Alternative Sociology: Probing into the Sociological Thought of Allama M. T. Jafari

Chapter 4: Sociology and Three Kinds of Relationships

Allama Jafari speaks about three kinds of relationships in his sociological inquiries. In other words, there are three general kinds of relationships between individuals in any society: 1. Natural, 2. Psychological, and 3. Contractual.

Natural Relationship

The most common relation is the natural relationship which is divided itself into two groups; 1) Deterministic-Intrinsic Type and 2) Deterministic-Extrinsic Type. For instance, the question of instinctual movement and its saturation are parts of the natural relationship and also of deterministic nature.

Because the instinct exists as a need and a faculty within our body and due to the fact that its presence is of an inherent nature then its relational function is of deterministic character. In other words, the instinctual relationships are of fundamental importance to the integrity of human life. Any human individual is born with this innate ability which makes the relationship between male and female a matter of impulse and not choice.

In other words, when one speaks of free will in this level it should be noted that the very question of impulse is not the issue but how it is exemplified is the problem here. To put it differently; who to choose as a spouse is dependent on the will of the subject but the very question of compulsion to choose the opposite sex is not optional but instinctual.

This is the simplest and also the most essential kind of relationship between human beings. Now we can turn to the question of extrinsic relationship among human beings which are not optional but compulsory within the natural realm of relationship in accordance to Allama Jafari’s approach.

For example, individuals in a society decide to cooperate with each other against external enemy forces or dangers such as flood which would assist them in defending themselves. This is an example of a compulsory relationship but of an extrinsic nature as the external dangers either natural or human have forced humanity along its historical course to build coalitions with each other in various different forms of relationships.

It seems both in the past and in the present time most of human relationships have had the same origins, namely building various kinds of relationships within societies against the stronger forces of nature or otherwise as without these alliances the life of the human society may have terminated in toto. Within sociological context one should be able to distinguish between different types of relationships as to treat these multifaceted relations all in the same fashion would be mistaken. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 1)

Psychological Relationship

The psychological relationship is composed of three different but interrelated types of relationships, namely a) Inherently deterministic association of psychological nature, b) Extrinsically deterministic affiliation of psychological nature, and c) Psychological relationship based on freedom and will.

a) Inherently deterministic association of psychological nature

These types of relationships are caused either by philanthropic emotions or passions which are associated to philanthropic inclination rooted in the soil of human self. For example, I, by nature, perceive that you are a human being (part of human species) and similar to me in humanity. In other words, this quality is not dependent upon any external factor.

When you are a human being and my fellowman then this, by itself, is an indication that we have certain common characteristics such as ‘thought’, ‘joys’, ‘pains’ and so on and so forth. Thus these common qualities create a sense of fellowship which is called inherently deterministic association of psychological nature. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 1)

b) Extrinsically deterministic affiliation of psychological nature

When the common denominator is ‘belief’, ‘country’, ‘race’, ‘culture’ or whatever else of this category then we are faced by extrinsic affiliations which are of both psychological and deterministic origin. Co-raciality, for instance, is not a matter of physical dimension but rooted in the soil of psychological relationship. Because when two people belong to the same race this sense of belongingness is not authentically of physical but psychological origin.

On the other hand, all of us are born in the same land and belong to the same historical era and by tracing back our genealogical roots we may find the same forefathers or racial family tree. In other words, as these types of relationships are deterministic by definition and they are not either of inherent nature as well as dependent upon external relationships then we can categorize them as extrinsically deterministic affiliation of psychological nature. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 1)

c) Psychological relationship based on freedom and will

We could talk about this kind of relationship when associations are based on shared belief or common ideology provided they are based on self-awareness and freedom-cum-will. These types of relationships do appear in people who have reached certain kinds of intellectual advancements, i.e. those personalities who have achieved the state of reflexivity.

