30 years of the publication of The Contentious and Never-Finished Construction of the Desired Order

A 30 años de la publicación de La Conflictiva y Nunca Acabada Construcción del Orden DeseadoIn 1984, he published through FLACSO , The Conflicting and never-finished Construction of the Desired Order of Norbert Lechner that, at this stage, it would qualify as one of the few works of ‘classical’ sociology in Chile.

To be fulfilled then this year, 30 years after its publication, it might be write a few reflections on the purpose of the text. The text of Lechner is one of the milestones in a permanent consideration of the author about the nature of the policy, and this is reflected already in the title of it. Which allows us to organize the reflections. Because of the difficulties the policy can be analysed as forms under which the actors avoid dealing with what the title states: That the policy is necessarily conflictual, unfinished, and that forces us to think about the order that we want -utopia.


The temptations on the troubled construction

The forgetfulness of the confrontational nature is forgotten that ‘the policy is based on the fact that the plurality of men’ (Arendt, 2008: 131). Society, and politics, says that there are several wills in its interior, and the political construction has to come to terms with the fact that it is done with others. That relationship with the other, with their alien and different wills, is what makes it necessary for the policy. A disagree, as you well remembered Isaiah Berlin, is about the purposes and values, not a disagreement surface: “When it is agreed in the end, the only problems left are those of means, and these are not political but technical, i.e., capable of being settled by experts or machines” (Berlin, 1988: 187). If the policy is common construction of the collective will, then that construction is conflicting because of that diversity. Against this there are two temptations in parallel.

A the represents the temptation of not listening, in other words, “I am the all”. To have enough strength to implement my position because I don’t listen to me or effort to integrate the other’s position. A final result of this temptation is, finally, the tyranny, of which he said that Plato was the more easy and faster to make changes (quoted in Arendt, 2000: 501).

The other temptation is that of the blockade, insisting that “without me there is all.” Agreements or integrate all or are agreements taxes that are little valid. At this point, the end result of this temptation is the ungovernability: All the actors are transformed into actors of veto, and nothing can be done.

The construction of the political space is achieved by avoiding two temptations: When there is a discussion real, in that there is a willingness to listen and to dialogue on the part of the actors, but in which the collective decision does not become impossible. As posed by Lechner: “What I want to suggest is that the policy is working on the social diversity (and not the drive), mediating the production and reproduction of diversity in the State as a form of synthesis. The focus on diversity avoids the false antinomy of conflict or consensus” (Lechner, 2007: 227).


The temptations on the never-finished construction.

When the thing that is forgotten is the character unfinished construction policy, what is forgotten is the relationship with the time and duration of political activity. Ultimately, if the policy is the creation of something, this requires that the created to be institutionalized. At the same time, can’t imagine that the moment of creation happens only once: there is no way in which a particular institutional arrangement of account of all situations and challenges. We build for the present, not for a future never-ending. Also here we are faced with two temptations parallel

On the one hand the temptation of creating a permanent and continuously, without anything being institutionalized. Today’s decision will be discussed also tomorrow. The problem here is, precisely, the solving of all situations, and the fact that the decision does not become never effectively binding decision.

On the other hand is the temptation of closing the discussion: This was already decided and for this reason will not decide anymore, because it makes no sense to discuss this topic. Any discussion of new would be to threaten the stability of the rules of the game.

Again to build the political space is required to reject both alternatives: to Know that what is required is to build lasting institutions, but at the same time, knowing that any agreement is tentative and can be changed.


The temptations on the desired order

In the third place, is the forgetfulness of the character “junk” of the political construction of: That what you try, but never ends to achieve (as a result of its confrontational nature and never finish), is a desired order. The political is the space for the existing world is near, and move in the direction of what is valued. But not only what is valued, ultimately it is the utopia as a concept limit (as was already years has Franz Hinkelammert): as an ideal regulator, as a place of tension between what is real and what is ideal. In the same way that in previous cases there are two temptations in this regard.

