Compared to usual, the 2020 Lunar New Year seems to come a little earlier. In previous years, it seems that the Spring Festival will not be celebrated until mid-February, but this time it will be around late January. Every year when the semester ends and the Lunar New Year has not yet arrived, it is the happiest time for teachers. The operation of the school has finally slowed down. After correcting the student test papers, the last remaining period of time is truly my own. At this time, many teachers will choose to travel and vacation, and more teachers will choose homestay to concentrate on reading or writing. In the past seven or eight years, I have mainly used this time to translate “Society of Society” by German sociologist Luhmann. When I finally got the time coupon I left for myself every year, I really felt a sense of inexplicable excitement. Over the years, I spent every summer and winter time coupons on this matter. Now that the translation is almost over, the dawn has already appeared, of course there will be an inexplicable restlessness in my heart.
When I reluctantly ended the translation, Wuhan broke out the new crown epidemic. Later, the domestic epidemic situation has improved, but the large-scale spread and outbreak of the epidemic worldwide has also made the domestic epidemic prevention and control situation very complicated. The new semester seems to have fallen through, so I took advantage of this time to continue to translate and proofread the book “Social Society”. Throughout the first half of 2020, from the end of the New Year’s Day holiday, I spent most of my time translating and proofreading this book of social theory, which is about 700,000 words. Unconsciously, the process of translating and proofreading “Society of Society” was mixed with observation and thinking about the epidemic, which gave rise to some very special feelings. On the one hand, the observation of the epidemic has deepened my understanding of Luhmann’s social system theory. On the other hand, Luhmann’s theory has given me a deeper understanding of the structural causes of the epidemic and its possible profound consequences. .
As a person studying Luhmann in China, whether he meets Luhmann researchers in Europe or Chinese scholars, one of the more frequently asked questions is how to treat the functional differentiation of Chinese society. This question actually contains two questions: the first is the question of fact judgment, that is, what is the state of contemporary Chinese society? Some people often regard traditional Chinese society as a society of total governance, that is, a society that integrates politics, morals, economy, and law. After the reform and opening up, although many changes have taken place in Chinese society, the overall characteristics of the society do not seem to have undergone substantial changes. The second is the correlation between Luhmann’s theory and Chinese reality. If there is no functional differentiation in Chinese society, and Luhmann’s sociology revolves around functional differentiation, then what is the relevance of Luhmann’s theory to China?
Although the important empirical basis of Luhmann’s social system theory is European modernity experience and tradition, Luhmann himself has repeatedly stated in different works that the situation in China is not consistent with his discourse on the functional differentiation of modern society. Mann’s social system theory is a generalized theory in itself, even applicable to itself. Taking the almost 700,000-character Luhmann masterpiece I just translated, the real discussion of the reality of the division of European social functions at the “factual” level is mainly the first part, which accounts for only one-fifth of the book. Starting from the second chapter of the book, the focus of Luhmann’s observation and thinking is no longer on functional differentiation as a fait accompli, but has turned to evolutionary theory to consider a problem, that is: from the perspective of evolutionary theory, The functional differentiation of modern society represented by Western European societies is actually a highly difficult thing to achieve. It is like if some kind of extraterrestrial intelligent creature stood and predicted the evolution of the earth five billion years ago, it would be almost impossible. Imagine that the earth will look like this five billion years from now. Even at that time, no higher alien creatures would have imagined that the earth could evolve into humans. However, such a highly difficult thing to achieve has now become the normal state of the earth. So, in terms of evolutionary theory, how can all these highly difficult things become so highly possible and normalized? This is the core problem consciousness of evolution theory.
If we continue the perspective of social evolution just now, we must remind ourselves that evolution often brings many unexpected endings, and individual humans in the process of evolution are often like frogs at the bottom of a well, and cannot really see the cunningness of historical evolution. . Just imagine, how can those people who lived more than 40 years ago think of today’s China and the world like this?
At present, China has initially possessed the characteristics of a super large-scale stranger society, and at the same time there is a trend of functional differentiation and de-differentiation. Therefore, it is at the so-called “gateway” of the social evolution theory, and “transition” constitutes its general characteristics. Whether it is the semantics of old China or the semantics of old Europe, we have encountered fundamental difficulties in observing, describing, and analyzing Chinese society in the current transition period. Luhmann’s theory of social systems provides us with a view of the current special stage of Chinese social evolution. The “transformation” feature of the company prepares important concepts, methods and possibilities. Therefore, using Luhmann’s system theory to observe and study the possibility of social evolution in China’s transition phase is of special significance for the study of Chinese issues and the further development of Luhmann’s social system theory.
