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six A Philosophy of Social Pluralism The Identity of Social Structures I have shown how Dooyeweerd conceives of social structures as emerging out of a dynamic enterprise of human cultural formation. It has become abundantly clear that the process by which such structures emerge cannot be accused of being static. But can the charge be applied to the outcome of that process? Is what historical development throws up, in spite of all its variegated manifestations, nevertheless already ontically preprogrammed? Is Dooyeweerd’s ontology of social structures still too rigidly prescriptive, too constrictive of human freedom, insufficiently­ attentive to historical contingency? This is the most frequent charge leveled against his social philosophy, and it requires careful analysis. Dooyeweerd claims that social structures are rooted in the order of cosmic time. This is to assert that they are subject to the law-side of­ reality. All social structures are subject to lawful principles rooted in created order. While they are in every case established by human initiative, they are governed by “invariant” (or “enduring,” or “constant,” or “im­ mutable”), universally valid, typical structural principles that condition, and indeed make possible, their factual existence. The principal task of a social philosophy is the critical, systematic elucidation of these social structural principles in continuous interaction with empirical data drawn from as many cultural and historical contexts as possible.1 Patterns and regularities uncovered in social analysis testify to the presence of power86 A Philosophy of Social Pluralism 87 ful normative inclinations operating within the concrete functioning of social structures. The human establishment of a social structure does not occur in an unconstrained, unconditioned realm of subjective choice. Institution building does not operate on an ontological tabula rasa but is in every case and at every moment a human response to—a historical positivization of—given, normative imperatives embedded in social reality. Churches, states, business corporations, families, friendships, market exchanges, and so on, all testify to the operation of normative principles that govern their fundamental internal structure. These internal principles are the transcendental conditions, the conditions of possibility, for all societal phenomena. They continually impinge upon human societal experience with sufficient force that they can, in principle, be identified . Using the “integral empirical method,”2 it is possible to disclose structural principles by careful philosophical analysis of “factually existing structures” and, in particular, the typical behavior patterns, persisting boundaries to possible variety, or continually recurring patterns of relationship seen within them. Structural principles are discoverable because they “urge themselves” on human experience. However damaged a particular factual structure may have become, human beings cannot alter the structural principle that makes possible its factual existence.3 The very notion of social structures being exemplifications of normative structural principles evokes the obvious question whether the­ numerous variations in forms of family (nuclear, extended, patriarchal, etc.), producer group (guild, corporation, cooperative, family business, etc.), and so on manifesting themselves throughout history and across enormously divergent cultures can really be seen as manifestations of a stable, divinely given law-order? By the end of this chapter I hope to have shown that while the apparent implausibility of this idea recedes somewhat when we explore Dooyeweerd’s writings in detail, some far-­ reaching reformulations to his account of social structure are required if it is to remain at all convincing. In certain fundamental respects social structures share the same ontic morphology as “things.” First, they function in all the modal aspects .4 They are structural “totalities,” displaying all aspects, both nor­ mative and prenormative, in their concrete functioning. The state, for example, functions spatially in possessing territory; logically, in constituting a realm of public discourse; socially, in respecting diplomatic 88 h e r m a n d o o y e w e e r d­ protocols; economically, in striving to balance its budget; aesthetically, in working for harmony among contending social groups; pistically, in confessing some view of the origin of political authority. The mere fact of multimodal functioning does not yet inform us of the unique structural identity of the state, since all social structures do the same. Thus, second, like things, social structures are shaped by a structural principle. This embraces the whole configuration of its modal functions, characterized by its two “radical” functions, its qualifying and founding functions. The qualifying function plays the decisive role in social structural principles just as it does for the structural principles of things. It determines the distinct identity of a social structure, both by guaranteeing the coherence of its internal...


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