Monday, October 19, 2009

TIMN: some implications for thinking about political philosophy and ideology, cont. (2nd of 3 parts)

Two weeks ago, I posted a foreword and Part I on TIMN’s implications for political philosophy and ideology. Since then, I’ve amended Part I a bit, by editing a few words, adding a new paragraph to end the subsection on democracy, and another paragraph after the material about anarchism and libertarianism. If interested, you may click here to go there, or just scroll down to the October 3, 2009, post at the blog.

Now, here is Part II:

* * *

Part II. Looking around: American liberalism and conservativism from a TIMN perspective

Can TIMN help assess what seems to be ideologically amiss with liberalism and conservatism in the United States? Have both moved too far from being soundly triformist? Is one of them turning too tribalist (even monoformist) for its own and the country’s good? And what about a current policy issue — healthcare — that has liberals and conservatives all riled up, at odds over whether to go for a public (+I) or private (+M) option? Does TIMN imply developing the so-far least favored (+N?) option: networked non-profit cooperatives?

When I posed those questions after the end of Part I as an indication of what this Part II would be about, I wasn’t fully aware of how little I knew about liberalism and conservativism. Now that I’ve heard and read a bit more, I see that each involves so many varieties, nuances, and sensitivities, and so much unsettled history, that the gloss I provide here is barely that — a gloss.

Yet, I’m not trying to say anything new about either philosophy/ideology. I’m just trying to show, via all parts of this three-part post, that TIMN may be useful for analyzing political philosophies and ideologies — past, present, and future. I’m also trying to find — and to let others know — where TIMN directs the analytical eye, what it says to focus on. And I’m trying to do so without touting my own personal views.

What I think TIMN implies, and thus what this part is about, is the following:
  • Liberalism and conservatism used to be sensibly triformist.
  • They are no longer so — neither is the American system as a whole.
  • Conservativism in particular has veered into tribalism.
  • While the healthcare debate substantiates this, resolving it may also afford an opportunity to move in a new, more quadriformist direction.

Once in balance: Years ago, both liberalism and conservativism, despite their differences, used to be sensibly triformist, in fairly balanced ways.

The liberalism I’m familiar with, mostly associated with the Democratic Party, emphasized promoting government (+I) programs for lofty reasons that at times meant a large welfare state. But liberals also favored a good (+M) business climate, as well as health, education, welfare, and cultural (pro-T) programs that benefitted families and communities, especially the less-well-off ones.

By comparison, the conservativism I’m familiar with, mostly associated with the Republican Party, was primarily (+M) pro-business, mainly to benefit better-off people. At the same time, it called for small or limited (+I) government (but not for small corporations, another kind of +I entity), and few regulations. It also believed in family, culture, tradition, and patriotism — all fine (pro-T) values.

Neither philosophy/ideology was particularly imbued with religion. But both were loaded with values. While both were pro-democracy, liberals liked to talk mainly about justice, equality, and progress, conservatives about freedom, order, and prosperity. Liberalism seemed tilted toward promoting community and civil rights, conservativism toward individualism and states rights.

Those are gross characterizations. But hopefully they suffice to substantiate the following TIMN analysis: In America’s heyday as a triform (T+I+M) system, both liberalism and conservativism used to be thoroughly, sensibly triformist. Each had a distinctive emphasis — for Democratic liberals the +I form in government, for Republican conservatives the +M form in business — but each embraced all the forms. Moreover, each philosophy implied that the activities associated with each TIMN form should be kept in balance, and that their realms should be kept fairly separate. In addition, the politician-practitioners of both philosophies normally preferred bipartisanship over partisanship.

Thus, as triformist ideologies, both liberalism and conservativism used to be consistent with TIMN’s orientation to social evolution. TIMN does not — indeed, cannot and should not — imply which ism may be better. But TIMN would seem to imply that both were suitable for a liberal democratic system like America’s, since a broad spectrum of views, with plenty of civil to-and-fro, may well be desirable from an evolutionary standpoint. Neither was an extreme ideology that was maladaptive for America’s prospects for future progress.

Now out of balance: Today, both liberalism and conservativism — and the American system as a whole — look out of balance in TIMN terms. I’m not sure yet how best to do a TIMN analysis of the current state of these two ideologies, or of our system as a whole. But here are some tentative observations:

The former relative separation of the state and market realms — a good condition from a TIMN perspective — has given way to an increasing fusion and intermingling of government and business, and both isms seem to have become overly agreeable to that. Trends in campaign financing, corporate contributions, congressional lobbying, government contracting, and other manifestations of public-private coziness, along with an evident lack of regulatory supervision and oversight (esp. in financial matters), attest to this. At the same time — ironically, in light of this increased fusion — there is increased pressure to take sides politically in favor of either the public or the private sector, without much recognition anymore that both are essential and that their combination ought to be preserved in a balanced manner.

Thus the structural reality seems distorted toward +M more than ever, while the rhetorical reality is turning more tribal (pro-T) than ever, especially among conservatives. Both liberalism and conservativism have moved so far from being soundly triformist that both now look dysfunctional, in need of rethinking. But the nature of the latter ism distresses me more these days, so I focus my remarks on it.

Too much mean-spirited tribalism: Conservativism — not all of it, but a vast swath — has fallen under the spell of a fuming medley of libertarians, evangelicals, populists, independents, opportunists, and revanchists. It can still offer good points about favoring limited government, but many of its proponents sound increasingly anti-government, fraught with exaggerated fears of government control and expansion (and this is after a Republican administration wrought an enormous expansion in state surveillance and monitoring).

While conservativism’s stance on limited government thus looks somewhat out of balance, its economic and cultural dispositions look more so. Again, I’m still feeling my way on how best to do TIMN analysis, but it seems to me that conservativism has turned excessively libertarian in its approach to the market form. What’s happening to the tribal form seems of greater concern.

Many T-level aspects of American society are currently out of balance, if not out of whack. Most “culture war” issues — e.g., family values, abortion, immigration, guns, same-sex marriage, identity politics, affirmative action, school prayer, indeed perhaps everything that makes up the “culture war” — pertains to the tribal form. Add to this other kinds of news about urban and ethnic gang conflicts, teenage angst, broken families, religious cults run as charismatic chiefdoms, fixations on celebrities, cronyism in government and business, and the shrinking of the middle class; and it is easy to see that tribal (T-level) issues are not only rife in American society, but also that they have risen in prominence relative to issues that pertain more to the other TIMN forms, such as poverty.

