Some basic ideas from "Self-Organisation in the Information
This paper presents a very short summary of the
work "Self-Organisation in the Information Society" (by Christian
Fuchs, 2000, Vienna).
The word "social" denotes that such a form of information is constituted in the course of social relationships of several individuals. According to Max Weber a social relationship is established if an interrelated reference exists between two actors. Social acting is orientated on meaningful actions of other actors. Social actions are a necessary condition for a social relationship, but not a sufficient one because social acting doesn't necessarily require an interrelated reference of actors: One actor can refer to the actions of another one without the latter referring to the first.
We consider social norms, laws, values and rules (the latter do not need to be codified, they can also be established in the form of traditions or habits) which are constituted during the course of social relationships of several individuals as social information. These individuals must have a common construction of reality which is the basis for their social interactions and social actions. They are elements of a social system. As a result of their interactions in social systems social information emerges as a macroscopic structure. The interactions are mediated by acts of communication, the individuals act in such a way that associations and actions of other individuals are triggered. The individuals co-ordinate their actions in such a manner that they can commonly produce a social information structure.
Social co-operation can be seen as a social relationship in which the mutual references of the involved individuals (these are social interactions) enable all of them to benefit from the situation. By co-operating individuals can reach goals they would not be able to reach alone. New qualities of an observed social system can emerge by social co-operation. The elements/individuals of this system are conscious of these structures which can’t be ascribed to single elements, but to the social whole which relates the individuals. Such qualities are constituted in a collective process by all concerned individuals and are emergent qualities of social systems.
Social competition can bee seen as a social relationship in which the social interactions as well as the relationships of power and domination enable some individuals or social sub-systems to take advantage of others. The first benefit at the expense of the latter who have to deal with disadvantages from the situation. New qualities of an observed social system can emerge by social competition. The elements/individuals of this system are conscious of these structures which can’t be ascribed to single elements, but to the social whole which relates the individuals. But these qualities are not constituted collectively by all concerned individuals, they are constituted by subsystems of the relevant system that have more power than others, dominate others or can make use of advantages that derive from higher positions in existing social hierarchies. These qualities reflect relations of domination in social systems.
Social information can have a co-operative or a competitive character. This depends on the way of its constitution. If social information is established by interrelated references of all individuals who are concerned by its application and if each involved individual has the same possibilities and means of influencing the outcoming information structures in his/her own sense and purpose, the resulting macroscopic structure is a form of co-operative social information. This type of information is collectively established by co-operation of the involved and concerned actors as an emergent quality of a social system in a process of self-organisation. We call this form of social information inclusive social information. Here self-organisation denotes that the individuals concerned by the emerging structures determine and design the occurrence, form, course and result of this process all by themselves. They establish macroscopic structures by microscopic interrelations.
If social information is not constituted in processes of co-operation by all concerned individuals, but by a hierarchic subsystem of the relevant social system that has more power than other subsystems, dominates others or can make use of advantages that derive from higher positions in existing social hierarchies, the resulting structures are types of qualities that result from social competition - we speak of exclusive social information. Exclusive social information is a new, emergent quality of a social system. It is constituted by social competition and reflects relationships of domination and the asymmetric distribution of power in the relevant social system. We can’t say that exclusive social information is established in a process of social self-organisation because not all concerned individuals can participate in this process and can influence it in the same way using equally distributed resources and means.
Considering dissipative systems, self-organisation can be seen as the spontaneous emergence of patterns from the interactions of the system’s elements if a certain threshold of relevant parameters is crossed. We argue in favour of emergent evolution which can explain new qualities of systems that emerge during the course of evolution and can’t be reduced to lower levels of organisation/systems. Hence social systems are more complex than dissipative and autopoietic ones and self-organisation can’t have exactly the same meaning as in less complex systems. During the course of evolution of systems the complexity of systems increases and new qualities of self-organisation emerge. These qualities have some similarities with the old meanings in less complex systems as well as new aspects. Hence on lower organisational levels we have a broader meaning of self-organisation. On upper levels this meaning is getting more and more specific because complexity increases. Therefore we argue in favour of an understanding of social self-organisation that not only considers relationships of elements, but also looks at the qualities of these relationships. So class relationships as well as relationships of power and domination have to be considered.