The Chinese first understood Darwin’s theory of evolution through Yan Fu’s translation, so they like to translate Evolution into evolution, which gives this concept a distinctive progressive color. At the same time, as pointed out by Pu Jiamin, the author of “China and Darwin”, there is a 40-year time difference between Darwinian era in China and Darwinian era in Europe and America. Therefore, when the Chinese came into contact with evolution theory through Yan Fu’s translation He was unconsciously influenced by the popular British philosopher Spencer’s social Darwinism at the time, and often understood social evolution as a process of “survival of the fittest”.
However, from the perspective of Darwin’s original intention and the mainstream of evolution theory, evolution does not have any fixed historical laws. Instead, it is a variety of “accidents” and “deviations” that play a more critical role in the process of evolution. effect. The process of evolution is more like a process of constant bifurcations and deviations, and some deviations in the bifurcations are continuously strengthened and stabilized during the evolution process, thus deviating more and more from the original intention. In fact, the evolution formula proposed by Darwin, that is, variation-choice-re-stabilization, is still considered correct today and is recognized and upheld by the mainstream of contemporary evolution theory. This is also the main reason why the mainstream theory of contemporary evolution theory is called Neo-Darwinism. In the evolutionary view of survival of the fittest, the choice in Darwin’s evolution formula is understood to be a choice made by the environment. The winner of the competition among organisms survives through the choice of the environment, and the weak are eliminated. This understanding is also very problematic. In the long history of evolution, in fact, many higher and more complex creatures have been eliminated, but many lower creatures survive longer. Otherwise, in the nature we now live in, there will be no low-level life such as bacteria and insects.
Therefore, the choice in the evolution formula may have a deeper meaning not the choice of the environment, but the choice of the internal operation of the system relative to the environment. More precisely, this is the selection of various deviating factors in the system. This means that the social system must form a space for the various possibilities of the occurrence of mutations and a mechanism for the selection of mutations. In other words, the occurrence of various accidental factors can be absorbed and internalized by the social system through this selection mechanism. As long as the mutation factor is selected, and once selected, it can be continuously repeated in the operation of society, thereby continuously being amplified and strengthened, so that the originally highly impossible things become more possible, and finally become sparse The possibility of ordinary things. In this process, the more important role of the environment is not elimination, but the maximum tolerance of variation and deviation factors. Just like the current operation of human society, the damage to the environment is enormous, but the environment still tolerates the operation of human society to the maximum. If we follow the viewpoint of natural selection and survival of the fittest, then the human society should be eliminated and extinct by the environment.
In this regard, the occurrence of various accidental factors often means the production of various mutations and deviating factors, and these mutations and deviating factors often mean the generation of new options for the future. From the perspective of evolution, these new options are actually opportunities provided in the evolution process. Whether it is the evolution of biology or the evolution of human society, it is the use of the evolutionary opportunities and possibilities brought about by these variations and deviations. Of course, not every mutation and deviation will necessarily bring about such an evolutionary effect. But as long as these factors of variation and deviation can be tolerated, it will not completely disappear. Then this opportunity and possibility can be stored. Then once the evolution occurs to a certain stage, these factors of variation and deviation can be reused. In evolutionary theory, this situation is called evolutionary pre-adaptation. For example, money was invented at a very early stage in human history. However, the modern market mechanism that uses currency as a medium was formed at a fairly recent time in the evolution of human society. Because the formation of the currency medium is only a necessary condition for the modern market economy mechanism, but it is not yet a sufficient condition for its evolution. But once the currency and other conditions formed by the modern market economic mechanism are combined under special historical conditions, a market mechanism of modern significance will eventually be formed. In short, the reason why human society can continue to evolve and finally form today’s situation, its real power mechanism may lie in the use of evolutionary opportunities provided by various accidental factors. A truly healthy nature and society often have both unchanged parts and highly active and changing parts. The key is that each biological individual has made its own choices, so in fact, they have made their own choices in different directions. My own attempts have formed the “ecological diversity” of the meaning of the population, and finally enhanced the possibility of survival and adaptation of the organism in the meaning of the population.