Conservatives have tried to create and capitalize on “culture war” issues, far more than liberals. As a result, conservativism may be turning too tribalist for its own and the country’s good. This gets summed up, in my experience, by a remark I heard several years ago, when a talk-radio host yearned to “drive another nail into the coffin of liberalism.” What the hell? He seeks the death of a major American ism? He wants to bury a large part of the American political spectrum? Criticism is okay; so is having fun with hyperbole. But this struck me as an insensible plunge into a demonic kind of tribalism. And if America ever went that far to the right, even this leader would surely be among those whose pro-freedom, pro-individual ideals got demolished next. America cannot be truly American without having a broad political spectrum.

If I seem to pick excessively on conservativism, it’s because it offers the better examples of unbalanced tribalism. Curiously, many conservatives take pride in the success of their radio and television talk shows, and chide liberals for not being as good at this. Conservatives claim it’s because their views resonate better with mainstream American values. TIMN suggests a different analysis: It has little to do with the appeal of values; it’s because liberals are evidently not as adept at tribalizing, nor as intent on it.

And here’s another imbalance that TIMN leads me to detect and wonder about: Many policies that conservatives (and liberals?) would like to see enacted in connection with the “cuture war” — say regarding marriage, or immigration, or stem-cell research — mean imposing new government regulations on the tribal form. Yet, many conservatives, especially libertarian conservatives, remain opposed to regulations over the market form, even over a key culprit in the financial crisis: derivatives. If TIMN implies system dynamics as I’ve argued previously, then it probably implies that the regulatory interfaces between forms should be roughly equivalent, at least in degree. If so, then isn’t something amiss in calling for radical deregulation regarding one form, but revanchist reregulation regarding another? In the final analysis, it may well be that the focus should be less on too-much versus too-little, and more on what are the right and wrong kinds of regulation.

Healthcare as a +N challenge: Why is so much turmoil occurring in the United States? One key reason — I continue to believe, as I wrote years ago (2007, p. 5; earlier, 2005, p. 92)— is that:
“The United States, along with countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia, long ago developed triform T+I+M societies and are now on the cutting edge for creating quadriform T+I+M+N societies. This evolutionary shift explains some of the turbulence America has been experiencing at home and abroad.”

That still sounds right to me, and I’d harp on it even more today: China’s recent rise owes to its successes in finally adopting the market (+M) form. In contrast, America’s disarray, if not decline, owes to its troubles adapting to the rise of the network (+I) form. To use a term coined by my former co-author colleague John Arquilla in another context, the United States and its chief competitor, China, are in an “organizational race” — but each of a different kind. And we Americans better get cracking, at home as well as abroad.

One crucial proving ground at home may well be healthcare. The current policy debate has liberals and conservatives riled up, at odds over whether to go for public (+I) or private (+M) options. But each side’s proponents seem stuck in their aging ideological frames, while the populist mobilizations at town-hall and so-called tea-party gatherings confirm that conservative rightists are turning more virulently tribal (T-bound) than ever.

Can TIMN offer any guidance regarding our healthcare options? I think it can, though my thoughts are tentative. First, I think TIMN means that both public (+I) and private (+M) options are needed. But I can’t prove this. I can see why liberals favor a public option, conservatives a private option. I can see that the healthcare and insurance markets may need reforms in order to fit better with TIMN. I can see that every conservative aspersion against the idea of a public option — e.g., government “death panels” — could be flipped around and cast back against industry. And I can say that it would be more American to have all kinds of options available — multiple choices — partly to help protect the less-advantaged. But I can’t be entirely sure, not even by looking at experiences in other triform liberal democracies, that TIMN means we definitely should have both public- and private-sector options, as they are normally conceived.

But I am sure about this: TIMN implies that a new (+N) sector is emerging — what Peter Drucker called the “social sector” and which I have written about in prior postings. I continue to sense that healthcare is one of the issues that will (and should) migrate into this nascent sector. If so, then it may be very important to include the so-far least-favored option: networked non-profit cooperatives. Despite current objections that such organizations have rarely succeeded in the past, and that they require larger memberships and resource pools than presently seem likely to arise, they may well turn out to be cutting-edge for healthcare, far into the future.

My sense of TIMN is that the tribal form rotates around maximizing pride; the institutional form, around maximizing power; and the market form, around maximizing profits. I’m still uncertain about the network form, but my latest notion is that it favors maximizing “stewardship” — a term I spotted while browsing a conservative blog, but that should suit liberal sensibilities as well. Isn’t healthcare about stewardship more than power or profit? If so, seeking a +N option makes sense, and nurturing networked nonprofit cooperatives may be a good way to do so.

Neither conservativism nor liberalism has shown how to incorporate the +N form. Yet, neither will be able to endure unless its exponents figure this out, while also rebalancing their dispositions toward the other TIMN forms. More likely, however, is that both these classic isms will by superseded by new ideologies that are more attuned to the new organizational dynamics of the information age.

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Source note: Liberalism and conservativism are not my bag; nor is healthcare. So, to help prepare this post, I upped my attention level and acknowledge reading or listening to interesting materials from the following: David Brooks, John Derbyshire, David Frum, Neil Gabler, Hugh Hewitt, Steven Hayward, Bill Moyers, Sam Tanenhaus, and newscasters and their interviewees at Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, and NPR. I also benefitted from blog postings and related comments at Contrary Brin, Front Porch Republic, Spinuzzi, and ZenPundit, as well as from news articles and op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.

Caveat: I am likely, once again, to edit this text after it has been posted.

[UPDATE — MARCH 26, 2014:  For a belated update on the status and content of Part 3, which I never finished, see this 2014 post here.] 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Baseball trilogy (3rd of 3): religion — “God invented baseball”

[UPDATE — March 12, 2013: In keeping with this post’s themes, the stimulating new book by John Sexton, Thomas Oliphant, and Peter J. Schwartz, Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game (2013) upholds that “Baseball evokes in the life of its faithful features we associate with the spiritual life: faith and doubt, conversion, blessings and curses, miracles, and so on. For some, baseball really is a road to God.”]

[UPDATE — July 24, 2010:  For a marvelous and marveling read, see David B. Hart, “A Perfect Game: The Metaphysical Meaning of Baseball,” First Things, Aug/Sept 2010.  It considers baseball a game of “immense spiritual horizons” and “oddly desolate beauty” whose “philosophical grammar truly is Platonist” and whose “possibilities of religious interpretation are numberless.”]

[UPDATE — June 1, 2010:  See the compilation of quotations in the article, "Baseball is religion without the mischief," National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 18, 1998.  Also see the book by Gary Graf, And God Said "Play Ball!": Amusing and Thought-Provoking Parallels Between the Bible and Baseball (2006).]

[UPDATE — March 6, 2010: Uh-oh, there's an interesting article in Christianity Today by Mark Galli supposing that "God created football." Fortunately, I see nothing in it to surpass the idea that "God created baseball."]

