FIVE – The Power of Social Reason

  • ONE
  • TWO
  • FOUR
  • FIVE
  • SIX
  • NINE
  • TEN

SIX – The Emergence of the Social Problem

6.1 Defining the Problem of Historical-Society
6.1.a The First Major Problematic Stage of the Monopoly of Civilization
6.1.b From Rome to Amsterdam
6.1.c Eurocentric Civilization’s Hegemonic Rule
6.2 Social Problems
6.2.a The Problem of Power and the State
6.2.b Society’s Moral and Political Problem
6.2.c Society’s Mentality Problem
6.2.d Society’s Economic Problem
6.2.e Society’s Industrialism Problem
6.2.f Society’s Ecological Problem
6.2.g Social Sexism, the Family, Women, and the Population Problem
6.2.h Society’s Urbanization Problem
6.2.i Society’s Class and Bureaucracy Problem
6.2.j Society’s Education and Health Problems
6.2.k Society’s Militarism Problem
6.2.l Society’s Peace and Democracy Problem

SEVEN – Envisaging the System of Democratic Civilization

7.1 Definition of Democratic Civilization
7.2 The Methodological Approach to Democratic Civilization
7.3 A Draft of the History of Democratic Civilization
7.4 Elements of Democratic Civilization

7.4.a Clans
7.4.b The Family
7.4.c Tribes and Aşirets
7.4.d Peoples and Nations
7.4.e Village and City
7.4.f Mentality and Economy
7.4.g Democratic Politics and Self-Defense

NINE – The Reconstruction Problems of Democratic Modernity
9.1 Civilization, Modernity, and the Problem of Crisis
9.2 The State of Anti-System Forces

9.2.a The Legacy of Real Socialism
9.2.b Reevaluating Anarchism
9.2.c Feminism: Rebellion of the Oldest Colony
9.2.d Ecology: The Rebellion of the Environment
9.2.e Cultural Movements: Tradition’s Revenge on the Nation-State
9.2.f Ethnicity and Movements of the Democratic Nation
9.2.g Religious Cultural Movements: Revival of Religious Tradition
9.2.h Urban, Local, and Regional Movements for Autonomy

The Power of Social Reason

The opportunity to resolve problems affecting society cannot be adequately evaluated if the extent of the intelligence in the human species and its connection with its own social process is not understood.1 Measuring the potential intelligence of the human species may seem a speculative endeavor from the outset, and it may even prove impossible. But if we look at the phenomenon of war in human history, which has brought our environment to the brink of total destruction, it becomes clear that we are faced with a very different intelligence. It is understood, perhaps even proven, that ecological and social destruction cannot be prevented by class analysis, economic prescriptions, political measures, or power and the state’s maximum accumulations. It is clear that this problem needs to be addressed at a more profound level.

Throughout the ages, there has been a constant focus on the power of reason. I will not be saying anything particularly new on the topic. I would just like to point out that it is more important than ever to draw attention to a certain quality of reason. The connection between reason and society is obvious. Reason cannot develop in the absence of the development of society; this is something that any ordinary observer of history will note. What really needs to be grasped is the conditions under which social existence is legitimized by reason. The environmental disaster and social destruction caused by capitalist modernity, especially by the recent domination of global financial capital, in making enormous profits using symbolic reason cannot be legitimized under any circumstances. Clearly, no form of moral, free, and political society can agree to the profiteering of symbolic reason. So how and by whom, with what mentalities and tools, were the thresholds of social legitimization shattered and destroyed? Whose role is it to rebuild, repair, and heal society in the face of the destructive power of reason? Using which intellectual guidelines and what tools can they play this role? These are vital questions that need answers.

I very much appreciate the seriousness with which Immanuel Wallerstein examines the emergence of the order he calls the capitalist world-system. I also find Fernand Braudel’s important and well thought out work on the issue extremely stimulating. Samir Amin’s analysis of capitalism, in particular in relation to the destruction of the Islamic civilizations of the Middle East, is also at times very instructive. Many thinkers treat the subject thoughtfully. A common conclusion is that the factors that paved the way for capitalism to become the dominant system are the weakness of the state tradition in Europe, the dissolution of the Church, and the devastation of Islamic civilization by Genghis Khan’s Mongolian tribes. Capitalism, likened to a lion in a cage, found an open door created by these circumstances and seized the opportunity, developed, and finally gained the upper hand, dominating Western Europe, before expanding successively throughout Europe and North America. To claim that it has now successfully completed its attack on the whole world would not be out of line. Thus, the power that was previously caged has become the ruler of the world, while the past rulers are now locked in an iron cage. Metaphorically, it has been said that society was placed in an iron cage by the Leviathan—as Max Weber famously said, capitalist modernity shut society inside an iron cage.2 This is the gruesome social picture that all famous sociologists try to describe—not openly but with feelings of guilt, in a cowardly way, almost in a whisper.