The first is concerned with the forgetfulness of the voltage by the claim that utopia is possible here and now, and that it is possible to do it without worry of any problems or obstacles. The only thing that counts is the ideal, and everything that opposes this has no relevance, and there is nothing in reality that can be contrasted to its completion, and if any, the worse for the reality. (Fiat iustitia et pereat mundus).

The opposite temptation is the loss of the voltage by the denial of the concern for the ideal: The world is what it is, and it is the only thing that matters. The question for a different reality, by the dreams, is rejected in itself as a meaningless. The vision is ‘realistic’ in front of any discussion closes, because what exists is the only thing that is possible and because you can’t expect anything different (‘this is all’, ‘always has been’), and presents as pure naivety to think in terms of idealidades. The temptation of cynicism if you want.

Compared to the pure conviction that he does not care about the consequences, and in front of the alleged liability that you forget the whole ethical dimension, it is necessary at the same time to retrieve in the political construction of the ethical dimension -that is around to a desired state, a utopia that tries to that construction – and the dimension of reality -that actions have consequences, and the utopia is not reachable directly.


Between omnipotence and impotence

The temptations that we have seen make up, if you will, two series: There is on the one hand temptations of excess. In all of them as underlying is the idea that everything can be, that there are no limits to the will of the actor: “My own strength is sufficient to perform my desire, and I am not required to listen to nobody; change and run my decisions on an ongoing basis; and I can achieve my dreams immediately and without problems. It is the illusion of omnipotence.

On the other hand, there are also and at the same time, temptations of the lack. In them appears the idea that it is an actor -for good and for evil – can do nothing because the limits make that the only thing that makes sense is always to stay where you are: what more can I block demanding my incorporation; any decision taken was for always and there is no more to do; and the reality is and will always be the same. Is the trap (and justification) of the impotence.

None of these visions is appropriate to build the policy. Between the idea that there are no boundaries and the idea that everything is limits it is necessary to think, time and again, the space of the possible: One in which the will discover that you no longer can do anything, but at the same time discovers that she is in the decision of how to deal with in front of their limits; and that I discover that with all the difficulties of the case that yes there are things that can be done, and to fail before the effort is simply a form of self-defeat.


The construction of the political space is a complex task. It requires, as we have seen, provisions on the part of the subject that are not easy, because they require continually recognize tensions and contradictions . But being difficult is not an impossible task.

Here it may be useful to recall one of the most high praise, I know given to a political community, modern, one which exactly faced the problems of creating new forms and new political spaces. Is Alexis de Tocqueville, talking about the creation of the Constitution of the united States, in the Chapter 8 of Democracy in America:

But what is new in the history of societies is to see a great people, warned by its legislators that the mechanism of government is stopped, to return without precipitation and without fear of their eyes to himself, to fathom the depth of evil, kept during two whole years to discover their remedy and when that remedy is indicated, submit to it voluntarily without costing a tear or a drop of blood to humanity

Being its complex construction, it is necessary to acknowledge that to do so will require the same attitudes and the same capabilities that are to occupy it. In other words, the only way to comply with their demands is through the process of trying to comply with them. Because you can not resolve thinking that it will be others who solve, requires of the action itself.

To summarize these attitudes and visions is nothing better than to quote the text itself Lechner mentioned in the preliminary talk with Moulián and that appears on the back cover of the 1st edition of FLACSO. Are in the Day of an external Auditor Election of Italo Calvino:

In politics, as in all things in life, for one who is not a fool, have the two principles are those: not made never too many illusions and not to stop believing that anything you do can be useful



Arendt, Hannah (2000) The Portable Hannah Arendt. London: Penguin

Arendt, Hannah (2008) The Promise of the Policy. Barcelona: Paidós.

Berlin, Isaiah (1988) Four essays on Liberty. Madrid: Alianza.

Lechner, Norbert (2007) Selected Works, Vol 2. Santiago: LOM

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