Can an idealist Politia[1] create a utopian society? (the copyright of the paper belongs to Alden, James) Essay

Can an idealist Politia[1] create a utopian society? (the copyright of the paper belongs to Alden, James) Essay

In order to contemplate the question, it is important to first consider a primary question: What is meant by the word society? The word society has a very loose definition. The following section will attempt to expose the implications involved in any attempt to define what society actually is.

1.0. What is society?

Society can be defined as, people living together in an ordered community or a community of people living in a country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations[2]. The latter definition refers to the kind of society that this paper is concerned with. This paper is concerned with the societies that are most commonly perceived as one with people interacting with one another in a confined space. However, the former definition must be considered in view of the question: what is a society? People do not necessarily have to, in the commonest sense, live together in order to be a part of a society. People can interact over the phone or internet. If there are more than a few people interacting with each other on a regular basis they can be labelled as a community. The phrase internet community is a modern phrase used to describe a number of individuals interacting among internet chat-rooms.

1.1 Elements of Society

Another problem inherent with the use of the word society is as follows: How can you define the numbers of people required to warrant the use of the word society? Society is described in the last paragraph as being defined to exist within a country or region. This implies that society can involve either large or relatively smaller numbers of people. Allowing the definition of society such freedom, to be either large or relatively small contributes to society being a loosely defined term. It would be an improvement to say that society must have a medium in order to exist. This medium can either be geographical space in which interactions between people can persist, within literature, over a phone line or on the internet (the point here is to establish that there is more than one medium no matter how many there actually are). Although iterating that society requires a medium tightens a few loose terms with a broader one, medium is only an aspect of society that cannot be used to define what society actually is (medium is not the essence of society). Medium is therefore an element of the compound that is society.

People may be described as elements of society. However, it is also possible to have societies within the animal kingdom. Large numbers of apes interacting with one another are commonly called ape societies[3]. Interactions between independent organisms through a medium can be defined as a society of organisms. These interactions must be more complex than simple procreation in order for the organism to belong to a society.

Imagine a fictional creature – the Qwallypuss. The creature spends the entirety of its life alone scavenging the ocean for tasty morsels. The female Qwallypuss lays only a single egg that, once laid, is abandoned awaiting a male to fertilise it. The Qwallypusses never directly interact with one another. If a Qwallypuss would pass another Qwallypuss who is eating up all the tasty morsels, they would completely ignore each other not even bothering to fight for the food they need to survive.

The Qwallypuss has no concept of society nor can the word society be used to describe a number of Qwallypuss individuals in a confined space.

1.2.1. Interaction and Behaviour

This next section aims to argue that interaction between individuals must persist in order for the individuals to be described collectively as a society.

Interactions between members of a society may exist to fulfil wants and needs such as procreation and self preservation. Procreation and self preservation are often associated with instinct[4]. In many societies, both human and within the animal kingdom, aggression or fitness (most able at a task e.g. fighting) is used to discern rank among individuals. These interactions are what make up the social life of these organisms. In animal communities these interactions are mainly governed by instinct. Human societies are much more complex as many human interactions require higher-order consciousness[5]. Higher-order consciousness allows humans to describe their own meaning, wants and needs above and beyond the basic meaning; wants and needs programmable by instinct[6].

Even the most basic of interactions among individuals can make up a society.

Imagine now that the Qwallypuss evolved to increase the chance of its offsprings survival by finding more suitable mates. The male Qwallypusses developed an impressively large colourful fin. This fin allowed the female Qwallypusses to determine which males had superior genes and a healthier lifestyle. Once a female Qwallypuss found a suitable male, the Qwallypusses would engage in an elaborate mating ceremony.

Although the Qwallypusses have very little interaction with one another, this once-in-a-lifetime interaction is enough to form a Qwallypuss society. The Qwallypuss society is simply based solely upon mating. If the interactions between individuals are to make up a society, their interactions must be mutual. The specific mutual interactions between two individuals must also be displayed in other individuals. Therefore, translated mutual interactions between individuals must be an element of society.

