Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #11: anticipating a political realignment with new political parties

Here’s some of what I’m starting to conclude, based on my pursuits about TIMN theory and prospects for a prolonged phase transition to quadriform societies:

• At present, our two leading parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, look increasingly obsolete. Valiant thoughtful efforts by individual leaders in both parties keep generating hope that this is not so. But as collective institutions both parties seem evermore unable to work together, and too rigidly focused on immediate matters to generate truly new visions for the way ahead. The Democrats, especially those way to the Left, are stuck on old themes about reforming capitalism or adopting more socialism. The Republicans, especially those way to the Right, still talk about libertarian individualism but keep drifting toward tribalized corporatism. If Trump is reelected, that drift will surely deepen and harden.

• Meanwhile, both sides behave as though there are only two sectors for addressing policy problems: the public sector and/or the private sector. They may acknowledge, if pressed, that we live in a triform society — meaning there is also an informal civil-society homefront sector — but then they still act as though policymakers have only a binary choice: the government or the market. No one in either party foresees that an additional sector is emerging — a “social sector” (Peter Drucker’s term) or “commons sector” (David Bollier’s term)? — and that it’s rise will alter not only the policymaking framework but also the political-party landscape as leaders catch on.

• Looking ahead, there’s little reason to think that the existing public-private framework can provide durable solutions to the most critical, complicated matters our society faces, problems for which there are no easy answers and which keep coming to the fore: education, health, welfare, the environment, and related insurance issues — matters about care, broadly defined (I’ll elaborate in future posts). Decades ago these matters were manageable enough to fit, or be stuffed, into that binary framework. This is no longer the case, for they’ve all become too large and too complex, partly as a result of America’s continued growth, but more because they’ve outgrown that old binary framework in ways our parties’ politicians don’t perceive yet.

• Formal recognition and construction of a new sector, alongside and distinct from our existing public and private sectors, may prove so jarring, so disruptive, that our current Republican and Democrat parties will have to undergo, and survive, radical reconfigurations. Far more likely is that they are not up to the challenge — that ideological and political realignments will result in new parties with new names, thus a new party system. While such a reconfiguration or realignment may revolve around politicians voicing their views about particular values and issues (like today), the key underlying dynamics will be about the nature of each sector — the homefront sector, the public sector, the private sector, and the new social / commons sector — and what are deemed to be these sectors’ capabilities, responsibilities, boundaries, limits, and balances vis à vis each other.

• If TIMN is correct, it will be more essential than ever that America’s political leaders think, propose, and plan in terms of all four sectors, not just the two that dominate political dialogue today. A new sectorism should take hold, spelling the obsolescence of today’s triformist debates about capitalism and socialism, while resulting in new kinds of conservatism and liberalism suited to a quadriform society.

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The idea that the next/new/fourth/+N sector will engulf and focus on care-related matters — e.g., education, health, welfare, the environment, and related insurance matters — is my own, so far. The idea that its emergence will cause a political party realignment is also my own. But the idea that a party realignment may already be brewing comes from other analysts, as does an idea that the 2020s may give rise to increased political violence.

Here are three recent articles about all this:

— Frank Distefano’s marvelous article about “The End of the New Deal Era — and the Coming Realignment” (in The American Interest, March 2019), which proposes that “an entire stale order is crumbling down. The great debate of the 20th century is over. America is heading toward its next realignment.”
Source: era-and-the-coming-realignment/

— Adding to Distefano’s argument (without acknowledging it) is George Packer’s ”Is America Undergoing a Political Realignment?” (in The Atlantic, April 2019), which speculates that “A new Democratic coalition could be coming to power — but don’t count on it.”

— Peter Turchin’s “A Quantitative Prediction for Political Violence in the 2020s” (at his blog Cliodynamica, January 2017) that “the violence spike of the 2020s will be worse than the one around 1970, and perhaps as bad as the last big spike during the 1920s.”

[First posted on my Facebook page, May 9.]

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #10: proposing a new sectorism via comment left at Niskanen Center

I’m still trying to figure out whether “new sectorism” is a good idea as well as a good way for advancing the broader idea of quadriformism across the political spectrum.

