A place for all
It is a part of our common knowledge that we live in a multi-cultural society. That is a society which has developed from homogeneity to heterogeneity, or from mono-culture to multi-culture, or - as we say in Norwegian, but then in slightly more derogatory terms - from enfold til mangfold.
And this is correct enough.
I remember a beautiful, warm summer-day a bit north of the Polar Circle. The local ferry was headed towards one of those tiny islands where people can make a living just because they are so close to the fish and whales of that Northern Sea. A small number of houses sought protection against the wind and ocean behind some cliffs. As we slowly approached the harbour, we observed a man chopping his winter-wood. It is a heavy job. He had only shorts on in the summer-heat. In an harmonious, rhythmic way he split one piece of wood after the other. An ancient Norwegian picture. Man and nature in harmony, an unbroken line from the ages. of the Vikings Several children watched him. Soon they would continue the tradition.
Is there more to tell? Only that the man and the kids were all completely black. Even the fishing-villages far in the North have turned multicultural. And so is of course also the case in other parts of Norway, only more so. In my local neighbourhood in Oslo, more than 5o percent of pupils in the grammar school have Norwegian as their second language.
So, it is completely correct to say that we have moved from homogeneity to heterogeneity both with regard to colour and language. But then comes the next question; are these observations on colour and language good indicators on multi-culturality? People might be different. But that is on the outside. May be it is true as stated in progressive books for children: Inside we are similar! My reasoning in what follows is that these progressive books might be right. Deplorably right. Back in history we were sometimes, but not always, multi-cultural. It is now we are solidly similar. Similar in what we find worth striving for.
To come closer to this problem, we might move to another analytical level. Instead of asking if individuals in are different from each other, we might ask if the major institutions - with their values, norms and behaviour - are different from each other, of if they are basically similar. We can ask; Are there great variations from institution to institution, or is the situation one where all institutions are basically similar, striving towards the same goals, where the one institution has penetrated all the others? Do we actually live in a mono- or in a multi-institutional society?
We have historical examples of both types.
I have vivid childhood-memories from time spent with three grand-aunts. Maria Hansine was born in 1852, Sara in 1854 and Anna in 1859. They came from a dynasty of priests, - an important class of their time, but with costs attached. They had high status, but little money to live according to the standards of their class. Little money meant reduced possibilities for marriage and own children. Males could not propose on nothing and the girls in that situation were without dower as additional incentives. In addition came the inconvenience that some males sneaked off and married girls from lower classes. This created a deficit of eligible males for these girls. Two of my grand-aunts remained unmarried. But my grand-uncles were also strictly controlled by the destiny of their sisters. They were supposed to support them, which further blocked attempt for own marriage. So, two of my grand-uncles also remained unmarried. A third sneaked off to America. The fourth among the boys, my grandfather, was rescued by being the youngest, which meant that the sisters already were taken care of by his two other brothers. The sisters had no jobs, of course not, except bringing up other families children. Not particularly profitable, I learned later that three of them during a long period shared one winter-coat. It troubled them that they only could go to church every third winter-sunday. But their trouble lay more in their relation to God than to neighbours. They lived at a time where one might be poor, but proud. Or brilliant, but living in misery. Or an essential family-member, but without any personal income. Remarks in funerals might be like: She was such a wise woman. She was always so kind, she never kept much to herself. She lived according to the device: Nothing can come into a hand that is closed. An honest soul has left us. Or; She never harmed a flea.
My point is not a nostalgic one. I do not want my grand-children to live the life of my grand-uncles and aunts. My point is simply that their life illustrate a multi-institutional situation. They praised God, but consumed, silently, their quota of aquavit during the war. They were fond of books, but not for a living. They worked all their life in other peoples families, but earned next to nothing, measured in money. That troubled their life, but not their self-respect. They were proud of the family, but also that within limits. As a boy in school I learned that a relative was a famous man behind our Constitution. He died just before my grand-aunts were born. I run to the aunts and asked them to tell me about this great man. They absolutely refused. He was a non-person in our branch of the family, having lived with a woman he was not married to. Even worse, getting children with her. It did not help that he later made them legitimate through a legal act available at that time. In conclusion: One institution was not in total control of their lives, even though the religious one probably meant more than any other.