The act of procreation is common among many, if not all members of the Qwallypuss species. This particular behavioural output, common and hard-wired through genes, ensures that similar repetitive interactions between organisms ensue.

Random interactions between organisms do not yield society. It is the repetitive occurrence of specific types of interactions either in thought or behaviour that makes a society. Society exists as a result of the translated mutual interaction of organisms within a medium. If all interactions between individual organisms halt, society no longer exists for those organisms.

Random behavioural interactions between organisms do not create social life. Therefore, the collective individual organisms cannot be called society. The next section elaborates on this argument with the introduction to units of culture.

1.3 Culture and Society

Although the last sections definition of society is now much tighter, it is harder to see how larger societies affecting millions of people can be derived from such a minimalist definition of society. To what extent are the interactions between individuals translated? To what extent does the medium extend and encapsulate a multitude of individuals.

Richard Dawkins (1976) came up with the concept of memes. Memes are described as units of cultural transmission; the transmission of ideas, concepts, views and opinions. Memes are responsible for a large majority of any persons knowledge and a large majority of what is called culture. Memes are translated through interactions between individuals within society. Culture can be described as the extent to which the same interactions are repeated between organisms or how individual actions are repeated as a result of translated memes. For an example, the meme of painting pictures and the interactions between people having a pot of tea when guests arrive. The degrees to which these memes are adopted create what is known as culture.

The word society can relate to an entire population as long as the memes are inherent within the culture of a society which is translated between the interactions of every individual within the population.

Therefore, society exists as a result of translated mutual interactions of individual organisms within a medium. In order to belong to a society, an individual must have obtained a characteristic or behavioural trait by interacting with other individuals whom already belong to a society. This trait or characteristic is fundamental among all individuals within the society.

For example, to be part of English society the individual could learn to speak English. However, if the individual only obtains this meme of speaking English then the individual only belongs to the society of English speaking people. It is possible for an individual to be a part of what is commonly described as English society without speaking English. This would be possible as long as other memes of English society are obtained by the individual.

Societies are therefore flexible and overlapping, an individual can belong to any number of societies. For instance, an individual can be a member of an internet society as long as all the individuals within the internet society possess a meme unique to their organisation, e.g. enter a particular internet chat room at say 8pm. These individuals also speak English so they belong to English society. They also celebrate Chinese New year so they belong to the Chinese society.

Most people possess a huge number of memes associated with a particular society. The density of the population over a particular area of land often leads to the community inheriting the name of the land they most consistently occupy. However, the contemporary world offers a vast amount of memes replicating and relaying themselves all over the globe through the interactions of individuals. Instead of labelling each individual as belonging to a multitude of societies, it is much simpler to use the broader definition of Global society.

Societies are therefore flexible and dynamic objects. Their influences can spread rapidly and intertwine. Any individual can become a member of any society although the individual would probably be labelled as belonging to the society of which most of the individuals memes are associated with.

2.0 The memes of the �Polis

Memes can exhibit many traits within societies capable of literature and language. These traits can create conflict between separate beliefs, ideals, wants and needs. Examples of these traits could include feminism, communism, liberalism and types of religion. The memes displaying traits that are products of peoples expression of beliefs and ideals regarding society itself can be called political memes. These political memes make up the political community (polis).

A regime (politia) is a system used to govern the polis. A regime is a product of the meme for: society needs to be governed.

Political memes and memes regarding beliefs must also be described within the context of free-will. If free-will exists, people can choose whether or not to adopt a certain meme. People may choose between memes and decide which best suits their opinion. Their decision will probably be a product of the countless other memes regarding beliefs or politics which the person has chosen to adopt over the course of their life. But then if a memes subject is the nature of society, and therefore must be adopted by every individual within it, this meme may impose itself on those who do not agree with it. This is a political problem within any society containing more than one political meme or meme-regarding belief.