In other words, these types of personalities do not feel content by following the dominant social norms but are able to question the norms, look for truths, go beyond the clichés and seek the paths of self-actualization.[^1]

They, unlike the majority, do not settle for received wisdom but follow their own profound concerns which may result in novel kinds of associations. In other words, by following their own sublime concerns they create affiliations which are of mental character and also based on free-will. These affiliations are of great significance for the being of human self as an emancipative personality. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 1)

Contractual Relationship

This kind of relationship itself is consisted of two other types, i.e. the deterministic contract and the voluntarily contract.

a) Deterministic Contract

When Allama Jafari talks about deterministic kind of contractual relationships he refers to dominant legal, economic, and political relationships in a certain society. Among individuals, groups and people in a certain society one can discern these kinds of relationships which are involuntarily in the strict sense of the term. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 1)

b) Voluntarily Contract

This type of relationship is consisted of all commitments and voluntary contracts including international/national commitments as well as private and public agreements. To highlight these kinds of relationships Allama Jafari refers to following examples: one may, for instance, commit her/himself to study regularly from the coming week or sign a contract with a factory to produce specific goods on an exact date. The list could be longer but … we settle for the aforementioned examples which demonstrate clearly what it is meant by associations based on voluntarily contract. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 1)

The fundamental principles of human relationships belong to the field of psychology but it should be noted that the aforementioned threefold relationships are demonstrated with different quantities and qualities in a societal context. Although these principles constitute the crucial crux of primary relationships but one should not assume that the boundaries between each of these affiliations are fixed.

On the contrary, the precincts are fluid and hard to territorialize in a solid fashion. In Allama Jafari’s words, when analyzing a case in this context it is not easy to determine to what extent the relationship is of contractual or natural nature.

Thus a sociologist should not treat her/his subject-matters as physical cases in isolated fashions but human relationships should be considered in a constant connection with one another within the webs of societal interactions.

For instance, when the relationship between the opposite sexes is a matter of inquiry it should be remarked that this relationship is rooted in the natural proclivity of human being which means the sexual instinct falls under the category of natural relationship. But it should be carefully noted that the subject-matter of our inquiry is human being which by its very definition it gives birth to psychological problems.

In other words,

… although the instinctual inclinations are of natural origin but these natural proclivities when expressed at the human level could not be confined solely to the natural plane. It is not hard to conceive that when we choose a partner we may have different criteria for our choice such as beauty, personality, and education. This entails psychological issues apart from sexual considerations which may primarily come to fore. When the couple is considered in their societal dimension then legal issues may enter to the equation as one will be treated as a husband and the other as the wife as well as the offspring which together give rise to various possible contractual relationships.

Therefore if the relationships are inquired on instinctual basis then the character of affiliations should be seen as purely natural. But due to the fact that individuals in their collective associations and societal life do not settle for this level of relationship and moreover there are issues of procreations in society and adoption of social roles which pave the way for establishment of contractual relationship … … … and legal issues should be erected for the formation of social order and solidification of family institution … . (Jafari, 1976. Ch.

To put it differently, the tripartite relationships are not three disparate issues without any fundamental connection to one another. On the contrary,

… these relationships should be considered in dynamic and interdependent fashions and moreover each of these tripartite associations, in despite of their systemic relationships, go through transformations due to various different kinds of situations. For instance, when the culture and civilization of any nation goes through vital changes then the forms of relationships do get transformed too; namely, some relationships increase and others decrease. In a nutshell, the characteristics and qualities as well as features of relationships follow the cycles of changes and transformations in a fundamental fashion. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

By dividing the human relationships into three different but interrelated kinds of associations Allama Jafari argues that we should in the next step split up three tripartite forms of affiliations into three movements in reference to what he terms as transformational trend.

Primary Movement

By primary movement Allama Jafari refers to progressive and prosperous movements such as reproduction in sexual relationships; defensive movements for obtaining power; or progressive movements in domains of civilization and culture and so on and so forth.