Self-organisation in social systems denotes that new qualities emerge from social interactions of individuals during the course of a social relationship in a social system and that the individuals concerned by the emerging structures determine and design the occurrence, form, course and result of this process of constitution or differentiation all by themselves. They establish macroscopic structures by microscopic interrelations. With such an understanding of self-organisation exclusive social information can not be seen as being constituted or differentiated by self-organisation.
A hierarchy is made up by a sequence which is ordered by a function of priority. Individuals who are located at upper positions of a hierarchy have more power than individuals on lower levels. Hierarchies in society are characterised by the asymmetric distribution of power. Such unequal distributions are normally guarded by the use of means of coercion. This is the specific character of relationships of domination. Social information is interrelated with questions of power and domination.
The relationship of social information and power/domination
The English sociologist Anthony Giddens sees power as the ability to influence actions of other persons. Power is displayed in the resources which can be used by actors in social interactions.
We see power as the availability of means in order to influence processes and decisions in one’s own sense and purpose. In both approaches power is understood as something which is present in all social relationships, it can be distributed symmetrically as well as asymmetrically. Power is not something that is necessarily exercised over someone, it can not be abolished, but distributed in other forms.
Max Weber sees power as any chance to put through one’s own will in a social relationship even against resistance (see Weber, Max: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Tübingen, 1972). And he sees domination as the chance to find followers of orders.
"Against resistance" points towards an understanding of power as a relationship of coercion which uses disciplines in order to suppress the will of others. Such an approach neglects the possibility of a symmetric distribution of power.
Domination is the availability of means of coercion in order to influence others, processes and decisions in one’s own sense and purpose. It is a display of the asymmetric distribution of power and it can’t be distributed symmetrically. Domination is always exercised over someone. Power is always interrelated with a condition of dependence of individuals. It can only be observed in social relationships. A symmetric distribution of power denotes that all involved actors of a social relationship - who hence all depend on each other - have means in order to influence processes and decisions in this relation to the same degree and in their own sense and purpose. Relationships that are formed by competition are an expression of the asymmetric distribution of power. They play a major role in our society.
More powerful individuals normally have more knowledge than less powerful ones and they play a dominant role in the process of constitution and differentiation of social information. Monopolies of information are monopolies of asymmetrically distributed power and of domination.
The distribution of power in our society is also maintained by the privileged access to and the control of knowledge and social information by ruling classes and the exclusion of others from this access and from the chance of participating in the constitution of social information.
In our western society which is politically formed by the model of representative democracy and economically by Capitalism, the asymmetric distribution of power in both areas (as well as in others such as privacy) prevails. This creates various relationships of influential and less influential classes. In the current form of society, competition dominates co-operation and exclusive social information is far more important than inclusive one.
The relationship of individual and social information
In social systems individual values, norms, conclusions, rules, ideas, experiences and believes can be seen as individual information. Wolfgang Hofkirchner has pointed out that in the process of constitution and differentiation of individual information the signs data, knowledge and individual wisdom can be identified. On the basis of signals data is gathered (perceiving). This data is the starting point for gaining knowledge (interpreting) which is necessary for acquiring wisdom (evaluation). The semiotic triad of syntactic, semantic and pragmatic aspects of signs can be mapped to these three levels of individual information.
As already mentioned the signals as the starting point in the constitution and differentiation of individual information do not solely refer to objects of our environment, they also refer to social information. This is the way of establishing a relationship between individual and social information.
If cognition were solely determined by reflection, the exclusive social information we find in our society would almost necessarily be reflected as individual information by everyone. But in fact almost nobody agrees with all laws and political decisions. Everyone has a dynamically changing structure of individual information. But individual information often reflects dominant conditions, norms, rules, habits and values of society. This reflection is established in processes of socialisation.
Individuals are confronted with manipulation and dis-information by politics, media, economy, ideologies and in personal relations. Because of the existing asymmetric distributions of power, the economic powerful classes control the channels which mediate information.
Nonetheless the establishment of and the access to alternative channels which mediate less represented information is possible if individuals experience alternative forms of socialisation. But these individuals are confronted with the asymmetric distribution of power in society. Alternative channels and alternative socialisation can trigger the constitution of individual information that does not reflect the dominating exclusive social information.
So the epistemological aspect of information in social systems can be seen as the dialectical relationship of reflection and constructivism. Both are aspects of cognition. In the society we live in, the reflection of social conditions in our individual structure of cognition dominates the construction of an individual self. But such a domination can never have a fully determining character.