With that in mind, I continue to follow the philosophical-ideological reorientation underway at the center-right Niskanen Center. My post #9 in this series lauded but also criticized the new policy vision it issued a while back, “The Center Can Hold: Public Policy for an Age of Extremes” (December 18, 2018). It was followed by a Niskanen conference on “Beyond Left And Right: Moderation in an Era of Crisis and Extremism” (February 25, 2019), which assembled our nation’s leading center-right thinkers. I’ve now read through the opening remarks by David Brooks and the three panel discussions that followed.

Along the way, I spotted a surprising analytical lapse that aroused me to leave the following comment, urging anew that consideration be given to a developing a new sectorism, in theory and practice. Hopefully I’ll eventually do better at writing up the idea, but for now here’s my my latest iteration:

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So…I’d like to point out you never mention here a factor highlighted in other writings — the treatment of society’s sectors, notably the public and private sectors. Yet the right treatment may contain the keys to reviving moderation and centrism.

I’ve read all three panel presentations, as well as Brooks’ talk. I welcome your search for ways to revive moderation (even radical moderation) in American politics, along with the facets you discuss: centrism, balance, equilibrium, the middle, incrementalism, pragmatism, even centrist radicalism to American. The presenters make valuable points about how reviving moderation requires new efforts to identify: “an animating idea” and “radioactive thought” to “tell a [new] story” (Brooks); a “unifying principle” or “organizing principle” (Hoover); “a better set of ideas” (Lee)): an “overarching vision” and “some account of a larger whole in which those parts belong” (Linker); all to “reclaim the symbols of America” and “our vision of the future” (Mounck). It’s correctly noticed that “We may be going through a tremendous transition moment” (Gurri) at a “critical moment in our history” (Wilkinson). Indeed, we have “an opportunity for the center-right and the center-left to begin to build a new national narrative that is one of unity and cohesion, and which is an antidote to the moment of polarization in politics” (Hoover).

But nowhere — not once — does the word “sector” appear in these conference proceedings. That’s very odd — a grievous omission — since “sector” features prominently in the new center-right policy vision paper that four of you published some months ago, partly as background for this conference. That paper made valuable points about the public sector and the private sector and, looking ahead, about the importance of their working together better.

How people view and treat our society’s sectors may be crucial for reviving moderation and constructing a new centrism across the political spectrum. In my view, what’s needed for a forward-looking framework is a new sectorism. And it must be broader than just the public and the private sectors. Partisan dialogue nowadays has come to emphasize only those two sectors, turning them into another binary dichotomy, with the Right over-identifying with the private sector, the Left with the public sector. This flawed reduction neglects that there are two other sectors.

One is much older, more basic, less formal, and harder to assign a name: what’s often called the civil-society sector — our base sector of families, communities, and related associations, many of them voluntary and non-profit. When our political leaders can’t resolve an issue via the public and/or private sectors, they may just toss it off to burden this homefront sector. Yet, it’s a crucial sector that deserves far better recognition and treatment as a sector.

A new fourth sector is emerging now as well: tentatively named a “social sector” (Peter Drucker’s term, 1994) or “commons sector” (David Bollier’s term, 2008). It’s rise will alter not only the policymaking framework but also the political-party landscape as leaders catch on. Views differ greatly as to what imperatives and impulses will define it, and what actors and activities will move (or be moved) into it, with some coming from the other earlier sectors. My sense, for reasons I give elsewhere, is that this next sector will form around the most critical, complicated matters our society faces, problems for which there are no easy answers and which keep coming to the fore: education, health, welfare, the environment, and related insurance issues — matters about care, broadly defined, that are best addressed in non-profit and/or not-for-profit ways. For decades these matters were manageable enough to fit, or be fitted, mostly into the binary public-private framework. This is no longer the case, for they’ve all become too large and too complex, partly as a result of America’s continued growth, but more because they’ve outgrown that binary framework in ways our politicians don’t perceive yet.

This means our society increasingly has four sectors that should be recognized and utilized. I urge you to consider pursuing this view. Properly doing so should help with countering binary constructs about public vs. private, state vs. market, collectivism vs. individualism, Left vs. Right, etc. It should help with moving us away from extremism and tribalism. Recognizing a fourfold framework would oblige politicians, policymakers, and others to approach problems more in terms of sector limits and balances, to think more in terms of sectoral relations and connections, to revive a focus on family and community, and perhaps to decentralize power away from Washington.

