Duality: The Third ApproachIn: M.L.W. Hall, Ed., Proceeding of The Fortieth Annual Meeting of The International Society for The Systems Sciences (ISSS), Louisville, July 14-19, 1996 (235-246).
Following the "activity approach”, this paper interprets duality as a result of the application of the logical norms of opposition which are basic for philosophical and theoretical thought in most cultures. Aristotle should be credited with the first description of these norms. This paper illustrates the effectiveness of the norms by applying them to conceptual problems of “norm” and “deviance” in social sciences. Keywords: duality, opposition, norm, types of deviance, actualization, structural standards, activity fact.
Duality has been characterized as a fundamental general systems isomorphy (Troncale and Voorhees, 1983). Two major approaches to duality were introduced: the naturalistic and the subjectivistic. The naturalistic approach argues that duality is an objective relationship common to various systems studied by the natural sciences (Troncale, 1985). The subjectivistic approach argues that all duality is a mental illusion projected onto an illusory external world (Voorhees, 1985). The values of both approaches are supported by millennia of respective philosophical traditions.
Even though it seems that the naturalistic and subjectivistic approaches oppose each other, they do not constitute duality of the objective and subjective. The reason is the "activity approach" that this paper follows. The activity approach asserts that duality is a form of conceptual representation according to the logical norms of opposition. Opposition is a basic norm for philosophical and theoretical thought in most cultures. Being objective, the activity approach opposes subjectivism. Being an activity approach, it opposes naturalism (Shchedrovitsky, 1966; 1975). The subjectivistic view of duality as mental illusion reflects the fact that opposition is a norm and not a natural, i.e. inevitable, law of thinking. The naturalistic view of duality as a fundamental characteristic of the world reflects the effectiveness of opposition for developing theories representing empirical data of natural sciences with acceptable precision.
The logical norm of opposition also has a two-millennia tradition. Reviewing views of his predecessors, Aristotle concludes: "And nearly all thinkers agree that being and substance are composed of contraries; at least all name contraries as their first principles..." (Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book IV, 1004b, 29-31). Aristotle should be credited with the first description of the norms of opposition, or norms of defining "opposites", or "contraries." Aristotle identifies four types of opposites and discusses them in several of his works.
Following the activity approach, this paper interprets opposition as an act of introduction of a theoretical concept. This means that opposition should be treated at least in two different ways: (1) as a process, or procedure of conceptual opposing; and (2) as a conceptual structure resulting from the procedure. Accordingly, I reinterpret the four Aristotelian types of opposites as the results of four respective stages of the opposition procedure. Below the act of opposition will be illustrated using concepts of “norm” and “deviance.”
Norms in Social Sciences and in the Activity Approach
The concept of norm is central to both the social sciences and the activity approach. "The terms norm and normative are favorites in all of social science. They appear as explanatory concepts in discussion of almost every topic." (J. Jackson, 1988, p. 123). The concept of norm also plays a prominent, if not a central, role in the activity approach (Shchedrovitsky, 1975; Genisaretsky 1967).
The notion of norm is considered from three different perspectives in the activity approach, sociology, and social psychology. The activity approach treats norms as the only determinants of human acts and all objects involved in the acts. If the act or the result of an act corresponds to the norm, it is called a social object. Thus every social object is a realization of some social norm (Genisaretsky, 1967). G. Shchedrovitsky (1966) characterized the relationship of norm-realization as a main relationship in human activity. I prefer more process-oriented terms of activity fact and actualization (realization in action), respectively. The relationship norm-actualization is also a universal relationship in the approach's ontology of self-reproduction of activity. Norms belong to the sphere of "culture", while acts and the entities involved in them (people, things, symbols, etc.) belong to the sphere of mass activity (Shchedrovitsky, 1966). Actualization of the cultural norms by mass activity is the essence of self-reproduction of activity.
While sociology is focused on the norm in its relationship to deviance and social control (Gibbs, 1990), social psychology is focused on the norm in its relationship to conformity and social influence (Jackson, 1988). Despite this difference, definitions of norm and deviance used in social psychology resemble ones used in sociology (Gibbs, 1990, p. 489).
