VOL. 3, NO. 4, PGS. 1–10


The Problems of Collective Life and Social Change
A conversation with Guy Bajoit

This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.

Guy Bajoit is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the Catholic University of Louvain. He is the author, among others, of the book El cambio social: análisis sociológico del cambio social and cultural en las sociedades contemporáneas.

This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.

What are the main problems of ordinary life?

If we call “human collectivity” a group of individuals living together on a delimited territory for a more or less long period of time, we cannot but recognise that, in the history of humanity, human collectivities were terribly fragile: thousands of them did not manage to survive, and disappeared. Why? What does the capacity of a human collectivity to survive in time and space depend on?

I believe that the survival of any collectivity depends on the ability of its social actors to solve seven major problems, which I call “the vital problems of common life”. To solve them, the members of the collectivity have to practice collaborative relationships with each other. But not only do they collaborate, they are also in competition, in conflict and often in contradiction with each other. These antagonistic components of their exchanges have the effect of producing inequalities in social relations. Certain actors (which I call “managers”) have control over the purposes and resources needed to solve the vital problems of common life, while others (which I call “popular”) do not. The former benefit from the inequalities of control and tend to forget the interests of the latter. This makes it difficult to solve the vital problems of common life because the managerial actors and the popular actors do not have the same conception of the solutions to be found to these problems. It can therefore be said that the survival of any community depends on the ability of its actors to resolve the conflicts between management actors and grassroots actors in such a way that these conflicts do not become a contradiction. The essential difference between a conflict and a contradiction is that conflict is an inclusive exchange (each actor needs to re-establish collaboration with the other to achieve its own ends), while contradiction is an exclusive exchange (to achieve its ends, each has to prevent the other from achieving its own ends). As far as competition is concerned, this is also an exclusive exchange, but with “rules of the game” and referees, which is not the case with contradiction.

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