Suddenly it’s October, the playoffs are underway, and my favorite teams are still in the fray. Now seems like a good moment to complete my trilogy of blog posts on baseball. The first was about tribalism, the second about strategy. Here is the third, on the most sensitive matter of all: religion.

* * *

A few years ago, as I was turning into a baseball fan, a friend informed me that “God invented baseball.” Aha! I had already sensed that baseball was not just another mundane sport. But I hadn’t dared to look that deeply into its soul.

For a while I thought my friend was the source of this revelation. But no, it traces back to Michael Olesker, writing in the Baltimore Sun in 1983: “There are days when you know that God invented baseball to give us all a sense of eternity . . .” And the insight has been handed down ever since, but without much clarification.

So, I’ve been wondering, what are the ways in which the nature of baseball may reflect the nature of God? Here’s what I’ve discerned so far:

First and foremost, baseball does indeed symbolize eternity — in both time and space. Theoretically, a game could go on forever; it is not ruled by a clock. The outfield extends forever as well. Sure, there’s usually a fence or a wall out there, but its location is man-made. A soaring ball is never out of bounds; it points to the heavens.

Moreover, baseball stadiums constitute houses of worship — cathedrals of sport. Their fields are not the simple rectangles or ovals of other sports, but inspirational diamonds. They have a center of worship: the pitcher’s mound. They have a central axis, almost like a nave: the path the ball travels from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Beyond that, they have inner and outer zones, and invite the congregation to peer out into eternity. In baseball, a stadium’s majesty stems from its asymmetry and open-endedness. Other sports have stadiums and arenas that are numbingly symmetrical and enclosing.

There is even a “miracle” built into the layout, as someone stated in the Ken Burns series on baseball. It’s the 90-foot distance from home plate to first base. A couple more feet in either direction, and the game would be very different, far less balanced between offense and defense. And like a true miracle, it has stood the test of time, having everlasting value despite the game’s physical and technological advances.

Then, notice that once a game begins, the players must go one by one. They are virtually born (at home plate), and if all goes well, each gets to visit a holy trinity (first, second, and third base), be saved (by being called “safe”), and finally be reborn (by returning to home plate). Along the way, they must stay on the paths of righteousness (the base paths), lest they stray outside and violate the law.

Thus, baseball is a spiritual as well as physical endeavor, for individuals as well as teams. But while the battle often goes to the stronger, the outcome is never certain. Sometimes, something so impossible occurs — like fumbling an easy catch — that it seems an “act of God” has entered into a game.

Isn’t that all quite theological? In God's image? Showing the Way? Even many of the Ten Commandments seem to be in effect:
  • Consider the ones about having no other god, worshipping no false idols. In baseball, only the game itself is worshipped. If a player indulges in a hubristic display of narcissistic egoism, as so often seen in man-made sports, he is cast off the field, perhaps out of the garden. Some plays are even meant as sacrifices for the team, setting aside the self for the sake of a higher good.
  • Recall the Commandment to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest? Well, baseball features a seventh-inning stretch, when people may reverently sing “God bless America.” A pretty clear parallel.
  • Honor thy father and thy mother? Baseball is renowned among sports for being handed down through the generations — especially for sons recalling their fathers taking them to ballgames.
  • Thou shalt not murder? Baseball’s culture is averse to winners running up disrespectful “killer scores” — they’re immoral in baseball.
  • Thou shalt not steal? Okay, base stealing does occur, to great delight and dismay. But it occurs openly, in plain view, subject to the rules, and does not involve bearing false witness.
To enforce all this, there is a god-like agent on the field: the umpire. But while all must respect and obey him, no one worships him; he is no false idol. And paradoxically, his judgment may be the greatest source of human error on the field — like when he gets a call wrong. Is this not evidence that God works in mysterious ways?

Finally, notice that baseball’s origins remain shrouded in mystery. No longer is it believed that baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday, as a spin-off from English cricket or rounders. Recent evidence points in other directions. But it all remains so obscure and indeterminate that surely a Higher Power is involved? How else to explain that a sport so simple yet profound has come to grace our American land?

For all these reasons, I choose to accept that God invented baseball and bequeathed it to us. And in doing so, I must hope that I have not taken God’s name in vain. Too many people from too many religions are already doing that these days over other matters. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all just studied baseball instead?

* * * * *

Recommended reading: Bradd Shore, Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning (Oxford University Press, 1996) — esp. Ch. 3, titled “Mind Games: Cognitive Baseball,” and Ch. 4, titled “Playing with Rules: Sport at the Borderlands of Time and Space” — for its discussion of space, time, and action orientations in connection with baseball, in one of the few instances where an anthropologist speaks to all three of my “STA” interests.

Acknowledgements: Delightful appreciation to the following for helpful comments on an earlier draft: Bob Bridges, Matt Ronfeldt, and Brian Wilcox. I’m especially grateful to Brian for telling me about the saying in the first place.

Notice: I’m likely to continue editing this piece after it is posted here. I’ll indicate where, if I enter any major changes or updates.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

TIMN: some implications for thinking about political philosophy and ideology (1st of 3 parts)

[UPDATE — October 10, 2009: I've amended Part I a bit, by editing a few words, adding a new paragraph to end the subsection on democracy, and another new paragraph after the material about anarchism and libertarianism.]

TIMN implies that it may be a good idea for Americans to start becoming quadriformists, perhaps progressive ecumenical neo-limitarian quadriformists, who are looking ahead to the age of networks. Better that than falling for today’s monoformist and biformist blowhards who rant against government and for the market, while trying to tribalize people so that they turn more divisively partisan than ever.

But if those are to become punch-lines of this post, there are other points that should be made first — above all, this one: The key isms and ocracies that are scattered across the history of political evolution all amount to expressions of one or more of the TIMN forms. And that will be the case far into the future as well. Figure out TIMN and you can figure out the past, present, and future of political philosophy and ideology.

* * * * *

Part I. Looking back: TIMN’s applicability across political systems and ideologies

In my understanding, TIMN is not an ideological framework. It may contain some centrist precepts; but it is not inherently leftist or rightist, at least not in today’s terms. Yet, TIMN can be used to analyze — to dissect, categorize, even to pass judgement on — most (all?) major political philosophies and ideologies across the ages.

All political systems and ideologies fit somewhere in the TIMN framework. The shapes that societies have taken, such as monarchies, empires, and nation-states, and the isms and ocracies that leaders have created — e.g., feudalism, absolutism, nationalism, mercantilism, capitalism, fascism, and socialism, as well as theocracy, aristocracy, and democracy — can all be reduced to particular configurations of, approaches to, or variations on the bright and dark sides of the TIMN forms. They are the paradigmatic nuclear forms, not the isms or ocracies built around them.