Except in a few studies on human error, the relationship norm-deviation is not used in the activity approach. The need for such a concept is apparent. The abstraction that all acts always correspond to the norms is too strong, too far from everyday life, and, therefore, is not very useful in applications. Unfortunately, the concepts of norm and deviance cannot be borrowed from the social sciences because of their logical and methodological deficiencies. Because of the deficiencies, even in social sciences, the concept of norm "has remained peripheral to the main body of theory and research." (J. Jackson, 1988, p. 110). Characterizing the deficiencies as "horrendous", J. Gibbs suggests that, "Given the foregoing litany of seemingly insoluble problems, the only solution is to abandon the notion of norms when formulating theories or conducting research..." (Gibbs, 1990, p. 488). Following the norm of opposition, this paper attempts to repair the traditional concepts of norm and deviance for the future use in the activity approach.
Stage 1: Introduction of related empirical notions
Plato (Phaedrus, 265D) describes the first step of introducing a theoretical concept as "the taking in of scattered particulars under one idea, so that everyone understands what is being talked about." We use "activity fact" as such an idea, interpreting it as an act, result of an act, or any entity involved in an act in their relationships with the corresponding norms. Because our intention is to extend the concept of activity fact so that it will include not only normal acts, but deviant ones as well, we will consider deviant acts under the same idea.
We start with two typical definitions of norms, the first made by sociologists and the second by a social psychologist:
... any standard or rule that states what human beings should or should not think, say, or do under given circumstances (Blake and Davis, 1964, p. 456).
The term norm became accepted in social psychology to refer to accepted standards of social conduct, definitions of correct judgment and appropriate activity or attitude (J. Jackson, 1988, p. 123).
Social sciences are not the only areas where the concept of norm, or standard, is used. Although under different names, laws, organizational procedures and policies, work standards, task descriptions, safety restrictions, product specifications, and alike play the same role as norms, i.e., prescribe what ought to be done and/or proscribe what ought not to be done. Acts and their results that correspond to norms and those that violate norms should be tentatively considered under the idea of activity fact. Law obedience and criminal activities, politeness and rudeness, adhering to and violation of organizational procedures, clean air and water and air pollution exceeding safety limits, correct performance of a human-operator and errors, good and poor product quality, timely and late deliveries, and so on, are “tentative” activity facts.
Four Types of Opposites
Plato suggests that after "scattered particulars" are introduced, the next step is "the separation of the idea into parts, by dividing it at the joints, as nature directs, not breaking any limb in half as a bad carver might." (Plato, Phaedrus, 265E). Aristotle specifies the "division" of ideas as opposition and "parts" as principles and shows that for every idea, or theoretical concept, there can be only one pair of principles (Metaphysics, Book 10, 1055a, 19-22). He also identifies four ways of opposition:
Things are said to be opposed to one another in four ways: as relatives or as contraries or as privation and possession or as affirmation and negation. Examples of things thus opposed (to give a rough idea) are: as relatives, the double and the half; as contraries, the good and the bad; as privation and possession, blindness and sight; as affirmation and negation, he is sitting--he is not sitting (Aristotle, Categories, 11b, 18-22).
As was mentioned above, we interpret the four ways of opposition as four logical stages which follow the above first stage. Together, they constitute a five-stage standard procedure of introduction of a theoretical concept: (1) introduction of related empirical notions; (2) identification of state and privation; (3) definition of contraries; (4) establishment of relationships; and (5) identification of contradictories.
Stage 2: Identification of State (Possession) and Privation
“The primary contrariety is that between state and privation, not every privation, however (for ‘privation’ has several meanings), but that which is complete" (Metaphysics, 1055a, 33-35). The following definitions of norms suggest that state versus privation can be specified as propriety versus impropriety attributed to human acts:
All societies have rules or norms specifying appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and individuals are rewarded or punished as they conform to or deviate from the rules (Broom and Selznick, 1963, p. 68).
The distinction between the everyday term normal, in the sense of typical or average, and the terms norm and normative, to imply propriety or impropriety, is recognized by most social psychologists (J. Jackson, 1988, p. 123).
All definitions of norms as standards of ought and ought not fit the opposition of propriety and impropriety. The same is true of the two most popular empirically-oriented definitions of norms, evaluations and sanctions. The third, statistical definition which equates a norm with average or typical behavior, does not fit the opposition and thus should be considered inappropriate.
