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Methodological Individualism Author(s): Joseph Agassi Reviewed work(s): Source: The British Journal of Sociology, Vol.
Methodological Individualism Author(s): Joseph Agassi Reviewed work(s): Source: The British Journal of Sociology, Vol.

Methodological Individualism Author(s): Joseph Agassi Reviewed work(s):

Source: The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Sep., 1960), pp. 244-270 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The London School of Economics and Political Science

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METHODOLOGICALINDIVIDUALISM

JosephAgassi

- t /[Y AIM in the presentessayis to arguethat individualism

\/1

need not be psychologistic,and to defendinstituiionalistie

j E g Sindividualism, whichI considerto be Popper'sgreatcontri- butionto the philosophyof the socialsciences.

Whentheindividualistcontendsthatonlyindividualsareresponsible actorson the socialandhistoricalstage,the holistretortsthatsocietyis morethan merelya collectionof individuals.To this retortthe indi- vidualistanswersthat thereis no mysteriousadditionalentitywhich turnsa collectionofindividualsintoa society;a collectionofindividuals is a societyif thereis stronginteractionbetweenthem;thisinteraction is due to thefactthatwhenanyoneindividualacts(rationally)on the basisof his own aimsandinterests,he taleesinto accountthe existence of otherindividualswith aimsand interests.To this the holistretorts thattheindividualistmissesthepoint;thatpeoples aimsdo notconsti- tutea societybutratherdependonsociety;sothatmembersofdiffierent societieshave diXerentaims and interests.The individualistin turn answersthat the holistmissesthe point,by takingthe socialsettingas God-givenratherthan as explicablein termsof humanaction.The holist in turn arguesthat human actiondoes not determinebut is ratherconstrainedby,ordirectedby,thesocialsetting(perhapsbecause socialforcesare muchstrongerthan any singleindividual). This argumentmay be schematizedin the follossTingmannerin an attemptto characterizethe t+votraditionalviews.

(a) Holism

I. Societyis the 'whole'svhichis morethanitsparts(holism).

(b)Individualzsm

Onlyindividualshaveaimsandin-

terests(individualism).

2. 'Society'affectsthe individual'sThe individualbehavesin a way

adequatetohisaim,givenhiscir-

3. The socialset-upinfluencesand constrainsthe individual'sbe- haviour(institutionalanalysis).

244

aims(collectivism).

cumstances(rationalityprinciple). Thesocialset-upis changeableas a resultof individuals'action(insti- tutionalreform).

A{ETHODOLOGICALINDIVIDUALISM

It is obviousthat herewe have a characterizationof two different positions.Yet, so far the characterizationis not sufficientto bringout the factthatthesetwopositionsaremutuallyincompatible.Tradition- ally, manyindividualistshave refusedto assumethe existenceof any socialentitybecausethey assumedthat only individualscan have aims and interests.They viewed'the nationalinterest','publicpolicy',and such-likeexpressionseitheras emptyor as mereshorthandexpressions for sum-totalsof manyindividuals'interestsand policies.The holists, however,have traditionallyinsistedthat nationalaims,class-interests, and destiniesofsocialgroupsdo exist.Logicallythis amountsto altering

ourschemain thefollowingway:we addto bothvie\\rs,

vidualism,thefollowingproposition,andreinterpretthe otherproposi- tlonsln ltS.lglt.

holismandindi-

*

*

.

r

+.If 'wholes'existthenthey have distinctaimsand interestsof theirOWll.

This additionalproposition4 rendersI (a) inconsistentwith I (b);it

alsoenablesus to reinterpret2(a) and 2 (b),aswellas 3(a) and3(b),in

a mannerwhichrenderstheminconsistentsvitheachother.The indi-

vidualistdoesnot deny 2(a) (collectivism)unlessit is reinterpretedin accordwith 4. He does not deny that one'saimscan be affectedby others'aims,andhe canexplainrationallysuchphenomena.He merely deniesthatone'saimscan be explainedby referenceto the socialaim.

Similarly,the holistdoesnot deny2(b) (rationalityprinciple)unlessit

is reinterpretedin accordwith4. He doesnot denythat theindividual

actspurposefully(rationally).He merelydeniesthatindividuals'aims and physicalcircumstancesalonedetermineaction.He insiststhatthe aimsof the socialgroupconstitutea majorfactorin determiningthe actionsof its members.Again, the individualistdoes not deny 3(a) (institutionalanalysis)unlessit is reinterpretedaccordingto 4. He does

not denythat the behaviourof an individualis constrainedand influ- encedby socialfactorsprovidedthat we can explainsuchconstraints and influencesas resultsof choicesof otherindividuals.Onlywhenthe holistattributesthesesocialconstraintsandinfluencestothe aimof the socialgroupdoes the individualistdisagreewith him. Similarlyas to 3(b) (institutionalreform):the holistdeniesit only when the set-up which the individualsupposedlychangesis the 'society'or the social grouthat is to saysociety'saimsanddestinies;he willnot denythat theindividualcan alterhismaterialenvironment,orotherindividuals' tastes,andsimilar'superficial'factors. Thus,proposition4 rendersthe previouspropositionsmoredefinite by interpretingholismas the viewaccordingto whichthe individual's interestis boundto the existingsocialinterest,andindividualismasthe view that onlyindividualsexistand have interests.This formof indi- vidualismis knownasgbsychologisticindividualism,or as individualistic psychologism.

245

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Proposition4 is not explicitlystatedby writerson the presentcon- troversy,andit is not the onlypropositionwhichrendersthe twosides of ourschemaincompatiblewitheachother.However,in myview,it is oftenimplicitin manyworkson the controversy,old andnew. Indeed it is sometimesso obviouslyimplicitin theseworksthatI findit a little puzzlingthat so few peoplehavenoticedit and havefoundit worthy of a comment.Whetherproposition4 is acceptableor not, refraining fromstatingit explicitlymayeasilyleadto confusion.It is one thingto stateexplicitlythatallindividualismispsychologisticandquiteanother thingto confuseindividualismwithpsychologism. Psychologismis the programmeof explainingall socialphenomena solelywith the aid of psychologicaltheory.If the psychologicaltheory whichis to explainsocialphenomenais individualpsychology,then our psychologismis of the individualistbrand,whileif it is collective psychology,thenourpsychologismis of the collectivistor holistbrand. Thus, svhileFreud'sattemptat a psychologicalexplanationof some socialphenomena(religion,leadership)is lndividualist,Jung'ssimilar attemptis collectivistor holist,sincehe assumestheexistenceof group- subconsciousness.Similarly,Plato'stheoryof the stateis an attemptto explainclassstructure,not institutionally,but psychologically-asre- flectingthementalstructureof thestate.\Ve thushavetsvodivisions- psychologismversusinstitutionalism,and individualismversusholism whichyield fourpossibleprogrammes:(a) psycholot3ism-cum-indi- vidualism(the main streamof the individualisttraditXon);(b) insti- tutionalism-cum-holism(the main streamof holismor collectivism); (c) psychologism-cum-holism(in rareexampleslikePlato'sandJung's theories); and perhaps (d) institutionalism-cum-individualisms(It shouldbe added,perhaps,thattheseareby no meansall the possibili- ties;cybernetics,forinstance,fallsintononeof thefourcategoriesmen- tionedhere.)The fourthpossibility(d) is preciselywhat is deniedby proposition4*It is thecentralthesisof thepresentessaythatproposition 4 is false.

Individualism

Holism

Psychologism

a

c

Institutionalism

d

b

Admittedlyproposition4 isprimafacieveryconvincing.It entailsthat

eitherall statementsabout societiesand socialinstitutionsshouldbe takenat theirfacevalueor all of themshouldbe viewedas shorthand assertionsaboutmanyindividuals.It soundsratheradhocto claim,as institutionalist-;ndividualistshaveto claim,thatsomeofthesestatements (sayaboutthe stateof warbetweenBritainand Germany)haveto be

246

METtIODOLOGICAL

INDIVIDUALISAI

takenat theirface value, and some of thesestatements(aboutGer- many'sdesireto win the war or its EghtagainstBritain)havc to be viewed as shorthandassertionsabout individuals.This may partly

explainthefactthattraditionallysocialphilosophersacceptedproposi-

tlon4 * Wltnoutclscusslnglt. Andyet,in spiteofthisprimafacieargumentin favourofproposition4, Popperrejectsit. He assertsthat'wholes'doexist(though,ofcourse,not in the samesensein whichpeopleexist),but they have no (distinct) interests.These'wholes are socialgroupsas well as socialinstitutions in the widestsenseof the word,and coveringa ^videvariety,from

customsto constitutions,and fromneighbourhoodsto states.An insti-

tutionmayhaveaimsandinterestsonlywhenpeoplegiveit

act in

institutioncannothaveaimsandinterestsof its own. It is obviousthat Poppercan incorporateboth I(a) and I(b) into a consistentviewwhichis incompatiblewithbothholismandpsycholo- gisticindividualismprovidedthat this view containsthe negationof proposition4. Andhe can incorporateinto thisviewall the otherpro- positionsin the aboveschemaprovidedthat they are interpretednot in accordancewith proposition4 but ratherin oppositionto it. Thus, in e(a), notthe aimsof institutionsbut rathertheirexistenceaffectsthe individual'sbehaviour:the existinginstitutionsconstitutea partof the individual'scircumstanceswhichtogetherwith his aimsdeterminehis behaviourin accordancewith 2(b).Whileaccordingto psychologistic individualismonly materialconditionsmay be consideredas relevant circumstances,accordingto Poppertheexistenceofinstitutionsmaybe consideredas relevantcircumstancestoo. This additionenriches2(b) and turnsit from the psychologisticrationalityprincipleinto hat Poppercalls 'situationallogic'. Similarly,3(a) is admittedas institu- tionalanalysisnot by admittingthat the aimsof institutionsconstrain the individual'sbehaviour,but by admittingthat the existenceand characteristicsof institutions(as svellas people'sadoptionof definite attitudestowardsthem)constraintheindividual'sbehaviour,according to thelogicof hissituation.3(b)is the theoryof institutionalreform,of the way peoplemay alteran institutionalsituationso as to abolishor enforcesocialconstraints,and alterotherpeople'sattitudes(by resort- ing to violenceor by democraticmeans accordingto thelogicof their situation). Both3(a)and3(b)relateto animportantaspectofhumanbehaviour theunintendedsocialconsequencesof individualactions.The institu- tionalanalysis(3(a))will showhosvpeopleact undercertaincircum- stancesin a way to forwardtheirosvnaims,andin so doingaffectthe socialsystem.In particularthiswillbe so whentheiractionis a reform of institutions(3(b)). It is theverycombinationof 3(a)and 3(b)which renderstheunintendedconsequencesso importantandwhichamounts

247

*

*

.