I personally see the problem in a more encompassing manner in connection with the central civilization system. I even think that the problem should be addressed in the light of the historical development of symbolic and analytical reason. In the central civilization system, analytical reason has undoubtedly taken a giant step forward. However, all civilization structures have similar impacts. Another factor, as important as the civilization factor, is how human beings learned symbolic thinking and acquired the capacity for analytical solutions. In the end, it is analytical intelligence that opened the door to civilization.

All living beings, from the most primitive to humans, the most advanced living species, operate in accordance with unfailing principles of reason. This kind of reason, which can be called natural or emotional reason, is inclined toward instincts. It is characterized by sudden reactions to stimuli. The relationship between stimuli and reactions in plants and animals is quite instructive in this regard. Plants and animals live their lives, which consist of seeking nourishment, self-preservation, and reproduction, with instinctive reason in a perfectly learned manner. The margin of error is negligible. I favor extending the topic to the field of inanimate beings. For example, if we think of our world’s gravity as an example of instinctive reason (and I do), each object, even each particle, experiences the impact of its attraction and repulsion in accordance with its strength. The possibility of escaping this impact is very limited. Only with the power of light is it possible to escape gravity’s impact. In this sense, philosophies that consider the universe to lack principles and to be idle do not satisfy me. The view that the universe moves with a certain reason is something that we very much need to consider in detail.

The strange thing about human intelligence is its ability to violate universal reason. As with the example of light, this form of intelligence (analytical intelligence) can be seen to represent human superiority. But how can we then analyze the contradiction in which this same intelligence stands in relation to the much more weighty reason of the universe, which is there for the most part? Perhaps “chaos theory,” by pursuing the order within great disorder, provides a partial explanation, given that order is impossible without chaos. It is undeniable that this approach has legitimate and useful aspects, but the problem that arises is determining where and for how long human life can be sustained in the event of social chaos (including periods of economic depression and crisis). Because there are limits to the time and place where society can endure chaotic periods, if the chaos lasts too long and there is an extreme destruction of place (ecological environment), this can easily bring the end of society. Many societies have experienced this in the past. We know that humans lived in this chaotic environment for the longue durée (98 percent of their time on earth) in primeval or very simple communities. Neolithic society and the orders of civilization amount to less than 2 percent of the total lifespan of the human species. While protracted periods of chaos have not completely ended life, the current danger is of quite a different order. There is a marked difference between chaotic periods before and after the beginning of civilization. Civilization, with its destruction of the natural environment, has dragged not only human society but all living beings to a dangerous precipice. Worse still, the capital and power at the heart of human societies has spread like cancer (excessive urbanization, a growing middle class, unemployment, increased nationalism and sexism, continuous population growth). If the current cancerous growth continues unabated, we will soon long for pre-civilization chaos. Instead of giving rise to new orders, the chaotic period that comes with this cancer may result in the death of society, and this is no exaggeration. Scientists and others who feel responsible for addressing the issue arrive at increasingly dire conclusions every day.

We might ask, “What is the relationship between these cancerous social developments and analytical intelligence?” Let’s take a closer look at this form of reason. Analytical intelligence has played a leading role that is most evident in the transition from sign language (primarily body movements) to symbolic language. Now, instead of body movements, semantic links can be established between combinations of agreed upon sounds and the phenomenon described without there being any physical or biological connection. For example, let’s focus on the eye. Even though the sounds of the word has no physical connection to the eye, all those who connect this meaning with the sound will visualize an eye when they hear the eye sound. This is how the construction of symbolic language began. Although anthropological studies connect the beginning of symbolic language with the last emigration of Homo sapiens from East Africa around fifty to sixty thousand year ago, they agree that symbolic language truly boomed in the Middle East. The developments in the Semitic and Arian language groups support this thesis.

The structure of symbolic language had a tremendous impact on thought. Getting rid of body language and thinking in words was perhaps the first of the great intellectual revolutions. This revolution accelerated the separation of the human species from the animal world and gave great impetus to the clustering of societies around established symbolic languages. Because those who share the same patterns of sound gradually formed units whose intelligence increased as they became more distinct. Symbolic languages formed the identities of societies, making a significant contribution to the Neolithic Revolution. It would have been difficult to reach this revolutionary stage with only sign language. I will not repeat here how the transition to civilization took place, as I have addressed it numerous times elsewhere. But it is useful to know that the foothills of the Zagros Mountain range and the Mesopotamian plains known as the “Fertile Crescent” were the cradle of these developments.