Toward a TIMN analysis of capitalism: As examples of how TIMN illuminates key differences among history’s isms and ocracies, consider mercantilism and capitalism: Mercantilism means efforts by government (+I) authorities to control commercial (+M) actors. In contrast, capitalism means that the +I and +M realms operate apart, with the latter often outweighing the former. In TIMN, mercantilism arose centuries ago as a transitional phase in the evolution of biform (T+I) into triform (T+I+M) societies. In contrast, capitalism developed as an achievement of full-fledged triform systems that idealized free, fair, open economic exchanges and gave rise to liberal democracies with competitive political party systems.

TIMN also offers a way to distinguish among the positive and negative varieties of capitalism: A capitalism that conforms to proper (Smithian?) market principles — not to mention a capitalism that also yields a thriving middle class and reinforces democratic politics — is different from and more desirable than a capitalism distorted by tribal or hierarchical forces. Such distortions may occur where enterprises are fraught with (T-type) cronyism or suborned to (+I) statism, or where the market (+M) realm is rigged to favor monopolistic corporations and oligarchic elites, or to allow unbridled speculation, profiteering, and an excessive concentration of wealth.

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 (not to mention T, I, or N) principles.

Toward a TIMN analysis of democracy: Democracy is often viewed as a marvelous modern achievement, along with capitalism. And that is indeed true for liberal democracy, which characterizes triform (T+I+M) societies as a result of the infusion of the market form and its principles into and alongside the hierarchical institutional form in the political realm.

But TIMN suggests thinking more broadly about the evolution of democracy, and leads to noting that this particular ocracy is not just a unique end-state of late modernity. Each of the four TIMN forms is associated with a different kind of democratic tendency:

In tribal (T) systems, moments of direct democracy appear in tribal councils, clan gatherings, and similar assemblies where anybody and everybody who is invited can speak up. However, once a decision is made, strict conformity is normally expected; minority rights and dissenting opinions lack legitimacy. Ancient Athenian assemblies, Pashtun jirgas, and old American town-hall meetings represent examples, to varying degrees.

In hierarchical institutional (I) systems, top-down command is the norm. Yet, many hierarchies accommodate limited, bottom-up inputs and quasi-democratic deliberations, for example by inviting open discussions in controlled settings, or allowing elections of pre-approved candidates to some tiers in a pyramid, within doctrinal confines. Medieval England’s Council of State and the Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals seem to reflect this (or do they reflect the old tribal-council dynamic too?). In modern eras, even Leninism claimed to allow a “democratic centralism” within a single-party state. Today, the idea of “consultative dictatorship” remains appealing in parts of world where elites continue to reject liberal democracy.

Triform societies where market (+M) principles have altered the nature of the (+I) state provide the archetypes of liberal democracy. As Charles Lindblom observed (1977, p. 116): “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. TIMN’s implication is not so much that liberal democracy per se makes a nation stronger; it’s that once a level of complexity is reached, a nation cannot turn stronger without turning liberal-democratic. China, as a newly triform system that today is more a consultative dictatorship than a democracy, will eventually become a major test of this proposition.

According to TIMN, the rise of the network (+I) form will lead to new kinds of democracy (not to mention autocracy). And they’ll be radically different from the legislature-centric designs that define today’s liberal democracies. Indeed, lots of speculation has already occured about what such new, more participatory democracies may look like in the future. I may elaborate on that in section III of this post. But for the moment, I note it only to keep making the point, on TIMN’s behalf, that democracy has threads in all the forms.

Thus, democracy is not solely an expression of just one modern configuration of TIMN. All the forms can be applied in more democratic, or more autocratic, ways. And whether a society turns more democratic, or less, depends on what’s happening with all the forms and their potentials in that society. This may have cautionary implications for foreign-policy strategists who think other countries can and should be pressured to become liberal democracies (but, to maintain this post’s focus on philosophy and ideology, I must leave the strategy implications of TIMN for a possible future post).

Toward a TIMN analysis of extreme ideologies: As further examples, note that both the great modern totalitarianisms — communism and fascism — emphasized hierarchy and imposed powerful, centralized (+I) states, but were otherwise distinctive. Soviet communism sought to subdue local ethnic (T) sentiments in favor of internationalism, and to eliminate private (+M) businesses. In contrast, European fascism stoked ethno-nationalism (T) and fostered strong but subordinate (+M) capitalist enterprises. That’s why fascism represents a more modern (nearly +M) system than communism, and why it is an error to conflate communism and fascism.

More to the point, extreme ideologies normally exalt one TIMN form above the others; they do not seek balanced combinations. Consider anarchism, for example: Anarchists may crave individual freedom and extol direct action against tyranny, but they do not want a world rived by endless chaos. Instead, classic anarchism contains a yearning for tribe-like ways of life, free of statist hierarchies and capitalist markets. Anarchists espouse respect for individualism and community, for voluntary association and mutual aid. They believe that kin-like sentiments suffice to motivate self-organization. They favor consensus decision-making, communal sharing, and cooperative work. They desire a primitive kind of democracy: anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist, free of bosses and based on local councils. This intent to live simply and autonomously, in harmony with nature, harks back to hunter-gatherer and agrarian models, early in the TIMN progression. Thus, in many respects, anarchism is essentially a monoform neo-tribal (T-type) ideology.

In comparison, libertarianism exalts free-market, mini-government principles for the sake of personal liberty to a degree that makes it into a nearly monoform ideology too, but of a decidedly +M orientation. Thus, as often noted, left-wing anarchism and right-wing libertarianism have much in common, but they each idealize a different TIMN form, while disdaining the same (+I) form.

This is not to say that anarchism or libertarianism is strictly monoformist. The adherents of each have plenty to say, pro and con, about all the TIMN forms, and about how society is being served or corrupted by beliefs and practices associated with each form. But dedicated anarchists and libertarians process their views mainly through their preferred form — for anarchists the T form, for libertarians the M form — and inevitably return to emphasizing it in philosophical/ideological ways that, overall, remain nearly monoformist. At least that’s what I keep seeing and hearing.

Recap and segue: These examples show that TIMN, spare as it is, provides a way to parse — to deconstruct and compare, even to praise or criticize — the isms and ocracies that have played prominent roles in political and evolutionary theory. That’s my limited objective for this part of this post. I hope I’ve met it, even though there are other significant isms and ocracies that I haven’t even mentioned so far, such as clientelism, corporatism, pluralism, plutocracy, and meritocracy — and oh yes, liberalism and conservatism. But I’m sure that they too can be subjected to TIMN analysis.