.

anaim,or

accordwithwhattheyconsidershouldbeitsinterest;a societyor an

JOSEPH

AGASSI

to a theoryof soeialehange.It wouldbe deservingof the title 'soeial dynamies'had not thistitle beenuseddifferentlyby somesoeiologists. The holistsoeialdynamiesis but a historicistassertionof the goal or destinyof thesocialwhole;it hasno explanatorypower.The psyeholo- gistieindividualistsoeialdynamiesis butan ideaabouttheinteraetion of manyindividuals;it is fartooeomplieatedto be eapableof develop- mentin anydetail.Noneof theseviewsof soeialdynamiesaeeordwith thefollowingsketehof a simpleexampleof socialehange.Gonsiderthe institutionaleircumstanees(3(a))underwhich some workersfind it profitableto organizea tradeunionfor collectivebargaining(3(b)). In thesenesvinstitutionalcircumstancesfollowingthe formationof a trade union (3(a)),otherworkerswill find it profitableto organize as well (3(b)).This subsequentsituationin which most workersare organized(3(a)) makesit desirablefor the employersto organize (3(b)).The existenceof both workers'and employers'organizations ^villprofoulldlyinfluencethe relationsbetweenworkerand employer (3(a));and it may even bringabout the government'sintervention, perhapsin the formof new legislation(3(b)).Thus, unintentionally, the firsttradeunionorganisershavestarteda socialavalanche. I shouldadd,in parenthesis,thatmanythinkersseemto havefeltthe needfora viamediabetsveenthe two traditionalsTiews,and evenfora eonsistentsynthesisbetweenthe reasonableelementsin them.I main- tainthatPopperhassuceeededin carryingout thisintuitivelyfeitpro- gramme,thusrenderingexplicitthe approachhich in fact underlies the fruitfulandreasonablepartof existingsocialstudies,whileretain- ing the eentralthesisof individualism,namely the thesisthat only individualshaveaimsandresponsibilities.

In therestofthisessayI shalltryto elaboratepointsstatedin thefirst seetion.I shallentirelyignorepsychologistieholism,and diseuss,from the methodologicalaspect,institutionalistholism,psychologistieindi- vidualism,andinstitutionalistindividualism.I shalltheneoneludewith a eommenton the metaphysicalviesvsbehindtheseapproaehes.

II

In thisseetionI shall tIw to criticizeholismfroma methodologieal ratherthanfroma Inetaphysicalviesvpoint.I shallnotdiscusstheexist- eneeor non-existenceof group-interests(orof group-minds),butstress the metaphysiealcharaeter2of anyassumptioneoncerninggroup-inter- ests, and the dangerinvolvedin not recognizingthis metaphysical eharaeter,or in regardingholismas 'scientiSc'. The majorquestionto sivhichholismgivesriseeoncernsthe relation

betsveenthe distinctinterestsof thegroupandthoseof the individuals belongingtoit. Logically,thesetsvokindsofinterestmaybein harmony

248

METHODOLOGICAL

INDIVIDUALIShf

or in conflict.The diversityof individuals'interestsforcesone to admit thatthegroup'sinterestmaybe in conflictwithsomeindividuals'inter- ests.One hasto decidethen,in caseof a conflictof individualand the group'sinterest,whichoftheseis, orshouldbe, dominant.(I ) Onemay assertthatin caseof conflictthe group'sinterestsshouldbe dominant. In thiscaseone merelyadvocatesa collectivistmorality.(2) One may assertthat the group'sinterestis dominant,if not now, then at least 'inthelongrun',evenwithoutbeingimposedonitsindividualmembers who may all act againstit. In thiscase,one expressesa fatalistviewor

a prophecyabout thingsto come; Popperhas tried to show (in his PovertyofHistorictsm)the barrennessand unscientificcharacterof such prophecies.(3) One may assertthat in case of conflictthe group's interestis latent,andcomesintoplayonlywhenthe group'smembers' interestsalterso asto coincidewiththegroup'sinterest.Thisis thepat- ternof manywidespreadpopularbeliefs.As a naiveexamplewe may take the myththat when allJews keepthe Sabbaththe Messiahwill come.The newesttheorywhichfollowsthispatternis that the leader discoversthe destinyof his group;thisis but a variationon the book

ofExodus.A11thevariantswhichfollowthispatternareobviouslymeta-

physical;itsmaininterest,I think,liesin its relationto a specificmoral

philosophyoftheindividual'sresponsibilityto thecollective.(Thiskind of moralityfallsneitherunderthe headingof collectivistmoralitynor undertheheadingofindividualisticmorality-the twokindsofmorality discussedin Popper'sOpenSociety.3)(4) The only other alternative seemsto be this:the group'sinterestalwaysand necessarilymanifests itselfin, and acts through,someindividuals'aimsand interests.One maystatea scientifictheorywhilefollowingthispattern,by specifying the individualsuthoseaimsareidenticalwiththe group'sinterestsand by specifyingtheseindividuals'aimsand circumstances.But then the assertionaboutthe identityof theseindividuals'and the group'sinter- estshich that theory+rouldcontain,will be redundantin the sense that the testabilityof the explanatoryposserof that theorywill not diminishsith the omissionof thisassertion.If thisassertionis omitted the theorywill accord+sriththe patternof institutionalisticindividual- ism,butif thisassertionis notomittedonemaybe temptedto stickto it hen thescientificpartof the theoryis refuted.For,beingunscientific, this assertionis irrefutableand can be safely upheld, though this amountsto dogmatism.I shallnowdiscusstwoexamplesof thiskindof holism,MarxismandFunctionalism. V\rhatMarxsaidaboutclassinterestis hardlyopento rationalargu- mentandis thusmetaphysical,whilehisassertionsconcerningtheway classinterestmanifestsitselfin theindividual'sactionareopento criti- cismandarescientific.Forexample,onecancriticizeMarxbypointing out that a uForker'sinterestdoesnot alssayscoincideuriththat of his fellosvw-orlier,andadduceempiricalexamplesto thiseffect.Of course,

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onemaydismisssuchcriticismasirrelevanton thegroundsthatonlythe workers''shert-run'irlterestscarl conflict,but not their 'lorlg-run' interests.4This is the attitudeof thosewho are determinedto uphold themetaphysicalpartof Marx'sviewdogmatically,evenat theexpense of ignoringthe scientificpartof Nfarx'sview.Yet, obviously,it is the scientificpartwhichis moreinterestingandmoreimportant. Furthermorethisattitudemay easilylead to a collectivistmorality. For,byadmittingthattheclassinterestmayclashwiththe ('short-run') interestupon which its membersact, one'sviewscome very closeto collectivistmorality,and they becomecompletelyso when priorityis explicitlygiven to the classinterestitself.Thus, Marxistcollectivist moralitybeginssvithblamingworkersfornot behavingin accordwith Maix'spredictions. My secondexampleis fromcurrentsocialanthropology.I mention

it diffidently,becauseI amnotsuiciently familiarwithmodernanthro-

pologicalstudies.I understandthat in someinterpretationsfunction- alismis viewedas the attemptto showhosvthe social-group'sinterest of self-preservationis manifestin the compatibilityof diXerentsocial roles,whenthesecoincideeitherin anyonepersonor in anyonesitua- tion.The scientificpartof thisapproachconsistsof a varietyof specific

assumptionsof thecompatibilitybetsseenspecificsocialrolesandof the criticalexaminationof theseassumptions,and is quiteindependentof anyviewsconcerningthegroup'sinterest.In particuIarit is independ- ent of the metaphysicalview that a group'sinterestis manifestin the compatibilityofsocialroles.ThismetaphysicalviewIeadsto thedogma thatcompatibilitymustexistand to the corollarythattherecannever be any ('endogenous')socialcausesofsocialchange,so thatonly'alien' bodiesorfactorscancausesocialchange.Gellner'sexcellentcriticismof thisdogmaiseemstometobequiteunanswerable.Mypointhereis that thisdogmastemsfromholismandis quiteredundant:thepartsoffunc- tionalismwhicharereasonableandinterestingareentirelyindependent of it. The samemay be saidaboutGellner'scriticismof the functionalist

doctrineofsurvival.Accordingto thisdoctrinesocialrelicsdo notexist:

no socialinstitutionsurvivesits function:if it existstodayit musthave

a functiontoday,andthisfunctionwillexplainandjustifyits existence

independentlyof its history.In my own view there are two strong methodologicalpointsbehindthefunctionalistdoctrineofsurvival.The firstis a methodologicalcriticismoftheapproachsvhichwaswidespread

beforethe rise of functionalism('historism',about which see below,

p. 255):theassumptionthataninstitutiononceexistedis notanexplan-

ationof its existencenow, thatis to say, of its survival.The secondis the methodologicalruleof attemptingto explaina seemingsocialrelic

by assumingit to besomethingofcontemporarysignificance.\Vedonot knowwhichinstitutionis a socialrelic and svhichis functioning,and