In short, developing a new moderation, a new centrism, may depend crucially on designing and advocating a new sectorism.

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Here’s the URL for the third and final conference panel, where I left my comment:

Brooks’ opening talk and the earlier panel discussions can be found elsewhere at this website.

That was the third comment I’d left at Niskanen’s site, all evidently unnoticed. The first was at the post about “The Alternative to Ideology.” The second at the post about a new policy vision, “The Center Can Hold: Public Policy for an Age of Extremes.”

[First posted on my Facebook page, May 5.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #9: how the Niskanen Center’s new center-right vision leaps ahead but falls short

I keep scanning for new views on the Right (Center and Left too) that look encouraging to me as a proto-quadriformist. Thus this note applauds the Niskanen Center for recently offering a new center-right policy vision, better than anything I find elsewhere on the Right. Niskanen is not headed toward quadriformism, but it’s rectifying its original libertarianism in ways that make for a sounder fit with TIMN theory.

As my prior post deplored, specious right-wing thinking about individualism vs. collectivism, particularly as voiced by Ayn Rand and her drove of admirers, assures that conservatives will resist an idea like quadriformism. Fortunately, other thinking is at work in conservative circles. In an environment where most think-tanks on the Right (e.g., Heritage, Cato, AEI) keep going in their customary directions, the Niskanen Center is turning away from libertarianism toward a rebalanced vision of society and policy.

The key Niskanen write-up is “The Center Can Hold: Public Policy for an Age of Extremes” (December 2018) by Brink Lindsey, Will Wilkinson, Steven Teles, and Samuel Hammond. Other recent writings by Lindsey, Wilkinson, and Jerry Taylor speak to its points as well.

According to the authors, America is at a “perilous juncture” where “The challenge before us is as simple to state as it will be difficult to achieve: to restore the promise of the American Dream.” To that end, they call for “idealism without utopia” based on “deep commitments to the basic liberal principles of a free and open society: individualism…; pluralism…; the rule of law; representative democracy; a competitive market economy; and a government that secures those collective goods that private efforts cannot.” America, they say, presently faces a “crisis of legitimacy”; nonetheless, “the liberal democratic capitalist welfare state” remains “the best model of governance,” and it “can still work to improve ordinary people’s lives.”

These points, scattered across the document, are all to the good — but they are not unusual. What makes Niskanen’s vision distinctive and innovative compared to other visions from the Right is that the authors call for “a whole new way of thinking about policy” whereby “it is necessary to use a new ideological lens: one that sees government and market not as either-or antagonists, but as necessary complements.” Their advocacy of a balanced collaborative relationship between government and market breaks with conventional libertarian and other conservative views that remain intently anti-government and pro-market.

Here are passages that explain their shift toward recommending “the free market welfare state,” based on their finding that “The freest economies generally feature big welfare states”:
“Our hybrid vision combines the best of both sides and marks us as clearly pro-market and pro-government simultaneously. In other words, we reject the current polarization as a false dichotomy. In our view, dynamic, innovative markets and strong, energetic government go together and cannot be separated.”
“We reject the current package deals and offer a new package of our own: the free-market welfare state. Our package reflects not the relative status we happen to accord to government versus market actors, but the clear evidence that a wide scope for economic freedom and robust social spending are complements rather than antagonists.
The authors take an additional stance that is normally anathema on the Right: They recognize the value of and the need for regulations — for, properly applied, regulations work to protect competition and prevent collusion and over-concentration in capitalist systems. Thus, they say,
“Where we differ from many on the right is in our insistence that free markets are not spontaneous and self-executing, but rather the product of well-crafted regulations. Specifically, regulations are necessary to ensure that the ideas that are profitable in the marketplace really are good ideas — in other words, that they actually advance social welfare and make society richer than before. Good regulations, then, are what make Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” possible: They align the private interest of profit-seeking with the public interest of wealth creation.”
They further recognize that a well-regulated polity is needed to go with a well-regulated economy: “just as we emphasize that markets are institutionally constructed, so is democracy — and free-for-all democracy is no better than free-for-all capitalism.” Hence they oppose willy-nilly privatization schemes as well as government corporatism. They also oppose constraints on access to information, while at the same time advocating “deliberative constraints” (I’m not sure about what that means). For in their view “Democracy, like the market economy, needs to be properly regulated to function effectively.”

