Christological shaping sociality

In chapter 2, I stressed the importance of sociality by noting that, metaphorically, it is to be ascribed to the second person of the Trinity. Through this chapter, the implications of this claim are being explored. We have seen through the last section - in the exploration of nature as extra nos and pro nobis - that spatiality and temporality are analytic to sociality. How could there be social interactions, which the concept of sociality as transcendental indicates, without space and time.? The condition of society thereby requires the conditions of space and time. However, given its importance in the argument, I propose, through this section, to offer more detail on the concept of sociality.34

32. See Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Difference, ch. 7; Plumwood, 'Nature, Self and Gender', pp. 162-4; Northcott, The Environment and ChristianEthics, pp. 116-18.

33. Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 11, 658-98. For an attempt to contextualise Bloch's work for ecology, see Ely, 'Ernst Bloch, Natural Rights and the Greens', pp. 134-66.

34. Through this section I am indebted, in ways that I cannot now discern, to the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For an attempt to acknowledge the debt, see Peter Scott, 'Christ,

To speak of sociality as transcendental is to argue that society is not produced by human beings. Instead, social relations always pre-exist human beings. Human beings thus enter into social relations (of work, of culture, of embodiment, including reproduction). All these social relations have natural conditions. Sociality points towards a materialism: human beings engage in social activities which have the unintended outcome of reproducing society. This we might call a transformational account of society: there is no society without human agency, and yet social outcomes are not identical with the intentions of social agents. We should also add: there is no society without natural agency, and yet social outcomes may not be identical with the intentions of natural agents. To speak of a society is thereby to speak of the reproduction of society, and the utilisation of already established social products: to speak is to participate in a culture (with its natural condition of a voice); to make is to work with already established social products (including relations with non-human nature); to act is to participate in a situation governed by social rules (which have their own reference to nature).

To speak of a society from the perspective of the social transcendental is thereby always to maintain nature as co-participant: through all projects, non-human nature is active. Such a view is working with the grain of Daniel Hardy's insight into the situated character of human society: 'The conditions for human society are, loosely speaking, situational: sociality is formed and constrained by ecological conditions, such as location on a delimited land area and the natural resources that are available there.'35 This circumstance must be presented in its full radicality: however society is organised, every transformative activity has nature as co-participant; all practices are co-constituted by nature. We should therefore speak of the mutual, shaping and irreducible interrelationality of all things in sociality. Indeed, we might say: nature lies between people.36 On this view, ecological nature is the 'in-between', the middle oflife. In the interstices, the joints of human living, nature is always already present. Nature is not then in the middle oflife but is that middle. What happens between selves is never not nature; as 'in-between', nature insinuates itself everywhere. Thus, in any human project, we must assume the in-between ofnature: in

Nature, Sociality: Dietrich Bonhoeffer for an Ecological Age', Scottish-Journal of Theology, 53:4 (2000), 413-30.

35. Hardy, 'Created and Redeemed Sociality', p. 44.

36. Here I am adapting some remarks by Hannah Arendt, as reported by Douglas John Hall, The Steward: A Biblical Symbol Comes of Age (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans and New York: Friendship Press 1990), p. 230.

farming, however mechanised; in production, the transformation of nature; in extraction, the drawing out of nature; in urban living; in the health and safety of workers and others; in education; in aesthetic enjoyment. The metaphor also works in terms of human embodiment: what I am in-between my sense of myself and myself is, precisely, nature. Thus, medical therapies and disciplines are performed on my body, as nature; to alter the genetic constituents of human, or other, life, is always an intervention in nature. In theological theorising we need to understand nature as that which is in-between.37 Nature, we may affirm, is a dialectical concept: it demands an account of humanity in nature, yet as differentiated from nature. Yet such differentiation is not the distance of domination but the difference ofotherness which both preserves and exceeds us: nature is in-between.38

Keywords that emerge in this analysis of sociality are: self, nature and relation. Through participation in and enactment ofsocial relations, the self reproduces society, and him or herself, in relations with nature. Furthermore, as present to social relations, nature is an essential partner in the reproduction of self and society. Indeed, on account of the concept of sociality, it would be theoretically proper to begin not from the concept of selfbut from the concepts ofnature or relation. From either ofthese concepts, an inquiry into the transcendental character of the transformation and production of society may be pursued dialectically. Such a dynamic of social interaction, in which the whole is to be grasped dialectically by reference to sociality, is the natura in nobis structure of human ecology.

We have here a conceptuality - which does, of course, need to be augmented by reference to temporality and spatiality - that permits the specification of a number of interactions with non-human nature (and human embodiment) across a variety of dimensions. On this view, we are not merely placed in non-human nature. Rather, nothing can humanly be done without nature as co-participant; nature is in-between all human projects. We must, finally, stress the important interactive dynamic ofso-cial relations. By being placed in nature, humanity is able to respond to nature as directed to humanity and as the otherness of demand. Responding

37. We encounter here the problem of abstraction: we learn that nature is an abstract concept. The dimensions of its conceptuality emerge as vitally important: nature functions as a Kantian regulative idea by interpreting that which cannot be grasped in its entirety by theory. A certain modesty of reason is required here; nature cannot be 'mastered' in an epistemology.

38. Joel Kovel, 'Commentary on Herbert Marcuse's "Ecology and the Critique of Modern Society"', Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 3:3 (1992), 40-2 (42).

to the other as creative, and responding to the proximate as preservative, involves changes in relationships. Such is the logic of sacrifice, a 'setting free for the living out of creaturely being'.39

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