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METHODOLOGICALINDIVIDUALISM

sse shouldirlvestigatesuch questonswith open minds.Yet thesetwo soundrulesconcerningsurvivalscan easilybe exaggeratedand turned into the claim that socialrelicsneverexistand that historydoes not matterat all. Thisis almostidenticalwiththeviewthatall institutions operatewith perfectharmony,and withstandany externaldisturb- ancesby quick and efficientadaptationat the expenseof the quick eliminationof institutionswhoseservicesareno longerrequired. The metaphysicaland arch-conservativecharacterof this holistic view arequiteobvious,and the exaggerationsit containswell deserve Gellner'scriticism.This criticismled Gellnerto pose the problemsof theexplanationofsurvivalsandof theplaceofhistoryin socialexplana- tion, problemswhich, I suggest,are capableof solutionin termsof Popper'ssituationallogic.First,situationallogicallowsfortheexistence of social relics, as well as for the explanationof their survival.For instance,we may explainthe survivalof an obsoletelaw as beingdue to the legislativebody'sbeing overworked,or due to respectfor the printedletter.(Obsoletelawssometimesbecomesignificantjustbecause they wereneverformallyabolishedand becausesomepeoplediscover themandusethemaccordingto thelogicof theirsituations.)Secondly, thoughit is clearlyunsatisfactoryto explainthe existenceof an institu- tion merelyby assumingits existencein the past,thisassumptionmay be an ingredientin a satisfactoryexplanation.Situationallogic brings into the explanationof the existenceof an institutionits immediate history,whichconstitutesthe circumstancesof individuals.Giventhe institutionalarrangementof any one period,svecan try to explainits preservation,or reformnor abolition,in the next period,in termsof rationalor purposefulbehaviour.Thus,by eliminatinggroup-interest, we haveall thatis reasonablein functionalismwithoutbeingconfined to 'static'modelsonly. To conclude,a holistictheoryeitherhas no explanatorypower,or else it has explanatorypowerwhichit wouldretainwhen the holistic elementin it is eliminated.Yet if the holisticelementof the theoryis retained,particularlyafterits scientificelementis empiricallyrefuted, then the holisticelementleadsits adherentsto obscurantismand per- hapsto collectivistmorality.This (asI understandit) is Popper'sargu- mentagainstholism againstattributing(distinct)intereststo societies or to socialinstitutions quiteapartfromhis metaphysicalconviction thatsocietiesandsocialinstitutions,thoughtheydo exist,haveno (dis- tinct)interests.

III

In this sectionI shallcriticizepsychologisticindividualismor indi- vidualisticpsychologismor simply psychologism(since I shall not discussholisticpsychologismthis abbreviationcan hardlycause any

25t

JOSEPH

AGASSI

confusion).As in the previoussection,my criticismwill be methodo- logicalratherthanmetaphysical. The metaphysicaldifferencesbetweeninstitutionalismand psycho- logismsomewhatresemblesthe differencebetweena drawingand a pointillistpaintingwhichcontainsonly coloureddotsbut looksas if it containslines. Psychologismadmitsinstitutionsinto the pictureof societyin thesamemannerin whichthepointillistadmitslinesintohis painting-as mereillusionscreatedby oversightof details.In thissec- tion I shall discussnot this metaphysicalview, but the methodology basedon it. Beforecomingto thatI shouldpointout,in fairnesstosomeadherents of psychologism,tllatoriginallypsychologismwasnot a programmeto explainsocialphenomenabut an attemptto designthe ideal rational society. The origin of psychologismseemsto me to be the applicationof Bacon'stheoryof T;novledgeto socialand politicalproblems.6Bacon explainedthe abilityto contributeto scientificprogresspurelypsycho- logically:an individualpossessesthis abilityonly if his mindis in its naturalstate only if his mindis freefromsuperstition.And supersti- tion is the resultof impatienceand self-flattery:impatienceleads to guessingandself-flatteryleadsto self-deceptionwhichmakesit impos- sibleto get rid of one'soriginalguesshoveverfalseit may be and in spiteof all refutations.Thisbeingso, he said,sciencecan developonly if weforgetallpastsuperstitionsandstartbyobservingfactsastheyare. Baconthusexplainedsocialphenomenapsychologically:ancientscience was due to man'snaturalopen-mindedness;the lMediaevaldarkness wasdueto man'sself-deception;andmodernscienceisduetoforgetting Mediaevalsuperstitions.Obviouslythe applicationof theseviews to social,political,andlegalproblemsis highlyradicalist(especiallysince theycontainthe demandthat+^teshouldstartafresh).Beingconscious of this, and being a conservative,Bacon repeatedlydissuadedhis readersfromattemptingto applyhis viess to socialand legal-studies. Etetas soonas his viesrssere acceptedas the explanationof Nesrton's incrediblesuccess,theyled to theradicalismof the eighteenthcentury.

All pastinstitutionsvere dismissedas irrationaltogetherrtrithall past

viewson hich

stitions.Theinstitutionlinoxvnas modernsciencevas vieved not as an institutionbut as tlle resultof the abolitionof the previous(institu- tionalized)learning(especiallythe teachingin Churchinstitutions) and reversionto man'snaturalcapacityto learn.7SimilarlwT,the hope forsocialreformwasthe hopenot thatinstitutions*vouldbe replaced by betteronesbutthattheybe abolishedandgiveriseto aninstitution- lesssocietyof (enlightened)naturalmensho areableto forsardtheir naturalinterestsin the bestmanner. Practicallyall the leadingthinkersof the eighteenthcenturyagreed

theyrested;tilesevievs ^veredeclaredto besheersuper-

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NIETHODOLOGICALINDIVIDUALISM

thatthe existenceof badinstitutionsvitallydependedon people'sirra- tional and even superstitiousacceptanceof them. 'Nothingappears more surprising',says Hume (in his Essayon TheFirstPrinciplesof Government),'tothosewhoconsiderhumanaffairswitha philosophiceye, thantheeasinesswithwhichthemanyaregovernedby thefew,andthe implicitsubmissionwith which men resigntheirown sentimentsand passionsto thoseof theirrulers.Whenwe enquireby whatmeansthis wonderis effected,we shallfindthatasforceis alwayson thesideof the governed,the governorshave nothingto supportthem but opinion.' Humeemphasizedthatthe opinionof thegoverned,by whichtyranny is maintained,is quiteirrational.Althoughhe opposedthe use of the

mythof the socialcontractas a justificationof existinginstitutions(in his essayon rTheOriginalContract),he himselfendorseda less rose- colouredversionofit (inhisessayon TheOriginof Government)in order to explainthe existenceof irrationalinstitutionsliketyranny.He attri- butedsome(military)rationalityto theactofinstitutinga government, and explainedits survival(in peacetime) afterit had lost its original functionbythesubjects'irrationalforceofhabit.Rousseauhada similar viewof tyranny.'Thestrongestis neverstrongenoughto be alwaysthe masterunlesshe transfershis strengthinto right,and obedienceinto duty',he wrotein his SocialContract(Bk.I, ch. III). Yet he was more concernedto stressthe irrationalityof acceptingthe right of the strongest'whosesoleresultis a massof inexplicablenonsense',thanto explainexistingsocialcircumstances.Similarly,AdamSmithhad no

intentionto explainslaveryon rationallines; he consideredit to

'absurd'and the most inefficientand expensiveform of labour;at mosthe was willingto explainit as rootedin people'signoranceand

be

*

preJuc

a

.lce.

