Friday, March 8, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #7: early concepts about adding a new sector to our society

I wish to speculate more about an implication of TIMN theory: Those Democrats who are advocating socialism for our society should stop, and instead call for “socialism in one sector” — perhaps a new “commons sector” — to be developed alongside our old public and private sectors. Socialism as a society-wide system won’t sell politically, and it wouldn’t work anyway. But socialist principles limited to helping create and animate an innovative new sector could be attractive, viable, and beneficial. A “new sectorism” could invigorate America’s evolution from its current triform system to a next-generation quadriform system. True conservatives would end up benefitting from such a quadriform sectoral redesign as much as anyone on the Left, for it could mean healthier families, stronger communities, a less burdened government, and more freed-up market system.

I’ve begun to argue for this vision in prior posts in this series, and want to continue doing so. But right now I’m intent on a less exciting, more academic, historical task. I’m trying to back-track early ideas that foretell how and why our America should turn to add a strong new sector of activity — like a commons sector. From a TIMN standpoint, it would be a fourth sector and would complement the rise of TIMN’s fourth form, the +N networks form.

Our liberal-democratic system has long had two formal sectors: the public and private sectors, corresponding to government and business respectively. Our leaders try to fit policy issues and problems into one of both of those; and when they can’t, they often toss it back onto the shoulders of civil society at the community, family, or other associational level. This level amounts to a kind of informal sector that in a sense predates the other two, and is sometimes known as the civic or civil sector. Thus, in TIMN terms, we have a triform system consisting on one informal (related to T) and two formal sectors (one related to +I, the other to +M).

Increasingly, however, new theories — TIMN in particular — foretell that these three sectors will not suffice much longer for organizing and dealing with how complex our society has become. Thus, as I keep arguing à la TIMN, our society is on the verge of a long unsettling transition for evolving (or failing to evolve) beyond our current triform system, toward developing a more-complex quadriform system that has a fourth sector (based on +N), in addition to the one informal and two formal sectors noted above.

Since I’m not the first social theorist to try to foretell the rise of a new sector, it may help to know: (1) Over the years, what other theorists have foretold the emergence of a strong new sector that would fit, formally, alongside the public and private sectors? (2) What names have they proposed for it? (3) What actors and activities do they expect will go into this new sector?

Post #6 in this series highlighted Peter Drucker’s (1993) call for adding an “autonomous social sector” to America’s system, so that it would consist of three formal sectors: a public, private, and social sector. His is the oldest such call I’ve found. And he placed in it many of the actors and activities that make sense to me from a TIMN perspective — i.e., nonprofit NGOs, most of them performing community services, particularly in areas of health and education. Moreover, it’s striking that this pioneering call for a new sector came from a conservative, for almost all other such calls are more-or-less leftist.

Here’s what else I find:

Right after Drucker’s (1993) call for a “social sector”, Lester Salamon (1994) and Jeremy Rifkin (1995) called for recognizing a “third sector,” which they also viewed as a “nonprofit sector” and “voluntary sector.” Ann Florini (2000) continued in this “nonprofit sector” and “third sector” vein. Then, William Drayton (2002) referred to a “citizen sector” comprised of “social entrepreneurs.” Paul Light (2008) added “social benefit sector.” David Bollier (2008) proposed “commons sector” — a concept developed by Michel Bauwens as well. Lately, Henry Mintzberg (2014) has proposed “plural sector.” And Ina Praetorius (2015) called attention to a “care sector.” Other terms, whose origins I’ve not found, include “civil sector,” “civic sector,” “community sector,” “volunteer sector,” and “public-interest sector.”

The earliest proposals — Drucker’s “social sector,” Salamon’s and Rifkin’s “third sector” based on a “nonprofit sector” — all appeared in the mid 1990s, over two decades ago, and they still read quite prophetically. They are all resolute about America’s need to recognize and construct a new formal sector. So are recent proposals for a “commons sector” — à la Bollier, Bauwens. My impression is that these five theorists are the true proto-quadriformists of the lot. They (and Florini) often used the term “third sector” — but that’s because they only recognized the public and private sectors as formal sectors, treating civil society less as a real sector than as a vast sphere from which new actors and activities arise. (Besides, over time, the term “third sector” has dropped out of use.)

The other proposals — Drayton’s “citizen sector,” Light’s “social benefit sector,” Mintzberg’s “plural sector,” Praetorius’s “care sector” — are not about evolving a quadriform system, but about clarifying and reforming the existing triform system. They aim to do so by singling out certain rising actors and activities in civil society and according them greater significance, even formalizing their roles — not as a brand new sector but as valuable new sub-sectors of civil society and the economy. Drayton and Mintzberg focus on renaming and redefining what’s new in civil society; they would make civil society’s role a more formal part of the triad. Our system would thereby consist of a more formal “citizen” or “plural” sector, plus a public and private sector — it would thus still be a triform system. Light and Praetorius also illuminate the rise of new kinds sof actors and activities that mean new sub-sectors are growing in civil society and the economy.

My preliminary conclusions regarding TIMN are as follows:

• All these past proposals, whether triformist or quadriformist, observe that non-profit civil-society NGOs (non-governmental organizations) were, and will likely remain, key actors behind the rise of this nascent sector. While these NGOs are viewed as new actors emerging from civil society, later proposals that emphasize “social entrepreneurs” (see below) have them emerging from the economy as well as civil society.

This accords somewhat with TIMN. My first publication on TIMN (1996) likewise emphasized that non-profit NGOs and CSOs (civil society organizations) were gaining power and influence, by operating conjointly through the use of new information-age network formations. But today, decades later, my sense of what a “fourth sector” will look like involves much more than NGOs and CSOs — my current projection has sizable healthcare and educational enterprises moving into the new sector.

• All these proposals see their respective new sectors as arising in response to shortcomings and failings by government and business actors to fulfill people’s needs, now that America has become so complex. Accordingly, the new sector may help counter-balance the powers of the old public and private sectors, but the new sector should also lead to new ways for all sectors to cooperate with each other and become more effective.

This accords well with TIMN. For it too is concerned with identifying proper limits and balances and recognizing cooperative relations among TIMN’s four forms and the sectors they generate.

• The earliest of these varied proposals emphasized social and cultural as much as economic concerns. But over time these proposals have increasingly emphasized economic actors and activities. The terms “social entrepreneurs” and “benefit corporations” (“B Corps”) come into use to portray the kinds of actors who will define a new sector — in writings first by Drayton (who coined the term “social entrepreneurs”), then by Light and others, and lately in new work by Rifkin (2014). Thus a contrast appears between business and social entrepreneurs, with the latter playing growing roles in the provisioning of social goods and services. Moreover, by emphasizing the economic nature of the proposed new sector, these theorists can make their views part and parcel of their desires to criticize capitalism. They make the new sector’s importance more about the economy than anything else.