Contrasting examples of mono-institutional societies are ample. We know of societies, or historical stages from our own society, where certain institutions had an absolute hegemony. It might have been the family which had the lead, societies where kinship-position determined most of peoples life, - division of property, religious cults, political loyalties. Or it might have been the church that domineered, where canon law was the ultimate source for all sorts of legal decisions, where Kings and Queens bowed to the authority of the Arch-bishops, and where the Bible was seen as lending authority to the husbands absolute rule within the family. These are cases of institutional imperialism where one institution penetrate all the others.
And where are we?
We are in a similar situation. We are in a situation of institutional imperialism, but this time through the swelling of a new institution; the one of production and economy. We can see this new institutional hegemony reflected in numerous areas. The profile of our cities is one.
In the very old cities, the cathedrals were the landmarks, with Royal palaces as a close number two. Later came universities and schools. In my local neighbourhood, the school is still the largest among buildings. What a monument of the importance of the institution of education it must have been 100 years back in time; a five floor structure with a Bismarck-shaped metal-tower at the top. Palaces for God, Palaces for Kings, Palaces for knowledge and education. And now, in modern cities, overshadowed by palaces for trade and money.
Buildings are symbols of institutional hegemony. But so is also what happens inside these buildings, particularly how life is organized. Ideals from economy and production have clearly invaded the neighbouring institutions. Educational institutions come closer to units for production than to halls of knowledge with differentiated salaries according to supposed marked value, bureaucratic controls and generally; relations based on contract rather than thrust. Clergymen likewise. In my country where we have a "state-church", their union have several times threatened with strike to increase the salary-level of the priests. But they have not gone all the way; most money to the "best" ones, those with greatest market value. Parliamentarians themselves, places where there are clear majorities in favour of salaries according to market-value, seems to be hesitant in deciding that back-benchers ought to get less in salaries than front-benchers. Also penal law is wide open for models from the market. The chief of the Norwegian prison system characterized a month ago the prisoners as the customers of the system. No wonder in an atmosphere where an increasing number of prisons are run by private industry, and where their expansion is highly valued at the stock-market.
We believe we are outside the European Common Market here in Norway, but we are in. The ruling values in the common market have since long been the ruling values of the country. The referendum so joyously celebrated, the referendum to stay outside, is only a smoke screen allowing a majority to believe that we are not what we are: A country of tradesmen, actors in a market where the goal is monetary gain. The hegemony of the market-thinking is so clearly established in our time that it in a way get invisible. It becomes an obvious part of life. How could it be otherwise? To be able to question the obvious, let us draw some slightly less respectable parallels:
A total solution
We have another concept for situations where one institution penetrate all the other major institutions. We call it, naturally enough, totalitarianism.
The origin of that word is not quite clear. Klein (1971) suggests in his etymological dictionary that the concept totalitarianism is related to "towetos" - crammed fully - which again is related to "tumére" - to swell. This leads us to the state level. Carl Friedrich (1965) has this definition of totalitarian regimes, (here quoted in Linz l975, pp. 187-189):
The essence in this definition by Friedrich (and Brzezinski who was his early collaborator in developing it) is captured in a formulation by Hagtvedt (1986, p.285):
In another formulation, we could say that totalitarian states are characterized by the penetration of all institutions - the total set of institutions that exists in any given society - by the will of the dictator(s) or the ruling elite. This is the point where the totalitarian regimes differ from the despotic ones. Mussolini was the ruler who made the term famous through his speeches. But his fascist Italy was no totalitarian state, according to the usual definitions. Families were left alone. If they did not systematically and openly work against the fascists, they were allowed to live on, relatively undisturbed. Franco's Spain likewise. But for Hitler and Stalin, there were no limits. They established total dominance over every person in all aspects of life. A negative remark at the dinner-table might be devastating. If one of those attending belonged to the movement, it would be his plight to report. The Stasi-archives - now regretfully opened in Berlin - is but the latest example of instruments used by a state-system completely penetrated by the will of the ruling elite. For their goals, all means, literally all, were permissible.