Thus, the originalviessbehindmodernpsychologismis the eight- eenth-centurytheoryaccordingto which almostall previousinstitu- tionsssere'a massof inexplicablenonsense'.'Thehumanistthinkersof theEnlightenment',writesWatkins,8'regardedhistoryas a longrecord

of unnecessarysuffering;but they repudiatedthe doctrineof original sin and attributedthe sufferingpartlyto physicalcauseswhichmight be revealedby scienceand controlledby technology,and partlyto superstitionandignorance,productsofbadeducaiionwhich,theysaid, had renderedman'snaturalgoodnessimpotent'.Existinginstitutions arerootedin 'badeducation';'humannature'is at therootof theper- fectlyrationalfuturesociety.The idea that mostexistinginstitutions

are inexplicablewith the aid of the rationalityprinciple(2(a))

the condemnationof theseinstitutions,not of the principle.Only the

idealliberalUtopiacanbe fullyexplainedby therationalityprinciple, for this societyis perfectlyrationalas in it human natureoperates unimpededby institutions,or by the 'massof inexplicablenonsense'on whichinstitutionsarebased.

led to

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Accordingto the humanistthinkersof the Enlightenment,not onhty theidealsocietybutalsoitsrisecanbe explainedpurelypsychologically by referenceto humannaturealone:oncepeopleseethattheexisting orderis superstitiousthey will cease to acceptit, by whichvery act theywill havecreatedthe idealsociety.Thisnaiveviewwas attacked fromtwosides,the traditionalistandtheextremeradicalist.The tradi- tionalistsdefendedsociety'sneed for some blind obedience('super- stition'is the individualists'name for the same). The extremeradi- calistsdemandedthat the state (or someotherinstitution)shoulduse radicalmeansto eradicatebadinstitutionsandthesuperstitiouseduca- tion on ^shichthey rest.The traditionalistsnaturallymovedtowards holismas did those extremeradicalistswho noticedthat what they demandedwasno longerthe abolitionof all institutionsbut ratherthe establishmentof somenew institutionsin orderto destroysomeolder ones:theystartedtoviewthesceneasa battlefieldin whicholdandnew institutions(or classes,or social forces)were struggling.(L. Pearce Williams'veryinterestingpaperconcerningthe debateaboutthe re- formof educationimmediatelyafterthe FrenchRevolution9presents a detailedhistoricalexampleof sucha development.)The eighteenth- centurypsychologisticprogrammeof planninga futureliberalUtopia endedwithits failureto producethisUtopiaafterthe FrenchRevolu- iion. It has two intellectualheirs,however:the anarchistmovement, and the nineteenth-centurypsychologisticprogrammeof explaining existingsocialphenomena,whosechiefpromoterswereComteandMill. It is a mostinterestingfactthatthereis no otherdifferencebetween the eighteenth-centurypsychologismand the nineteenth-centurypsy- cologismbut that the one was a programmeto designthe perfectly rationalsocietyand theotherwasa programmeto explainthe existing societies.Bothhadat theirdisposalnothingbutphysicalcircumstances and the psychologywhich is equallyapplicableto all individuals- namely,humannature. The nineteenth-centurypsychologisticprogrammereflectsa com- promisebetweenthe desireto explainsocialentitieswhichcould no longerbe explainedawayandthe traditional(mistaken)individualistic aversionfromthe admissionof socialentities(or 'holisticentities'as Gellnercallsthem).l°Butthisin itselfdoesnot explainthe persistence of the idea thatonlyhumannatureshouldbe usedin the explanaiion of socialphenomena. The persistenceof this idea can be explained by referenceto other opinionswhich were common to both the eighteenth-andthe nineteenth-centuryindividualists.Commonto both groupsis theviewthata satisfactorytheorymustbe an assertionabout theessenceofthephenomenaexplainedby thattheory;andtheessence of all humanphenomenais humannature.Commonto both groups (especiallywithregardto Alill)is alsotheideathatexplaininga social set-uprationally(2(b)) is tantamounttojustifyingit. I shallnotdiscuss

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thesetwo ideas,sincethereis a strongerargumentfor allowingonly humannatureto enterourexplanationof socialphenomena:including

the psychologyof peopleas we knowthemwouldseemto makeour explanationtoo easy,adhoc,and uninteresting.It wouldenableus to explainmonogamyby the monogamoustendenciesof the individual membersof a monogamoussociety,and polygamyby the polygamous tendenciesof the individualmembersof the polygamoussociety.This unsatisfactorymodeof explanationwill be ruledout if we allowonly humannatureto be usedas the psychologicalelementin ourexplana- tion. For, by definition,humannatureis commonto all membersof mankind.For the sakeof clarityI shallcall the kindof psychologism whichhasonlyhumannatureat its disposal'traditionalpsychologism' and the oppositekindof psychologism'vulgarpsychologism'. Traditionalpsychologismis a daringprogramme.It is thesuggestion that we shouldnot be satisfiedwith any explanationof socialphen- omenaunlessthisexplanationis an assertionabouthumannatureand materialcircumstances.Hence, it is the suggestionthat we should explain the variety of social phenomenaby assuminga variety of materialcircumstances(sincehumannatureis unalterable).Butmany

socialphenomenaandtheirvarietieshardlydependonmaterialcircum-

stances take language as an obvious example. Hence traditional psychologismseemsto be untenable.The onlywayout of thisdifficultr is the suggestionthat we should explain today's variety of social phenomenanotby referenceto thevarietiesof today'smaterialcircum- stances,but by referenceto the varietiesof materialcircumstancesof today as well as of yesterday.(This rendersthe psychologisticpro- grammea versionof historism,l1namelyof the programmeto ex- plainphenomenaby relatingtheirhistory.) But this would not help either. If we want to explain a child's adaptationto an institutionwithouttakingas given the fact that its parentsareadaptedtoit, wehavetoexplainthe parents'beingadapted to it by referenceto theirchildhood.Thisregresswillbe anunsuccessful attempt to eliminate statementsabout institutionsfrom our own explanation,unlesswe assumethat therewas at leastone momentin the society'shistoryin whichonly materialenvironmentand human naturedeterminedrationalaction.Hence traditionalpsychologismis pushedto theunintendedviewthateverysocietyhada defiXiitehistori- cal beginning.Thisviewis dismissedby Popperas 'themethodological mythof the socialcontract'(OpenSociety,ii, 93). The methodologicalmyth of the social contractseemsto be em- ployedin the creationof variouskindsof historicalmyths.Sometimes thesearestoriesaboutcollectiveeventswhichleft theirimpressionson the furtherdevelopmentsof the societiesin which they occurred.A famousexampleof sucha mythis Freud'sdescripiionof the beginning of societyandthe creationof the Oedipuscomplexas the outcomeof a

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specific event of a collective father-killing. Other myths are stories about strong individuals who left their impact on posterity. A famous

example of this is Carlyle'sHeroesandHero-Worshit.For my part, I view Carlyle'seffort as an attempt to solve a problem within the framework of individualismbut in a mannerdesignedto renderit as indistinguish- able from holism as possible; his solution was intended to be a bridge along which one could easily pass from the individualists'to the holists' camp. Strippedof its holistic hero-worship,however, Carlyle'smythol- ogy would be a part of a more general discussionof the contribution of past events to the shaping of our presentsocieties.And the unheroic

impression which Cleopatra's nose is alleged to have

Inade on poor

Antony is as good an instance of such an event as the heroic entry of Carlyle'sOdin onto the historicaland social stage. I do not wish to challenge the prominenceof Cleopatra'snose in the historiographicliterature, but rather to claim that it is too far-fetched as a part of an explanationof today'ssocial set-up. If the psychologistic programmeis to be carriedout successfully,we have not only to trace the historical origin of a specific social characterisiic, but also to explain how the effect of a historical event has persisted through the ages.l2 Hence, the explanation of today's social set-up must contain a descriptionof yesterday'sset-up and an assumptionwhich explains the emergence of today's set-up from yesterday's set-up. But these two assumptions are quite sufficient, and we should therefore start urith them, although, of course, having provided an explanation of today's set-up, we ma try to explain yesterday'sset-up (and its roots in that

of the day And yet

psychologism sometimes does lead to theories which are open to criticismand even to empiricalcriticism.Thus, psychologisticattempts to explain some social events by stressingthe rolesof certainindividuals

(ratherthan of the institutionalset-up) in history,has provoled admir- able criticisms such as Tolstoy's (in WarandPeace).Similarly, Mill's

contention that economics is based only on the universal disposition to get rich, though uninteresiingis at least criticizable. Indeed it svas criticized by pointing out that the competitive system does not follov from the dispositionto get rich, and that economlc competition is not

universal. This

people, who do not have competition (and are thereforeprimitive))do not compete because nf climatic conditionswhich make people lazy or

conterlted etc. Yet co<npetiiion has been found even among some primitive people, though not the competition Mill kneV.

before esterday). it should be noticed, perhaps,that unlilie holism, traditional

criticism led to the psychologisticclaim that primitive

Difficulties of this kind are not due to some specific errorsbut due

the tools which the traditional psychologistic pro-

to the poverty of

gramme offiersto its adherent

perhaps, if we look at an imaginary future than if lsTelook at the past.

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Assumethat the futureof mankindis goingto be better.Since,ultim- ately, all the toolsthe adherentsof psychologismcan use in orderto explain(orpredict)thisfutureare againtheunalterablehumannature and physicalconditions,they are almostbound to say that, if the futureis goingto be betterinanysense,it is goingto be betterbecause of somesortof improvementof ourphysicalconditions the develop- mentof scienceandtechnology.Thisis whythe Utopianistsof theAge of Reasonlay suchstresson the advancementof learning,as V9atkins rightlyremarks(seep. 253above).Thisis whyRobertOwenexpressed his optimismby claimingthat the improvementof man's material conditionsis goingto causeimprovementof man'sgeneralconditions:

according to traditionalpsychologismultimately there is almost nothingelse which can causeany improsYement.Nowadaysthe error of this view is, regrettablyperhaps,only too obvious.We knowthat the futureof mankinddependslesson technologicalsuccessand more on our abilityor inabilityto createeffectiveinstitutionalmeansfor preventingthe misuseof ourtechnologicalachievements. So muchabouttraditionalpsychologism.Unliketraditionalpsycho- logism,whichofferstoo few toolsfor the explanationof socialphen- omena,vulgarpsychologismofferstoo many tools. It allowsone to

attributeto individualsall the characteristicsof the societyto which they belong.It is not only adhoc,but alsountenable,as it allowsone to assumeconflictingcharacteristicsin order to explain conflicting institutions,institutionalizedconflicts, and other undesiredsocial phenomena.For example,adherentsof vulgar psychologismwould and did explain unemploymentby claimingthat workersare lazy. This approach,when pushedfar enough,becomesplainlyridiculous and ceasesto be individualistic,as it would renderthe rationality principle(X(a))inapplicableto messysituations. Adherentsof vulgarpsychologismcan hardlybe expectedto have discussedthis criticismexplicitly.Nonetheless,one may view certain ideasas attemptsto mitigateit, as, forinstance,the followingsugges-

tions. (I)

ployment is not yet understoodfor want of factual information. (3) Unemploymentis an unintendedconsequenceof rationalbehaviour. Accordingto the firstsuggestionit is not the unemployedwho want to have unemployment,but someother people. This is a versionof what Poppercalls'theconspiracytheoryof society':l3everysocialevil is desiredand broughtabout by somewickedpeople.This theoryis entirelymetaphysical.It allegedlyexplains(evil)socialphenomenaby attributing(evil)intentionsto somepeoplebut it doesnot tell us why thesesinisterpeopleratherthan well-wishersenforcetheirintentions on others.The statementthat those who are engagedin wars are wickedis an unsatisfactoryexplanationof svars;the statementthatthe industrialmagnateslove war (or moneyor power)is no explanation