This does not accord with TIMN, for TIMN implies that a new +N sector will be entirely distinct. It may be viewed in economic terms, just as people today often take an economic view of the existing family/community (T), public (+I), and private (+M) sectors. But the next sector will not be simply an economic sector — of TIMN’s four forms and their sectors, only the +M sector is primarily economic in nature. Theorists have not yet grasped the likely distinctive nature of the new sector. It may well include many actors and activities that are viewed from economic perspectives today — e.g., in areas of health, education, and the environment — but they will be viewed in entirely different terms in the future. Remember, the rise of each of the earlier TIMN forms and their sectors generated entirely new fields of analysis: e.g., anthropology, sociology, political science, economics. This will occur again. (Perhaps resulting in something like “commonomics”?)

• Several proposals treat “wellbeing” and “care” as key purposes of the new sectors — notably Drucker, by observing that “The task of social-sector organizations is to create human health and well being.” Praetorius also insists on the importance of the “care sector” of the economy, and urges that economics concepts be made far more “care-centered,” particularly to value in-home health services. (More to the point, I just ran across an NYT op-ed by Courtney Martin that asks “Why does our care infrastructure get left to nonprofits that rely on philanthropy and good will?”)

This seems a positive precedent for TIMN. The actors and activities I foresee defining the next new sector — notably for health, education, and the environment — have in common that they are all about “care” in the broadest senses, both individually and collectively, and across people’s life spans.

• All past proposals recognized that the new information and communications technologies were empowering new actors, especially ones that were relatively small and isolated, by enabling them to connect and coordinate as never before. The later proposals also observed that these actors were gaining advantages by using new network forms of organization.

This accords with TIMN. It has long held that the information and communications technology revolution favors the rise of new network forms of organization, and that their spread would prompt a vast reorganization of society, leading to the emergence of a new +N realm or sector of activity, quite distinct from the established +I public and +M private sectors.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD: I’m not sure how useful is this look-back. But it helps to show that ideas and other impulses for generating a major new sector have been gathering for decades. This look-back also reminds me that, of all the theorists discussed here, I most wish Drucker had lived longer and written more about his “social sector” concept. And I’d like to have consulted him about it. He would have been accessible; for he lived in Claremont, my home town, taught at the Claremont Graduate University, and retired to nearby San Antonio Gardens, same place as my parents. I even shook hands with him there in quick passing —another opportunity I didn’t seize. In any case, I find Drucker’s “social sector” concept and Bollier’s and Bauwens’ “commons sector” concept to be the most germane for the further development of TIMN — but not if such concepts keep being projected in overly economic terms, for the next new sector will not be primarily about economics, as I shall continue to elaborate.

My own hypothesis remains what I’ve long said: Aging contentions that “government” (+I) or “the market” (+M) is the solution to particular public-policy issues will eventually give way to new ideas that “the network” (+N) is the solution. For now, I think that “social sector” and “commons sector” are the most promising of the foregoing ideas. Even so, I remain uncertain what a +N sector may end up being named, what its key purposes will be, and what actors will define it. But I have some inklings and will continue to share them.

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Right after Drucker’s (1993) call for a “social sector,” Lester Salamon (1994) and Jeremy Rifkin (1995) called for recognition of a “third sector” alongside the established public and private sectors. In Salamon’s case, this grew out of his work on the growth of the “nonprofit sector” around the world, in Rifkin’s case more because of his interest in understanding changing work conditions and the growth of a “social economy” in the United States.

Here’s how each framed his call:

According to sociologist Lester Salamon, writing in “The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 1994,
“A striking upsurge is under way around the globe … people are forming associations, foundations and similar institutions to deliver human services, promote grass-roots economic development, prevent environmental degradation, protect civil rights and pursue a thousand other objectives formerly unattended or left to the state.
“The scope and scale of this phenomenon are immense. Indeed, we are in the midst of a global “associational revolution” that may prove to be as significant to the latter twentieth century as the rise of the nation-state was to the latter nineteenth. The upshot is a global third sector: a massive array of self-governing private organizations, not dedicated to distributing profits to shareholders or directors, pursuing public purposes outside the formal apparatus of the state. The proliferation of these groups may be permanently altering the relationship between states and citizens, with an impact extending far beyond the material services they provide. Virtually all of America’s major social movements, for example, whether civil rights, environmental, consumer, women’s or conservative, have had their roots in the nonprofit sector.” (p. 109)
Salamon held that “politicians on both the political right and left have tended to downplay these institutions” (p. 110). Indeed, “The nonprofit sector has clearly arrived as a major actor on the world scene, but it has yet to make its mark as a serious presence in public consciousness, policy circles, the media or scholarly research” (p. 121). So, looking ahead, he urges that the third sector “must now find ways to strengthen its institutional capacities and contribute more meaningfully to the solution of major problems.” Particularly decisive will be finding “a modus vivendi with government that provides sufficient legal and financial support while preserving a meaningful degree of independence and autonomy.” (p.122)

Economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin made similar points about the rise of a “third sector” in his book The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era (1995):
“The foundation for a strong, community-based third force in American politics already exists. Although much attention in the modern era has been narrowly focused on the private and public sectors, there is a third sector in American life that has been of historical significance in the making of the nation, and that now offers the distinct possibility of helping to reshape the social contract in the twenty-first century.” (p. 239)
“Despite the fact that the third sector is gaining on the other two sectors in the American economy and boasts economic clout that exceeds the GNP of most nations, it is often ignored by political scientists, who prefer to view America as being made up of just two realms — the private and the public. Yet it is the independent sector that has traditionally played a critical mediating role between the formal economy and the government, taking on tasks and performing services that the other two sectors are unwilling or incapable of handling, and often acting as an advocate on behalf of groups and constituencies whose interests are being ignored by the marketplace or compromised in the councils of government.” (p. 241)
“The third sector is the most socially responsible of the three sectors. It is the caring realm that ministers to the needs and aspirations of millions of individuals who, for one reason or another, have been left out, excluded from consideration, or not been adequately taken care of by either the commercial or public spheres.” (pp. 242-243)
For Rifkin, this third sector represented mostly an informal “social economy” that revolves around service-oriented nonprofit and voluntary organizations. Yet he held that “the spirit of the social economy has yet to gell into a powerful countervailing world view capable of setting the agenda for a nation … due, in large part, to the extraordinary hold that the values of the marketplace continue to exert over the affairs of the nation.” (pp. 245-246) Thus, looking ahead, he too advocates “[f]orging a new partnership between the government and third sector” (p. 250).

At present, two decades later, Rifkin is continuing in this vein, but with variations, notably in his book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (2015). Instead of identifying the “third sector” with the “social economy”, he now sees the latter more as part of a new hybrid economy that consists of “one, a capitalist economy operating in the market, and the other a social economy operating on the Commons” (p. 322). Thus his “third sector” has morphed into being about “social Commons” and “collaborative commons.”