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Modernity has production and consumption in the centre. Of course not according to any master-plan. No dictator tells that money and consumption are the goals in life. But it is told. Not by the great shows, no big parades, no military music, no building up before the emperor appears.
Our time is the Coca Cola time, or the Marlboro, or the Ciba Geiger, or the Volvo - hammering in the message; on the beautiful people - how they live, how they become what they are. Goebbels would have envied the marketing industry.
Development as imperialism
He would also have appreciated the political pressure behind. A domineering idea of modern societies is to go out and shape all societies into our picture.
It was in 1949 that Harry Truman launched the campaign for fighting underdevelopment changing the Globe into one for a family of highly industrialized nations. The poor of the Third world were to be rescued from their underdevelopment and poverty. It was a forceful ideology, presuming that the good life was the one lived according to the standards domineered by economic rationality.
But it was at the same time an idea which meant that all nations ought to develop into our model, with our simplified goal-structure. It was a totalitarian expansion across nations, pressing forward a view of some nations - those with more complex goal structures - as dependent on others. And also pressing forward the view that those societies seen as the models, the industrialized ones,- due to the endless amount of special technical knowledge they contained - had to be organized in ways where a large part of the population also internally - came into positions of dependency. The European Common Market and its counter-part at the American Continent are natural outgrowths of this policy. A forceful critique of the ideology of development is given in a book with Wolfgang Sachs (1992) as the editor and Ivan Illich as the inspirator: "The Development Dictionary. A guide to knowledge as Power."
Costs of money
We have in our societies still some lagoons where alternative values are listened to, some secret gardens, some monasteries, some academies, some bohemian circles, some opposing youth cultures. But the dominant ideas can be found within the economic institution with production, monetary gain and consumption in the centre. Such societies, with their highly simplified reward-systems, are probably less stable than those with several independent reward-systems. Those falling outside of that system are to a large extent without alternative rewards. They are thereby in severe trouble, and so is often society with them. But that is what we have the crime control system for.
I will not go into that theme here and now, - that would develop into a lecture in criminology, but instead say that the village we visit here, Vidaråsen, on all major points represents a negation to the one-dimensional market economy. And so does all other village in the Camp-Hill system.
Vidaråsen, a negation of the market economy
Vidaråsen is to me an exceptionally interesting social experiment first and foremost by reducing the importance of money within the system. Money exists, as a social reality. The life of the villages is heavily subsidized by the state, it is an illusion that a village like this could be self-supporting, except under extreme conditions. In a new world-catastrophe, a Ragnarokk - a holocaust - the villages might survive better than their surroundings, but within our present framework they are dependent on the very same system they are a negation to.
But inside the system, they have been able to limit the damaging effects of money. They do so by cutting the connection between money and work. Simply; all money are put in one hat, and used according to needs. Money is not used as rewards. I have never, ever, heard anybody in the villages mention money as an incentive for taking on a task. The reasons for work is the need for having the work done. Cows have to become milked, their tails kept away from the milk-bucket - sometimes an important task - weeds removed, dinner prepared, the lame one helped. Money is a necessity in relation to the external world, but irrelevant internally. This gets immediate consequences for the evaluation of the activities. The reward from the work is the work. In English one have the possibility of differentiation between the two concepts "labour" and "work". Labour is the heavy burden. Work has an air of accomplishment; it is close to creation, creation a work of art! To this creating, money is a threat! The work does not become a reward in itself. It becomes a tool for something else, and thereby converted into labour.
With reduced importance to money and consumption, room is given for other activities. Vidaråsen has three major public buildings. The greatest is the Hall, where we are now. Here, in a village for 250 people, we have the greatest concert- or theatre-hall in the county. Musicians love to come here for performances The stage is accepted by the Riksteater - the State Theatre. The next major building is what I call the "Tent", used for religious functions, but also for lectures and other cultural activities. And then the third building, soon to be finished, a centre for treatment, health and for people in need of extraordinary amounts or types of care. Three buildings, all raised by money from that hat, three symbols of institutions of central importance in the village. Work, culture, religion and care are central elements in this type of village life. It opens for a multiplicity of life activities. It opens, literally, for a place for all.