Social Relations


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Social Relations

 

the multifarious ties that arise between social groups, classes, and nations, and also within these groups in the context of their economic, social, political, and cultural activities. Individuals enter into social relations precisely as representatives of one or another social community or group. Social relations are in dialectical interaction with personal relations, that is, with people’s relations as distinct individuals linked by direct contacts—relations in which people’s psychological, moral, and cultural characteristics, their sympathies and antipathies, and other personal factors are significant. In this interaction, social relations determine the essential aspects of personal relations. It is theoretically unsound and in practice harmful to identify personal with social relations or to use categories characterizing personal relations to characterize social relations. Speaking of the mutual relations of workers and capitalists, F. Engels pointed out that the “the relationship of the manufacturer to his operatives has nothing human in it; it is purely economic” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 497).

Social relations are viewed in philosophy from a materialist or an idealist standpoint. The materialist—that is, scientific—conception of social relations was first elaborated by Marxism. According to this conception, all of the various social relations—economic, political, legal, moral, and so forth—are divided into primary relations, which are material and pertain to the base, and secondary relations, which are ideological and pertain to the superstructure (seeBASE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE). Of all the social relations, the primary, chief, defining ones are material—economic or production relations. The logical development of this idea produces the materialist monism of the Marxist-Leninist theory of social development. The nature of material social relations is determined by the productive forces of the society and does not depend on the will and the consciousness of people. Mediated by human consciousness, ideological social relations—political, legal, moral, and others—arise on the base of material social relations and form a superstructure above them. Thus, society is not a mechanical combination of different social relations, but rather a unified system of these relations.

The division of social relations into material and ideological relations makes it possible not only to distinguish the determining and the derivative among them, but also to analyze the totality of social relations, in which both material and ideological elements are combined (for example, class, national, intergovernmental, and international relations). In connection with the increasing complexity and differentiation of social life, diverse social relations arise, associated with different, more specific, forms of human activity that include administration, science, arts, technology, sports, and education.

The social relations of different social groups, communities, organizations, and collectives are determined, first, by a group’s place in the historically defined system of production relations, and second, by its concrete interrelations with other social groups—above all, with the main classes of the society.

In a society of class antagonism, different social groups occupy antagonistic positions in the given system of social relations: slaveholder and slave, feudal lord and serf, capitalist and worker are at different poles of the social relations of their eras. The same social relations are appraised differently from different class standpoints, in a necessarily limited and one-sided way. The revolutionary struggle of the working class, whose interests coincide with the objective laws of historical development, first opened the way for this one-sidedness to be overcome. The working class’s ideology is at the same time consistently scientific.

Within each socioeconomic formation, social relations are historically particular and specific. Among the social relations characteristic of each formation it is possible to distinguish stable, comparatively long-lasting relations, which reflect the fundamental characteristics of the given form of property-ownership, and mobile, dynamic relations, which reflect the changes occurring in society, in the interrelations of classes, in the alignment of conflicting social forces, and so forth. As long as changes in social relations within a certain socioeconomic formation do not affect that formation’s foundations—the dominant form of property-ownership—they are solely evolutionary in character. A change in fundamental, stable social relations, associated with a fracture in the entire social structure and with a transition from one socioeconomic formation to another, is revolutionary in nature.

In examining social relations, it is necessary to take into account whether they are by their nature antagonistic or nonan-tagonistic, that is, whether they are the relations of hostile social groups or the relations of friendly social groups with common fundamental goals and interests. Social relations in slaveholding, feudal, and capitalist formations were and are antagonistic in nature. Under the conditions of an antagonistic society, material social relations form spontaneously. People do not perceive the real nature of their material social relations; their awareness is primarily illusory in character. Under capitalism, real relations between people assume the form of relations between things. K. Marx unmasked the secret of capitalist production and exposed the social relations of human beings behind the relations of commodities and things. The antagonistic nature of material social relations between the classes of slaveholding, feudal, and capitalist formations determines the existence of antagonisms in the sociopolitical and ideological spheres of social life and influences social relations of all kinds. The relations typical of a given formation are interwoven in a distinctive way with the relations preserved from previous formations or the incipient preconditions of the relations of a new formation.

Antagonistic social relations are eliminated in the course of socialist revolution. The communist social formation generates qualitatively new social relations, which develop through the resolution of nonantagonistic conflicts. The material and ideological social relations of a communist formation are developed consciously and systematically, in accordance with the scientific conception of the nature and laws of social progress. Under the conditions of socialist society, on the basis of the creation of the material and technical base of communism, socialist social relations are perfected. There is a gradual overcoming of the essential differences between city and countryside and between mental and physical labor. Boundaries between classes and social groups are erased, leading to the creation of a classless, socially uniform society. New relations are formed in the spheres of production and distribution and in other spheres of public life.

REFERENCES

See under HISTORICAL MATERIALISM and IDEOLOGY.

V. ZH. KELLE and M. IA. KOVAL’ZON

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