2.1 Utopia for the Polis 

The problem described in the last paragraph displays itself many times over across the various continents and political systems (geo-politics)[7]. The polis will undoubtedly contain more than one political meme displayed in the form of political groups or parties that have adopted that meme. Democracy can be adopted within a society to allow free speech and expression of any and all political memes[8]. However, people often argue over the extent to which democracy is upheld. Karl Marxs view of communism can be described as utopian socialism[9]. Perfect democracy or perfect communism is an idealistic view of society that reality is yet to prove plausible. Some may argue that a particular society meets these idealist notions in the world today. However, it is very doubtful that every member of the society agrees. There are too many political memes flying around.

There have been many attempts in literature and philosophy to describe a utopian society. Plato attempted to define a societal utopia in his work The Republic completed in the year 360BC. Utopia can be defined as an imagined perfect place or state of things[10]. The definition uses the word imagined as utopia does not exist as a real entity. A problem with perfection is obvious: how can perfection be defined? Can a society reach a stage at which it cannot be made better?

Political clashes often occur within a society; when these clashes escalate conflict may ensue. But is there a win-win situation to be found among all the political memes? Diplomatic resolutions often result in compromise between political parties (Israel and the Palestinians have often arrived at compromises over land ownership although conflict still ensues[11]). Sometimes conflict is resolved by the total eradication or more severe weakening of political memes through physical force. Would a society be utopian if it only contained a single political meme? In this situation everybody would be happy with the political system. However, what if these people lack the knowledge to describe how well things could be going?

3.0. Conclusion

Society has been described as a system in which its members (individual organisms) interact with one another within a medium. In order for an individual to belong to a society it must obtain a meme that all other members of the society carry.

A meme is described as a unit of culture. Memes can be any action or thought that have been copied from one individual to the next. These memes are translated through interactions taking place in a medium. This medium can either be geographical, a phone line, literature, the internet or another suitable medium. The collection of memes held by a particular society can be called its culture.

Section two of this paper introduces political memes. Political memes are those that translate beliefs and ideals regarding society among populations. There is often an uneven acquiescence of political memes within societies as its members have a free choice of which to adopt. It is therefore hard to imagine how so many different ideals and interests can be catered for without compromise by a politia.

Even if a lesser number of political memes exist within a society to create conflict, a utopian society may still not be realised. The members of this society may not be able to describe how well things could be going. Political and cultural icons such as communism and democracy are often idealistic. These political memes remain as ideals without precipitating into a fully formed reality of those ideals.

4.0 Bibliography

(2000) Giulio Tononi. Consciousness, How Matter Becomes Imagination, Gerald M. Edelman, pg134

(1995) Daniel C. Dennett. Darwins Dangerous Idea, Evolution and the meaning of life.

(2000) Kathleen Braden, F.M. Shelley, K. E. Braden, F. Shelley. Engaging Geopolitics


[1] Strauss suggests that the word polis (Latin) defined as political community is the matter (i.e., the raw material) and the politeia (Latin) is the form of which the matter is to take. (Strauss, “What is Political Philosophy?” Strauss 1988, 133-34) Others describe politia as regime (Lord 1984, 18-21 and 278-79)
[2] (2001) Oxford Paperback Dictionary. Oxford University Press
[3] Jane Goodall, Junichiro Itani. Great Ape Societies pg3
[4] (2000) Bruce G Charlton MD. Evolution and the cognitive neuroscience of awareness, consciousness and language. Radcliffe Medical Press: Oxford, UK,
[5] (2000) Giulio Tononi. Consciousness, How Matter Becomes Imagination, Gerald M. Edelman, pg134
[6] (2000) Giulio Tononi. Consciousness, How Matter Becomes Imagination, Gerald M. Edelman, pg134
[7] (2000) Kathleen Braden, F.M. Shelley, K. E. Braden, F. Shelley. Engaging Geopolitics
[8] (1990) Claes G. Ryn. Democracy and the Ethical Life: A Philosophy of Politics and Community
[9] (1991) Reiner Grundmann. The Ecological Challenge to Marxism. Oxford University Press, USA pg104
[10] (2001) Oxford Paperback Dictionary. Oxford University Press
[11] (April 6th -9th, 2000) The Secretariat of the Eleventh Annual Virginia International Committee Simulation. Secretary Generals Good Offices: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks, Chaired by Michael Wolin. University of Virginia

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