In spirit, the "labeling theory" also fits the propriety-impropriety opposition. The labeling theory attempts to identify deviance independently of norm: "deviant behavior is behavior that people so label" (Becker, 1963, p. 9). Examples of such labels are "nut", "pervert", "loony", “crook,” and "hooker". It is implied that the labels reflect inappropriate behavior. By the same token, people can label behavior as "good citizen", "hard worker", or "pleasant", which reflects propriety.
Stage 3: Definition of Contraries
At the next stage, the concepts should be opposed as "contraries." And "it has been shown that contraries, though they are completely different, are in the same genus. ... Hence, all contraries differ as to species, not as to genus and are of the same category." (Aristotle, Metaphysics, X, 8, 1058a, 10). In social sciences, deviance most often is defined as behavior contrary to the norm. Therefore, to oppose norm and deviance as contraries, one must determine the genus, or categorical basis, common to both members of the opposition.
Unfortunately, social scientists have failed to identify a common genus of norm and deviance and much confusion related to the concepts has resulted from this failure. Indeed, norms are typically characterized as standards, rules, statements, or expectations of behavior, or modal representations of behavior. At the same time, deviance is characterized as behavior contrary to a norm. In this definition, the term “behavior” can be misleading. It may mean a particular behavior or an act, and is used with this meaning by the label theorists (Gibbs, 1990, p. 491). With such interpretation of “behavior”, norms and deviance clearly belong to different genera: norm to modal representation of behavior and deviance to behavior itself. Gibbs suggests a more meaningful approach:
... behavior may denote either a particular act or a type of act, and the distinction is crucial. ... norms pertain to types of acts, and a particular act is deviant if, and only if, it is an instance of a type contrary to a norm (Gibbs, 1990, p. 491)
If we follow Gibbs’ suggestion we should rectify the contrariety as opposition of norm and types of deviance. Now the opposites belong to the same genus, or category of “types of acts.” However, even if “types of acts” is interpreted as representations of acts, the imperative modality of the representation is missing.
The practical concepts of law, medicine, organization, and engineering give a clue to what genus, or category norms and types of deviance belong. Every label, such as "nut", "pervert", "loony", or "rape" is used as a standard, according to which a particular act is identified. Applied to a particular act, "nut" means one type of deviance, and "pervert" means another type. Similarly in law, "murder" means one crime as a type of deviance and "theft" means another crime. Criminal law has precise definitions of different crimes, according to which the accused are charged, tried, judged, and sentenced, i.e., which are used as standards in judicial process. Medical definitions of diseases are the standards against which a particular illness is diagnosed and then treated. In human factors engineering, error taxonomies provide reference types of errors which are used as standards according to which particular errors are identified.
Similarly, in relation to particular acts, norms and types of deviance play the role of standards: norms are standards for appropriate acts, or standards to follow, while types of deviance are standards according to which particular inappropriate acts are identified. Thus norms and types of deviance belong to the same genus of standard and, therefore, can be opposed as contraries upon the categorical basis of standard. The concept of standard retains the imperative modality of representation of appropriate and inappropriate types of acts.
Stage 4: Establishment of Relationships
The distinction between a particular deviant act and type of deviance permits the generalization of the notions of actualization and activity fact. According to the previous definition of activity fact, only an appropriate act in its relationship with a norm can be considered an activity fact. This definition denies deviant acts the status of activity facts which constitutes a mistake pointed out by Aristotle. If we use the Aristotelian terms, standards (norms and types of deviance) and activity facts (acts actualizing the standards) are opposed as "relative terms" of different genera. And "... in the case of relative terms, see if the species is rendered as relative to a species of that to which the genus is rendered as relative... For if it is not so rendered, clearly a mistake has been made." (Aristotle, Topics, 147a, 23-28).
Acknowledgment that types of deviance are standards along with norms corrects the error. Now, any performance of an act, appropriate or inappropriate, correct or incorrect, is an actualization of some standard, a norm or a type of deviance. Norm normalizes a normal act, while a type of deviance identifies a deviant act. Now both, a normal act in relationship to its norm and a deviant act in relationship to a type of deviance constitute activity facts. It is similar to supplementing Plato’s ideas with ideas of all deviations from the ideas, so every thing in "this world" would correspond either to an idea or to an “idea of a deviation from an idea”.