Thus far we have not accomplished getting rid of the diverse manipulations in society that trigger the domination of social competition and exclusive social information in order to become self-determining, autonomous and altruistic individuals that can choose and differentiate their individual and social information all by themselves.
A self-organised society would be one in which all individuals which are concerned by a problem have the same power to determine and design the occurrence, form, course and results of the constitution and differentiation of social information.
A symmetric distribution of power in terms of resources and access to information, co-operation, inclusive social information and solidarity instead of competition, exclusive social information and egoism as well as a form of socialisation that enables individuals to establish a form of compatibility and satisfaction of their own interests and collective, social ones would be necessary. Compatibility of individual and social interests and information means that each individual on the one side has a maximum of freedom that does not influence the freedom of others as well as collective social interests negatively. Free development of everyone is a necessary condition for the free development of all as well as freedom of all is a necessary condition for freedom of the individual.
Individual and collective interests could be compatible without interfering negatively, egoism is not a "natural" pattern of behaviour that is given by birth or encoded in the genes, it rather comes into existence by processes of socialisation in a system dominated by exclusive social information, asymmetric distribution of power and competition. Individual information and social information could both have a character of freedom because the social information would emerge as a quality of social co-operation by a process of self-organisation from individual information. Nonetheless individual information would still dynamically change by new social experiences.
The solution of global problems in a wise society
Global problems are not specific to the 20th century, they have been existing since a long time in various forms such as epidemics (pestilence etc.) or wars. The new quality of the social problems of our time is that the further existence of mankind is put in question more and more. The unequal distribution of resources (wealth, food, water, energy, means of production, information, products, etc.), the fast growing and widening gap between the rich and the poor, the differences in social standards and standards of development, the ecological crisis and wars (including the possibility of a nuclear destruction which is still a very real danger although the Cold War is over) can be considered as the essential global problems. The currently dominating neoliberal form of politics is accompanied by a growing intensification of these problems.
We believe that in order to solve these global problems society must become a wise one. Social wisdom would be the ability of mankind to overcome the inequalities, threats, unequal distributions, crisis and gaps that are posed by the global problems. Currently the individual wisdom of the majority of humans does not reflect social wisdom.
A necessary condition for establishing a wise society that could solve the global problems would be the overcoming of the domination of exclusive social information in society. A development towards inclusive social information, co-operation and solidarity as well as altruism instead of exclusive social information, competition and egoism could be the basis for solving the global problems and a society that relies rather on co-operation than on competition and the passing of responsibility in social relationships to superiors.
A special point of interest is the self-organisation of emancipatory subjects. Rhizomes are networks of emancipatory social groups. Emancipation can be seen as the goal and praxis of changing capitalism basically. Information and communication technologies (ICT) have a dialectial character: They are medium and result of social change and they are entangled in the dynamic and complex relationship of society and technology. Social networks of social movements can be seen as Rhizomes if they have an emancipatory character. ICT can be a technological medium of such Rhizomes. So the networked character of rhizomes can have three dimensions: a social, a communicative and a technological one. If the elements of a Rhizome are Rhizomes themselves, we can speak of so-called Meta-Rhizomes. In the case of social movements the elements of such a Meta-Rhizome are networks of social movements which are again connected. So we have a networked network with a fractal character. Temporary Autonomous Rhizomes (TAR) are rhizomes that only exist for a short time (e.g. a spontaneous uprising or demonstration). If TAR get a somehow temporarily stabile character we can speak of Permanent Autonomous Rhizomes (PAR).
We can image a dynamic connection and relationship of all these types of social networks and Rhizomes. We can characterise such a social structure as a complex network of social movements that is constituted by different modes of action. The networked networks, Rhizomes, TARs, PARs, Meta-Rhizomes, Meta-Meta-Rhizomes etc. have a dialectical character: They are on the one side diverse and on the other side they have some common goals. So the political dimension can be described as unity in diversity. In such a complex Rhizome-structure not all social movements cooperate necessarily at the same time, but e.g. some Rhizomes work together at one moment of time. Due to the high degree of complexity the clear identification of all activities at one moment of time might not be possible. Emancipatory rhizomatic networks might constitute lines of flight out of the capitalist mode of production and organisation of life. Unity in diversity of the elements of a complex rhizomatic network means also that by cooperation a synthesised line of flight can emerge that can be seen as the constituting element of an emancipatory movement of sublation (Aufhebung in the sense of Hegel).