* * * * *


Part II. Looking around: Can TIMN help assess what seems to be ideologically amiss with liberalism and conservatism in the United States? Have both moved too far from being soundly triformist? Is one of them turning too tribalist (even monoformist) for its own and the country’s good? And what about a current policy issue — healthcare — that has liberals and conservatives all riled up, at odds over whether to go for a public (+I) or private (+M) option? Does TIMN imply developing the so-far least favored (+N?) option: networked non-profit cooperatives? I’m still working on this part, and I’ll post a separate announcement when it’s ready to be inserted here. Maybe next week.

Part III. Looking ahead: What’s next – way out there? Commonism? Neo-limitarianism? Cyberocracy? Any hope for quadriformism? I’m still working on this part too, though some of it was drafted years ago. I’ll post a separate announcement when it’s available here.


[UPDATE — MARCH 26, 2014:  For a belated update on the status and content of Part III, which I never finished, see this 2014 post here.] 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Explaining social evolution: standard cause-and-effect vs. TIMN’s system dynamics

TIMN is supposed to become a theoretical framework, even a full theory, about social evolution. Such theorizing calls for a determination of causes and effects. This post addresses that, by offering pieces of what may eventually amount to a chapter.

The purpose of this post is to show that thinking in TIMN terms leads to an interesting set of propositions about system dynamics that go beyond standard cause-effect analysis. Some of the dynamics discussed here were mentioned in an earlier post about TIMN.

Standard approach to cause and effect

Social evolution depends on a flow of causes and effects. The standard way to theorize about them is to identify independent variables and assess what happens to dependent variables.

While scholarly debates have swirled around efforts to explain every phase of social evolution, the most vigorous debates I have encountered so far concern the transition from tribes, to chiefdoms, to states. The major explanatory factors (independent variables) that scholars repeatedly posit for this transition are increases in population, in economic production, in local and long-distance trade, in warfare and conquest, and in social stratification. Increases in such factors evidently generate needs as well as opportunities for increases in central control and coordination and for the emergence of specialized administrative and bureaucratic hierarchies — i.e., for a growth of the traits (dependent variables) that characterize the rise of the +I form, embodied in the state.

Of these causal factors, the one that has received the most agreement is population growth (Harris, 1977; Johnson and Earle, 1987; Sanderson, 1999; Carneiro, 2003). It, evidently more than any other factor, impels societies to intensify their capacities for economic production as well as for warfare and conquest. As Robert Carneiro (2003, p. 206) notes,
In the absence of concentrations of population, few if any chiefdoms or states ever arose. In its presence, many sprang up, responding to the demands that the increasing pressures of human numbers began exerting on existing political structures.
But are such factors primarily causes, or consequences? For example, consider an enduring debate about whether the growth of social stratification caused the rise of a hierarchical coordinating center, first as the chiefdom, later as the state. A view influenced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (notably Fried, 1967) claims that the state arose in order to expand and defend inegalitarian stratification. An opposing view (notably Service, 1971) observes that little stratification (or private ownership) preceded the rise of the state, and that the state’s primary aim was simply to defend its rise as an autonomous institution. In this view, inequality and stratification were a consequence of the state’s rise, not a cause.

However — and of course — for many theorists, truth resides on both sides of the argument:
[T]he development of the state involved the specialization of a governing bureaucracy, as argued by Service, and the emergence of stratification based on access to basic resources, as argued by Fried. The two factors are not mutually exclusive; rather, they must be considered together to adequately explain the origin of the state. (Haas, 1982, p. 151, italics in orig.)

Political stage and social stratification are clearly very strongly correlated with each other, almost inextricably intertwined. It is difficult to say which is the dependent variable and which the independent variable. It may be best to conclude that these variables are codeterminants — they ratchet each other up in the evolutionary process. (Sanderson, 2001, p. 314)
Indeed, a ratcheting, spiraling coevolution of cause and effect makes the most sense — and not only for this early stage of social evolution. In reviewing a range of demographic, economic, military and other causal factors and the debates about them, Robert Carneiro (2003) makes the deep point that cause and effect may spiral together over time across all stages of social evolution. Steven Leblanc (2003) reiterates the point in neat style, based on his work on the interplay among tool making, big-game hunting, and warfare in primitive eras. Here’s what they say:
Causation may be said to be spiral in the sense that factors may react in such a way that something that may be a cause at one stage of the process may in turn become an effect at a later stage. And then this effect may once more play a causal role in a later stage, and so on. (Carneiro, 2003, p. 190, italics in orig.)

The idea of coevolution revolves around the concept that as one trait evolves, it causes a different one to evolve as well, and as this second trait evolves, it causes the first to evolve more: A encourages B, and B encourages A in a sort of spiral or loop. (Leblanc, 2003, p. 79)
I believe that this is the best way to theorize about cause and effect in the standard manner. Even so, this remains a difficult area of analysis, and debates continue to simmer among anthropologists and other theorists about what factors cause what early stages of social evolution. Similar debates exist regarding the causes and consequences of the later rise of the market and network forms — with technology advances playing ever larger roles as explanatory factors for modernization. (For excellent overviews, see various writings by Stephen K. Sanderson (1990, 1999, 2001, 2007), who adds his own theoretical thrust in terms of what he calls synthetic materialism.)

However, while identifying the material and other causes of particular transitions and stages of social evolution is a major concern of many scholars — and a fascinating one at that — I doubt much is to be gained for the formulation of the TIMN framework at this point by dwelling on specific causal factors. Standard cause-effect analysis can be fit into TIMN, and may assist with explaining the progressions from monoform through quadriform societies. Moreover, I need to be aware — and show that I am aware — of the main theorizing in this vein. But my sense is that TIMN depends mainly on system dynamics, far more than on standard cause-effect relationships.

System dynamics: a TIMN rethinking of causes and effects

By “system dynamics” — I don’t know what else to call them (and I’m open to suggestions) — I refer to patterned interactions among the TIMN forms that apply no matter which TIMN form is rising or settling, expanding or receding, influencing or being influenced. They reflect the ratcheting, spiraling coevolution of the four forms, rather than the specific causes and effects of each one. What is interesting about these dynamics is that they repeat whenever a form arises, irrespective of which form or transition it is. That is how and why this compact framework generates complex patterns.

I presumed that such patterns existed not long after I figured that social evolution revolved around just three or four forms of organization and their interactions. Since then, I have tried to cull from the literatures on social evolution those propositions that speak not to causal factors for each form, but rather to overarching dynamics that play a role in every TIMN transition, from monoform to quadriform systems.