Such an evolutionary theory may not be consistent with the feeling of life formed in people’s daily lives. Just like this new crown epidemic, perhaps it is just a purely accidental event. Although we currently feel that it has had a huge impact on our lives, in the end, from the long-term evolutionary history, it may be nothing more than the history of mankind. It’s just one wave, or in other words, it’s just a larger wave without any long-term evolutionary effect. I believe that at least many people hope so. For example, many people will use the experience of the SARS epidemic in 2002 to view this incident-that epidemic was quickly extinguished. Although a certain price was paid, the economy rebounded rapidly afterwards, the impact of the epidemic was minimized, and people’s lives It also quickly returned to normal, so for most people, SARS became an episode in their lives. Even now, many people may still have such a strong idea in their hearts that the epidemic will pass quickly, and then everything in our lives will return to normal.
But in terms of evolution, there is indeed the possibility that it is not just a purely accidental event that disappears immediately after an occurrence, but a mutation and deviation that can bring about new choices in evolution. The generation of factors. If these variations and deviation possibilities are selected, it may be able to bring new directions and possibilities for social evolution.
The society is always full of all kinds of fear and hostility to the various deviation phenomena that are occurring, to the various mutation factors that escape from the sidelines. Various social mechanisms always take the elimination of various deviations and variations as their responsibility. Under this general social psychology, eliminating ambiguity and maintaining stability seems to be the underlying logic of consensus among various social mechanisms.
But if we step out of this static, ontological truth and meaning of the universe, and regard the entire universe and the world as a universe and world full of various complexities and couplings, then whether it is the evolution of the universe and the world , Or during the evolution of the human world, various deviating and mutating factors are universal and cannot be completely eliminated at all. From the principle of social evolution, even in a society that is governed by a totality, it is impossible to block and suppress any choices made by everyone. As long as there are all kinds of ever-changing life situations, everyone will make their own choices based on their own life situations. In these choices, there will always be the possibility of deviation from the norm. Once faced with various ambiguities that cannot be eliminated and suppressed, traditional social mechanisms can only choose to ignore it.
Under these traditional social mechanisms, all deviations and mutations are finally divided into three categories: (1) those that can be suppressed and eliminated; (2) those that cannot be eliminated and suppressed, but can be concealed and ignored; (3) ) Can neither be eliminated and suppressed, nor can it be concealed and ignored. Of course, these three categories are not absolute, but can be transformed into each other. For example, although the first type has been suppressed and eliminated for a short period of time, if the soil and various incentives that prompted it to produce have not disappeared, it will produce the effect of “wildfire burns endlessly and spring breeze blows again”. What has been eliminated and suppressed will eventually be transformed, so that it will be transformed and resurrected in another form. At the same time, although those phenomena that cannot be eliminated and suppressed, but can be avoided by neglecting them for the time being, after a period of accumulation and evolution, they may eventually evolve into the third category and eventually burst out. Of course, even the third type, after crisis management, may be transformed into the first or second type of existence. But the problem is that maybe it will explode with greater intensity and in an updated form.
Modern society is an individualized society that gives everyone the opportunity and right to choose, and therefore releases everyone’s will and desires. This stimulates everyone’s creativity, and at the same time encourages people to make their own choices. Through the deviation and variation of individual choices, they can try various new opportunities and possibilities, thereby promoting social adaptability, in the sense of population Enhance the adaptability and development possibilities of modern society. This means that modern society is a coexistence of opportunities and risks, constantly evolving, and constantly performing deviations, magnification, and even becoming a routine drama. New development will inevitably bring new problems, and new problems always have to be solved through new choices and attempts. Conflict is no longer a scourge, but a bonanza of trying new options, expanding new directions, developing new tools, and forming new ideas.
In addition to expounding the basic analysis framework of social evolution theory at the level of general system theory, another very exciting part of Luhmann’s research is the wonderful explanation of the case of European social evolution. From the perspective of the types of social differentiation, Luhmann elaborated on how Europe evolved from the elementary society of fragmentation to the feudal society of medieval class differentiation. Although the feudal society in the late Middle Ages in Europe formed a whole set of order based on the ontological cosmology, the various mutations and deviation factors parasitic in it were gradually amplified and strengthened by various accidental events. , And finally gradually evolved modern functional systems such as politics, economy, science, law, art, love, religion, education, etc., resulting in political system, economic system, scientific system, legal system, art system, love system, religious system, education Separation of modern functional systems such as systems. After these functional systems are separated, they form a functional subsystem that is closed in operation, open in cognition, and operates according to their respective binary codes. Each functional subsystem is more autonomous and closed to each other, and at the same time more dependent on each other. And this process is closely related and synchronized with the individualization trend of European society.