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #6: revisiting Peter Drucker’s (1993) pioneering concept for creating a “social sector”

In post #2 in this series, I highlighted recent calls for greater socialism from political leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes. And I suggested it’d be more sensible if they limited their calls to “socialism in one sector” — meaning the creation of commons sector that would be comprised mainly of health, education, environmental, welfare, and related insurance entities and activities. For these no longer fit well in either the public or private sector, and would benefit from being migrated into a new commons sector. I also indicated that this progressive-sounding idea for a new sector, would benefit conservative ideals as well, for it should help with strengthening families and communities, reducing and unburdening the size of government, and freeing up market actors.

In multi-part post #3 in this series, I identified three other quadriformists besides myself — Kate Raworth, Michel Bauwens, and Koji Karatani — who, to varying degrees and in different ways, foresee the rise of a fourth form/sector, much as my TIMN approach does. One commonality among them is that they are way to the Left of me — two of them even foresee that the rise of the fourth form/sector may bring the end of capitalism. I’ve yet to find a quadriformist on the Right. And by today’s triformist standards, I seem to be a Centrist — Center-Left on some matters, Center-Right on others.

All of which may make it seem as though the idea for this new sector is brand new, and comes mostly from the Left. But this perception would be wrong.

In my case, the hypothesis that a new form/sector will arise over time emerged from my first formulating the TIMN framework in the mid-90s. Then, when I went looking for substantiation, lo and behold, I happened upon Peter Drucker’s idea, fielded in the mid-90s, that a “social sector” was emerging alongside our longstanding public and private sectors. Drucker was then a prominent management theorist and something of a futurist as well. If politically ideological at all, I gather he was a Center-Right conservative, very critical of the “megastate … either in its totalitarian or in its democratic version.”

In other words, the first proposal I’ve found for a distinct new sector came from the Center-Right, not the Left. Moreover, it appeared about 25 years ago — meaning it’s not a recent concoction (I’ll cite other proposers in my next post).

Drucker’s notion first appeared in his book Post-Capitalist Society (1993), where he observed (p. 171) that “the post-capitalist polity needs a “third sector,” in addition to the two generally recognized ones, the ‘private sector’ of business and the “public sector” of government. It needs an autonomous social sector.” For my purposes, it’s easier to draw on a follow-on article he wrote, “The age of social transformation,” which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in May 1994 (then again slightly longer in November 1994).

His article, which still reads quite prophetically, is mainly about the rise of the knowledge society and its knowledge workers. Toward the end he starts remarking about the rise of a new sector:
“The right answer to the question Who takes care of the social challenges of the knowledge society? is neither the government nor the employing organization. The answer is a separate and new social sector.
“It is less than fifty years, I believe, since we first talked in the United States of the two sectors of a modern society — the "public sector" (government) and the "private sector" (business). In the past twenty years the United States has begun to talk of a third sector, the "nonprofit sector" — those organizations that increasingly take care of the social challenges of a modern society.”
The kinds of organizations and activities that, in his view, are already comprising this social sector range from long-established churches, to new nonprofit and charitable organizations, most of them performing community services, often by way of volunteers, particularly in areas of health and education. In reviewing them, Drucker finds, firstly, that “The task of social-sector organizations is to create human health and well being,” and secondly, that “They create citizenship”. Indeed, our modern society and polity has grown “so big and complex that citizenship — that is, responsible participation — is no longer possible” except for voting and paying taxes. Drucker further observes that many social-sector organizations “although partners with government, also clearly compete with government. The relationship between the two has yet to be worked out — and there is practically no precedent for it.”

Thus Drucker concludes that the knowledge society needs three formal sectors to function and progress properly — a public, a private, and a social sector:
“But one thing is already clear. The knowledge society has to be a society of three sectors: a public sector of government, a private sector of business, and a social sector. And I submit that it is becoming increasingly clear that through the social sector a modern developed society can again create responsible and achieving citizenship, and can again give individuals — especially knowledge workers — a sphere in which they can make a difference in society and re-create community.”
Moreover, the three sectors must learn to work together: The emergence of a social sector is “a central need of the society of organizations. But by itself it is not enough — the organizations of both the public and the private sector must share in the work.” He worries that “we do not have even the beginnings of political theory or the political institutions needed for effective government in the knowledge-based society of organizations.”

Indeed, in a remarkable passage that reads even more timely today, Drucker chastises the unhelpfulness of our political parties:
“There is thus in the society of organizations no one integrating force that pulls individual organizations in society and community into coalition. The traditional parties — perhaps the most successful political creations of the nineteenth century — can no longer integrate divergent groups and divergent points of view into a common pursuit of power. Rather, they have become battlefields between groups, each of them fighting for absolute victory and not content with anything but total surrender of the enemy.”
Wow! Except for Drucker’s basic proposal for recognizing a social sector, I’d long forgotten about his elaboration. Many of his points overlap with TIMN: e.g., by identifying health and education as key components of the new sector; seeing that many of its actors are non-profit organizations; finding its animating purpose in the promotion of people’s care and well-being; and arguing that the public, private, and social sectors must all work together. All such points reinforce my sense of TIMN’s future implications.

His observation about the citizenship-cultivating purposes of a social sector is new to me. I should consider adding that into TIMN, whether this new sector is called a social or commons sector (or something else).

Yet his proposal has some shortcomings too, both on its own and vis à vis TIMN: He makes no reference to the rise of the network form as a new dynamic enabling the growth of this social sector. He makes only passing references to how the public, private, and social sectors may and should interact. And there is nothing about the kinds of legal and financial initiatives that may be needed for a social sector to stand on its own and thrive. Of course, TIMN still has shortcomings in those regards too — and I’m still searching, open to suggestions.

To see the Drucker’s May 1994 article in full, go here:
For the November 1994 version, go here:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #5: a recap of basic notions, to help move me out of doldrums and back up to speed

The deepest systemic struggle underway in our society is barely noticeable at this point. It’s the struggle between a centuries-old “triformism” on the one hand, and an emergent “quadriformism” on the other. It’s a struggle that should grow to reshape all the divisive struggles that currently dominate philosophical, ideological, and political discourse in our country: e.g., those about conservatism versus liberalism (and progressivism), about capitalism versus socialism, about public versus private sector solutions, not to mention a slew of struggles over race, class, ethnicity, identity, and other social, cultural, and economic issues. All these struggles and the arguments behind them will likely remain irresolvably stuck to America’s detriment, or they will be redefined to America’s benefit, depending on whether the aging forces of triformism continue to prevail or give way to the awakening forces for quadriformism.

From a TIMN (Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks) perspective (see earlier posts for explanation), America is in the early throes of evolving (or failing to evolve) from an aging triform (T+I+M) system into a next-stage quadriform (T+I+M+N) system. Our triform system has served America well for over two centuries, generating abundant progress. But our society’s complexity has grown so much that the triform model is no longer well suited to enabling our leaders to address and resolve America’s growing accumulation of problems — our triform system is becoming evermore muddled, for our society is outgrowing its capabilities.

