Translated from the Polish


III THE CONDITION OF COMMENSURABILITY



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III THE CONDITION OF COMMENSURABILITY

Let us suppose that in a certain clan a section of the members want to remain in partnership, while part set up a community, and still others organise themselves into a despotism, and let us assume that some recognise the succession of the clan elder and so also the general right of inheritance by primogeniture, others, however, by minorate, let us add that one lot lives in monogamy, the other in polygamy; one recognises as property all earnings from labour, while the others take away everything over and above necessities — and all this in one and the same clan. Far from surviving under a joint economy, such a clan would clearly disintegrate at once.

It cannot be claimed that any of the institutions referred to is unsuited to organisation of the clan; they are all potentially equal to it. An adherent of any of them could found and organise a prosperous clan — provided it was on its own, provided all the standards did not meet in a single association. It is clear that some kind of law must be introduced into every association which is to hold together. But laws cannot be selected haphazard. Laws inconsistent with one another cannot exist side by side at the same time, for in that case also nothing will endure.

An association governed in accordance with two or more systems of the triple law cannot exist; in any one association only one system of the triple law can be in force. The standards of this triple law must be so chosen that they are all commensurate, composing one system of the triple law. For how can a system be evolved where nothing is commensurate — a clan community, for example, be organised under polygamy? For this standard of marriage law, clan despotism is the answer, otherwise branches of the same family would fly apart, to say nothing of branches of the clan. On the other hand, would monogamy have survived without personal property? Here each father acquires personal and hereditable property for himself. The triple law must, therefore be consistent, and only those societies have developed which have fulfilled this basic law of history.

But does keeping to a system of the triple law suffice? What order would reign in a clan each branch of which held to a different measure of time? And in such case would not the difference insinuate itself even among members of the same branch?

And what would happen when it came to regulating time? Those knowing how to save time and to observe dates would be let down by associates to whom time was indifferent, and after a time the latter would become parasites upon the former. Yet it is unlikely that men would long allow themselves to be exploited in this way — such a clan would rapidly split in two.

Even so, a common system of the triple law together with a uniform measurement of time and a uniform method of regulating it is not enough. There remains the attitude to the five categories of being. Could an association develop and flourish in which contrary and mutually exclusive views obtained on morality, with consequent emergence of differing views on justice, on the education of children, on egoism and altruism, and finally on the mutual relation of the sexes and the very essence of the family? Where there is divergence in such fundamental matters, what kind of association could there be, unless for the purpose of mutual extermination? Thus for an association to endure and develop, ideas on the five categories of being, or on as many of these categories as exist in a given association, must be commensurate. Systems of approach to the quincunx of human being are also decisive for the association. Conflicting systems lead to hostility, often waking an urge to mutual extermination.

It is the rule that a struggle between associations occurs when conflicting systems of the quincunx and triple law find themselves in immediate proximity. On the other hand, the drawing together of. small associations with the same system or with similar commensurate systems leads to the formation of larger associations. In this way tribes emerge from clans and peoples from tribes. All the questions we asked ourselves a short time ago when examining the problem whether people of varied outlook who bring with them to the clan different incompatible institutions can nevertheless create permanent common clan associations — all these questions arise again when it comes to the problem of the conditions in which a tribe emerges. Exactly the same considerations apply here as to the creation and establishment of the clan, and again when it comes to the possibility of tribes coming together into peoples.

If communal life is to be enduring and effective, there must be commensurateness in the structure of the association, which means that the success of an association is the greater the more uniform the system to which members hold in the management of their lives. When in a given association there is only partial commensurateness of system, when system encroaches upon system, then life is all confusion, since one category of being may be governed in accordance with one system and a second category with another. In such an association culture of action must fall ever lower, until it reaches the point when the associated members are unable to bring themselves to a single reasonable action. There can be no system without order in thought and action, and the absence of it must in the end be strikingly apparent and lead to equally striking tensions within the association; the greater they are, the more violent must be the symptoms of disorder.

Study of the old but hitherto unutilised ethnological treasury of Bastian provides interesting and highly instructive examples. The Asiatic and African countries described by him were inhabited by groups of clans rarely reaching the level of the tribe. Material he assembled in the third quarter of the last century reveals most varied forms of the triple law and of the (defective) quincunx among neighbouring, sometimes even among related associations.373 In tracts of hundreds of miles there existed virtually nothing but insignificant associations. Bastian simply described the state of things without being able to draw the conclusions which, in my view, simply impose themselves. These associations did not unite because they could not do so voluntarily, their opposed organisation of family life, opposed economic institutions, etc., inclining them at best to avoid one another. There was an absence of openings for understanding, but a great many for misunderstanding. Thus among these swarms of clans and tiny tribes a state of war reigned.

Associations remain primitive for centuries, until one system of organisation gains control over a larger area, having repulsed other systems. It is only by a common system of association that a larger association can be created out of throngs. For in a single community can there be more than one social structure?

The process of rendering a system of communal life uniform is not necessarily a voluntary one. If during the struggles between neighbouring little tribes of differing structure one of them defeats its neighbours and is able to maintain its overlordship permanently, the institutions of the defeated clans are extirpated and the triple law and social institutions of the victors imposed.