What follows is an overview — in propositional style — of most of the dynamics I have spotted so far. I’d originally intended, over a month ago, to elaborate on these and other propositions in this one single post. But I stalled in the effort; also, it was becoming too long. Hence, I’m presenting this set of propositions here in a cursory, summary, rather abstract fashion. I hope to elaborate on them, mostly one at a time, in future posts.

As noted above, a few were already discussed in an earlier post that provided an overview of TIMN. But if that does not offer enough context, I suggest perusing other posts — here, here, here, and here — about the nature of the four TIMN forms.

A collection of propositions about TIMN system dynamics

During the rise of a new form, subversion precedes addition: When a new form arises, it has subversive effects on the old order that weaken the old forms, before it has additive effects that serve to consolidate a new order. This happens not only because of contradictions between the forms, but also because “bad guys” — e.g., warlords, smugglers, pirates, terrorists — may learn to adopt and exploit a new form quicker than the “good guys.”

Addition brings the creation and consolidation of a new realm: In the TIMN progression, each form, because of its unique strengths, operates to create and prevail in a particular realm of society. The new form and its realm take over functions and activities for which they are best suited, and which the older form(s) and realm(s) had been performing with increasing faults and inefficiencies as societal complexity grew.

Combination restructures and strengthens the overall system: As a form gains sway, combinatorial dynamics take hold vis à vis the established forms and their realms. The new form’s realm begins to separate from the older realms. The new realm cuts into parts of the older, takes some actors and activities away from them, and narrows and places new limits on their scope. The new form and its realm also have feedback effects that modify the design of the older forms/realms; they go through generational changes, which include taking on some attributes of the new form and its realm, perhaps partly to adapt to its growing strength. Yet, if all goes well, the addition of a new form and its realm ultimately strengthens the older ones; they emerge stronger — their capabilities grow within their scope of activity, even though that scope is newly circumscribed. Thus each new combination proves stronger than the old — e.g., a T+I+M society is generally stronger and more versatile than a T+I society.

Combination alters the nature of causation: Causation becomes more intricate as the TIMN progression develops. Whatever the causes that bring a new form into play, once it comes into play, it affects everything around it, altering the nature of adaptation and causation that had existed previously. The rise of the new form generates feedback effects that not only help to strengthen and spread the new form, but also to modify the prior forms and activities so that they better support (and resist?) the new form’s growth.

Successful combination depends on the development of regulatory interfaces: As societies progress in TIMN terms, the forms and their realms increasingly intersect and interact, such that a society’s functioning depends not only on which forms are present, but also on the nature of the interfaces between the realms. Regulatory mechanisms (laws, policies, agencies, etc.) enable realms — e.g., the state, the market — to function well together. Regulatory interfaces also help keep those realms separated and in balance, preventing one from overwhelming another. They provide a needed kind of connective tissue.

Balanced combination is imperative: In the TIMN progression, the rise of each new form depends on the successes and failures of the earlier forms. Each form (and its realm) builds on its predecessor(s); the development of each, in turn, may be crucial for the next to arise and take root. For a society to progress optimally through the addition of new forms, no single form should be allowed to dominate; and none should be suppressed or eliminated — some kind of balance and equilibrium should be sought. A society’s potential to function well at a given level, and to evolve to a higher level of complexity, depends on its ability to integrate these inherently contradictory forms into a well-functioning whole. Balanced combination is best for long-term evolution. Indeed, balance may be the key watchword of the entire TIMN framework. Otherwise, enormous structural and ideological distortions may occur; for imbalance — too much of this form or that — may bring out the worst aspects of a form.

Imperfect adaptation to a form may be optimal for continued evolution: The task of getting a form “right” does not mean that exact adaptation (or adaptedness) to its environment is best for a society’s potential for further evolution. Incomplete adaptation may provide for flexibility. Each form may well have an ideal type in theory and philosophy; yet, in practice, none operates fully according to its ideal — nor should it. One reason may be the presence of other forms, and the importance of having to function in relation to them. Another reason may be that imperfect adaptation may allow for opportune, innovative responses to environmental changes.

Complexity increases with TIMN progress, but so does simplicity: TIMN treats the evolution of “complexity” as a cumulative, combinatorial process, in which a social system develops sub-systems that operate according to different forms of organization. Thus TIMN, like most theories about social evolution, emphasizes differentiation and specialization — but with a twist. In classical theory, evolution amounts to a movement from simplicity to complexity — with that complexity becoming evermore complex. But in TIMN, the successful addition of a new form spells a reconfiguration that amounts to a kind of simplification — a resolution of excessive complexity (or complicatedness) from trying to do too many new things with old forms. Thus a triform T+I+M society is more complex than a biform T+I society; but a T+I+M society is also more streamlined and efficient — in key ways, simpler, less complicated — than a T+I society that is trying to conduct and control complex economic affairs without adopting the +M form. The drive for differentiation cannot be unceasing; resynthesis eventually requires a simplifying kind of de-differentiation as well.

To advance through the TIMN progression, control must give way to decontrol: The evolution of complex societies is often said to involve increases in control (and coordination), partly so that all the differentiated parts work together. But social evolution does not revolve solely around ever-increasing capacities for control. Each transformational step in the TIMN progression requires some kind of decontrol — realizing that a new form and realm are taking hold, letting go of its activities, and allowing self-organization to develop around that form’s own rules. This is essential for the re-simplification and resynthesis process noted above. Over the long run, harmonious decontrol becomes as important as control; in advanced societies, power extends as much from decontrol as control. Thus, to refer back to the preceding proposition, the evolution of social complexity leads to increases in differentiation and control, but it also eventually requires some systemic de-differentiation and decontrol. Societies whose leaders exalt the tribal and hierarchical forms may have the hardest times with this.

The more entrenched an older form, the more difficult it will be for a newer form to emerge on its own merits: This mostly occurs where tribal or hierarchical actors rule in rigid, grasping, domineering ways; but it may also apply where pro-market ideologues hold sway. Much of getting a form right or wrong depends not only on applying that form’s distinctive principles, but also on balancing and relating it properly to the other forms, while protecting it from infestation by them. The more a form is infested by another form’s actors, the more it may be distorted, and the more likely may be “monstrous moral hybrids” (Jacobs, 1992) that disdain the separation and balancing of forms and their realms. Examples may include governments rife with a clannish tribalism, militaries wallowing in lucrative business enterprises, and ostensibly capitalist market systems fraught with collusive, protectionist cronyism. The stronger are tribal/clan tendencies in a society, the more likely are corrupt hybrid designs. A society of myriad monstrous hybrids is likely to be a distorted society, even a mean-spirited one. (This does not contradict the proposition, presented in an earlier post, that functional hybrids appear during transitional phases in the TIMN progression from monoform to quadriform societies.)