Unemploymentis desiredby someindividuals.(X) Unem-

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of warsunlessoneaddsto it assumptionsconcerningthe socialcircum- stanceswhich makesthem capableof imposingtheirwills on others.

(Thiscriticismis due to Marx.)Hence,any admissibleexplanationof socialevilsby conspiracyassumesthe existenceof someprevioussocial circumstances,whichcontainedsomeothersocialevils.The suggestion that those can be explainedby previousconspiracieswould lead

to a

contract. Accordingto thesecondsuggestion,beforewecanattemptto explain any social phenomena,we simplyhave to collect indiscrtminatelyall factualinformationaboutall individualsinvolvedin the socialsetting in whichthe phenomenatookplace,and whensufficientinformation aboutthemis known,theirsocialsettingsvillbe knosvnandthe phen- omenain questionexplained.In orderto understandunemployment, it is suggested,we must know much more about the workers,their employers,theirorganizers,etc. etc. I shallcall thisview 'inductivist psychologism'. Inductivistpsychologismmay be the view that the multitudeof factswill arraythemselvesinto a picturejust like the pointsin the

ratherfunnyversionof the methodologicalmyth of the social

pointillistpaintingdo. This would only raisethe questionof whydo the factsfall into pattern;the increasinglydetaileddescriptionis not an explanation;on the contrary,the morefactswe describe,the more we wantexplanations. Moreover,the morefactswe describe,the less will they fall into patternby themselves.Thosewho want to collect morefactsin orderto explaina givenfact usuallyadmitall this,but theyclaimthatwe canfinda goodexplanationonlyif ve haveknow- ledge of sufficientlymany facts to adducethis explanationfrom- accordingto the Baconianmethodof induction. Accordingto the Baconianview the propermethodof inquiryis to collectmanyfacts,to adducefromthemtheories,to adducefromthese theoriesmoregeneraltheories(the axiomatamedia),and to go on in- creasingthe generalityof our theoriesuntil we arriveat the most general theory-to the essenceof things. The general theory will explainthe lessgeneraltheoriesin successionand, ultimately,it will explainthe originalfact fromwhichit is adduced.Obviously,then,

since the essenceof humanphenomenais

the applicationof the Baconianmethodto humanphenomenaseems

to be advocatingtraditionalpsychologism.l4Moreover,accordingto Baconianinductivismraisingproblemsis dangeroussinceit prevents one from observingfacts indiscriminately.Hence inductivistsshould not bother about how the generaltheory of human naturewould explainthe less generaltheories(the axiomatamedia),nor need they bother abouthow it svouldexplainundesiredsocialinstitutions.The faith in the possibilityof adducingmore and more generaltheories from observedfacts reassuresone that the most generaltheoryof

humannature,advocating

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humannaturewill ultimatelyappearand that then all will be quite

clear.The only troublewith this faith is that it is based on logical errors.

The third suggestionis Max

Weber's individualisticideal type

approach.It is the suggestionthat we shoulddescribethe averageor

typicalmemberof

him sometypicalsocialcharacteristicsand by tryingto explain(orpre- dict) his having other typical social characteristics(especiallythe undesiredones)astheunintendedconsequence3of hisrationalorpurposeful behaviourin his typicalenvironment. Weberand his followershave succeededin applyinghis approach fruitfully,producingalongits lillesinterestingtheorieswhichareopen to criticalargument.Weber'sapproachmaybeviewedasa devulgarized versionof vulgarpsychologism.Hence,at leastone versionof psycho- logismisfruitful.HowesZer,I wishto stresstwopointsin thisconnexion. FirstnWeber'sown appraisalof his approachseemsto be that it is an improvedversionof traditionalpsychologism,not of vulgarpsycho- logism.SecondlyWeber'sapproachis defectivein its beingapplicable only to a narrowrangeof problems. As to the firstpoint, it explainsthe fullctionof Weber'srepulsive theoryof the chartsma.Accordingto thistheorythe originof any ideal type is a historicalindividualwho had strong magical hypnotic powers('charisma'is Weber'sterm for these powers)which he used in orderto forcehis friendsand acquaintancesto imitatehim. Now this theoryseems to be a historicalexplanationof the diversityof societies(or of ideal types)by referenceto humannaturealone it is yet anotherversionof the methodologicalmythof the socialcontract. ButWeber'stheoryof the charismais not individualistic:accordingto it the riseof the ideal type is not a resultof individuals'rationalor purposefulbehaviourbut of their being hypnotized.Moreover,the charismatheoryis criticizablein thesamewayastheconspiracytheorv:

althoughchartsma(like conspiracy)is a (small) part of social life, the charismatheory(like the conspiracytheory)is no explanationas yet. IgnoringWeber'smyth of the charzsma,we remainwith two other alternativeways of interpretingWeber'sindividualisticideal type approach.The one way is to viewit as an improvedversionof vulgar

psychologismandtheotheris to viewit as a versionof institutionalism. Accordingto the institutionalistinterpretationof Weber'sapproach onlytheinstitutionalizedcharacteristicsmaybe attributedto theideal type,while accordingto the psychologisticapproachthereis no basis

forthedistinctionbetweentheinstitutionalizedandtheuninstitutional-

a given societyor social groupby attributingto

ized characteristicsof the membersof the societyin question.Since the wholepointaboutthe characteristicsof the idealtrpe is that they persist,one can clearlysee that the applicationof Weber'sapproach

R

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will be moresuccessfulandinterestingif we attributeto the idealtype only institutionalcharacteristics.This is what Watkinsmakes of Weber'stheory.He emphasizesl5

thatthe personalityof a manin societycomprisesdispositionsbothof a more privateand temperamentalkind, and of a more public and institutional kind.Only certainindividualsare disposedto weepduringthe death-scene

in Othello,but all policemenaredisposedto blowtheirwhistles,undercer- tain circumstarlces,and any Speakerin the Houseof Commonsis disposed to disallowparliamentarycriticismof exercisesof the Prerogative.Andthese morepublicand institutionaldispositions,whichmay varyverylittle when one man undertakesanother'srole, can be abstractedfromthe total,varie-

gated flux of dispositions,and so providethe social scientistwith a stablesubject-matter.

Now I fullyagreewiththiskeenobservationof Watkins',but I have to stressthat thoughit is a fair and commonsensicalcommenton Weber'sapproach,it is not a part of it. The commentexplainswhy thisapproachwassuccessful;but thosewho applythisapproachneed not know why it is successfuland thereforethey have no need to mention institutionseven though the characteristicswhich they attributeto theiridealtypeshappento be institutional.The advantage of speakingof (institutional)characteristicsof theidealtype,insteadof speakingof institutions(and of institutionalroles) proper is rather plain:thismodeofspeakingevadestheproblemof whetherinstitutions exist (I(a)), and, if they exist,whetherthey have disnct aims and interestsof their own (4). In other words,the whole advantageof Weber'sapproachis that it cen be viewedas psychologisticandit can be viewedas institutionalistic.Forthosewho ha?edefideduponthese issues,this advantageof Weber?sapproachdisap?ears,while its dis- advantages,the great limitationsupon its range of applicability, remain.Briefly,theyarethese. AsWatkinshaspointedout,Weber'sapproachallowsonetoattribute to the typicalindividualonly publicand institutionalcharacteristics, so thatit doesnot enableus to explainsatisfactorilyeffiectsof detailed characteristicsof one prominentindividualand otherdetailedevents of (social)history:Weber'sapproachtiesus too muchto the typical. This, it seemsquite obvious,leadsto furtherand muchmoreserious limitations. Weber's approach leaves no room for sociologically significantyet untypicalcharacteristics(such as the more abstract institutionswhichleave no markon any typicalindividual)and the untypicalcasesof specificand uniqueinstitutionalreforms.lsAt most it allowsone to assume(withoutdebate)changeswhichconstitutethe emergenceof a new society(i.e. of ness ideal types).It allosssus to explainsocialevilsasunintendedconsequencesofpurposefulbehaviour, but it doesnot allonsroomforpurposefulinstitutionalreform.Conse- quentlyit is inapplicableeven to the case of the typicalreformerof

fairly

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SM

institutions.And all this is in exchangefor not having to mention

* nstltutlonsexplcltUy Weber'sapproachis on the borderlinebetweenpsychologismand institutionalism.At mostit can be madeto appearpsychologistic.But we neednot insiston thispoint.Evenif it werepsychologisticit would not renderpsychologisma satisfactoryprogramme.It seemsincredible that intendedsocialreform-quite a commonplacein Weber'sdays- could not in his time be placedsatisfactorilyin any methodological framework.The reasonfor this, I suggest,is the universaland tacit acceptanceof the proposition(4) that if institutionsexist, they are thingswithindependentaims,interestsanddestinies.Weber'sapproach was certainlythe best at the time when the tacit acceptanceof this propositioncaused a confusiollbetweenindividualismand psycho- logism;it is betterto evadea confusionthanto succumbto it; butit is still betterto clearit and to identifythe erroruponwhichit is based.