This generalization of activity fact expands the subject matter from norms and deviance taken separately to standards which are comprised of norm and all types of deviance from the norm. In order to represent standards for a particular act, one must not only describe the act's norm, but also all types of deviance from the norm which are relevant for a practical problem on hand.
Stage 5: Identification of Contradictories
At the final stage, the concepts should be opposed as contradictories. In the case of norms and deviance, this means that every particular act should have one and only one normative status: either of a normal act or of a deviant one (following Metaphysics, 1057a, 33-35). Unfortunately, the definitions of norm and deviance in social sciences do not fit this requirement.
Social norms are defined either as evaluations or as sanctions. Evaluations are should or should not statements, while sanctions are actual rewards and punishments attached to particular behaviors (Labovitz, 1977, p.39).
This suggests that it is possible that the same act is normal and deviant at the same time: It is normal because it conforms to a norm, and deviant because it happens to be punished. It appears that the contradiction reflects the empirical world of everyday life where normal acts are not necessarily rewarded and deviant acts are not necessarily punished.
One way to avoid contradiction is to retain the evaluations definition and reject the sanctions one, or vice versa. For example, the following Homans’ definition does not include sanctions:
A norm is a statement made by a number of members of a group, not necessarily by all of them, that the members ought to behave in a certain way in certain circumstances (Homans, 1961, p. 46).
Following Homans, “most sociologists conceive of norms as collective evaluations of conduct rather than as the modal behavior of a group” (Gibbs, 1990, p. 504).
Although in such a way the contradiction is avoided, it poses another problem. As standards, norms get their imperative modality from sanctions.
Sanctions are positive or negative reactions to behavior that attempt to alter that behavior, or to increase or decrease its frequency... People receive physical or psychological rewards and punishments for their behavior, which encourages or discourages them from acting in a similar way in the future (Labovitz, 1977, p. 9).
Without sanctions, norms would lose their imperative modality and could not function as standards. Speed violation is a good example. Even if a majority of the occurrences of speeding go unpunished, those which are punished maintain the speed limit restrictions as standards. The purpose of police “drives” against speeding is not to punish a few more offenders, but rather to maintain the law. This crucial role of sanctions in maintenance of standards suggests that they should be a part of the definition of the standards.
Another way to avoid the above contradiction between evaluations and sanctions is to follow the labeling theory and reject the evaluation definition along with the concept of norms. J. Gibbs summarizes this position as following:
...whether a particular act is deviant depends not on its typification (for example, rape, suicide) and reference to a related norm but instead on actual reactions to the act" (Gibbs, 1990, p.491).
M. Polner (1974) has shown that such a view can be advanced only due to mixing the “sociological” labeling model with the common sense view and thus, actually, using the concept of norm as evaluations. Gibbs points out that: “The labels denote types of behavior that numerous members of some English-speaking social units ostensibly disapprove, and that answer reintroduces the normative conception of deviance.” Labeling theorists Cullen and Cullen (1978) concede: “Deviant labels are definitions that announce (correctly or incorrectly) that a behavior or person has violated the norm of a group.”
The third approach to avoid contradiction between evaluations and sanctions is to use both definitions conjunctively. For example, a deviant act can be defined as contrary to a norm and reacted to punitively (Shur, 1971, p. 24). The main argument against this approach is that it is counterfactual. In response, Gibbs concludes: “Nothing akin such illustrative definitions will resolve the issue, and more problems are created than avoided” (Gibbs, 1990).
My solution to this problem is the following. Definition of norm and type of deviance as standards require sanctions to be a part of the definition to support the imperative modality of the standards. As part of the standards definition, sanctions themselves should be interpreted as imperative modal statements, i.e. as norms of response. For the concept of norm and deviance, it is not important that in the real world normal acts sometimes are punished or deviant ones are rewarded. What is important is that according to the norms of response, normal acts ought to be rewarded and deviant ones ought to be punished. Also, for specific norms and types of deviance, the norms of response prescribe corresponding specific rewards and punishments. Violations from such prescriptions should be considered as deviance and should be negatively sanctioned.