The Semiotics of Social Information
Why is social information a type of information? Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski, Horst Kaiser, Reiner Tschirschwitz and Bodo Wenzlaff saw it as an ability of organised systems to reflect stimuli from the surroundings of the systems as internal systemic effects. These reflected effects can be seen as information (see Fuchs-Kittowski/Kaiser/Tschirschwitz/Wenzlaff, Informatik und Automatisierung, Berlin, 1976, S. 50f).
By referring to this understanding of information, social norms, laws, values and rules can be seen as reflected information. Social information is constituted in a social process by cooperating individuals. This effect is represented as information in the social system. A stimuli to the system is reflected by a change of the structure of the social system, i.e. by the constitution and differentiation of social information.
Speakting in semiotic terms, a syntactic, a semantic as well as a pragmatic aspect of social information can be defined:
Syntactic level: A relation of parts of the individual information structure of several individuals is established during the course of a social relationship. So a relationship between signs, i.e. the individual information (norms, values, morals) of the involved persons, is established.
Semantic level: By relating diverse pieces of individual information of several individuals, new social information emerges. The whole cannot be reduced to the parts, so social information is more than a sum of pieces of individual information. Social information is always constituted as an emergent quality of a social system. A common interpretation is established in a special situation, i.e. signs (pieces of individual information) are related in a social process. Social information can emerge by a social interpretation.
Pragmatic level: This aspect considers the effect of signs on actions. Social information influences the actions of individuals. Individuals base their actions and social relationships on social information. Which forms this pragmatic aspect takes on depends on social relationships like class relationships and on the constituting process of individual information.
Now we can clearly see the dialectical character of social information:
It is constituted by individuals and it influences and shapes the actions and
social relationships of individuals. Capitalism is dominated by exclusive social
information in all subsytems of society. Hence this exclusive social information
dominates the thinking of individuals. But this domination never takes on an
exclusive character because alternative types of socialisation that allow individuals
to organise themselves even in a capitalist system (e.g. in emancipatory political
structures like Rhizomes) are always imaginable. The aspect of the self-organised
construction of social information by individuals cannot be organised in a capitalist
type of society adequately. So characterising capitalism in terms of social
self-organisation, it can be said that it is a society with a low factor of
Considering social systems we have to say that it is very dangerous
to transfer categories from biology to sociology. Normally this results in biologism
(as is the case with luhmann and maturana). And biologism is very dangerous,
this has been shown by social darwinism which formed an integral part of national
socialism and other fascist movements.
Peter Hejl says that social systems are "synreferential" systems: this relates to the fact that social constructions of reality are medium as well as result of social interactions. hejl sees the parallelized states of social systems (i.e. a construction of reality that is shared by several individuals) as result and further condition of interactions. This is very similar to Anthony Giddens concept of social systems because in his theory of structuration Giddens states that structures are medium as well as result of social actions.
Individuals should be considered as the elements of social systems. Such an understanding is different than the one of Niklas Luhmann. Human beings are of no importance for Luhmann who constructed communications as the elements of social systems. Sociology should analyze how and why social problems exist and sociology should also critisize social relationships that result in social problems (such as class relationships described by marx and others). Social problems are always connected with human actions because actions of human beings which are part of networks of social relationships can result in
social problems. Hence it is important to see individuals as the elements of social systems in order to describe how social problems emerge and develop. Luhmann is not intersted in social problems, he says that sociology should not be seen as a social problems-approach. I am also interested in how the economic relationships of groups of people shape society and the thinking of human beings because Ithink that in modern/capitalist societies the economy dominates other subsystems of
society such as politics, culture and everyday life.
in fact, in our societies capital accumulation as described by marx not only takes place in the economy, the political and the cultural system are also strongly influenced by it. this results in the fact that in capitalist societies profit is more important than people. Ithink that sociology should analyze and critisize this dominance of economics in capitalist societies. This is also something that Luhmann is not interested in.
Basically Ithink that there are several layers of description when we consider society and social systems. We can identify three layers in taking a look at society. The first one is the most abstract one, the third one the most concrete one. In analyzing these layers one can apply a methodology which was called "ascending from the abstract to the concrete" by Marx. So in fact there is a dialectical relationship of the abstract and the concrete. At the most abstract level I think one has to find a definition of social systems which apply to all social systems and societies that have ever existed. For example we can speak of a social system if a set of individuals has a similar construction of reality and acts as well as interacts with reference to this reality in such a way that a network of interactions emerges which influence consciousness, actions and social actions of the involved individuals. Society is different from a social system, it is a network of social system. So society is as Marx said the "product of the reciprocal actions of humans" (Marx/Engels Works, MEW Volume 27, p. 452, in German).