*

.

*

@

IV

In thissectionI shalltry to defendinstitutionalist-individualismby showingthat it doesnot sufferfromthe centraldifficultieswhichthe two traditionalapproachesencounter. The main problemsfor holistsconcernsthe relationsbetweenthe socialaimsandthe aimsof individuals.Since,accordingto institution- alist-individualism,social aims do not exist,it does not raise these problems.The main difficultyof psychologismstems from the im- possibilityof explainingdifferentsocial set-upspsychologically.Ad- mittinginstitutionsas an elementin sociologicalexplanation,institu- tionalist-individualismdoesnot encounterthisdifficulty.

I shall now brieflyarguethat the two traditionalapproachesdo not enableus to explainintendedinstitutionalreform,and they do not evenenableus to explainthe absenceof reform.lv

It is obviousfromgeneralconsiderationsthatconsciousinstitutional

reformcannotbe explainedalong eitherof the two traditionallines. For, accordingto holism,any change of an institutionis a natural change be it growth or decay and accordingto psychologistic individualisminstitutionalreformis but the unintendedconsequence of rationalor purposefulaction(sinceinstitutionsassuchdo not exist).

No doubtthereis muchtruthin each of thesedescriptions,or rather in theircombination.'Only a minorityof socialinstitutionsare con- sciouslydesigned,'writesPopper(OpenSocieZy5ii, 93), 'whilethe vast majorityhavejust "grown"asthe undesignedresultsof humanactions

andwe can addthatevenmostof the

do

not turn out accordingto plan

consciouslydesigned,andfor certaindefinitepurposes;andthisis inex- plicablealongthe traditionallines.Moreover,as almostall institutions

.' Yet very many institutionsare

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may act as a constrainton some personsin some instances,they are always-proneto inducethesepersonsto attemptto reformthem. In casesin whichit is obviousthatreformssouldbe costlyandlead to little benefit,one wouldhardlyraisethe questionof reform;and yet, obviousas the answerto it may be, as long as the questionof reform is not a prtori ruledout, our discussionis not quiteon the traditional lines. Let us take an exampleof how an obviouscase of the absenceof reformleadsto mystificationbecauseholismleavesno roomto discuss even the absenceof reform.Let usconsiderDurkheim'sidea that law- breakersservesocietyby remindingits membersof the existenceof the lawswhichthey break.This functionalistidea seemsto be highly unsatisfactory,becauseit seemsto be the resultof a determinationto explainany event as one which contributestowardssocial cohesion in the faceof schismsand disintegration.And yet somehowone tends to admitthat thereis moreto Durkheim'sidea thanjust this.To my surpriseI found that some studentsof sociologyare still unable to statesimplythereasonableelementin Durkheim'sidea.It is, of course, the truismthatpunishmentmaybe usedas a deterrent;andthatwhen it is a successfuldeterrentit strengthensthelaw.Butthisis by no means universallythe case.Therefore,a fullexplanationof a specificcaseof a crimefollowedby a punishmentwhichstrengthensthe law has to be an explanationof the followingfacts:that the law was broken(rather than universallyobserved);that the criminalwas punished(rather than ignored or resvarded);and that the punishment acted as a deterrent(andwas neitherignorednoropposedby the public).Parts oftheexplanationareoftensoobviousthattheyarenotstatedexplicitly; butwhiletheexplanationis restatedin a holisticfashionthesepartsare silentlyomitted. To takeanotherexample,sveknowthat thereexistno publictele- phonedirectoriesin Moscow.The followingsimpleexplanationof this factmaybe trueor falsebut it is quiteopento rationalargument:the authoritiesfearthat telephonedirectorieswill be usedby prospective reformers('counter^revolutionaries')in order to communicateand organizea reformmovement.The unintendedconsequencesof the authorities'behaviourare very interesting,especiallyfor those who wish to knowundersvhatconditionssuch highlycentralizedcontrol willleadto a completecollapseof thesocialsystem.Thus,ourexplana- iion of thissocietyand its abilityor inabilityto remainunalteredfor long necessarilycontainsa discussionof possiblechangesandprospec-

tlve * retormers. The sameexamplessvillshowtheinadequacyof psychologism(in all its versions).Take punishmentagain. What distinguishesit (at least in democraticsocieties)frompersonalrevengeis, accordingto some adherentsofpsychologism,theconsentwhichthejudge'snormsreceive

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from many individuals.This explanationis refutedby any case of punishmentwhich comesafterpublicdemandfor reformof the law uponwhichthat punishmentis basedbut beforethe reformis imple mented. The adherentof psychologismmay now try to modifyhis theory,but he willhaveto modifyit whiletakingaccountof the situa- tion in svhich the refutinginstancehas occurred,thus riskinghis psychologismaltogether.This point will be more obviouswhen we take our second example of stringentcentral control over all the citizens'aciivities. The existenceofsucha centralcontrolis themosteloquentevidence, if evidenceis wanted,for the view that personallythe citizenssubject to it are highly disposedto reform,and yet it is the (institutional) controlwhichmakesreformlesspracticable.Thus,althoughpersonally Hungariansnowadaysare by and largemoredisposedto reformthan Britons,institutionally Britainis moredisposedto reformthanHungary.

Adttedly

prospectiverebel in Hungaryto act, but his action, his attemptto

institutionalizethis discontent,is

Psychologismblockstheway to theexplanationof thefactthatsuccess in creatinginstitutionsexpressingand co-ordinatingthe existingdis- contentconstitutesa successfulrevolutionor a majorsteptowardsit. Admittingsuchcriticisms,someadherentsof psychologismview in- siitutionalreformsnot as the spreadof new attitudesbut as the simul- taneousoccurrencesof many individuals'decisionswhich are caused by the spreadof the new attitudes. This view is nothingbut the admissionthatpsychologismleavesno roomforthe explanationof the fact thatindividualschooseto act in a co-ordinatedfashion. The adherentof psychologismwill claim,perhaps,that the boot is on the otherfoot.He will admitthat co-ordinationexists,but he will wantto exp]ainthisco-ordination(psychologically)andnot takeit for grantedas the institutionalistwould. This retortis not void of sub- stance,forinstitutionalismdoesallowone to takethe existinginstitu- tionalco-ordinationsforgranted.Yet ultimatelythe retortis basedon an error. The institutionalistprogrammeis neither to assumethe existenceof all co-ordinationsnorto explainall of them,but ratherto assumetheexistenceofsome co-ordinationin orderto explain theexistence of some otherco-ordinations.It is an errorto assumethattheonlysatis- factoryexplanationof institutionsis by assumptionswhichsaynothing

aboutinstitutions.Admittedlysuchan explanation,if it werepossible, wouldbe highlydesirable(asit wouldbe simplerand thusmoreopen to criiical argument).But there existsa very obviousreasonwhich

the increaseof individualpeople'sdiscontentwill tempta

psychologisticallyinexplicable.

makesit impossibletoproducesuchexplanation.It is whatI wouldcall 'Popper'srationalprincipleof institutionalreform',andit is this.How- ever bad the existinginstitutionalco-ordinationsare a prospective reformerwill tryhis bestto makeuseof themin his attemptto reform

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themor to abolishthem.Therefore,the existingsocialco-ordinaiions will constitutean importantfactor in determiningthe rationalor purposefulbehaviourof the prospectivereformer,in determiningthe likelihoodof success,the costof the reform,and the expectedbenefit fromit.

In myprevioustwosectionsI havetriedto arguethatall reasonable explanationswithinthe holisticand psychologisticframeworkscan be formulatedwithin Popper'sinstitutionalist-individualistmethodology -situational logic.In thepresentsectionI havegonefurtherandstated that almostall reasonableexplanationsof social phenomena,when fullystated,cannotbe fittedinto the previousframeworksbut canbe fittedinto situationallogic. In brief,almostall serioussocialthinkers have employedsituationallogic even thoughPopperwas the firstto formulateit. Thislast assertionof minemay be trueor false,but it is certainlyno moreinconsistentthanthe widelyacceptedasseriionthat Euclidusedrulesof mathematicallogic(likereductioadabsurdum)long beforemathematicallogiciansformulatedthem. I shouldeven stress that adherentsof psychologismwere often ardentreformersof social institutions,just as Aristotleoftenusedinferenceswhichcannotform partof his logic.Althoughthe employmentof situationallogic is not new, its formulationis. And it formsa greatadvancerelativeto the untenableholisticschemeandthe untenablepsychologisticscheme,and even relativeto WeberXsacceptablethoughnarrowschemeof indi- vidualisticidealtype.