The curve of movement in natural relationship could go upward or downward. For instance, in reference to sexual instinct as a form of relationship, the reproductive instinct is per se desirable. The wisdom of nature

… has bestowed upon humanity such a wonderful design that a hefty desire to function as a drive which would assure the cycle of human reproduction ad infinitum. If there was no desire or passion between the sexes the human population could not grow to this extent on the planet. Needles to state that in regard to sexual relationships the main reason could be primarily referred to the importance of ‘desire’ in this context and secondarily one could think of reproduction and having offspring. A cursory look at the social life and its various forms and varieties demonstrate clearly that although not having children could cause some sort of inconvenience nevertheless the more important issue, i.e. ‘desire’ has been fulfilled. Thus the question of desire is an issue on its own right in human context, which should not be neglected as an epiphenomenon. In other words, beauty has its own locus within the parameters of human life as human being is essentially aesthete and delights over beauty. It should be vehemently emphasized that this aesthetical yearning is part of being human. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

Psychological relationships in comparison to natural associations seem to be clearer in terms of transformations

… as in the natural relationship the source of affiliation is principally constant (e.g. sexual pleasure and the invariable source of sexual instinct) which makes the possibility of transformation very meager. But as far as the psychological relationships are concerned the transformations and alterations are both prominent and significant. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

Allama Jafari takes a very primitive society as an example. He argues that in such a society the ‘relationship’

… is solely confined to the exercise of power where the powerful rules over the weak and powerless. But along the course of history and due to social growth the geometry of relationships get more complicated and multifaceted which make the very principle of dominance (in the form of dominance of powerful over the powerless), in despite of its presence, in its conventional sense meaningless. Because in more developed societies the very exterior as well as interior dimensions of relationship has evolved in a very unprecedented fashion which makes the antique forms of power relationship unfeasible. The relationship between master and disciple, colleague and coworker, teacher and student, faithful and unfaithful, us and them and all kinds of associations which touch the boundaries of dialogue or conflict and cooperation or enmity are forms of psychological relationships. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

Allama Jafari goes even further by arguing that even the relationship between master and slave is not a natural relationship but a psychological association. In other words, the being of humanity is based on the pre-epistemological notion of soul which plays a very vital role in the constitution of metaphysical dimensions of alethia or truth.

To deny this spiritual dimension of human self is tantamount to reduction of psychological aspect into natural relationship. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2) To speak about ‘Human Being’ is tantamount to hold a normative approach to the subject matter. Thus we need to clarify what kinds of background assumptions we hold.

Do we assume that human self has a human nature? Or do we refer to the socially constructed human person in our sociological analysis? If we reduce the human relationships solely into the contractual and natural affiliations then

… rest assured that the vision of humanity would be a materialistic/unidimensional imago of human self which, in turn, would result finally in degrading relationship in human societies. Because if we assume that the establishment of spiritual relationship is a possibility of highest importance then we can reach to more sublime shores of realization and transcendence which are not feasible within the parameters of either natural or contractual relationships. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

Another important issue is the problem of conceptual unclarity in sociological analyses. Allama Jafari raises a metasociological question in terms of whatness of sociology. In other words, the unclarity of sociological concepts seems to be a disclarity problem, i.e. the quality of being inconsistent. To put it otherwise, why is there so much confusion over the very state of social and human sciences? It seems Allama Jafari is trying to find out what are the problems in the contexts of naturalistic versus humanistic approaches to social and human sciences by arguing that our

… conception of mental and substantive concepts is indeterminate and problematic. The concepts are sometimes so disorganized and muddled that a comprehensible debate over human science issues may seem often an unachievable task. If we approach the prime subject of human sciences, i.e. human being from the vantage point of evolutionism then reductionism is the only game in town as in this approach the being of human self is practically no different than those in the animal kingdom. In this context, the quality of ‘relationship’ is not substantially different in the natural context over against psychological dimension. In delineating the boundaries between various schools of sociology the pivotal role of values is undeniable and this is the dominant reason why sociologists are unable to agree upon fundamental questions of sociology. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

Second Movement

While the primary movement is constructive the second movement is downward and destructive. The movement towards

… destruction/demolition/devastation/desolation/despondency is called the second movement such as the fall of civilizations and collapse of societies’ cultures. This kind of movement could occur within the context of natural relationships. For instance, when the water resources are dried out in a village and famine may break out then the village could get transformed but this change is not of the first order. On the contrary, the transformation in this case is of the second order, i.e. the downward movement which ultimately leads to desolation and destruction. Another example could be the fall of ancient nations and civilizations where the beneficial factors are considered as harmful and detrimental factors are viewed as favorable trends. By losing sight and embarking upon a mistaken path they may have created the necessary conditions for change in their respective societies but the curve of movement, unlike the primary move, is downward and destructive. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