The argument that this is an abstract theoretical statement that does not correspond to everyday reality, where injustice is common, misses the point. In the activity perspective, the theoretical statement of justice is not a description of reality, but a prescription for practical action. Particular unjust sanctions should be identified as deviant and ought to be resisted and punished appropriately. One who does not resist should not cry injustice: abstention from resistance is a deviant act and is itself unjust. (The activity approach was developed in the Soviet Union by the semi-underground Moscow Methodological Seminar during 50s-70s when physical resistance to the terrorist Soviet State was impossible. The mission of the seminar was defined by its members as intellectual resistance by means of developing and disseminating a philosophical and methodological alternative to Marxism. The activity approach was a result.)
The norm associated with the norm of appropriate positive sanction and types of deviance associated with the norms of corresponding negative sanctions can be identified and opposed as contradictories. Indeed, now every act can have one and only one normative status. It is either a normal act, which ought to be rewarded, or a deviant act, which ought to be punished. The opposition of contradictories further expands the notion of activity fact. By associating standards of acts with norms of responses, it puts every act in the context of social interaction.
Structural Standards and Social Interaction
We have completed the five-stage procedure of introduction of a theoretical concept using norm and deviance as an example. The procedure resulted in a conceptual system comprised of concepts of norm, type of deviance, norms of social responses, and activity facts and such relationships as sanctioning and different types of opposition. Such system can be viewed as a structural model of an ideal object (Shchedrovitsky, 1975). In our case, such an ideal object is an activity fact--social interaction actualizing the appropriate standards.
Figure 1. Model of structural standard.
The standards of acts and responses function in several activity processes not in isolation, but as structural units--structural standards (Figure 1). Structural standards are the smallest normative units, which are formed historically, culturally transmitted, and internalized by individuals during the socialization process; or purposefully constructed, communicated to the appropriate agencies, and learned by individuals during the organizational socialization and training. Structural standards are also the smallest normative units which regulate social interaction mediating a pro-act performed by actor-1 and a social response, or a re-act performed by actor-2 (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Activity Fact Model.
Conclusion: Problems with Duality and Opposition
Although the concept of structural standard solves some logical problems of the traditional concepts of norm and deviance, it has a major problem of its own. As a theoretical model constructed by opposition, it is too abstract to fit empirical facts and to be applied to practical problems.
For example, state-privation and contradiction oppositions do not permit intermediaries. This means that acts are either normal or deviant and actors interact as "cultural and judgmental dopes" (Garfinkel, 1967). Their acts are inevitably standard and they respond to the acts of each other only by reward or punishment. At the same time, in everyday life, not all normal acts are rewarded: One is not rewarded for conforming with the commandment "don't kill." Not all deviance is punished: folkways are very permissive norms (Summer, 1906). Typically, people cooperate, exchanging productive acts leading to the achievement of a common goal, rather than spending all their time rewarding or punishing each other.
In the model of structural standard, all four types of opposition of norms and deviance are congruent, i.e. correspond to each other. For example, opposition of norm and types of deviance correspond to opposition of appropriate and inappropriate. At the same time, in the actual world, it is possible that out-of-date organizational procedures do not correspond to the changed environment, so what is normal is not necessarily appropriate. In this case, we deal with propriety-normality incongruence. This and other incongruences may trigger the change of the standards until the next congruent state is achieved.
Being part of culture, standards play the role of blueprints for social interaction, but these blueprints often are “drawn in blurred lines” (Jackson, 1988) only “setting limits within which individuals may seek alternate ways to achieve their goals” (Broom and Selznick, 1963). Usually the alternative ways are determined via normative processes of negotiations and coordination. (Jackson, 1988).
To be able to account for the above and many other empirical facts, the model of structural standard should be made more concrete. It should be unfolded beyond the level of opposition to accommodate intermediaries between norm and deviance. But attempting such an unfolding of the model, one should remember "that intermediaries are all in the same genus, that they are intermediate between contraries, and that they are all composed of the contraries" (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1057b, 33-34). If one chooses to develop a new theoretical model, one must answer the following questions: (1) in the real world, what type of standards fit between norm and deviance; (2) how such intermediate standards can be composed of norms and types of deviance; (3) how such questions can be reconciled with the principle that contradictory opposites accept no intermediaries; and (4) what type of theoretical model can be developed on the basis of opposition, or what is beyond duality? Aristotle answered all this questions and made a step beyond duality, which can be characterized as "cross-attribution" of opposites. But this is a topic for another paper.
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