The emergence of the +N/networks form of organization is still in its early phases, and its still not clear what it means for the evolution of quadriform societies in the coming decades (and centuries). Yet, +N’s emergence already lies behind the loosening, both functional and dysfunctional, of our T+I+M system, and helps explain the reversions to a malignant tribalism (the dark side of the T form) that now plague our triform system.

The triform model has depended on the evolution of three sectors — an informal base sector of families, communities, and other kinship associations (from T), plus a public sector (from +I) and a private sector (from +M) — and for many past decades these three sectors have thrived and worked fairly well together. But today all three sectors are in faltering if not failing shape: families and communities are in distress and disarray all across America, while our public and private sectors are failing to work well together. Both of the latter two have extreme proponents who seek to overemphasize one or the other sector, in expansive ways that ultimately distort and confound the capabilities of the triform model.

This is especially true for policy matters that not only require public-private cooperation, but also that no longer fit clearly into either the public or the private sector. I refer in particular to health, education, environmental, and welfare matters, as I’ve explained in other posts. Such matters would benefit, as would American society as a whole, by enabling a new sector — by best accounts, a social or commons sector — to take hold formally alongside the other sectors, and by migrating into that new sector the policy matters and entities I mentioned above.

In short, America’s best hopes reside in adapting to and finding advantages in the rise of the fourth cardinal form of social organization and evolution — the information-age networks-based +N form. Our leaders should begin figuring out how best to use this form for society’s benefit in association with the earlier three forms. This may well mean consciously deliberately enabling the creation of a fourth sector — in all likelihood, a new social or commons sector — whose functioning will improve conditions for the other earlier sectors as well.

Triformism served our past growth, but it’s era is ending. It’s time to advance the idea of quadriformism, for it can provide a better organized and thus a brighter future for America.

More to follow, including on why these ideas should appeal as much to conservatives as to liberals and progressives.

[Revised from version posted on my FaceBook page, February 19, 2019.]

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #4: two ways out, two ways ahead

I better get back to this series, even if it leads to scattered repetitive fragmentary postings while I try to refine my thinking and make it relevant to our present situation. I fret that my key points about a future quadriform system and commons sector, assuming they are correct, may be years too early and too abstract to gain traction. Onward nevertheless.

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There are only two ways out, two ways ahead for America. The first is to work at fixing our aging muddled triform system. The second is to push for transforming it into a quadriform system — the next stage of social evolution. Neither will be easy. But the first will prove futile. Only the second can prove fertile.

The purpose of society is to enable people to live better together, hopefully by becoming better themselves. That’s why people first clustered together in familial clans and communal tribes. Then, centuries later, why they accommodated to the rise of governments, militaries, and other hierarchical institutions that enabled large undertakings. And still more centuries later, why they opened up their societies to make room for free markets for business, trade, and commerce.
Not everybody benefitted along the way. But overall, this evolution from tribe-centric, to state-centric, to market-centric societies enabled most people to live better. Their societies improved as people learned to combine tribal, institutional, and market forms of organization — that is, to progress in complexity from monoform systems (tribes-only), to biform systems (tribes + institutions), to triform systems (tribes + institutions + markets).

The best result has been our United States of America — the paragon of a triform society, the epitome of a liberal democracy. After the fall of the Soviet Union (a totalitarian biform system), the triumph of our own and other democratic triform societies inspired an optimistic belief in the “end of history” model (Fukuyama, 1989, 1992), whereby “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

But matters have not evolved that way. The “end of history” is a trifomist model — offered at the moment of its greatest power and success, but also, unknowingly, on the eve of its looming obsolescence. For this model did not recognize that a new form of social evolution was emerging: the information-age network form. The rise of this next great form — with its bundle of digital technologies, organizational dynamics, and philosophical implications — is still in its early disruptive phases, and it remains unclear exactly what it will bring in the coming decades. But its rise lies behind the vast loosening and questioning, both functional and dysfunctional, that presently besets our aging triform system across all sectors.

If/as matters progress, this promises to lead to the evolution of a radically new quadriform system (tribes + institutions + markets + networks) for addressing society’s issues. It will lead to the creation of a new sector — a commons sector? — to resolve the complex problems that our aging public and private sectors are no longer suited to resolving, and which cannot, and should not, be simply tossed back to burden individual families and communities, at least not if we are to remain a great country on the cutting edge of human progress. Unfortunately, America’s current political, economic, and social leaders are all still thinking and planning in primarily triform ways — perhaps they cannot do otherwise, for the triformist design is all they know.

Thus we find ourselves in a transitional moment, peering Janus-like in two directions, facing two choices: One is to persist with the triform system we know — the legacy of the past. The other is to head deliberately toward a quadriform transformation — the promise of the future. It’s a perplexing choice, fraught with uncertainties. I shall argue for the quadriformist choice.

I’ve started doing so in posts #1-3 in this series. But there is much more to be done. While this post has not offered any new specifics, it has rendered a new preamble, in particular by pointing to the obsolescence of the triform “end of history” model that has limited so much thinking in recent decades about how future societies will be structured.
More next time....

[Revised from earlier draft posted on my Facebook page, December 7, 2018.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Making the case for triplex cognition analysis (previously, STA:C): new paper posted

As I’ve said before, take anybody, and dig beneath their high-level values, norms, everyday beliefs, not to mention ideologies, until you get down to their most basic notions that still amount to perceptive cognition about how the world around them looks and works. Stop there, before descending into a quivering mess of raw emotions, impulses, and instincts.

What's there, I sensed long ago, is tantamount to a module in the mind that harbors people's basic perceptions about the nature of social space, time, and action (or agency). By space, I refer to how people see their identity positioned in relation to others, and how they perceive other subjects and objects, near and far — how they perceive all this as being structured, arrayed, linked. By time, I refer to how people discern, prioritize, and interrelate the past, present, and future, and what content they give to the past, present, and future. By action, I mean a sense of agency, of efficacy — whether and how people think they can act to affect matters around them.

This “module” takes shape in early childhood and it’s there ever after. It becomes the bedrock of consciousness and cognition. It undergirds most all we think and do; and most all we think and do gets processed and shaped in this “module.” People’s space-time-action orientations are crucial keys to understanding people as individuals and as cultures.

Scholars of all sorts have long studied people’s space, time, and agency perspectives. But they have mostly done so singly, as specialists on one or another of the three. None have treated the three as an integrated interrelated triplex. Why this is so continues to baffle me, but it means I may still have an opportunity to make my case.

I say triplex cognition analysis is the way to go, and to this end I’ve completed — and posted on the Social Science Research Network site — a draft paper on “People’s Space-Time-Action Orientations: How Minds Perceive, Cultures Work, And Eras Differ” (November 2018). It’s a kind of compilation of ideas and observations I’ve posted on my blog over the past ten or so years. Here’s what the Abstract says:

“Myriad anthropology, psychology, sociology, and other studies show that people’s space, time, and action (agency) orientations are key shapers of cognition and culture. Most studies focus on only one, sometimes two, of the three orientations. It would be better to study them as a triplex bundle. The better we learn to analyze people’s space-time-action perceptions together, the better we may ascertain why people think and behave as they do, how societies and cultures evolve, and what makes historical era’s different from each other. This paper makes its case for triplex cognition analysis partly by depicting and analyzing renowned writings of Henri Lefebvre on space, Philip Zimbardo & John Boyd on time, and Albert Bandura on agency from a preliminary triplex perspective.”

