Anekanta : Philosophy of Co-existence ► 11.01 Man and Society (1)

Posted: 10.08.2010

Chapter 11
Man and Society




Purest form of consciousness.






Hard work



Social conduct


Man and society are correlated. They cannot be separated from one another Both have equal importance. Man is different from society because in spite of remaining an integral part of society he retains his individuality, but he develops his desires, aspirations and activities through interdependence and exchange and this way he is not different from society. Anekanta defines man and society in relation to each other. In a man both individualistic and social traits are found. A relative acceptance of the element of man and society can free man from many problems.


Man and Society (1)

Man and society are two different elements. The philosophers who believed in individualism are of the opinion that man by himself exists as a human being outside of society. In other words they say that man can live without society. This belief implies that before man became part of a society, he was an individual in his own right; that for the security of his property, rights and life or for the attainment of some other goal, man founded the institution of a society.

The socialist philosophers believe that man and society cannot be separated from one another. In the history of human development man and society have both figured with equal importance.

Anekānta defines man and society in relation to each other. In a man both individualistic and social traits are found. Man's capabilities define his individuality. Their expressions are part of his social skills. That is why individuals and society are different from one another. Man's individuality can never be non-existent. In spite of remaining an integral part of society man still retains his individuality. In this context, man is different from society. Man develops his desires, aspirations and activities through interdependence and exchange. In this context man is not different from society. But in the very same context, where man develops his desires, aspirations and activities and establishes inter-dependence in society, he is also different. Man is limited by his feelings. The man who experiences love, happiness, fear and grief is a complete man. These feelings are not common in terms of experience. They cannot be exchanged or substituted. They cannot be given to another. Exchange is the bridge between man and society. On one side of it is man and on the other side is society. The fundamental base of an individual is his emotions and the fundamental base of society is exchange. Emotions are individualistic because they cannot be exchanged.

According to some sociologists, society is a matrix of relationship. Society is a form of social relationship that sustains life. According to sociologist, Greene, society is a large gathering to which every man is bound. From the above two definitions, it is clear that relationships are established and in life it is important for every man to establish relationships. Emotions are neither established nor are they life sustaining. They are intrinsic to man. From the perspective of emotions man is a element and from the perspective of life-sustenance society is element. There is no conflict in the realities of either of them. Man lives comfortably only with the assumption that society is real and keeping this in mind, safeguards social norms and values.

There are two fundamental principles that govern social organization - desires and wealth. For the fulfilment of desires, social relationships develop. Wealth is a tool to fulfill desires. Through Dharma (rules and regulations) the social organizations are worked. Of the ancient sociologists, some paid greater emphasis to desires while some others paid to dharma. Kautilya gave importance to wealth. He said that wealth was the root cause for attachment (karma) and dharma and, therefore, wealth is of primary importance. In contemporary social organization also wealth is of primary importance. In fact, they are based on wealth. In such a society based on wealth a man has no individual independent value. Without controlling individual freedom a social organization cannot survive. A man does not give as much importance to the feelings of others as he does to his own. Therefore, two situations arise in society.

Individualistic social organization - the need of the self and the need for others. Obviously, it is in such a situation that crime, immorality, exploitation and corruption have grown. Society tried to overcome the differences between the self and the other, through socialism. But even after giving man the independence of individualistic social organization, this problem could not be overcome. That is why in such a situation man plays the role of a puppet in society. Individualistic social organization creates imbalance in society. Some people become very rich and some very poor. The very rich are unapparent in consumerism. They are constantly worried about their own comfort and prosperity and not about that of others. The needs of their senses increase. They are not able to take time for anything other than consumption. The economically disadvantaged people have to struggle very hard to get the level of comfort they desire. They do not get the opportunity to reflect. In this consumerist society that ponders to the senses, imbalance amongst people has always existed. The history of empires proves that this society of people who do not have time to think or reflect was constructed under the initiative of the very rich. It is from this society that socialism was emerged. Mahavira did not organize society nor did he give the vision for a social organization. He explained dharma and gave the vision of dharma, which is neither individualistic nor social. It is related to the atma or the soul. The measure of a man is his emotion and the measure of a society is exchange. The measure of dharma which is different from both of these. Its measure is transcendental consciousness, beyond feeling and action.

Jain philosophy does not give the rule for social organization nor does it give the direction for desire and acquisition of wealth. It does not give a vision for a life as a whole and that is why it is incomplete. This argument has been established and yet is not beyond contention. In Jain philosophy the discussion about moksha dominates (moksha dharma). The main objective of a philosophy of moksha is to discuss dharma. In this context even the meaning of dharma changes. In the context of attachment and wealth, dharma acquires the meaning of being that which controls the working of social organization. In the context of moksha it acquires the meaning of correcting or purifying the consciousness. All the directions that Mahavira gave are for the purification of the soul. These directions influenced wealth and attachment. But it cannot be said that Mahavira gave instructions in this direction. Can a philosophy of moksha, however, do so?

It is not always possible to separate violence and possessiveness from social organizations. The fundamentals of moksha-dharma are non-violence and non-possessiveness. Social organization and moksha-dharma cannot be given the same importance. Moksha-dharma advises social organization to reduce violence and possessiveness. It favours socialism. And, therefore, at this point there is a possible meeting of the two. But there is no fundamental commonness between the two.

Individualistic social organization was based on the self and so there was no limit, in that thinking, to the accumulation of wealth. In addition to individual freedom, there was freedom for cruelty too. In socialist societies the means of production are socially owned and so the society had control over wealth.

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Anekanta: Philosophy of Co-existence

Publisher:  JainVishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India

Editor: Muni Akshay Prakash

Edition:  2010 (1. Edition)

ISBN:  817195140-6

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