Wrap-up remarks for this post

Some of the preceding paragraphs look awfully sketchy to me, lacking in detail and nuance, not to mention references to other’s writings. But that has to be it for now. At least I’ve conveyed some propositions from TIMN that I haven’t said much if anything about before.

I have more propositions in mind — e.g., each form’s maturation leads to increases in social stratification; each form is associated with a different notion of democracy; each shift in the TIMN progression leads to new modes of conflict and cooperation. But while I’ll not elaborate on them in this post, there they are, briefly stated, as hints of what is yet to be laid out. And I remain on the lookout for additional propositions.

Most of what I have put in this post was drafted years ago, for potential chapters seven and eight for a possible booklength treatment that is still tentatively titled How Societies Work: Social Evolution — Past, Present, and Future. Who knows whether I will ever complete it. But meanwhile, I intend to continue using this blog to present pieces for readers to view, should they be interested. At least I’ve moved the ideas out of my head and home, up into the clouds for eventual, hopefully positive consideration.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Toward a collaborative community for cyber defense?

[UPDATE — March 11, 2015: This update is prompted by just now reading Frank Cilluffo & Sharon Cardash’s “Obama’s cybersecurity initiative: a start but businesses – and individuals – need to do more” (2015). They report that progress is indeed underway “to encourage the private sector to share information to better defend against cyberattacks.” One objective — much in the spirit and substance of this blog post — is to create Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs) that can “serve as focal points for cybersecurity information sharing and collaboration within the private sector and between the private sector and government.”

This White House initiative lacks the status of legislation — it’s an executive order — and corporate compliance remains voluntary. But it’s still a strong step, building on the fact that “collaboration between and among private entities is already underway” — Cilluffo & Cardash give various examples. I am especially heartened to read that “a group of US companies (including McAfee and Symantec) are banding together to form a “Cyber Threat Alliance” which aims “to disperse threat intelligence on advanced adversaries across all member organizations to raise the overall level of situational awareness to better protect both the ... organizations and their customers.”” That’s definitely fits with this post’s theme: toward a collaborative community for cyber defense.

In addition, I want to add a quote that bears on the topic at hand. It’s from Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770): “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” (source) ]

[UPDATE: August 30-31, 2009: I’ve added additional updates in a few spots again, including an addendum at the very end, as indicated by brackets. But so much new activity is suddenly afoot, related mainly to the release a couple days ago of a revised draft of the Rockeller-Snowe bill for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, that this should be my final update for this post. It now risks becoming overloaded with updates; if I have more to say, it should go in a new post. For a good guide to what’s currently happening in terms of reactions to and questions about the new bill, see today’s post and related links at Tim Steven’s Ubiwar blog and suscribe to his periodic “Infobore” posts.

Besides, a few days ago I added so many updates to this post and to a prior post about Mexico that a Google machine has alleged that this may be a ”spam blog” and placed it under review, while making me go through extra steps to do any posting in order to prove that I am not a machine. I’m amused to suppose that this may be another sign of the “end times” as discussed in an earlier series of posts about millenarianism, also briefly upated today.]

[UPDATE: July 22, 2009 — Many thanks to editor Dion Hinchcliffe for excerpting this post in Social Computing Journal today. Also, I’m adding new references in an updates paragraph later in this post.]

The previous post addressed the concept of collaborative community (or whatever it should be called). One policy area where it appears to be amiss, much in need of improvement, is cyber security.

This post addresses that topic. But readers beware: What follows amounts more to a set of sketchy, inconclusive notes than to a solid, well-structured essay based on an expert literature review. I’ve even wondered about shelving it. Yet, it represents a lot of new work on my part, and I’d rather store it here as a reference point for follow-up posts I might do in the future. Besides, it does contain some points worth posting.

* * * * *

The last time I tried to be current on cyber security was in 2003-2004, while preparing an epilogue to update an article for publication in Japan. By then, in writings with John Arquilla about cyberwar and netwar that began in 1992, we had elaborated on our basic maxims that: “Institutions can be defeated by networks. It may take networks to counter networks. The future may belong to whoever masters the network form.” (1993, p. 40) And these maxims seemed as applicable to cyber security as to other matters that concerned us back then.

In particular — and I will stick to the following three themes throughout this post — we had urged that the U.S. government needed coordinators more than czars (see Appendix A below). We had recommended hybrids of hierarchies and networks to improve interagency coordination (see Appendix B). And in 2003 I optimistically thought that the networks taking shape for cyber defense would continue engaging a range of skilled specialists outside the government, exemplifying public-private partnership (see Appendix C):
“In sum, the United States is evolving a rich, diverse, internetted organizational ecology. Government offices and agencies keep growing, but for-profit and non-profit firms and civic-minded NGOs keep growing as well, even faster — and all are engaged in formal and informal efforts to build webs of cooperation. And that organizational evolution, as much as technical expertise, may prove the best defense against attacks on computer systems, and the best promise for assuring freedom and privacy along with security.”
Thus the actors involved appeared to be well on their way to coming up with multi-tiered, nimble, resilient, adaptive, robust mechanisms for dealing with attacks. A kind of collaborative community seemed to be growing for cyber security.

* * * * *

Today it’s not clear that cyber defense has advanced well in this direction. It’s not my area of expertise; and despite some new reading and chatting, I remain barely updated. But I’ve learned enough to become pessimistically perplexed. Organizational dynamics — formal and informal, governmental and beyond — appear to be more bollixed up than ever.

First, all parties seem to understand that Washington needs a coordinator more than a czar. Yet, we continue to seek czars and czarist solutions. Many officials and analysts — especially the media — can’t stop using the term, reinforcing the tendency. “Where is our cyber-czar?” wails a recent Washington Post editorial! When pressed, all actors may admit that what’s needed is a chief coordinator, not a czar. But a longing for hierarchy and centralization — and hence the czarist lingo — keeps reasserting itself. It’s understandable, but not a good sign.

Second, all parties agree that better interagency cooperation is essential. And efforts to achieve that are repeatedly made, or at least talked up. But turf battles, agency mismatches, classification and other information-control issues, and communications-technology incompatibilities keep getting in the way. And of course, it’s difficult to make progress when it remains uncertain where the key coordinator may be located.

Third, all parties agree that greater public-private cooperation is essential. And mechanisms like US-CERT and the CERT Coordination Center, as well as the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center (ISC), help meet this challenge, perhaps better than I realize. But “public-private” appears to refer mainly to “industry,” to large businesses more than small ones who could be helpful in an emergency response, and to subcontracting more than networking. It’s not clear that collaborative networks are still being developed that include an array of specialists from all sectors.

