State & Other Social Institutions


Coetzee discusses several opinions on State and other social institutions that man associates himself with in his book “Diary of a Bad Year”. Overall his opinions are reflected in the opinions he voices of Margaret Thatcher: She doesn’t believe in the existence of society as it is an empirical ontology. Society is an abstraction invented by academic sociologists. Nation and family an individual by birth ineluctably belongs. But every grouping between family and nation has a voluntary character like football league, religion etc.”

Coetzee is mostly solitary and disengaged with social groups. He had married once but not for too long and having lived in UK, US and now Australia, Coetzee has even transcended his South African nationality.

I also quite agree with this. My nation and my family I belong to but the other groupings I have a choice as an individual and I have mostly chosen to abstain from them- religion, region or marriage.

On the origin of state, Coetzee puts forth theories by 2 people:

  1. Thomas Hobbes states: “State was established to escape violence of internecine warfare without end. Law was created to enable the state to use physical force to punish criminals.”
  2. Kurosawa has demonstrated the formation of state in his movie: “Seven Samurai”

I watched this movie post reading the book and I do agree it does adeptly demonstrate the evolution of a state. But no matter how the state may have originated, today you inevitably belong to a state. In case you decide to defy the state you become an outlaw or outcast and depending on the state you chose to defy it can have dire consequences.

Thus nation or state is a social institution one is forced to endorse but another institution that most Indians irrefutably endorse is marriage and I can’t fathom how in the world today. Like the state, I presume the concept of marriage or family would have originated to protect the off-springs and ensure the survival and continuation of human species. But I fail to understand how it remains to be such a ubiquitous phenomenon today especially in India where our past generations have done more than enough to ensure the continuation of the species even if there is no off-spring born in the country for a century now.

What I really fail to understand is how intelligent individuals with an acute ability to think and form their own beliefs endorse this institution without a thought and with the choice of life partner purely incidental. Marriage usually eats out the very soul of many individuals, destroying their being completely. So what forces all these people to adhere to this institution and renounce all their individuality, freedom, and beliefs? Just the fear of being alone or simply the lack of will to question the herd?

But I do sincerely hold the belief that today marriage should be just about companionship. The comment “I don’t know why I married this person”, is enough to make me lose all respect for that person. What is the use of the person’s intelligence if he/she cannot put even the slightest thought to an important decision of his/her own life?

Maybe I think too much. Maybe as Coetzee has said “Mass is the norm, solitary is the aberration”, I am the aberration. But I am who I am and I stand for my beliefs and actions and like individuals who have coherence in their thoughts and actions.

Coetzee again voices my thoughts through the line: “Only from a self-disengagement from the mass and critical of the mass could true art emerge.”

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A dreamer. An intellectual, spoiled by the world of literature trying to find sanity through traveling and expression through Visual Art and writing! Hope you like my expressions on this blog!!

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2 comments on “State & Other Social Institutions
  1. Jasmine says:

    Of course I agree.
    My ideas about this have been evolving. Today Shantanu told me about a movie called Ardh Satya and I read the poem by Dilip Chitre. And I thought- existential.
    It is a very existential dilemna Richa- ours- free will, choices, personal responsibilities. I am re-reading what Kierkegaard said- I must find a truth that is true for me . . . the idea for which I can live or die.
    This is our truth- the truth we chose- because we identify with this truth. And we are all out on solitary missions.

  2. Well put Jasmine!! N I’m glad i have u and Shantanu in my life- as anchors!!

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