To access, go to the url below. I used to be able to download papers on SSRN with a single click. But now SSRN makes an effort to get people to register first. Nonetheless, over on the bottom left of the second screen is a spot to click to download without registering.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Re-reading Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer (1951)

Ten or more years ago I was asked to recommend and review a book for the annual reading list of a group I was in. It was an honor to be asked. And I immediately knew what I wanted to recommend: Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer (1951), which had left a permanent impression on my mind decades earlier. Unfortunately, being preoccupied with other matters, I procrastinated and then forgot to do a write-up. Oh well. Now the head of this group has issued a general call to all members, alumni at this point, to contribute recommendations for a final wrap-up round. Aha, a second chance, and fortunately that old classic is even more timely than before.

Here’s what I sent in — it may be pertinent for some of you as well:

“It’s time to re-read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951) — especially since our society is evermore rife with tribalism, led by a President who seems modeled out of this book. Hoffer’s complex weaving of pithy insights speaks to a key interest of mine: people's space-time-agency orientations, inthis instance among true believers — their "estrangement from the self," “craving for a new life,” “passionate hatred,” and energized “identification with a collective whole" (space); their "depreciation of the present," “ardent desire for change,” and extravagant “faith in the future” (time); all bolstered by their sense of “access to a source of irresistible power” and “unlimited opportunities" for “feverish action” (agency). Three timely quotes:
• “Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life.” (S. 73)
• “If free enterprise becomes a proselytizing holy cause, it will be a sign that its workability and advantages have ceased to be self-evident.” (S. 88)
• "The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world." (S. 91)”
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Beyond that blurb, here’s what Hoffer notes about his stirring analysis:

• “This book concerns itself chiefly with the active, revivalist phase of mass movements. This phase is dominated by the true believer — the man of fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy cause”. (Preface)

• “The reader is expected to quarrel with much that is said in this part of the book. He is likely to feel that much has been exaggerated and much ignored. But this is not an authoritative textbook. It is a book of thoughts, and it does not shy away from half-truths so long as they seem to hint at a new approach and help to formulate new questions.” (S. 43)

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Here’s a long string of excerpts that I found impressive as I read the book anew, and which I may want to use in future writings:

• “For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking.” (S. 6)
• “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.” (S. 8)
• “The problem of stopping a mass movement is often a matter of substituting one movement for another.” (S. 16)

• “The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.” (S. 18)

• “A rising mass movement preaches the immediate hope. It is intent on stirring its followers to action, and it is the around-the-corner brand of hope that prompts people to act.” (S. 25)

• “Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom.” (S. 28)

• “A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence.” (S. 34)

• “The milieu most favorable for the rise and propagation of mass movements is one in which a once compact corporate structure is, for one reason or another, in a state of disintegration.” (S. 35)

• “The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves.” (S. 38)

• “There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed.” (S. 41)

• “What ails the frustrated? It is the consciousness of an irremediably blemished self. Their chief desire is to escape that self — and it is this desire which manifests itself in a propensity for united action and self-sacrifice.” (S. 43)

• “Such diverse phenomena as a deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible, and many others which crowd the minds of the intensely frustrated are, as we shall see, unifying agents and prompters of recklessness.” (S. 43)

• “The technique of fostering a readiness to fight and to die consists in separating the individual from his flesh-and-blood self — in not allowing him to be his real self. This can be achieved by the thorough assimilation of the individual into a compact collective body…; by endowing him with an imaginary self (make-believe) …; by implanting in him a deprecating attitude toward the present and riveting his interest on things that are not yet …; by interposing a fact-proof screen between him and reality (doctrine) …; by preventing, through the injection of passions, the establishment of a stable equilibrium between the individual and his self (fanaticism) ….” (S. 43)

• “Hence the inevitable shift in emphasis once the movement starts rolling. The present — the original objective — is shoved off the stage and its place taken by posterity — the future. More still: the present is driven back as if it were an unclean thing and lumped with the detested past. The battle line is now drawn between things that are and have been, and the things that are not yet.” (S. 48)

• “It is true of course that the hope released by a vivid visualization of a glorious future is a most potent source of daring and self-forgetting — more potent than the implied deprecation of the present. A mass movement has to center the hearts and minds of its followers on the future even when it is not engaged in a life-and-death struggle with established institutions and privileges.” (S. 49)

• “It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. What we know as blind faith is sustained by innumerable unbeliefs.” (S. 56)

• “An active mass movement rejects the present and centers its interest on the future. It is from this attitude that it derives its strength, for it can proceed recklessly with the present — with the health, wealth and lives of its followers. But it must act as if had already read the book of the future to the last word. ” (S. 58)

• “The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted.” (S. 61)

• “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.” (S. 65)

• “We do not usually look for allies when we love. … But we always look for allies when we hate.” (S. 68)

• “Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life.” (S. 73)

• “When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom — freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse.” (S. 77)

• “The truth seems to be that propaganda on its own cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep people persuaded once they have ceased to believe. It penetrates only into minds already open, and rather than instill opinion it articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients. The gifted propagandist brings to a boil ideas and passions already simmering in the minds of his hearers. He echoes their innermost feelings. Where opinion is not coerced, people can be made to believe only in what they already “know.” (S. 83)

• “If free enterprise becomes a proselytizing holy cause, it will be a sign that its workability and advantages have ceased to be self-evident.” (S. 88)

• "The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world." (S. 91)

• “The frustrated follow a leader less because of their faith that he is leading them to a promised land than because of their immediate feeling that he is leading them away from their unwanted selves. Surrender to a leader is not a means to an end but a fulfillment. Whither they are led is of secondary importance.” (S. 94)

• “All mass movements avail themselves of action as a means of unification. The conflicts a mass movement seeks and incites serve not only to down its enemies but also to strip its followers of their distinct individuality and render them more soluble in the collective medium.” (S. 98)

• “It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors.” (S. 100)

• “The exaltation of the true believer does not flow from reserves of strength and wisdom but from a sense of deliverance: he has been delivered from the meaningless burdens of an autonomous existence.” (S. 102)

• “The true believer is eternally incomplete, eternally insecure.” (S. 102)

• “Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited. The discrediting is not an automatic result of the blunders and abuses of those in power, but the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance.” (S. 104)

• “To sum up, the militant man of words prepares the ground for the rise of a mass movement: 1) by discrediting prevailing creeds and institutions and detaching from them the allegiance of the people; 2) by indirectly creating a hunger for faith in the hearts of those who cannot live without it, so that when the new faith is preached it finds an eager response among the disillusioned masses; 3) by furnishing the doctrine and the slogans of the new faith; 4) by undermining the convictions of the “better people"— those who can get along without faith—so that when the new fanaticism makes its appearance they are without the capacity to resist it.” (S. 108)