V

This sectionconcernsthe natureof societyand socialand political instituiionsas such, and is thereforemetaphysical.Accordingto holismsocietyis a super-individual;accordingtopsychologisticindividualism societyis the sum-totalof individuals'interactions;accordingto institution- alistic-individualismsocietyis theconventionalmeansofco-ordinationbetween individualactions.This last vies is knownas contractualismor con-

*

v

ventlonallsm.

A defenceof any view must constitutein answeringthe criticism

launchedagainstthisviessand in showingthatit is preferableto all the existingalternativesto it. More one cannotdo, for it is always possiblethatfuturecriticismwillshowtheunacceptabilityof thatview and futurethinkingmightbringaboutbetteralternatives.In accord- ancesviththisattitude,I shallnosstry to discussthe criticismof con- ventionalismor contractualismand then arguethatit is preferableto holismand to psychologism. Thereexisttsvoobjectionsto conventionalismor contractualism:the

one is that the conventionor contractwas neversigned;the otheris

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METHODOLOGICAL

INDIVIDUALISM

that while one may contractout of a conventionor a contractone cannotcontractout of society.The firstobjectionis slight:conven- tionalismor contractualismneed not entail the view that a contract waseversigned;an individualgiveshisimplicitconsentto an existing contractevery time that he acts in accordancewith it, even while attemptingto abolishit. No one everstopsany individualfromcon- tractingout of anyconvention.Hereproposersof the secondobjection (likeAdamSmith)will pointout that suchpeopleas policemenand magistratessee to it that no individualcontractsout of the existing institutions,and that thereforeinstitutionsare not contracts.But this is an error.\%lhatan individualcannotdo is to forceotherindividuals, policemenor no policemen,to contractout of a convention.The law- breakeris the personwho,by the act of breakinga law, contractsout; if the otherindividualsin his societydo not contractout theywill try to catch and punishhim in accordancewith the laws (namelythe conventions)vllich they adopt;if they contractout as well, he will not be punished,andthatis all thereis to it. Undoubtedly,any individual'sdecisionas to whetheror not to contractout of any givenconventionmay dependon the questionof shetheror not he thinksotherindividualsaretemptedto contractout aswell.Thisis howindividualactionsareco-ordinated,not onlywhen theyconformto a givenconventionbut alsowhen (as the unintended conseqllenceof existingconventionor as the resultof the develop- ment of new ideas) they are highly disposedtowardsacceptinga new conventionor towards abolishing or reformingan existing convention. What the criticsof conventionalismseem to have missedis that althoughone person'scontractingout of an institutiondependson other people'schoice, it is, ultimately,his own choice. Moreover, they seemto have missedthe point that whenone choosesto act one doesnot necessarilylikethe conditionsunderwhichone acts.Choiceis oftenbetweenevils,and the aimis to choosethe lesserevil. Why anii conventionalistswiewthe abidanceby tyrannyas strongeran objection to conventionalismthan the willingnessto die on the barricadesI do not know.Bothof thesekindsof behaviourare- to me at any rate- profoundlypuzzling.Andyet onlyconventionalism,I think,allowsfor both of them;the holisticview andthe psychologisticview amountto givingup hopeeverto understandthem. Totalitarianshave oftenclaimedthat conventionswhichthey con- tractedout of srere'merepiecesof paper'or merecustoms,whilethose whichsuitedthem were 'real'.The plain fact is that all conventions are 'merepiecesof paper'-that withoutagreementto abideby it any institutionis void. (Otherwisethese tyrants'propagandamachines wouldhavebeenquiteunnecessary.)Thiswasknownalreadyto Hume and Rousseau(seeabove,p. 953), and wasmerelysmoke-screenedby

265

JOSEPH

AGASSI

holistic propaganda.And yet this holistic propagandacontainsa strongpointwhichis this. Althoughany conventionmay in principlebe discarded,peopledo wantto havesomeconventions;it is betterto havealmostanylawand order(i.e. conventionalco-ordination)than to have none. This anti- anarchisticcontentioncan be used in order to explain rationally people'sabidanceby tyrannywithouttherebyjustifyingtyranny.For it is a poorjustificationof a systemthatit is preferableonlyto complete disorder.Realizingthis,mostof thosewho are subjectto tyrannywill try to reformit. Admittedlysomepeopleaccepttyrannybecausetheir illusionthatit is governmentby forceratherthanby conventionleads them to expectfromit moresecurityor moreefficiency.Admittedly, somepeopleaccepttyrannybecausethey beneStfromit, or hope to benefitfrom it, and some people accept tyrannyjust becausethey admiretyrants.But mostpeople,I contend,abideby tyrannymerely becausethey see no otherway of keepingalive and may wait for the firstopportunityto organizeand overthrowit. And a significantpart of this attitudeis people'srealizationof the bitter truth that even tyranny may be preferableto total disorder.This realizationmay sometimesbe the productof revolutionswhichlead to disorder.Thus we can explainthe strangehistoryof battlesagainsttyrannywhich endedby establishingmuchworsetyrannies,such as the Frenchand Russianterrors:tyrannyis sometimestoleratedbecausepeoplerealize that they have no idea of how to overthrosssuccessfullythe tyranny ratherthanthe tyrant.Herepeople'sopinionsenteras a majorfactor in the socialsituation;but theyenternot so muchas personalopinion but ratheras institutionalor publicopinion(be it scientificor not). Of course, tyrannyis not always better than total disorder.The realizationthat an existingtyrannyis worsethan disorder,however, may even lead to suicidalrevoltslike the WarsawGhettoUprising. Andin anycasesuchraretyranniesleadto statesof affairsin whichthe relationbetweenmastersandoppressedis thatofgovernmentby brute force.Such relations,not being institutionalat all, do not enterthe presentdlscusslon. The holisticviewexplainsthe existenceof institutionswhichno one desires,by thesuggestionthattheseinstitutionsservesocietyasa whole.

.

*

.

But holismmissesthe problemto

functionof theseinstitutions,but ratherwhy do peopleacceptthem againsttheirsvill?lsEvenif aninstitutionis usefultosociety,evenif it is

usefulto everybody,the puzzleremains:hy

svhiledesiringto overthrowit?The holisticviewcannotbe disproved,

but one can showthat it explainsnothingat all, that it may lead to historicismand dogmatism,and that it may lead to an unacceptable moraloutlook. The psychologisticview explainsthe changesof socialorganizations

be solved,whichis not what is the

do peopleabide by it

266

METHODOLOGICAL

INDIVIDUALISM

by changesin people'ssituationsand attitudes.Thereis truthin this explanation,but thereare two argumentsagainstthe view that this is the wholeexplanation.First,individuals'attitudesconcernnot only individualsbutalsotheirsocialorganization. Societyisnota pointillist picturejust because people's aims happen to be co-ordinatedby nature;societyis a picturebecausepeoplewantit to be one, because peopleare readyto changetheirattitudes,in a give-and-takefashion or by a civilwar,butin orderto createor to alterthisor thatpicture. The secondargumentis this. Institutionsare not just the reflection of the psychologyof the majorityof theirparticipants.(Twoidentical groupsof individualsin identicalsurroundings,but with somewhat differentconventionsorrulesofbehaviour,willdevelopverydifferently fromeachothernot onlysociallybut alsopsychologically.)As Russell said,l9'institutionsmouldcharacterand charactertransformsinstitu- tions.Reformin bothmustmarchhandin hand'. BeforeconcludingthissectionI wishto drawattentionto an inter- estingscientifictheorywhichincorporatesthe conventionalistor con- tractualistassumptionwhichI havedescribedabove.It is NI.Banton's view concerningthe problemof racialprejudicesin Britain(Whiteand Coloured,I 959). Thetraditionalpsychologicalapproachtoracerelations is inapplicableherewherethe rapidemergenceof a colouredsection in Britishsocietyhascreatedtheproblembeforewidespreadprejudices and emotionalattitudescouldemerge.(The uselessnessof holismhere need hardly be mentioned.)An importantingredientin Banton's explanationis the assumptionthat thisrapidemergenceof a coloured sectionin Britishsocietyhascauseda seriousgap in the bodyof social conventionswhichhad somehowto be closedratherquickly,particu- larly becausethe Britishsocietyis highly conventionalized.I cannot discussBanton'sinterestingtheoryhere;I mentionit as an exampleof the applicationof conventionalismin proposinga specificsociological explanation. To concludethis sectionI shallrepeatthat institutionscan be ex- plainedasinter-personalmeansof co-ordination,asattitudeswhichare acceptedconventionallyor by agreement.Not that an agreementwas signedby thosewho have the attitude,but the attitudeis maintained by one largelybecauseit is maintainedby many,and yet everyoneis alwaysat libertyto reconsiderhis attitudeand changeit. This idea leaves room for the rationalprincipleof institutionalreform (see above,p. 263). It accordswith the classicalindividualisticidea that socialphenomenaare but the interactionsbetweenindividuals.Yet it does not accordwith the classicalindividualistic-psychologisticidea thatthisinteractiondependson individuals'aimsandmaterialcircum- stancesalone;ratherit addsto thesefactorsof interactionthe existing inter-personalmeansof co-ordinationas well as individuals'abilityto use,reform,or abolishthem,on theirown decisionand responsibility.

267

JOSEPH AGASSI

268

overto Popper's programme ofmoralizing

to

his idea that the task

Atthispointwehavetogo

politics rather than

ofsocial and political

society but of the

closemy

politicizing morals, and

philosophy is the

reform of the

planning not of the ideal

thispointI shall

existing ones.But at

discussion.