Overall, then, Niskanen seeks to foster a “daring, reformist spirit” of “bold moderation” by pulling together “what is best in a variety of ideological traditions” in order to “help move our divided society toward the best version of itself, and away from the toxic tribalism of our current politics.”

These are striking reconsiderations for the Niskanen Center to advance — quite a departure from doctrinaire libertarian principles that ordinarily call for “unregulated markets” and a “minimal, night-watchman state.” Which is why the document has received acclaim in centrist conservative circles, notably in David Brooks’ column about “A New Center Being Born: The market and the welfare state go together,” and Jonathan Chait’s article observing “I Have Seen the Future of a Republican Party That Is No Longer Insane.” (For citations, see comments section.)

Now, regarding TIMN, here’s what I appreciate about Niskanen’s new vision: Unlike most visions on the Right, it’s equally in favor of the institutional (+I) and the market form (+M); the authors don’t deprecate the former and overvalue the latter. Niskanen also recognizes that both forms (+I and +M) have bright and dark sides — capitalism can go wrong as readily as government — and that wise leadership is essential to make the bright sides prevail over the dark. The authors further recognize that both forms, and their respective public and private sectors, work best when kept within limits and in balance vis à vis each other. They also show that regulations are necessary to assure this. All these points fit with TIMN theory.

The new Niskanen vision recognizes that a properly ordered economic market system is crucial for a healthy political democracy. This too brings it into harmony with TIMN, which holds that political democracy arises when +M market principles about freedom and competition flow into the +I realm of hierarchical government institutions, enabling market-like representative politics to take hold. The Niskanen vision doesn’t quite go on to add, as TIMN does, that if a capitalist economy turns more corrupt, concentrated, and collusive, thereby diverging from the best standards of the +M market form, then similar patterns are likely to arise in politics as well, thereby undermining and distorting the practice of political democracy — but Niskanen comes close to implying that.

Furthermore, Niskanen’s new stand values not only individualism but also pluralism. And by inference it acknowledges collectivism too, given the positive references to collective goods, collective enterprise, and collective endeavor, as well as to government insurance risk pooling. According to TIMN, each of its cardinal forms of organization entail different mixtures of individualism and collectivism — both isms are inherent in each form. Today’s ideologues on the Right are remiss in arguing that individualism is good and collectivism bad (see my prior post).

None of these positives should be a big deal — they are basic TIMN dynamics — but matters are so out of kilter nowadays that it is a big deal to see this rethinking occurring on the Right. Yet I can’t be entirely upbeat about Niskanen’s new vision, for it has significant shortcomings from a TIMN perspective: In particular, this write-up is mostly about the two standard sectors — the public sector and the private sector — plus an occasional nod to the existence of civil society, its families, communities, and associations, as a less coherent sector. Which means that Niskanen’s vision remains triformist, and therefore not so visionary about the future. The authors mention education and healthcare as growing challenges throughout the document — but seemingly as challenges to be resolved via better public- and private-sector cooperation. I had hoped for some recognition that a next new sector may be emerging — say a “social sector” or “commons sector” — that would be more appropriate and effective for addressing such challenges. But for now, Niskanen doesn’t seem ready to foresee quadriformism. At least they foresee that revitalizing the “American Dream” requires overcoming the “toxic tribalism” that is undermining our society’s potential — a sound TIMN note on which to conclude this review.

For the full document, go here:

For David Brooks’ opinion column, go here:

For Jonathan Chait’s article, go here

Friday, April 5, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #8: rubbish-nonsense from the Right about individualism versus collectivism

This post is about a specific arch-conservative saying, and thus may seem to have little to do with quadriformism. But it is pertinent, for it shows that some arch-conservative mindsets are so devoted to old binary formulations — like individualism vs. collectivism — that they may be unable to accept new ideas about shifting from triform to quadriform visions of the future.