• “A movement is pioneered by men of words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men of action.” (S. 113)

• “A movement is pioneered by men of words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men of action.” (S. 116)

• “What can be asserted with some plausibility is that in a traditionally free country a Hitler or a Stalin might not find it too difficult to gain power but extremely hard to maintain himself indefinitely.” (S. 121)

• “When the process of renovation has to be realized in short order, mass movements may be indispensable even in small homogeneous societies. The inability to produce a full-fledged mass movement can be, therefore, a grave handicap to a social body.” (S. 125)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #3 end: Advantages of TIMN’s quadriform design and dynamics

This five-part series of “Notes…#3” began with my noting that TIMN (1996) was initially alone in offering a quadriform framework about past, present, and future social evolution, with a forecast that the next stage may bring the emergence of a new network-based sector. By now, there are three other quadriform frameworks about social evolution that are similarly oriented to the future: by Bauwens (2005-present), Karatani (2014), and Raworth (2017). In follow-up posts, I reviewed and compared each to TIMN. Now this post turns to TIMN’s advantages for theory and practice.

A brief preamble and a few points about TIMN

Lamentably, TIMN is far from finished as a framework, and it’s an overreach to call it a theory, though I do so anyway because of its potential. Moreover, unlike the three other frameworks, there is no book on TIMN. And much as there should be a book, there won’t be — I’m now too limited to prepare it. The same goes for the research enterprise I once hoped to undertake in order to develop indicators and methodologies, indeed a full model, for assessing a society’s — any society’s — status and prospects in TIMN terms. But at least I have a set of pubs and posts to back up my points (see bibliography at end).

Okay, that’s enough self-effacing preamble. Let’s get to work.

According to my review of history and theory (1996, 2009), four cardinal forms of organization — and evidently only four — lie behind the governance and evolution of all societies across the ages:
• The tribal form (T) was the first to emerge and mature, beginning thousands of years ago. Its main dynamic is kinship, which gives people a distinct sense of identity and belonging — the basic elements of culture, as manifested still today in matters ranging from nationalism to fan clubs.
• The institutional form (I) was the second to emerge. Emphasizing hierarchy, it led to the development of the state and the military, as epitomized initially by the Roman Empire, not to mention the Catholic papacy and other corporate enterprises.
• The market form (M), the third form of organization to take hold, enables people to excel at openly competitive, free, and fair economic exchanges. Although present in ancient times, it did not gain sway until the 19th century, at first mainly in England.
• The network form (N), the fourth to mature, serves to connect dispersed groups and individuals so that they may coordinate and act conjointly. Enabled by the digital information-technology revolution, this form is only now coming into its own, so far strengthening civil society more than other realms.
Here's a table about this (but I see it's at least ten years old and in need of revision and updating):

TIMN sits atop this quadriform foundation. I could elaborate on how this leads to identifying an evolutionary progression across the ages from monoform (T-only), to biform (T+I), to triform (T+I+M), and hopefully next to quadriform (T+I+M+N) societies. I could also list the system dynamics I’ve identified that are common to all TIMN phase transitions. Not to mention much more (see sources cited below).

But this post is not a primer on TIMN. Instead, its purpose is to offer a comparative overview of TIMN’s advantages for theory and practice vis à vis the other three quadriform frameworks. So let’s move straight into that.

A comparison of the four frameworks: striking similarities, key disparities

• All four frameworks have quadriform designs: mine is based on four forms of organization, Bauwens’ on four relational modalities, Karatani’s on four modes of exchange, and Raworth’s on four means of provisioning. I’ve already discussed how well each of theirs matches TIMN’s. The parallels are striking, despite the disparities I noted in preceding posts. The strongest parallels and overlaps are between Bauwens’ and Karatani’s frameworks, partly because of their shared Marxism.

• All four frameworks regard their respective forms/modes quite similarly: Each form/mode has both material and ideational properties. All were evident in ancient times, when societies first took shape. Societies since then have always contained mixes of all four forms. Societies vary according to which form is dominant, and when. Societies also vary according to the relative strength and influence of the other forms at the time. A form’s rise to dominance modifies the nature and roles of the other forms, and their interactions often create interim hybrids. Historical progressions can be identified as to which form/mode becomes dominant, and when, from ancient through modern times. The advanced societies are presently on the cusp of the rise of each framework’s respective fourth form/mode.

• All four frameworks (Raworth’s less so) recognize clans and tribes as comprising early types of societies, with each of us associating their formation with a particular form/mode, but not entirely agreeing as to which one. Also, we all recognize that the form/mode that best explains the formation of the earliest societies then endures across the ages, manifesting itself in new ways, notably as nationalism. TIMN is more attentive to this than are the other frameworks.

• All four frameworks recognize that the state will remain a crucial institution in the future. It first took shape in ancient times around a particular form/mode — pretty much the same one in all four frameworks — which is then modified as the next form/mode rises to dominance later on. Three of us foresee a new kind of state arising in the far future — a cybercratic nexus state in my view, a partner state in Bauwens’ view, and a global republic in Karatani’s view.

• All four frameworks imply that state and society are excessively subject to capitalist forces, and should become less so in the future. TIMN is not anti-state or anti-market; it requires the persistence of states and markets in the future, albeit much modified. TIMN does, however, distinguish between its +M market form and capitalism, and further research and analysis would surely show that many aspects of late-modern capitalism contradict, indeed corrode, the best principles of the market form. TIMN’s grounding for its +M form is Adam Smith. In contrast, Bauwens’ and Karatani’s frameworks are deeply anti-capitalist. Their grounding is Karl Marx. Yet, their frameworks, like TIMN, recognize that the market form will persist in some capacity, but to a lesser degree and more narrowly.

• All four frameworks imply that civil society should become stronger as the fourth form arises, and that this will generate a new sector. Three frameworks — Raworth’s, Bauwens’, and mine — do so by anticipating, even advocating, the development of a pro-commons sector (though we vary as to its presumed scope). Two — Bauwens’ and mine — explicitly link its emergence to the spread of network forms of organization — though my +N and Bauwens’ P2P are not identical concepts. Karatani’s framework implies strengthening civil society, but he never refers to the creation of a commons sector, and it’s not clear to what extent Mode D is a network-related concept.

• All four frameworks are about future social evolution; indeed, three — Bauwens’, Karatani’s and mine — amount to theories about past, present, and future social evolution. While none of us are entirely sure what the rise of the next form/mode will bring, all our frameworks mean “the end of history” is wrong. After the fall of the Soviet Union (an empire of biform societies), the sense of triumph in the United States and other triform democracies inspired an optimistic belief in the “end of history” model (Fukuyama, 1989, 1992). It claimed that “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” But matters are not evolving that way. The “end of history” is a trifomist model — offered at the moment of its greatest power and success, but also unknowingly on the eve of its looming obsolescence. For this model did not recognize a fourth form of organization and evolution would arise — what we variously term +N, P2P, and Mode D. In all our frameworks, the rise of this form — its technologies, its organizational dynamics, its behavioral and philosophical implications — is in its early disruptive phases, and it remains unclear what it will mean in the decades ahead. But it certainly means that “history” is nowhere near its “end”, moreover that something other than “liberal democracy” will result.

