iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Abstract and concrete movements

Abstraction in Western culture has increased over time, so much so that Hegel made this the engine of history: his dialectic is a progression from the concrete to the less concrete, the abstract to the more abstract. Certainly, the history of natural science shows this progression. Modern physics is more abstract than classical physics. Every science becomes more abstract over time.

Increased abstraction in society and politics requires larger collections of people. Equality with increased abstraction requires equality within larger groups of people. For example, pan-European equality is less abstract than equality within global equality. Increased abstraction requires loyalty to ever larger groups.

History does seem to progress toward greater abstraction. Tribal cultures gave way to city-states, then to nations, then to globalism. In the U.S., there has been a progression from an English culture to a European culture, to a Euro-Afro-Latin culture, to an increasingly global culture. Those who promote this movement are called “progressives”. Those who resist it or support caution about it are called “conservatives”.

In sub-cultures of the West and in some non-Western societies there are movements in the opposite direction, toward more concreteness. They are often called “regressive”, which assumes a prior progressive movement. They could simply be called “concretive” (or “introgressive”) since they prefer the more concrete to the more abstract.

Those who prefer more concrete or at least a less abstract culture are considered traditional, old-fashioned, or backwards. In order to engage their opponents, traditionalists need to justify their preference for the concrete in more abstract ways, which they may find difficult. But the concrete has its advantages as much as the abstract does.

One danger of greater abstraction is that one loses touch with concrete reality. After all, human beings are concretely embodied. Concrete food, shelter, and much more are necessary for human life. Traditional social and political structures have much experience and stability behind them and so “should not be changed for light and transient causes” (the U.S. Declaration of Independence). And the new global human who ignores the local culture where they happen to be is looking for misunderstanding and worse.

In fact, there is no global, pan-religious, pan-racial, pan-sexual, pan-economic, pan-linguistic culture. Is such a culture even possible? In this world, that is highly doubtful. People are both concrete and abstract, body and spirit.

Concrete and abstract movements both have their place. Cultures will lean more toward one than the other, but both are legitimate.

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