NOTES

an irrational part of

'Time

I

in

and Theory

LXVII,

it

should make

sketch of function-

for

1An earlier version of

Vofthe present

sections III and was read to the

ings is,

of course,

Gellner,

I958,

I82-202.

that my

contemporary Marxism.

5E.

Social Anthropology', Mind,

ApriJ,

quiteclear

alismis greatly over-simplified. A slightly

moreadequate

conflicts which can be

institutional means(by

nation, etc.).

turnraises

cannot enterinto.

mention that it

yetmore

always hope

resolution of

notexist.

functionalism entirely

claims that any

peated conflict

noticed by

(others

essay

seminar of

attheLondon School of Economics early

of section read to the

ofthe

inI958.

London School

Clubin a

December 4,

version was

debate with E. Gellner, on

E.

Gellner and T. Bottomore

An

earlier version

I

present

was

essay of Economics' Sociology

I958;

and a subsequent

the Theoretical

alsoreadto

British Sociological Association on am grateful to my

I958.

I

Cohen,

Mr.

E.

Gellner,

Goodman,

G.

WIr.K. Klappholz,

Mr. J.

W. N.

MacRae and

the MS. in

valuable sugges-

formulation allows

Yet

many

resolved by

ceremony, resig-

only like to

the method of

if it does

this forrnulation in

which I

andComparative Sociology Study Group

ofthe

December I6,

wife, Mr. P.

hIr.E.

NIr.D.

\Vatkins for reading

various stages and

for

its

problems

I should

renders functionalism

for we can

metaphysical,

to

find

a conflict-even

Moreover, in a

senseit renders

trivial. For its

institutional and re-

will

be

hardly

the societv in

tions.

The term'metaphysical character' is

namely to

hereused

ex-

planatory power.

attribute aims

Popper 'methodological collectivism'. In

thispaper,

labelled by

to

denote irrefutability The and

2

in Popper's sense,

lack

of

proposal

prefer

to societies is

hosZesrer, I

to use

Gellner's terminology: his

issynonyrnous with

logical) collectivism'.

term'holism'

Popper's '(methodo-

FortheJesrish tradition ofindisZidual

3

responsibility

my'Jacob

tory'

Elol.I, No. 2, December,

ally p.

tradition refutes

exist only

that a

variably leads to a

tossrards the

Katz on

3ewish

collectise see

Jewish Social His-

ournal of Sociology,

I959,

especi-

existence

the

kinds of

of such a

viesZs that there

and

philosophy in-

morality

7Le

264. The

tz o

collectivist social

'long-run' here

this

collectivist morality.

means

>hat

is

find con-

termin economic

usually meantby

literature, one can

flictsbetween

different workers. B'hen

interest, however, is simply

theory

of the identity

comes

The vacillation betssreen the two mean-

well as trite.

4

If

obviously

the 'long-run' interests of

the 'long-run'

the (distinct)

classasa

of

srhole the

workers' interests be-

as

interest of the

metaphysical

the members of

question,

willsooner or later

tionalization of

leastin the

getusedto

muchlessbytheanthropologist)

lead to

the institu-

at

will

someremedies for it,

people

same sensethat

living

has made the

to

withit (orelseperish).

same criticism

assert that

of co-ordination existsin a

and even folloss from

the srord'society'; while

co-ordination exists

view which ex-

trivial

Gellner

someurhat differently:

some method

society is

themeaning of

toassert

leadsto the

cludes any

functionalism is

matic.

trivial,

that full

untenable

either

('endogenous') change. Thus,

or dog-

Thereexistconflicts svhich areinstitu-

relations be-

Functionalism forces its

tionalized, e.g.

t+veen in-lasvs.

adherents to

flicts as

andas

led

view of feudsas

feuds,

or

view institutionalized con-

social

co-ordination

means of

meansof

resolving conflicts. This

his ingenious

co-ordination

EsZans-Pritchard to

meansof

betveen the

clans or tribes.

dangerously

or cohesion

ages or

sounds

indeed, for

different line-

\

et this vies

apologetic, and,

seems

some philosophers it

METHODOLOGICAL

INDIVIDUALISM

269

to have becomea mysticaldogma. It is

by far preferable,I think,to view feuds merely as means of protection,and to

view the

may call their functionas their unin- tended consequences.For such conse-

probIemspresent at each stage of the developmentof his views,but had never fullyetorkedouthismethodologyassuch.

rest of what anthropologists Thusone can see in his TotemandEaboo

how his psychologismdriveshim to the methodologicalmyth of the social con- tract which he consciouslyaccepts- andhow,assoonas he relatedthemyth, he becomesmoreand moreawareof the emergentproblemof the persistcnceof the contract.And yet, on the whole,as his individualismdrovehim to psycho- logismandashispsychologismdrovehim

collectivism,ultimately he was left

with an inconsistentmethodology.As to

his mass-psychetheory,its metaphysical

characterwas made manifest by the

quencesmay be undesirableand lead to reform.Alternatively,the feud system

may become unnecessarywhen some

reform leads to a better method of

protection, and the undesired conse-

be the

and Gluckmanhavediscovered.

ffThe

origin of Bacon's theory of

knowledgeseemsto be rootedin political theory.See Popper'sOpenSociety,ch. 9,

on 'canvascleaning'.

7 Psychologismisstilltakenforgranted

by most writers on the

knowledge. Popper's institutionalism

stemsfromhis theoryof knowledgein a

strange parallel to psychologism.See

his Logicof ScientificDiscovery,sections8 and 27.

problem of

8 'The

9 L.

Strange Face of Evil', The

Lsstener,September30, I954, Vol. 52,

Pp 522-3.

Pearce Williams, 'The Politics

of Science in the French Revolution', PaperTen, CriticalProblemsin theHistory

of Sc?ence,Ed. MarshallClagett,Univer- sity of WisconsinPress,Madison,I 959.

10'Explanationsin History', Proceed-

ings of

vol. 30, I956. Reprintedin

Hastory,ed. Patrick Gardiner, I 959.

See also his Reply to Mr. Watkins,

printedat the veryend of thatvolume.

11Historismshould not be confused

the AristotelianSociety,Supp.

Eheoriesof

with its near relative historicism:his- torism explains a phenomenon as a resultof a chain of events in the past and historicismas a link betweenpast and future events, as taking its place in the present according to History's timetable. Historism should not be

viewed as wholly or mainly a

psychologisticindividualism:its

exponentsbelongtothePlatonic(holistic) tradition.

12 It should be noted that Freud's famous theory of mass-psyche(end of TotemandTaboo)is an attemptto explain the persistenceof the (Oedipus)guilt- feelingwhichhe explainshistoricallyby assumingan event of a collectivefather- killing.It is remarkablethat Freudwas fully conscious of the methodological

part of

main

quences of that reform may

vanishingof the desirableconsequences

ofthefeudsystemwhichEvans-Pritchard to

development,through his own teach-

ings, of

which led to the rise of societiesmuch

lessguilt-riddenthanhis own.

conspiracytheory of society

social (educational) reforms

13 The

lo lStlC

.

.

has holisticversions;it is, historically,of

a

14 Durkheim,who was an inductivist, escapedthisconclusionby claimingthat

social *sholesare observable.This was pointedout by F. A. Hayek in his The Cotxnter-Revolutionof Science. l6'Ideal Typesin HistoricalExplana-

tion', TheBritishJournalforthePhilosophy

of Science,3, 9, I952,

in Readingsin

edited by H. Feige and M. Brodbeck,

N.Y., I953,

lff Mr. Watkinshas drawnmy atten- tion to the followingremarkof Talcott Parsons,in his edition of Max Weber's

.

.

Orlgln.

p.

40, reprinted

the Philosophyof Science,

74Ie

p.

TheTheoryofSocialandEconom*Organiza-

tion(I947),

whichis appendedto a note

by Weber referring to an intended

chapteron revolutions(p. 354 n.): 'no systematic account of revolutions is

available .

works'.It seernsthat Parsonsnotedthat althoughWeberwas very interestedin

socialchanges,he rarelydiscussedthem,

being

cp. ibid., p. 24. Parsonsis in favourof using more boldly holistic ideas where Weber's individualisticideas are in- applicable.

. . in Weber's published

methodologicallyhandicapped;

point was first made by

Watkinsin his in the Social

Journalfor thePhilosophyof Science,7, 30,

17 This

I957,

p.

II2

'HistoricalExplanation

Sciences', The British

n., reprintedin Theoriesof

pp.

History,ed. PatrickGardiner,I959,

509-IO

n

18 rn order to explain why people

270

JOSEPH

AGASSI

accept an institutionagainst their will one may endorseone of the following

terosuggestions.First,experiencetrans- mittedby traditionshowsthe dangerof

abolishingthem.This is an indisridualist of

solutionwhich makesholismredundant

Gellner claims that nowadaysnobody takesthis view seriously.I, on the con- trary,maintainthat most holistssooner or later assumeimplicitlythe existence

a group-spiritwhich

embracesboth

the vehiele

which carries the wisdom of abiding

the (undesired)institutionswhich

serveit.

the social itlterest and

(see Popper's 'Towards a

Rational

Theor> of

iInnual,I949).

late the existenceofsocialsub-conscious-

ness or mass-psycheor group-spirit.

Tradition', The Rationalist by

Secondly,one maypostu-

19PortraitsFromMemory,Reflections

on my EightiethBirthday.

LondonSchoolof Economics andPoliticalScience