• All four frameworks imply the future emergence of new political ideologies, in accordance with the rise of a fourth form/mode. I identify TIMN with quadriformism; Bauwens, his P2P theory with commonism (similarly, Raworth); and Karatani, his exchange-mode theory with a kind of communism that may be deeply religious. Raworth’s progressivism overlaps a lot with Bauwens’ more radical commonism, but not with Karatani’s future vision. However, Bauwens’ and Karatani’s visions overlap profoundly. TIMN stands apart — its ideological stance is more about recognizing the significance of all four forms together, i.e., quadriformism, than about specifying future political isms that may issue on the Left or Right.

• Three frameworks — the most theoretical ones: Bauwens’, Karatani’s, and mine — show that the rise of a new/next form affects religious expressions. Karatani is the most emphatic about this, arguing that all four modes in his framework have religious properties, but none so much as Mode D and its implication that “X” will be religious in nature. This fits with TIMN and P2P theory as well. I have long noted, though never in full, that each TIMN form is associated with new religious expressions: the T form with ancient pagan religions, +I with hierarchical Catholicism and the Papacy, +M with competitive varieties of Protestantism — and a future +N may favor the rise of new ecumenical approaches, perhaps drawing on Buddhism. Bauwens has a rather similar but more detailed analysis about how various religions have expressed his framework’s four relational modalities. Beyond that, he and I have mused that the fourth form, be it +N or P2P, may better enable the world to generate a “noosphere” — the partly-spiritual concept of a globe-circling realm of the mind, fielded by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Edouard Le Roy, and Vladimir Vernadsky decades ago (see Ronfeldt, 2018). Indeed, Karatani’s vision for Mode D and outcome X seem to reflect the concept of the “noosphere”, though he never mentions it.

• Bauwens’, Karatani’s, and Raworth’s frameworks are limited to four forms or modes; and Bauwens and Karatani foresee their fourth modes reaching back to synthesize with the first, as though completing a circle. TIMN is defined by four forms as well (though it does not bend back like theirs). However, I sense a distant possibility of a fifth form. Each form’s rise is tied to the arrival of a new information and communications revolution, with each such revolution enabling information and communications to flow radically farther and faster than ever before. Have those revolutions come to an end? Is the digital revolution the last? I doubt it. Indeed, a biologically-based revolution may eventually occur that makes mental telepathy possible to a degree, first from bio-technology implants and ultimately from biological evolution. But that would be a long time from now, beyond today’s horizons. Thus, quadriform frameworks should suffice for an aeon, but I wanted to point out this speculative possibility, which TIMN leaves open.

I’ve noticed additional similarities and differences among the four frameworks, but the above should suffice for now.

TIMN’s comparative advantages for theory and practice

Some of TIMN’s advantages are about the handling of specific forms. Others are about TIMN as a framework favoring a quadriform view for assessing policy and strategy matters.

• Of the four frameworks, TIMN is the most attentive to the significance and persistence of the T/tribal (i.e., kinship) form across the ages, in all its manifestations, both positive and negative. On the bright side, TIMN affirms that, to evolve properly, societies continue to need strong healthy families and communities, along with modern “fictive kinship” manifestations that may range from fan clubs to patriotic displays that foster mutual identity and solidarity — they give a society coherence. On the dark side, TIMN shows that the tribal form may persist in clannish ways that foment political and economic corruption, making it difficult for the later forms to take hold properly. TIMN also accounts for mean-spirited reversions to tribalism that may occur when people lose faith in their political institutions and economic systems, as in today’s America. The other frameworks are not as suited to illuminating and explaining this range of positive and negative matters. Indeed, TIMN’s design can handle analyzing the widespread persistence of societies in which the Tribes form remains so strong, via political clans, gangs, cronies, and related cultural dynamics, that it corrupts and constrains the proper evolution of Institutions, Markets, and Networks. The other quadriform frameworks are not as well suited to illuminating this.

• TIMN’s second form — hierarchical institutions (+I) — receives similar strong treatments in the other frameworks as well. But TIMN has two noteworthy advantages: explaining systemic corruption, and explaining liberal democracy. According to TIMN, systemic corruption occurs largely when principles (and principals) from clannish elements of the tribal form intrude into the institutional form, exploiting and suborning it so much that government institutions can’t develop properly. The results may include collusion, gangsterism, and cronyism that affects not only the +I form but also the +M/market form. As for liberal democracy, it arises when +M market principles enter the arenas of +I political institutions, leading to requirements that they respond not just to hierarchy but also to representation. As Charles Lindblom observed: “Not all market-oriented systems are democratic, but every democratic system is also a market-oriented system.” Hallmarks of the spread of +M principles into government include competitive political parties and elected legislatures. This is why triform societies provide the archetypes of liberal democracy.

• TIMN distinguishes between the market form (+M) as an essential form for the advancement of societies, and capitalism as a way of implementing the market form. The other quadriform frameworks are not as clear about this distinction between the market form and capitalism; indeed, many writers tend to conflate the two. Capitalism should work well — and often has — but it may also become distorted and turn bad. This is why I sometimes say that TIMN is pro-market but not necessarily pro-capitalist; for capitalist practices may turn out to contradict the best of +M principles. What's happened in our society is that capitalism has become less and less a proper application of the market system.

• TIMN implies the future emergence of a more distinct commons sector than do the other frameworks. Right now, this +N sector remains inchoate, barely noticeable, rather in keeping with William Gibson’s saying that “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Best I can tell, it will be a “commons sector” (or “social sector” or “civil sector” or “people sector”) that assembles together a variety of currently-dispersed efforts to find ways to address and resolve America’s largest, most complex social problems — notably, health, education, welfare, the environment, and related types of insurance. These are the very social problems that have become evermore complicated and urgent, partly because of America’s success as a triform system, and that our existing public and private sectors keep proving unable to resolve. If so, these entities and activities will migrate (and be migrated) out of the public and private sectors and coalesce into a networked (+N) commons sector. It will operate differently from the other sectors, probably as a set of non-profits, cooperatives, collectives, collaboratives, trusts, platforms, and other networked associations. It will be committed to serving the common good, separate from but in cooperation with existing household (T), public (+I), and private (+M) sectors. It will be subject to, and protected by, an array of laws, rules, and regulations that are different from those pertaining to the other sectors. This new sector will be focused on the “assurances” (not “entitlements”) that an advanced quadriform society can and should warrant for the wellbeing and progress of its people. In comparison, Raworth’s concept of a commons sector lacks specificity, and Bauwens’ is mighty sweeping and unbounded, while Karatani appears not to think in terms of sectors — as I explain in reviewing their frameworks earlier.