Conservatives often say they’re for individualism and against collectivism. Plainly stated, as a tendency, that seems sensible. But that’s rarely how it’s stated. Instead, I’ve heard for years the aphoristic claim that conservatives are for individualism, whereas liberals (i.e., lefties) are for collectivism. That’s a divisive insensible canard — and it runs deep in right-wing thinking.

The people saying so are always arch conservatives, most vociferously the NRA’s head Wayne LaPierre in speeches at CPAC and NRA conferences. Another example is Craig Biddle, writing in 2012 in The Objective Standard, a magazine that reflects Ayn Rand’s thinking, where he says that “The fundamental political conflict in America today is, as it has been for a century, individualism vs. collectivism” — from which he concludes that collectivism is evil, immoral, “utterly corrupt from the ground up,” and will lead Americans “down the road to statism and tyranny.” This view also crops up on Fox News shows now and then, implicitly if not explicitly — probably on some AM radio talk shows too, but I’m not as aware of them anymore. (See

Ayn Rand is evidently a leading source of this strain in right-wing thinking. As I found at a website devoted to her thinking, “In her novel The Fountainhead [1943] (and in her other writings), Ayn Rand challenges the doctrines of collectivism and introduces a radical new conception of individualism. She rejects the tribal mindset at its deepest roots and offers a vision of human existence in which we are not interchangeable members of some collective, but sovereign, independent individuals, whose true interests align.” It’s even said that “her philosophy of individualism can serve as the antidote to our era’s increasing tribalism.” (See and

But while she may be a famously extreme proponent, this view is found in some mainstream conservative thinking as well. For example, William Buckley, when he was a college student who would later write God and Man at Yale (1951), reportedly “hoped to find "allies against secularism and collectivism" — but instead … he found himself fighting against "those who seek to subvert religion and individualism."” (See

Fortunately, not all conservatives fall for this right-wing saw. I don’t hear it being voiced by the Burkean conservatives I read and admire; they know the limits to individualism and how to keep it in balance vis à vis other isms. For example, NYT columnist David Brooks has often criticized the spread of excessive individualism throughout American society, as in noting that true love-of-country nationalism is “threatened by extreme individualism — people who put the needs of the individual above the needs of the community.” However, thoughtful Burkean conservatives are outnumbered these days by Faustian conservative leaders, as well as by ordinary supporters of President Trump. (See

By itself, this aphorism may not seem too significant; I don’t hear it voiced very often. But as a thread in a tightly-woven fabric of right-wing binaries — big government vs. free markets, capitalism vs. socialism, “us vs. them,” etc. — it is significant, perhaps particularly so for alt-rightists, arch libertarians, and anarcho-capitalists, not to mention some Tea Party and Freedom Caucus members. They help hold that fabric together by divisively contrasting individualism and collectivism; for its notional and emotional content interlaces with many other themes that comprise the right-wing “memescape.”

Partly because of this positional significance, voicing the aphorism may trigger enthused responses — e.g., head nods, fist pumps, shouts of agreement, as occurs when the NRA’s LaPierre rouses a crowd of conservative gun-rights proponents with his fiery orations. I have the impression that, whenever this aphorism is deployed, ordinary conservatives, say those who listen to Fox News and AM radio talk shows and who attend pro-Trump rallies and CPAC conferences, tend to react positively. The aphorism appears to fit with years of conditioning to assure a tribal mindset. It would be difficult to undo belief in it through logic alone.


This aphorism is rubbish-nonsense. Its divisive binary framing, pitting individualism against collectivism, may suit tribally correct thinking on the Right, but it cannot withstand outside examination.