This process also releases various complexities and couplings of society. The so-called complexity is the possibility of multiple choices. The so-called coupling is a state that is neither inevitable nor impossible. The history of the differentiation of European functional systems also shows that once the process of separation of functional systems reaches a certain level, it will become irreversible. In other words, the differentiation of functional systems will bring about a series of unforeseen new phenomena and new problems that have never appeared. But these new phenomena and new problems cannot be solved by ending this functional differentiation and returning to the traditional old society where politics, economy, science, law, art, love, morality, religion, and education are completely part of the old society. At the same time, for a functionally differentiated society, because society is based on the increasing selection possibilities of individuals, the appearance of various deviations and variation factors has become increasingly common. These deviating and variable factors will of course bring huge risks and challenges. But the fate of modern people may be that they have to face these risks and challenges, and regard the long-term coexistence of these risks and challenges as their own destiny.
After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, China’s economy has continuously penetrated into the global trading system, and China has become a very important link in the global industrial chain, and even the world’s factory. This process is precisely the deepening of the separation of China’s economic system. Having tasted the sweetness of economic globalization, China continues to deepen its advantages as a world factory. At the same time, it is also driven by the internal structural problems of China’s economy. Over the past few decades, it has continuously strengthened the construction of infrastructure such as ports, electricity, transportation, and communications. It has more closely promoted the rapid and profound changes in the entire Chinese society along with the differentiation of the economic system. This series of policies and measures not only brought a lot of intentional benefits, but also brought a variety of evolutionary unintended consequences.
American sociologist MacKenzie once pointed out that, unlike traditional human communities that control population balance through mortality, under modern communication and transportation conditions, the balance between population and community is formed through the continuous migration of population. The factors that determine the rise and fall of different cities and communities are “changes in transportation, communication methods and routes, and the rise of new industries.” All this was the normal state of American society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and it is also a reality that is currently happening in Chinese society in large numbers. The first Department of Sociology in American history, that is, the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago was born when urbanization in the United States flourished. The Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago has thus formed a deep tradition of urban ecology research. All this is not accidental. With the increasing integration of Chinese society into the global industrial chain and the emergence of new transportation and communication methods, a large number of new populations with a population of about 10 million are emerging on the land of China in addition to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Hyperscale cities. Wuhan is precisely one of the larger-scale cities among these super-large-scale cities. Owing to occupying an increasingly important hub position in the new world-wide industrial chain, the development opportunities provided by these new hyperscale cities continue to attract a large number of people to move in, thus bringing the prosperity of these hyperscale cities. Turning them into so-called “emerging cities” will inevitably lead to changes in the social ecosystem of these emerging mega-scale cities.
This round of new coronary pneumonia first broke out in a new super-scale city like Wuhan that is accelerating. I think this is accidental, and it may also have something to do with the location of the transportation hub.
On May 7, 2020, a local case of new coronary pneumonia occurred in Shulan City, Jilin Province. In just 24 hours, Jilin Province adjusted the risk level of Shulan twice. The risk level is adjusted to high risk. By the evening of May 15, 8,000 people in Jilin and Liaoning provinces were quarantined, and the secretary of the Shulan Municipal Party Committee was removed that night. On May 18, Shulan City took almost the most stringent epidemic prevention measures, which in fact is equivalent to closing the city. Judging from the entire decision-making process and policy measures adopted in the fight against the epidemic in Shulan City, there is basically no hesitation in preventing the epidemic at all costs. Relatively speaking, the decision-making process of the epidemic prevention and control since the emergence of a new local case of new coronary pneumonia in Beijing on June 11 has undergone subtle changes. The time of the first new outbreak happened just after Beijing adjusted the response level of the epidemic to level three on June 6. At that time, production and life in Beijing were gradually recovering, and students from many universities and middle schools in Beijing were also in the process of returning to school in an orderly manner. The Xinfadi market at the outbreak site is the largest agricultural product market in Asia, supplying 80% of Beijing’s agricultural products. It is also the hub and center of the food distribution network in Beijing and even the entire North China region. Because of the lessons learned from the Wuhan seafood market, especially Beijing’s position as a hub in China’s transportation, economy, politics, and culture, the severity and impact of the new crown pneumonia outbreak in Beijing should be incomparable to Shulan City. of. However, it is precisely because of Beijing’s status as a super large-scale city and the hub of the capital. If Beijing adopts measures similar to Shulan City and Wuhan City’s closure of the city, during the epidemic period, the entire country will resume work and production, and even the entire Chinese economy. The impact is unmatched in Shulan City. Therefore, despite the lessons learned from Wuhan, Beijing is