The defeated decline constantly in numbers and territory, succumb to pressure, and if they do not become extinct or emigrate, either form a despised, inferior class or adapt themselves and copy the victors. We shall never know how many kinds of different social institutions perished without rising above the primitive stage, only to disappear in a different kind of primitiveness. Institutions and opinions which are able to gain control of larger areas and a more numerous population acquire the possibility of reaching higher levels of development after centuries.

This possibility of course exists only in those cases where institutions of a lower order have succumbed to higher, that is to those better suited to development or already more highly developed. But this is not always the case. History shows how frequently victory in an armed struggle goes to the element of inferior order; we have no reason to suppose that in prehistory and among primitive tribes things were or are better. More than one victory has had the effect of petrifying the primitive, with likelihood of the attainment of a higher level of development declining from century to century.

Through the victory of a certain form of the clan organisation over differing adjacent forms there arrived in course of time an association of higher type, for while a tribe might emerge from the clans, the tribal institutions would not always represent progress over all those of the clans. In other words, there is no progress in social development without the coming together of clans into the tribe, but not every tribe represents an advance.

Many factors decide progress, but even should all combine most favourably, they will be of no avail if the more consistent system does not prevail. The history of ancient Greece provides us with a highly instructive example. How high the categories of natural Truth and Beauty, learning and art stood in Hellas! In these fields the Athenians succeeded in imposing their work and ideas on the whole of Greece and far outside Greece. But attitudes to the three other categories of humanity remained different in almost every corner of the country. Youth was educated and trained in Athens in one way, in Sparta in another, and the views of Athens on health differed from those of Sybaris. Prosperity assumed utterly different guises in Lacedemonia and in Corinth. What was moral in Thebes caused scandal in Argos. Greek attitudes to the five categories of the quincunx were various to the point of being so full of contradictions that there can be no question of any commensurability. Even methods of regulating time differed. The whole country suffered from the indecisiveness of the triple law, particularly the property law.” And so in Greece374 only one thing was constant — the constancy of revolution. The country passed from system to system, until general chaos resulted. Not even the Hellenistic expansion of Alexander the Great could save Greece. Not learning, art, or the most successful military expeditions can substitute for the triple law as the basis of association.

Greece remained divided into as many cantons as there were in her territories systems of the triple law, time-regulation and attitudes to the quincunx. These cantons did not join together in one larger State, because their systems did not become uniform, and without uniformity it was not possible to create any larger association. It was the Romans who imposed the Roman triple law by force.

Incommensurate basic conditions for association made it inevitable that the Greeks should not rise above small States. An association cannot spread beyond the area within which there is compatibility in type of institutions and outlook. Since such type was accepted by the whole of Greece, no all-Greek association could emerge. Moreover it should be said that the necessary consistency in the systems of association, was nowhere found in Greece, even in the small area in which any given system obtained. Everywhere, in consequence, the social bond was weak. The unceasing wars of the Greek city-States were caused precisely because of the existence in near neighbourhood of often mutually contradictory systems of the quincunx and the triple law.

Thus the history of Greece in antiquity provides us with evidence that the rule of commensurability binds associations of all kinds, both lower and higher at every level of development. The more consistently commensurate institutions and outlook are, the stronger the social bond and also the tendency to turn the association into the nucleus of an even larger one. But there is one condition: the commensurateness must be the result of voluntary consent; it must rest not on law alone, but necessarily on ethical convictions. Otherwise everything will disintegrate.

Proceeding on these assumptions, we shall understand the growth of Rome, that antithesis of Hellas in more than one respect. Among the Romans consistency and logic permeated the entire system of communal life — so that in the whole vast territory of Rome there was in force the same concept of the State and society, the same attitude to the categories of being and the same triple law for everybody who wanted to be civis romanus. For a long period there was no slightest blemish on this harmony. Peoples begged to be made subject to Roman law.

An ideally harmonious combination of thought and act in the sphere of the five categories of being would produce a harmony of unparalleled excellence, as well as a culture of action of unexampled power and endurance, an ideal and powerful society. But excellence is not a thing of this world; always and everywhere something is lacking and something in excess. We often move ahead, but almost always while moving we stumble.

With an enormous variety of imperfections, there are also not a few assets. For the incalculable potential variations and shades in the life of the individual are even greater in the association; nobody could begin to work out all the combinations possible as a result of the not quite exact coincidence of our views on the quincunx of humanity. There is no need to attempt it; here there is variety richer than the greatest ability to grasp and understand phenomena.

There is a resemblance between the object of these discussions and crystallography. Pure crystal is the rarest of exceptions, but without crystallography realities which are sometimes oddly confused would be incomprehensible. Science observes phenomena in order to classify them regardless of the fact that the perfect pattern is impossible in reality.

In a given community newly-arrived, previously unknown, complications in communal life are a test of the degree of systematisation and so of development. A new department of life which constitutes a foreign body in the organism will turn against that organism. A new department of life must be assimilated, and so call forth a fresh application of the accepted system. If, however, a breach in the system results, it brings disintegration with it. If an association acquires novelties which it cannot reduce to a common denominator or which cannot be harmonised, it begins to fall apart. Things which are incommensurate, which cannot be coordinated, may not be combined with impunity. Anything contrary to the system by which the association is ordered must prove hostile to that association.

It follows from the above considerations that system is the basis of association. System is simply the combination of commensurateness and consistency, and since this combination is needed for development, it follows that only those associations develop which are based on some system.

Degree of development depends on appropriateness and consistency of system.


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