All of this reveals the positive impact of symbolic reason. Its drawback, however, begins with its rupture with the environment. Previous societies were societies tied to the natural environment. These societies existed in the embrace of nature that was like the relationship between mother and child. The power of symbolic thought weakened the need for that way of life, because the new society, with its own new language, named the environment and opened the way to a new approach to its use. This new way established far-reaching hegemony over the world of plants and animals. All forms of thought prior to symbolic language arose from emotional intelligence. Its most important characteristic was thinking in feelings as an indispensable component of action and reaction. It is sincere, does not lie, and knows no deceit. It is not often that we see a mother approach her child insincerely, in a lying and cunning way. The intellect of the plant and animal world works the same way. When the lion appears, we see the thinking of its prey reflected in its emotions. Neither animal deceives the other. However, with human symbolic language, cunning thoughts abound, overflowing with both lies and insincerity (and devoid of emotion). What a terrible danger this way of thinking entailed, the far-reaching destruction it would cause becoming apparent after the transition to civilization.

Analytical thought grew out of symbolic language, playing a decisive role in the accumulation of capital and power. This form of thought would become very skillful at capturing and exploiting society through the use of lies, cunning, and insincerity. To the best of our knowledge, the right and left frontal lobes of the human brain became functional in relation to the both types of intelligence. The lobe where analytical thinking occurs was the last to develop. All other parts of the body carry the traces of emotional intelligence. As analytical thought gained an edge it began to have an effect on emotional thought that bears the mark of the whole body. Gradually, this development increasingly reshaped the entire human character. Had the power of this analytical intelligence, an extraordinary development, been used positively, it could have turned the world into a place of constant celebration for humankind. But, used negatively, it made the world into hell for the overwhelming majority of people and all the other living beings. Analytical intelligence is like nuclear power—under strict control it may benefit society, but the destructive consequences of it getting out of control were witnessed in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, which was not nearly as bad as the nuclear weapons used in war. I see a danger like that of an uncontrolled nuclear explosion in analytical intelligence.

It is not, however, simply a danger; I am convinced that the society and the environment are increasingly exposed to nuclear bombardment. Even without dropping an actual nuclear bomb, the world capitalist system with its arsenal of analytical intelligence bombs has already brought society and the environment to the brink of uninhabitability.

Obviously, symbolic language and analytical thought are not inherently negative, but they offer suitable conditions for the emergence of the negative. What really sets the chain of negativity in motion is the development of capital and power apparatuses. The capital and power accumulation system that we call civilization is necessarily deceitful, fraudulent, and lacking in emotional intelligence because of what it is at its core. Apparatuses of oppression and exploitation are built on the food and safety of others. It is only natural that these instruments and their actions meet with a reaction. Maintaining capital and power is only possible in one of two ways: either by achieving legitimacy using the soft power of ideology or by force of naked violence. It is a historical fact that control has generally been exercised in these two ways. Capital and power are phenomena that can only be expanded through the use of fraud, lies, and coercion. It is precisely at this point that the main part of the mind provides the necessary conditions. We could call this the distortion and deflection effect.

When we use this paradigm to look at the history of civilization, we see that the concentration of class, urbanization, and power gives rise to an extraordinary structure of analytical thought. There are several milestones in the development of civilization. The original civilizations, which emerged in the Sumerian and Egyptian societies of the fourth millennium BCE, built extraordinary structures of analytical thought that continue to enchant us today. All the intellectual frameworks developed throughout the history of the central civilization show traces of these two civilizations. Many examples of social activity that carries the imprint of civilization, from mathematics to biology, writing to philosophy, religion to the arts, can be seen in their original form in these two civilizations. During the Greco-Roman stage, civilization was further enriched and advanced by the forms of analytical intelligence that already existed within its structure. Analytical thought reached its peak during the European Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment, which developed in the wake of the brief Islamic Renaissance.

Of course, in all these historical processes the contributions of other civilizations, especially the Chinese and Indian civilizations, should not be overlooked. The five-thousand-year-old civilization, by its logic, can be seen as the sum of the metaphysical forms that grew like a huge tumor detached from the dialectic of life. All developments that reflect the enormous scale of capital and power accumulation, in all structures from architecture to music to literature, from physics to sociology, from mythology to religion, from philosophy to science, are what is seen as history. Wars, these terrible exhibits of military plunder, are the foundation of this civilization. Reason that builds on this foundation is in reality nothing but the greatest unreason. A function of ideological hegemony is to conceal this unreason, this criminal reason, this bellicose reason, this deceitful and fraudulent reason—in short, the reason of the accumulation of capital and power—and to turn it upside down, to sanctify and deify it. If we carefully examine all the templates of analytical thought, forms of belief, and the arts that have developed over the course of the history of civilization, it will not be difficult to pinpoint evidence to the criticisms offered here.

