuing processes of growth. Actual entities are susceptible to the persuasive power of love because the truth which lures them involves their own harmonization with the larger universe. At a macrocosmic level the same point could be expressed this way: love (persuasion) confirms the value of the objective world, which is a community, created through the interrelationships of component entities and necessary for the continued existence of these relationships and entities.
If we direct this discussion of love toward humanity’s political life, we may be led to some valuable insights. For example, every community of persons is a society, but not every society is fully communal. A society is a communications nexus for the sake of interactions and order and, eventually, requires justice and government. A community, on the other hand, is for the sake of friendship, presupposes love, and ultimately transcends overt authority. It is only in this latter setting that human beings are fully personal: spontaneously expressive in their interrelationships.
This is not, however, to suggest that society in its political form is to be despised or ignored. Society’s political content is not the antithesis of the communal form, but rather its proper preparation: the grounds upon which communal love can reach its fullest fruitions. Politics offers a preparatory environment, justice, which supplies the necessary conditions for the consequent possibilities of life, love. Expressed differently, persuasive, indirect, personal relationships (justice) make significant contributions to the establishment of a foundation for persuasive, direct, personal relationships (love). Justice, as love, is persuasive, but is a negative aspect of morality. It is "negative" not as morality’s antithesis, but as the necessary subordinate condition through which the positive content of morality can be accomplished in human relationships. Morality can only be fathomed in its positive mode -- benevolence, but can only be realized in history though its proper negative -- justice.
Justice is a persuasive lure which helps to fashion a concrete field of mutuality. Although it is hardly comprehensive of morality, without justice morality would be mere fantasy and sentimentality -- a simple appearance of morality. For example, to love without being just is, ultimately, to love at someone else’s expense. To some persons we are more than just, and to others we are less than just. The net result is that we are unjust to all. As Whitehead and Deutsch imply, the ultimate goal of a fully interpersonal life is love, but justice is the necessary prior condition for the mutuality of love. Without justice, "love" becomes just another technique for the twisting of interpersonal life.
Certainly Gerald Ford’s "pardoning" of Richard Nixon relates to many of the above themes. Few persons are unresponsive to the search for mercy and a renewing love. To be sure, simple justice could not have provided us with the fruits of love. But is it not equally true that simple love created more ruptures than healing in our national community, Ford’s intentions notwithstanding? While justice was not the end of our search, it had to be the beginning. Circumventing justice twisted our community life by offering a benevolence of mere fantasy and sentimentality and further jeopardized the remaining threads of concrete mutuality within our national community.
Whether relative to politics, as with Deutsch, or to the character of the universe, as with Whitehead, a communications/process model built within a framework of interdependence (novelty and commonality) places a premium on growth -- if for no other reason than that growth enables the system to survive by adapting to the fluidity in its larger environment. As Deutsch says, "most environments may change very considerably, so that only self-changing and self-enhancing systems and organizations are apt to survive eventually, thanks to their ability to cope with many different environments and to increase their relative independence from any one of them" (NC 249). Deutsch recognizes the organic character of reality which gives his political model its vitality. He cites the interplay between the dimensions of growth and organization. This reality necessitates "integrative behavior" whereby the system will be able to "grow up." Politics, he suggests, must be seen as a major instrument which, through persuasion (justice and love), fosters learning and innovation. In short, within a process model, politics becomes an instrument essential for human survival and growth. Surely Deutsch’s concept of a politics of growth at the macro level is congenial to a universe in which, at every level, the most basic realities illustrate a similar process of self-causation, participation, and novel advancement.
This paper has suggested significant agreements in perspective between Deutsch’s communications model and Whitehead’s metaphysics for humanity’s political life in order to encourage the fashioning of an organic political philosophy. Both men construct a scheme of ideas reflective of empirical realities; explore reality in terms of their models; suggest that process is the essential characteristic of both their symbolizations and the reality being symbolized; and maintain that the interdependence of reality indicates that persuasion is more effective than coercion in guiding the maze of processes to survival though growth.
It appears quite possible that if the relationship between Deutsch and Whitehead is judged to be, in fact, substantial and significant, interesting and, perhaps, instructive analysis may result. For example, it places a political theory emphasizing process within a comprehensive and supportive philosophical framework of process analysis. This very well could lead to a revised evaluation of Deutsch’s political theory as well as provide for that theory a positive environment through which its implications and operations can be both refined and amplified. Conversely, it would open up process philosophy to the development of an appropriate political theory which, at present, is altogether absent in any explicit form. In a broader context, the possibility of operationalizing Whitehead’s metaphysics politically though the stimulation of Deutsch’s model can only serve to relate Whitehead’s abstract generalities more fully to the concrete world from which they spring.
Finally, the development of a Whiteheadian political philosophy may help to enrich and enliven the rather bland and feeble efforts of contemporary political science. The birth of an organic political philosophy could stimulate a transcendence into new political terrain. Its political model, rather than being trivialized by questions of technique, would aim to grasp empirical structures and relations, portraying them in a new way for the purposes of political intelligibility, Its vision would reaffirm the integrity of the personal in political life. Instead of a series of abstract and impersonal social, psychological, economic, or historical forces, this model posits an interpersonal process of communication by which a shared environment is created, preserved, and revised. Both politics and personality would be reinvested with a wholeness they have lost in countless ways: in Marx’s economic determinism, in Nietzsche’s nihilism, and in Dahl’s socioeconomic statistics. A new organic vision would raise political questions from the perspective of involvement or participation, not from that of isolation or mere passivity. An essentially affective, rather than narrowly cognitive, process would add other new and exciting possibilities to the political dialogue. Finally, the particular genius of the organic paradigm lies in its conviction that empirical facts are richer than philosophical or scientific models. Consequently, organic philosophy is conceptually well placed to conduct the unique task of a metaphysical political theorist: identifying and stating new options for humanity’s political life.
AESP -- Alfred North Whitehead, American Essays in Social Philosophy. Edited with an introduction by A. H. Johnson. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959.
GW -- John Cobb. God and the World. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969.
IWM -- William A. Christian. An Interpretation of Whitehead’s Metaphysics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.
LMP -- H. Mark Roelofs. The Language of Modern Politics. Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1968.
NG -- Karl W. Deutsch. The Nerves of Government. New York: The Free Press, 1966.
1See A. H. Johnson, "The Social Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead," Journal of Philosophy, 40 (May 13, 1943); A. H. Johnson, "A Philosophic Foundation for Democracy," Ethics, 68 (July, 1958); Samuel H. Beer, The City of Reason (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968).
2Norbert Wiener, Communication with Deutsch, MIT, 1955.