Each society (even if we consider different formations of society such as feudalism, capitalism or communism) consists of the subsystems economy, politics and culture. The economy refers to modes of production, allocation and distribution of ressources. Politics refers to modes of reaching social decisions. And culture describes the ways of how social values are constituted and differentiated.
There is a second, more concrete level of description. Here we already have to distinguish different types of social systems and societies. We can call these different "formations of society". Feudalism was for example one such formation of society, capitalism is another one. Personally Iam interested in describing how capitalism functions on this second level of description. so Ithink that there are some general categories and contradictions which form integral parts of the capitalist formation of society. E.g.: exchange value, profit, capital accumulation, class contradictions, a contradiction of productive forces and relationships of
production, abstract labour, the production of surplus value, state, nation, money as a general equivalent of exchange etc.
And then there is a third level of description which relates to special historical periods of a formation of society. In accordance with the Theory of Regulation (e.g. Alain Lipietz, Michel Aglietta, in Germany Joachim Hirsch) I call this level a model of development. We can find the three subsystems of society (economy, politics and culture/ideology) on all three levels of description. so on the third level a capitalist model of development can be described in the terms of the french regulationists by aregime of accumulation (economy), a mode of regulation (politics) and a mode of disciplinary mechanisms (ideology). Iam
personally interested in how the fordist and post-fordist capitalist models of development can be described and how the crisis of fordism can be explained.
T here is a contradiction of cooperation and competition in capitalist world society. Competition dominates cooperation in economy, politics and culture. I don't think that there is a permanent contraditction of cooperation and competition in ALL types of society, but certainly in the capitalist one. In economics this contradiction results in economic crises due to
overproduction and disproportions between different sectors of the economy. Both phenomena can be seen as results of competitive economic production and distribution in capitalism which is not based on people's needs, but only on decisions made in order to maximize profits.There is also a political contradiction of cooperation and competition in capitalist society. In fact, capitalist society is today shaped by representative democracy which is based on competition of different parties. Decisions are not made by those who are affected by them, they are made by small groups of politicians. This contradiction of cooperation and competition in all subsystems of the capitalist society is one of the main reasons for the political-economical crises of capitalism. Capitalism reproduces itself by the way of crises. But the contradictions of capitalism can also result in the
breakdown of the system. Ithink that such a breakdown will be the result of social changes made by humans in the course of a structural crisis of capitalism which is a result of the contradictions of capitalism such as the contradiction of cooperation and competition. In Hegelian terms such a breakdown can result in the Aufhebung (the English term is sublation) of capitalism and its contradiction. So i believe that another form of society which will be dominated by cooperation rather than by competition (as today) will be based on the Aufhebung of the contradiction of competition and cooperation as well as the other
contradictions of capitalism (such as class contradictions, the contradiction of productive forces and relationships of production etc.).
I think that both cooperation and competition are qualities of social interaction. The interaction of the classes in capitalism is being formed by competition. But when we refer to social self-organisation we see that individuals and groups can also interact cooperatively. I think that classes that are dominated by other classes must organize themselves in a co-operative manner in order to overcome domination and competition. If they further compete the result will not be social change. So fundamental social change which can be seen as qualitative change is often connected with processes of cooperative self-organisation.
Social cooperation/competition can be seen as different types of interactions.
How does social self-organisation relate to the fact that social structures influence individual consciousness? Do we have to assume that individuals have a free will in capitalism today? Marx described a dialectical relationship of objective class
relationships and subjective actions of human beings which change society. This can be seen as dialectics of subject and object.
On the one hand individuals who live in capitalist societies are an object of capitalist structures. This is due to the fact that capitalist being dominates consciousness. Marx has described this in some detail. E.g. in "Theses on Feuerbach" Marx said that "each single individual [...] is the ensemble of the social relations". This clearly relates to this influence of society (being) on the individual (consciousness). The Frankfurt Critical Theory (Marcuse, Adorno, Horkheimer etc.) has elaborated this aspect and has stressed that in capitalism, society manipulates individual consciousness which is due to the types of alienation that were described by Marx.