• TIMN is not derived from or committed to any specific ideology. TIMN expects and allows for a broad future political spectrum, from Left to Right. It leaves room for the endurance of conservative and progressive orientations along a new quadriformist spectrum. In contrast, the other three frameworks clearly belong on the Left — Bauwens’ and Karatani’s even aspire to a final future triumph of the Left over the Right, in keeping with their Marxist orientations. To my disappointment, I’ve found no theorists or philosophers on the Right who are pondering the future within anything like a quadriform framework. They seem stuck in their triformist mindsets. Politicians and pundits on the Right may even react that the quadriformism I seek would jeopardize America’s traditions of capitalism and individualism. Rubbish nonsense. What they may not see is that creating a quadriform system should lead to stronger, healthier families and communities, a smaller, less burdened, less burdensome government, and a freer, fairer, more efficient market system — all key goals of most conservatives.

• TIMN emphasizes looking at the overall combination of forms, whereas the other frameworks — Bauwens’ and Karatani’s in particular — stress looking at which single form is dominant. TIMN is more about limits and balances among its four forms; the other frameworks are more about the domination of one mode over the others. The latter insist that societies evolve over time through a progression of dominant modes, finally culminating with the dominance of a fourth mode — P2P in Bauwens’ case and Mode D in Karatani’s case. TIMN recognizes that progressive dominations occur, but its design prefers that that no single form dominate as societies advance. The more any single form comes to dominate — be it the tribal, institutional, market, or network form — the more likely is a society’s evolution to become unbalanced and distorted. According to TIMN, monoform (T-only) systems get superseded by biform (T+I) systems, then these by triform (T+I+M) systems, and next will be quadriform (T+I+M+N) systems. A kind of domination dynamic is embedded in there, but for now I’m supposing that a comprehensive multi-form approach to analysis will prove more correct.

• TIMN could be operationalized as a methodology — a diagnostic tool — for identifying and assessing policy and strategy options. I doubt the other frameworks could be, or that their creators would want to. Developing TIMN for such purposes would require a large research project to determine key indicators for each form (both their bright and their darks sides), the status of system dynamics, etc., so as to assist policymakers and strategists with assessing particular situations. I hope to say more about this in a future post; it’s an important matter, though refining such a methodology is not essential for articulating a quadriformist manifesto.

• A final point: TIMN is the most suited of these quadriform frameworks to fashioning a new American political narrative. One that is forward-looking, hopeful, and full of opportunity. One that can appeal to conservatives along with progressives who sense triformism isn’t working well any longer. I intend to elaborate on this in a future post.

Coda: I’d say this comparison helps validate and commend TIMN. Yet none of this is to claim that TIMN is right and the other frameworks wrong. We are all more-or-less right, or at least on the right track. The parallels are more significant than the disparities. Of course, I believe TIMN is more right as a way to build theory and to come up with new policies and strategies. But my grander point is that we are all quadrifomists — the way to a better future. You should think about becoming one too.


David Ronfeldt, Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks — A Framework About Societal Evolution, RAND, P-7967, 1996.

David Ronfeldt, In Search of How Societies Work: Tribes — The First and Forever Form, RAND, WR-433, 2007.

David Ronfeldt, “Overview of social evolution (past, present, and future) in TIMN terms,” Materials for Two Theories Blog, February 25, 2009, at

David Ronfeldt, “Explaining social evolution: standard cause-and-effect vs. TIMN’s system dynamics,” Materials for Two Theories Blog, September 18, 2009, at

David Ronfeldt, “TIMN in 20 minutes: social evolution — past, present, and future,” YouTube Video, May 23, 2012, at

David Ronfeldt, “Organizational forms compared: my evolving TIMN table vs. other analysts’ tables — revised & expanded,” Materials for Two Theories Blog, May 12, 2016, at

David Ronfeldt & John Arquilla, The Continuing Promise of the Noösphere and Noöpolitik: Twenty Years After, May 2018, at

David Ronfeldt & Danielle Varda, The Prospects for Cyberocracy (Revisited), December 2008, posted on Social Science Research Network, January 2009, and on OpenSIUC, June 2009.


While my focus started out being about “forms of organization”, I’ve tried to clarify that each of the four TIMN forms — tribes, (hierarchical) institutions, markets, and networks — is about much more than organization in a narrow sense. Here’s the longest clarification I’ve written so far:
“The development of each form has a long history. Early versions of all four were present in ancient times. But as deliberate, formal systems with philosophical portent, each has gained strength at a different rate and matured in a different epoch over the past 10,000 years. Tribes developed first (in the Neolithic era), hierarchical institutions next (notably, with the Roman Empire and then the absolutist states of the 16th century), and competitive markets later (as in England and the United States in the 18th century). Now, collaborative networks are on the rise as the next great form. Its cutting edge currently lies among activist nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with civil society. …
“Each of the four forms, writ large, embodies a distinctive set of structures, processes, beliefs, and dynamics about how society should be organized — about who gets to achieve what, why, and how. Each involves different codes and standards about how people should treat each other. Each enables people to do something — to address some social problem — better than they could by using another form. Each attracts and energizes different kinds of actors and adherents. Each has different ideational and material bases. Each has both bright and dark sides, both strengths and weaknesses. And each can be gotten “right” or “wrong” in various ways, depending on circumstances.
“Once a form is subscribed to by many actors, it becomes more than a mere form: It develops into a realm, even a system, of thought and behavior. Indeed, the rise of each form spells an ideational and structural revolution. Each is a generator of order, because each defines a set of interactions (or, transactions) that are attractive, powerful, and useful enough to create a distinct realm of activity, or at least its core. Each becomes the basis for a governance system that is self-regulating and, ultimately, self-limiting. And each tends to foster a different kind of worldview, for each orients people differently toward social space, time, and action. What is deemed rational — how a “rational actor” should behave — is different for each form; no single “utility function” suits them all.
“Each form becomes associated with high ideals as well as new capabilities. Yet, all the forms are ethically neutral — as neutral as technologies — in that they have both bright and dark sides and can be used for good or ill. The tribal form, which should foster communal solidarity and mutual caring, may also breed a narrow, bitter clannishness that can justify anything from nepotism to murder in order to shield and strengthen a clan and its leaders. The hierarchical institutional form, which should lead to professional rule and regulation, may also be used to uphold corrupt, arbitrary dictators. The market form, which should bring free, fair, open exchanges, may also be distorted and rigged to allow unbridled piracy, speculation, and profiteering. And the network form, which can empower civil society actors to serve public interests, may also be used to strengthen “uncivil society” — say, by enabling terrorist groups and crime syndicates. So, it is not just the bright sides of each form that foster new values and actors; their dark sides may do so as well.” (from Ronfeldt, February 2009)
That still looks pretty good to me as a brief clarification.