Third Movement

This kind of motion applies to movements in a constant path within society which

… may lead neither to constructive nor destructive movement but to minor transformations. For instance, when in the mind of an artist or a scientist a new idea sparks this could lead towards some kind of changes within the larger society without being destructive or constructive in the aforementioned sense. However these changes are essentially favorable in terms of transformation by generating a novel element in the fabric of society which, in turn, could be instrumental in the future transformations. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 2)

The ‘Social’ as Demiurge

The majority of debates within the context of social sciences are related to the relation between the individual and the society. In other words, to what extent does the society play a role in the constitution of self and vice versa? In addition, what is the role of agency in the constitution of social life?

An individual who has a purpose for her/his own self-realization and consciously attempts to keep her/his integrity before the social forces what will be left of the uniqueness in each person’s individuality in the midst of social incursion to all corners of human self? Assuming that the impact of society is constructive but still it does not make up for the incursion which stifles the very existence of individuality by pushing everyone towards collective conformitization.

Unlike the views expressed by extreme collectivists who argue that the individual is a product of society (either a product of geographical milieu or social environment), one should not be deluded that it is, in fact, the individual who could make the society.

Because if we assume otherwise and concede to the view expressed by the collectivists then morality (and all the ethical commands such as be good, be humane, act responsible, follow your conscience and so on and so forth) would sound futile. If we assume that all causalities and effects are of social origin then what we have done in practice is to demolish the individual from the equation of life. (Jafari, 1976. Ch.

In order to highlight his point on contingency versus permanence, Allama Jafari gives an example. He argues,

… let’s assume that a young man leaves his homeland and settles in the West. After some time he adopts himself to the extent that he becomes assimilated in the new culture. After a while he returns to his homeland. When you ask him what did happen to your first identity before leaving to the West he may answer that the identity that my society has endowed upon me was robbed from me by the new society. In other words, for this person issues such as personality, self and human nature seem ridiculous as aspects such as authenticity, mores, culture and ethic are all of social origin. When you change your social setting to a new one then all these contingent aspects transform too so you need to adopt new mores and manners as morality and ethic have no genuine significance. But the question is how valid is this position? Is this a valid point of departure? This is one of the most important issues

which constitute the backbone of human existence and without the human life could not be considered as an examined life. (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 3)

In fact, to what extent could society impact upon individuals and vice versa? To what extent to be under the impact of environment is related to the authority of an individual and to what capacity is dependent on the social factors? To be affected by society is a sign of individual weakness or an indication of totalitarian social organization? (Jafari, 1976. Ch. 3) There are three fundamental questions which could be raised when we think on social life of human beings:

  1. How much transactions and interactions could occur between human beings?

  2. To what extent could the social life confine the individual life?

  3. To what extent could the co-existence between individuals in a society lead to suppression of ideas and change of what an individual stand for?

In sum, one should know that the individual life is different than the collective life where social interactions play a crucial role. (Allama Jafari, 1976. Ch. 3) The concept of ‘social interaction’ has not been fully conceptualized within the theoretical framework of Allama Jafari and this may make the issue very complicated.

Because the very concept of ‘social interaction’ has been productively conceptualized by proponents of American social interactionism who have derived social processes (such as conflict, cooperation, identity formation) from human interaction by focusing on the subjective aspects of social life, rather than on objective, macro-structural aspects of social systems.

[^1]: Self-actualization is a term that has been used in various psychology theories, often in slightly different ways. Although the term was used earlier by thinkers such as Kurt Goldstein but the concept was brought most fully to prominence in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory as the final level of psychological development that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are fulfilled and the ‘’actualization’’ of the full personal potential takes place. (Maslow, 1968. p 204) In a work by Allama Jafari entitled Epistemology of Human Being: The Ascendency Path of Growth (2006) one could discern profound similarities between Maslow’s concept of self-actualization and Allama Jafari’s notion of ‘’ascendency’’ (Jafari, 2006. p 171) which require us to carry out systematic cross-cultural comparisons between these two seemingly unrelated theoretical systems. Sayyid Mohsen Fatemi from Harvard University has carried out such a research on psychology and Allama Jafari which is due to be published by London Academy of Iranian Press in United Kingdom in June 2012.