On the other hand, Marx also stressed that social change needs active human beings as subjects of emancipation. E.g. in his famous 11th thesis on feuerbach, Marx says: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it". So Marx thinks that actions of human beings are very important in changing society.
So on the one hand, man in capitalism is an object of capitalist structures, but on the other hand he nonetheless can change these structures, he can even emancipate himself from capitalism by actively changing society. That is also what marx stressed very strongly (whereas Engels did not stress that man must change society in a manner comparable to Marx, his point was more that there would be objective laws that would change society without emancipatory human activities).
Marx summarized this dialectical relationship of structure and action e.g. in a famous passage from "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte": "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past". To make owns own history - in
fact, that is the idea of social self-organisation.
Ithink that marx covered both aspects of this relationship of structure and action, being and consciousness which is in fact one of the basic problems of sociology. And he solved that problem in a dialectical way: Man is an object of social structures, but he can also emancipate himself as an active subject from these structrues in a process of self-organisation.So in fact already Marx stressed the idea of self-organisation. Today sociologists like Anthony Giddens have solve this problem in the same manner as marx already did 150 years ago.
Constructivism in the tradition of Maturana, Varela, Luhmann, Von Glasersfeld, Foerster and others puts forward a wrong picture of society. They portray modern society as something in which individuals have a free choices of action and construct their own realities independently from social structures. So they do not see the relationship of being/structures and consciousness/action dialectically as Marx did. They neglect the influences of social structures on consciousness/actions and miss something which has been called "reflection" (Widerspiegelung) in marxist epistemology: Individuals reflect social structures in their cognitive structure which results in the shaping of individual actions by society. Marx' dialectical concept seems much more realistically to me than the one put forward by radical constructivism. Constructivism neglects that the relationship of
being and consciousness is a dialectical one. It only stresses one dimension of the relationship of being and consciousness: the one that structures are being changed by conscious individuals. But these structures also influence our cognition. That is what
constructivism does not describe. Hence it is a rather one-sided, undialectical approach.
In fact, we don't have a free choice which class relationships we are part of. That is the aspect of structure influencing consciousness. But on the other hand we can become self-conscious individuals who can choose to change society and to cooperate in a self-organized manner instead of competing. This is the aspect of changing structures by actions. And such a process of self-conscious humans organizing themselves can result in the overthrow of capitalism. Both aspects (structure influencing consciousness/action, consciousness/action changing structure) should be stressed in a concept of social systems.
In capitalism being dominates consciousness, i.e. the influence of structure on action and consciousness is more strongly
developed than the influence the other way round. But it is a goal to change this relationship historically: This would mean that self-conscious individuals change capitalist society in such a way that they proceed to a type of society where they cooperate rather than compete and where the contradictions which are special features of capitalism no longer exist.
Today people do not have a free choice whether they want to cooperate or to compete. In capitalist societies, mechanisms of socialization educate and manipulate individuals in such a way that they think competition is something natural. They in fact do not know how to cooperate in many cases. But this can change, people can learn how to cooperate and how to organize themselves. Today people do not have a free will and a free choice because capitalist structures dominate consciousness. People are not self-conscious in capitalist societies. But in another type of society, in a cooperative one, people could learn how to cooperate, they would see cooperation as a matter of course, as something which is not hard to achieve. In fact capitalism is based on competition rather than on cooperation. The alienation of our minds which results in the fact that we are not ourselves and which is caused by the influence of capitalist structures on our consciousness can never have a fully deterministic character. The theory of self-organisation shows us that a deterministic type of logic should be avoided because this can result in mechanistic views of social change. Hence it is possible that human beings become self-conscious and critical individuals, even in capitalism. In fact, this is a necessary pre-condition for social, emancipatory self-organisation that can lead to another type of society, a post-capitalist society. A first step towards a self-organized, co-operative society is based on cognitive changes. Human beings have to get red of the alienation of their minds in order to become self-conscious and critical. This could be achieved by alternative mechanisms of socialization that try to show people that they should critically reflect the character of capitalism which is presented as something natural for all societies today. Self-consciousness does not mean that an avantgarde-party will take a leading role in the emancipatory process, it means that people have to start thinking for themselves how happiness and pacification of the whole mankind can be reached. if self-conscious and critical individuals are able to transcend capitalism in their minds, it will be possible to form an active collective subject of emancipation in a process of social self-organisation. and this could be a first stepping-stone towards a more just, more co-operative and self-organized society.