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A. N. Lavroukhin
The role of the principle of structural and political pluralism in the formation of the information society
Dramatic changes brought about by the Information revolution touch upon all the sides of the social and private life including the fields of production, consumption and recreation. Intensive spread of recent information technologies is gradually washing off the former demarcation lines between countries, information sectors, social groups and individuals. At the international level the serious changes are under way that could not be foreseen even ten years ago: break-down of seemingly immovable «socialist camp», more or less peaceful transition of the former socialist countries to the market economy and reorganization of political and social life on the tradional principles developed in the course of human history.
These changes have resulted in a rather rapid transformation of conceptual, philosophic, economic and political views of the individuals and the society on the whole. It is the formation of structural and political pluralism that underlies these developments. The concept of structural and political pluralism helps to better understand the meaning and importance of structural and social consequences of informatization. It is a basic principle that determines the nature of approaches to the problem solving at different levels and presupposes acknowledgement of natural right of existence of not only similar but also essentually different conceptual, philosophic, scientific, religious and really existing as well as potential local, regional, governmental and international political and economic structures and systems.
In itself the acknowledgement of right of existence and development of concepts as well as political and economic systems doesn’t seem anything new. There is a rather long tradition in the world history related to declaration and juridical confirmation of such rights of countries, social and political organizations, professional groups and individuals. Suffice it to mention Holy Scriptures of many peoples including New Testament, Koran, Bhagavad-gita, many tenets of which, at least officially, had been supposed to serve as normative, juridical documents during rather long periods of history of different countries, Declaration of Human Rights (XVIII century), Declaration of Rights of Labour and Exploited People, and Helsinki Agreements (XX century). But practically up to now in the majority of cases these rights have remained only wishes and ideals which one should follow but which can hardly be translated into reality. But in real life among countries, regions, social groups and individuals such kind of relations would establish that it gave occasion to speak of «the war of all against all», struggle for existence and survival, right of the strong, intolerance and non-recognition of the rights of the «strangers» («who is not with us is against us»). As a rule, the establishing of some systems and structures in the theoretical and practical fields of human activity was considered and carried out as a victory, neutralization and annihilation of the others – false and alien. The history gives plenty of examples to prove it.
But under the global changes caused by the information revolution and the informatization process a new state of affairs is brought about when the recognition of rights of existence and development of different theories, social groups, political organizations and economic structures is becoming everyday reality and a norm of life. It is conditioned by the fact that the informatization by its nature is related to meeting the needs of individuals and groups who understand potentialities and advantages latent in applying recent information technologies and who are directly interested in the informatization of their activities. It is due to this fact that the governments in the former socialist countries failed to successfully carry out the informatization «from above». The successful development of the informatization needs democratic institutions, rights and liberties of citizens. As the experience of the last two decades has convincingly proved the informatization process cannot normally go in the totalitarian society. It is inevitably hindered by both ruling clique which has to impose its values, tasks and objectives on the society and limit the free circulation of information flows to retain its dominating position and other subordinate social strata which must fulfil orders of higher organs and which are not directly interested in the informatization results. Under dynamic development of informatization process and intensive spreading of information technologies that lead to the radical reorganization and pronounced increase of efficiency of economics in democratic countries, totalitarian regimes are lagging behind almost in all important fields and, as a result, are loosing their political influence in the world. Their break-up is becoming no more than a question of time that’s why carrying out democratic remaking that can open up the way to informatization process is vitally important for future technological development of the former socialist countries. In the first instance it is to these circumstances that the break-up of totalitarism is related on the threshold of the XXI century.
At the same time althogh structural and political pluralism is a basic principle ensuring the successful development of informatization and formation of information society it has not become firmly established yet and is not generally accepted as a norm of life. The process of new social stratification as a result of uneven development of informatization in different regions and practically class societies leading to the appearance of «information rich» and «information poor» countries, social groups and individuals does not favour the development of democratic lines and the strengthening of the principle of structural and political pluralism.
