Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rendering Coercion Unnecessary

When I perform my duties as a brother, a husband or a citizen and carry out the commitments I have entered into, I fulfill obligations which are defined in law and custom and which are external to myself and my actions.  Even when they conform to my own sentiments, and when I feel their reality within me, that reality does not cease to be objective, for it is not I who have prescribed these duties.  [...]  Not only are these types of thinking and behavior external to the individual, but they are endued with a compelling and coercive power by virtue of which, whether he wishes it or not, they impose themselves upon him.  Undoubtedly when I conform to them of my own free will, this coercion is not felt or felt hardly at all, since it is unnecessary.

[Émile Durkheim, Rules of Sociological Method]

Siding with the world against yourself alleviates pain in the sense that it eliminates or substantively reduces the experience of coercion.  Not the coercion.  Just the experience of it.  This is why Lily Bart burns Bertha Dorset's letters to Selden, and it's why people are their own body police.

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