For starters, all the liberals and progressives I know strongly favor individualism, even though they may also favor government solutions to many policy problems. Indeed, classic liberalism was founded on Lockean principles of individualism, including that the state should serve to protect and promote individual freedoms. As Gideon Rose notes, handily for me, in a recent Foreign Affairs article, “The United States began as a radical experiment with grandiose ambitions. Its founders believed in Locke’s idea that free individuals could escape the perils of anarchy by joining together and cooperating for mutual benefit — and they created a country to show it wasn’t just talk.” So much so that, far to the Left, even socialist icon Eugene Debs praised individualism. (See

More to the point, the notion of individualism voiced in this arch-conservative saying is very broad, but the notion of collectivism is very narrow. It refers mainly to “big government,” and in most usages only to big government. Lately, it’s code for denouncing socialism, just as the term “socialism” spells “collectivism” in conservative thinking. But if we put individualism and collectivism on similarly broad conceptual footings, then collectivism means far more than statism. Then, family and community become expressions of collectivism, and so do military institutions, business corporations, farmers’ co-ops, evangelical and other churches, and sports teams, not to mention patriotism, and “collective security” — all of which most conservatives rightly favor, but fail to rightly acknowledge when subjected to this tribal meme. More to the point, pro-conservative organizations, such as the Heritage Foundation, Liberty University, and Bikers for Trump represent collective endeavors, even though they oppose ideological “collectivism.” Maybe it would help if ”mutualism” or “institutionalism” or “groupism” were substituted for “collectivism” — but I don’t see that happening.

Plus there’s the irony that tribalism, both its healthy and toxic manifestations, corresponds to a kind of collectivism. And few phenomena nowadays are more collectivist than the malignant political and cultural tribalisms that keep growing on the Right as well as the Left; for tribalists often demand group conformity and oppose individualized expression. This pattern shows up in Republican rules (e.g., the Hastert Rule, also the practices of Gingrich and McConnell) that no Republican shall speak ill of another, nor negotiate independently with a Democrat. It also shows up in litmus-test culture-war issues — e.g., about marriage, abortion, gun ownership, voting rights, etc. — where conservative call for collective solidarity among themselves, and seek to deny individual rights inside and outside their fold. And it shows up in episodic desires among conservative Republican to institute the so-called “unitary theory of executive power” — a collectivist notion.

Which leads to a second irony. The aphorism supports individual freedom and liberty. But by encouraging “memetic tribalism,” it thereby turns to stifle individualism and induce collective conformity. This is contrary to the correct functioning of liberal democracy, a true expression of individualism. Instead, the aphorism may help rally people to accept a more authoritarian, more collectivist forms of governance where their tribe dominates — even neo-fascism, or short of that, to unitary executivism. Compounding this risk is knowing that President Trump’s own inclinations lean toward corporatism (along with tribalism), not liberal democracy. (See

In sum, far-right conservatives depend on collectivism as much as anybody, far more than their rhetoric allows them to recognize. Indeed, today’s crop of tribalized conservatives is the most ominously collectivist I’ve ever seen.


I could go on, for this arch-conservative aphorism is not only philosophically fraught, it’s also scientifically unsound. There are vast writings on the roles of individualism and collectivism in the social sciences. Of particular note is the point that all societies combine expressions of both, to varying degrees. Individualism and collectivism co-exist symbiotically — healthy societies cannot have some of one without also having some of the other.

All four TIMN forms (Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks) entail different mixes of both isms — a point I should elaborate someday. In the meantime, let’s note that sociologist Geert Hofstede’s “cultural dimensions theory” is particularly renowned for modeling and measuring how societies vary according to six values — one being individualism-collectivism. According to Wikipedia, “This index explores the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups.” Individualistic societies have loose ties that often only relate an individual to his/her immediate family. They emphasize the “I” versus the “we.” Its counterpart, collectivism, describes a society in which tightly-integrated relationships tie extended families and others into in-groups. These in-groups are laced with undoubted loyalty and support each other when a conflict arises with another in-group.” Points made elsewhere show that, in Hofstede’s view, “Individualism is the extent to which people feel independent, as opposed to being interdependent as members of larger wholes.” And collectivism “means that one "knows one's place" in life, which is determined socially.” He even offers a metaphor from physics, whereby “people in an individualistic society are more like atoms flying around in a gas while those in collectivist societies are more like atoms fixed in a crystal.” (See and

If I/we were to go through this scholarly material carefully, it would only reinforce my earlier points: The polarized aphorism at hand is insensible and dysfunctional. Arch conservatives, while claiming to be solely for individualism, are plainly collectivist as well, in their own way. All of which goes to show that there is much merit to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation decades ago that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” The aphorism fails this test.

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.]