Only in the light of these historical facts, can we make sense of how the capitalist monster (Hobbes’s Leviathan) got out of its cage. I must strongly emphasize that more than the weaknesses of the sixteenth century were involved in this monster’s escape.

I would like to conclude this section with an evaluation of the reality of women in relation to this issue. No doubt feminist movements have contributed significantly to uncovering women’s reality. But I am convinced that feminist studies are mostly carried out in an environment where male reason rules. It is all highly reformist, and it is vital that this issue be approached radically, i.e., at its roots.

Biological research elucidates the position of women as the root of human species. It is not women but men who broke off from the trunk. Women’s emotionality stems from the fact that they do not deviate to any great degree from the universal dialectic of becoming. That women have been kept at the lowest level, especially during the period of civilization, has contributed to maintaining the structure they find themselves in until today. Women’s emotionally charged reason has always been presented as “inadequate” by male reason, and an effort is made to portray this “inadequacy” as essential to women’s character. Male reason has conducted and continues to carry out a number of major operations on women.

The first of these operations was to make women the original house slave. This process involved terrible intimidation, oppression, rape, insults, and massacres. The role assigned to women was to reproduce the “offspring” required by the property-based system. Dynastic rule was very much bound to offspring. In this system, women were rendered absolute property. They were the property of and an honor for their owner to such a degree that they were not even allowed to show their faces to others.

Second, women were turned into sex objects. In all of nature, sexuality is related to reproduction. Its purpose is the continuation of life. Especially with the captivity of women, and most predominantly during the process of civilization, the main role given to men was sex and the distorted development and explosion of sexual desire. While the mating season for animals is quite limited (often once a year), men strive to extend it to a twenty-four-hour-a-day preoccupation in humans. Nowadays, women have been turned into an instrument of sex and sexual desire and a locus where the exercise of power is constantly tested on. The separation between homes, whether private or public (the brothel),3 has become pointless, because every place is considered a home and brothel, and each woman a private and public woman.

Third, women have been reduced to unpaid and unreciprocated laborers. They are made to do all the heavy work. Their reward is being obliged to become a little more “inadequate.” They have been humiliated so much that they have actually accepted their extreme “inadequacy” in comparison to men. They therefore wholeheartedly embrace the male hand and male domination.

Fourth, women have been turned into the most refined of commodities. Marx calls money “the queen of commodities.”4 In fact, under capitalism, it is women who play this role. In the capitalist system the real queen of commodities is the woman. There is not a single relationship in which women are not on offer nor an area where they are not used. One difference is that although every commodity has an accepted remuneration, the remuneration women receive consists of nothing more than complete disrespect, including that brazen lack of shame called “love” and the nonsense that a “mother’s work can never be repaid.”

Civilization has turned reason into a monster: the reason of a great many tricks, lies, the horror of war, and ideological distortion; in short, a reason that destroys society and the environment, an analytical reason that only makes hollow speeches. If men, who possess this reason, find the treatment of women, without whom they say they cannot live, acceptable, then what would they not do to human society or the environment!? Stopping this form of reason is only possible if, to begin with, the social morality and politics that it has destroyed regain their place. Better said; this must be the basis for a new beginning. The sheer scale of analytical reason and the role it plays in all this negativity is a further demonstration of the urgent need to build the system of democratic civilization.

Reason must be accorded its true value. Social reason is a fact. Society itself is the area where reason is concentrated. There is no point in feeling hopeless. There is another voice that flows from all that is holy and says, “I have given you reason, do not use it not for evil but for good. Then you will get everything you need.” We should really hear and understand this voice. The voice of conscience, also called society’s common sense, and the indispensable voice of morality say the same thing, as does the voice that wants to make the art of freedom—or social politics—heard and fulfill its promise. Democratic politics is the practical implementation of what this voice expresses. The system of democratic civilization is the theory of this voice.

In the following sections we want to look at the concrete sources of this voice (a voice born out of the collaboration of analytical and emotional intelligence) and illuminate the solutions it offers.


1 The author uses the terms reason (akıl) and intelligence (zekâ) in this section alternately and often synonymously, at least not sharply delineated from each other. The reader should take this into account when reading.

2 Max Weber has used the term stahlhartes Gehäuse (hardened steel casing), translated as “iron cage,” to describe the increased rationalization inherent in social life; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003).

3 This is a Turkish play on words. In Turkish genelev euphemistically means a brothel and literally means a public house whereas özelev means a private home and refers to the family household.

4 See, for example, Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, (London: Pelican Books, 1976), 187: “The riddle of the money fetish, is therefore the riddle of the commodity fetish, now become visible and dazzling to our eyes.”

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