[TODAY]Kinship attitudes in a global era

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[TODAY]Kinship attitudes in a global era

The German social philosopher Max Weber was more or less against the Hegelian-Marxist deterministic theory of social evolution that held that human society moves toward a certain goal according to certain principles. But Richard Loventhal, a German progressive sociologist and journalist, thinks that Weber at least saw Western society as having developed from a kinship-based community to a religious community before becoming a state community.

Modern society was born when blood ties as the basis of society were severed. That was the beginning of the crucial process of rationalization. The introduction of a Western religious society based on the teachings of Jesus, who asked nothing about the family ties of his disciples and even told them to put these ties behind to follow him, was also part of the rationalization process that brought about modern society. Europe had started out as a group of kinship-based communities, but is now transcending even the boundaries of state communities to become a federal community.

The reason I bring up Weber and Loventhal is because I feel frustrated about Korea's political situation. On the scale of the Weber evolution -- or even putting aside Weber and Loventhal -- where does our society stand today?

Are we not still stuck in a rather kinship-based community? What is this political fight we are now seeing unfold but a tribal fight of societies of kinfolks? In a tribal war, the losers are wiped out. That is why Chief Kim Dae-jung's tribe and Chief Lee Hoi-chang's men are pushing and shoving with grim, life-or-death determination.

What is this fight about? Does it necessarily have to be the prosecutor Park Young-kwan who can investigate the allegations that Lee Hoi-chang's son evaded military service in the right way? Should the former justice minister be appointed to the same portfolio again, so that the draft-dodging allegations are cleared up and Mr. Lee loses the election and the MDP assumes the power again?

Does the public's premonition that the intricate human ties among the figures in question will compromise a fair investigation not matter at all? What did the legislator Lee Hai-chan mean by saying that someone from the administration or the prosecutors office, possibly Mr. Park, had asked him to raise the draft dodging allegations in the National Assembly? What is behind the allegations that another legislator, Park Ju-seon, had been involved in getting Kim Dae-eup, an ex-felon, to cooperate in the investigation of draft-dodging in prominent families?

The transfer of senior prosecutors which excluded Mr. Park and the lawmakers' comments were all invitations for the GNP to jump down the MDP's throat. The Grand National Party was equally wrong, however, to rally in front of the Blue House like striking workers or protesting university students and then rush to the prosecutors office to demand a quick end to the investigation of Mr. Lee's son.

Weber said in a lecture titled "Politics as a Vocation" that the three criteria required of a professional politician are passion, responsibility and judgment. The most important of the three is judgment. Judgment is among other things the ability to rationally assess reality, and for that there must be due distance between the observer and the observed. "It is a grave sin for a politician to lose that distance," he said.

President Kim and Lee Hoi-chang have brought their current misfortunes on themselves because they ignored this advice in dealing with their sons' affairs.

The first person to have taught politicians this benefit of distance was Cicero of ancient Rome. In the sixth volume of his work "On the Republic," Cicero talks about Scipio's dream. In the story, Scipio the younger has a dream in which his grandfather, Africanus, who had conquered Carthage, appears to him.

Africanus took Scipio up to the heavens and showed him how, from up above, the earth was nothing but a tiny dot. He told him that fame was meaningless and that throwing off one's greed to serve the people was the key to a life of eternal happiness. Scipio is told by Africanus that no matter how big his name became, it could not cross the Caucasus Mountains nor could it ford the Ganges River.

Perhaps trying to find Scipio's universal vision in Kim Dae-jung, Lee Hoi-chang or Roh Moo-hyun is like trying to find a fish in a tree. Nevertheless, we need a new political theology.

In the words of Professor Jeon Seong-wu of Hanyang University, we need to accept the diversity of values that Weber spoke of as a new god. Those struggling for power should learn to count the trees while seeing the entire forest through Scipio's dream.

That is the kind of noble politics that would bring comfort to the people, end our tribal wars, transcend boundaries of state communities and let us join the age of internationalization.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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