still hesitant to adopt the most severe epidemic prevention and control measures similar to those in Shulan and Wuhan. For ultra-large-scale hub cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the ideal epidemic prevention and control measures should be surgically accurate, forming a clever balance between resumption of work and production and epidemic prevention and control. In fact, epidemic prevention and control similar to Tokyo, Japan has adopted this kind of thinking. After the outbreak of the new epidemic on June 11, decision makers in Beijing also initially tried to use big data, large-scale accounting and testing of relevant populations, traceability and investigation of the transmission path of the epidemic, and the use of comprehensive methods such as minimal blockade. To prevent and control the epidemic. However, the idea of precise prevention and control of the epidemic itself must be coordinated with the full functional differentiation of the society itself, which includes the political system, economic system, legal system, education system, public health system and other functional subsystems. The position, the operation and function of the autopoietic style also depend on the various intentional indifferences formed between people in a functionally differentiated society, the necessary social distance, the necessary self-discipline of the individual, and the respect for public rules, etc. Various “new customs” in a functional society. For hyperscale cities, these “new customs” are too important. But it is obvious that even in Beijing, whether it is the functional differentiation of the society itself, or the “new customs” of the various functionally divided societies that follow, have not yet fully formed. This brings difficulties to such surgical epidemic prevention and control measures. On the evening of June 16th, the Beijing epidemic prevention and control press conference was postponed for more than two hours. It is said that this reflected the hesitation of the decision makers of Beijing’s epidemic prevention and control between the two epidemic prevention and control ideas. In the end, starting from June 17, the epidemic prevention and control in Beijing was actually carried out according to the first-level risk level, but nominally according to the second-level risk level.
At the same time, we can also observe that after the outbreak of the new epidemic in Beijing, the response measures taken at different levels in China can also clearly see the difference between super-large cities with relatively obvious and deep functional differentiation and ordinary small and medium-sized cities. For example, Daqing City in Heilongjiang can adopt a one-size-fits-all approach and announce on June 15 that anyone returning from Beijing to Daqing will be quarantined for 21 days. Subsequently, many small and medium cities in China adopted a similar simple one-size-fits-all approach. However, a relatively large-scale city such as Shanghai, which is relatively fully functionally differentiated, is located at the hub of the entire country and even the world’s industrial chain. The cost of adopting such a one-size-fits-all approach will be relatively huge. Therefore, Shanghai will not respond to the latest round of the new crown outbreak in Beijing, and it will be difficult for Shanghai to adopt similar drastic response and epidemic prevention and control measures. From this example, we can see that, represented by Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, including Wuhan, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Chengdu and other groups deeply embedded in the global industrial chain, and with the help of this wave of new industrialization and new transportation and communication The super large-scale cities that have emerged with the help of means are themselves at a critical point in the transition from a state of non-functional differentiation to a state of functional differentiation. Whether it is to observe and understand the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, to observe and understand the various decisions and consequences of these cities during the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, or to observe the future effects of the new crown epidemic on our society and daily life. This kind of possible far-reaching impact may have to be based on this background to be able to see clearly and understand.
Luhmann is not an embracer of globalization. The so-called globalization is actually global convergence. Luhmann does not believe that global convergence is the inevitable direction of the development of human society. If we understand this problem from the perspective of evolutionary theory like Luhmann did, we will certainly agree with Luhmann’s view. But Luhmann does believe that with the occurrence of modernity, the global world has been inevitably linked together. Luhmann uses the concept of world society to describe this. In the world society, there is no distinction between German society, American society or Chinese society. All of these are essentially a society, and no society can stay aside. The global outbreak of the new crown epidemic has once again profoundly confirmed this point. On the one hand, it reminds us that there is indeed a community with a shared future for mankind, and the fate of mankind has never been so closely linked before. On the other hand, it also reminds us that the world society must accommodate and absorb various factors of difference, deviation, and variation, because this can greatly increase the probability and possibility of our human society’s evolution and survival in the sense of population. For us, the new crown epidemic may indeed enable us to better reflect and think, when we are increasingly integrated into the functionally differentiated world society, and in fact, China is rapidly emerging from the group of super-large ones deeply integrated into the world society. In large-scale cities, when functional differentiation may also occur at an unexpected speed and effect, can we seize the opportunities and possibilities provided by this accident in terms of ideas, concepts, social governance models, social mechanisms, etc. , To think deeply and honestly enough? We know that the creation of any opportunity has a price, and there is also a window period. If we do not seize this window period, then perhaps the accident is really wasted into a pure accident. So, when we come back to revisit this new crown epidemic after many years, what kind of face will it stay in our memory?