In this connection H.Spinner is right on the whole to note that under the circumstances the so-called world information order is «naturally developing force order which will be nothing else without the policy of reforms on a world scale...(p.3). The new world order mentioned in the press since the war in the Persian Gulf does not exist. And if it were, it would be an order based on force, and not on information and it would, of course, exert an important and most probably unfavourable influence on the information order. The report on the war in the Persian Gulf contains enough evidences that «new world order» has nothing in common with the new international information order the basis of which is a free circulation of information flows (p 17).
Thus at the given stage of the information revolution the structural and political pluralism remains in many respects no more than a potentiality, though without its translating into reality a successful development of informatization process and formation of new information society is hardly possible. But establishing the principle of structural and political pluralism as a norm of social life and international relations is predetermined technologically and is no more than a a question of time under the intensive spreading and wide applying of new information technologies.
The formation of information society is related to the essential reorganization of the contemporary society as a whole and its structures in particular. The very principles of organization of social and personal life are changing. Informatization which is the technical process by the nature, leading to development and wide application of new information and telecommunication technologies, touches upon social, spiritual and cultural fields as well. H.Spinner notes that under information revolution not only a new style of cognition, new type of knowledge is created and their place in scientific and extra-scientific areas is redetermined but also the system of knowledge itself radically changes (p. 1).
The complexity and ambiguity of this process is conditioned by the fact that «though applying recent technologies including biotechnology results in undermining foundations of the existing system of knowledge it nevertheless does not ensure creation of adequately organized new structure. Ever-increasing potentialities and undeniable achievements of recent technologies of knowledge themselves are not decisions but multifaceted problems yet to be solved» (p.3).
Under information revolution the system of knowledge is not less important than other social systems. To understand the processes that are under way in the system in question it must be taken into account that the system of knowledge is a separate system although closely related to other fields. It only «to a little extent is a component or an effluence of economic structure with the exception of ever-increasing completely commercialized mass media» (p. 4-5).
The old system of knowledge has formed and developed according to its own laws. Under the new circumstances it is gradually changing under the influence of such factors as technization of knowledge, commercialization of knowledge products, globalization of information flows on national and international levels, privatization of some types and subsystems of knowledge (personal data, commercial knowledge products). H Spinner thinks that the influence of the mentioned four factors leads to appearance and use of knowledge «liberated» from the criteria of scientific verity and proficiency. But it may hardly seem something new. Extra-scientific knowledge has always existed and if to except Europe beginning from the Modern Times, the field of its application has hardly been any narrower than that of the scientific knowledge.
H.Spinner is right to say that new fields of knowledge are involved in the process of informatization. I can add that it also applies to the fields which have often been considered non-scientific and even incompatible with traditional European academic science but which nevertheless help to find answers and decisions that seem satisfying and acceptable to some individuals and whole social groups.
As H.Spinner notes, the old traditional knowledge was determined by Greek-Eastern scientific programme and was limited by the field of academic education in the style of pure science and general education. Present-day decision taking makes it necessary to change inner structures of the individual fields of knowledge with regard for non-classical structural relations and specific features of commercialized knowledge of information products and markets.
The process of formation of new system of knowledge under informatization is developing gradually and unevenly. The question of how new system of knowledge will evolve and survive under dynamically changing conditions in the near and distant future is not raised by H.Spinner. At the same time he diagnoses the actual state of the system of knowledge and tackles its complicated problems.. Of much interest is his model of the new structure of knowledge which could meet the requirements of information age (p. 14). This model includes eight cognitive-information structures of which only academic structure of knowledge is examined in more detail in this paper (p. 19) because it is this field that is of special imterest to scientific community.
It is important that all eight structures that form the new knowledge structure of the information age are characterized by structural and political pluralism. In their dynamic unity cognitive-information structures,on the one hand, compete and on the other, partly complement each other. It ensures relatively sustainable development of the whole knowledge system which can adjust to changing conditions. Besides the important factor of the survival of the knowledge system in the information age is the structural and political pluralism which is a basic principle of the whole system.