A result of these dysfunctional twists and turns has been to locate the key cyber-security center — lately, the National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC) —in a suboptimal place, first DHS and next (almost) the NSA. If constructing a broad-based collaborative community is desirable for cyber defense, moving the key center from DHS to NSA is inadvisable — as former NCSC Director Rod Beckstrom’s resignation letter indicated in March. [UPDATE — August 12, 2009: Points he made appear to reiterated in two resignations this month, first by Melissa Hathaway, the White House's acting senior director for cyberspace, and now by Mischel Kwon, the director of US-CERT. See this discussion at the IntelFusion blog.]

As befits a change of administrations, a new round of initiatives is underway to rectify these matters. They call for creating a new key office — led by a Cybersecurity Coordinator — in the White House, along with new mechanisms for interagency and public-private cooperation. This latest round gained impetus from a CSIS commission report last December, and a draft bill proposed by Senators Rockefeller and Snowe this April. It progressed with the release of a “Cyberspace Policy Review” by the White House, along with remarks by President Obama, in May. Then, in June, the Defense Department created a new command for cyberspace — USCYBERCOM — inside Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). Next up, later this month, should be a revised bill from Senators Rockefeller and Snowe that takes interim comments and criticisms into account. Thus, a lot of striking organizational changes are underway, with more to come.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, a curious new trend in strategic thinking is growing, parallel to these developments: a claim that cyberspace is as much a part of the global commons as air, sea, and outer space. This means that cyberspace is a kind of collective good, even a global public good. It also means that access to, if not command of, this new commons is essential for America’s power in the world, and that cyberspace must be defended against state and nonstate threateners. According to its early proponents, Michèle Flournoy and Shawn Brimley (2008, p. 136), “America must take a leadership role to ensure that access to the global commons remains a public good.” They have recently expanded on this theme as Pentagon officials.

Declaring a domain to be strategic commons eases the way for asserting public over private interests. And that may have all sorts of implications. It might help with efforts to foster a “multi-partner world,” as Secretary Clinton urges. But it might also lead to a “cyber Monroe doctrine” or help justify unleashing an “ botnet” (insensibly?) under other circumstances. Whatever the circumstances abroad, declaring cyberspace a strategic commons would surely bolster the organizational clout of cybersecurity officials within the U.S. government and over the private sector.

If/as this notion gains sway, it will surely generate controversy. Adam Elkus sees some Mahanesque qualities, but also that the “fluid and dispersed nature of cyberspace makes it impossible for one power to dominate.” Tim Stevens urges that cyberspace is too social to be viewed as a military commons : “cyberspace is not simply a strategic ‘domain’ like the sea or the air.” More to the point, a social movement is taking shape that views the information commons as a new realm for peer-to-peer social development; and it is sure to raise objections to a strategic military concept of this commons.

* * * * *

While my main concern is organizational, I don’t mean to disregard the many interesting technical fixes that experts recommend: The GAO has long pointed in this direction, as did an earlier commission on critical infrastructure protection. Moreover, Bruce Schneier has often pointed out that attending to “the boring network security administration stuff we already know how to do” would vastly improve our defenses. Sam Liles has offered his own list of what-to-dos for securing the Internet; he even proposes installing a system of “sentinel and centurion nodes around the world.” Ethan Zuckerman has suggested that ISPs exclude compromised computers that the ISPs known to be on their network. And elsewhere, Dorene Kewley, John Lowry, and others with the DARPA Information Assurance Program have raised innovative ideas for “dynamic network defense” and “defense in breadth” for protecting computer systems.

Other ideas I’ve encountered are more in keeping with my organizational concerns. For example, John Robb says that “the US should be building a ‘Network Command’ and not a Cyber Command.” Evgeny Morozov warns, “The problem with the current approach to cybersecurity is that by miring it in unnecessary secrecy, we are shrinking, rather than growing, the number of eyeballs that can find and fix those bugs.” Peter Hodge, criticizing a recent U.K document on cyber strategy for being too top-down, suggests organizing “networks of small and ad hoc groups of experts, loosely tethered to government but operating autonomously within a general framework, which come together for particular aims and dissolve or reconstitute once the aims have been achieved.” And Michael Tanji insists, “We don't need a czar, we need someone with a lot of betweenness and closeness (in social networking terms) to make sure that people who need to are talking, sharing, and collaborating as they best see fit.” Indeed, new approaches, like “social software” for “collective intelligence,” are under construction that could help organize such collaborative attention.

I like all these ideas. There is no dearth of ideas worth heeding.

[UPDATES (Last updated August 30, 2009): In addition, Gene Spafford has provided lots of interesting posts on cybersecurity, including on legislative matters. So has Bob Gourley. Jeffrey Carr has created Project Gray Goose; Shane Harris has written about the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) initiative for providing intelligence to private industry; and Jonathan Zittrain has extolled the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) — three activities I didn’t know about that look like valuable expressions of collaborative community. Other interesting efforts at collaborative community appear to include The Shadowserver Foundation and The U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU). Also see the exchange between US-CCU’s director Scott Borg and IntelFusion’s Jeffrey Carr here. Meanwhile, Sam Liles and Adam Elkus have expanded anew on their views. Paul Strassmann has posted a draft paper about "Cyber Security for the Defense Department." Ron Diebert, who is with Citizen Lab and Infowar Monitor in Canada, urges seeing that “cyberspace has now become a domain equal in importance to the other domains: land, air, space and sea,” and proposes finding “ways to protect and preserve cyberspace as a global public commons.”

Favorite recent remarks: Michael Tanji, arguing that “You don't fight a network with an org chart; you fight it with a competing network. That's why a cyber czar is a non-starter...” Marc Ambinder, adding that “the delay in appointing a cyber security coordination director at the National Security Council has contributed to the perception that the White House is a few nodes short of a hub.”]

* * * * *

These efforts to update my sense of cyber security have not led me to come up with new proposals of my own. But they have reassured me about the enduring value of this post’s starting points: We need a central coordinator, not a czar — and the sooner we drop czarist lingo, the better. We need new, better mechanisms for interagency and intergovernmental coordination — and at least there is ferment in this direction. Third, of most concern to me, we may need to rethink public-private collaboration, so that it grows as a kind of far-reaching collaborative community.

I say “may” because, so far, I’ve not been able to gain a good understanding of what is the current nature and status of public-private cooperation in this area. If it mostly amounts to government, plus selected industry, and not much else, I’d suppose there are grounds for concern about our being able to defend against a sophisticated cyber attack. The kinds of threats I have in mind — I’ve not spelled them out in this post, for others have contributed plenty of scenarios — would surely require lots of “eyeballs” to dissect, etc. And coming up with a good response might also require a bit of serendipity. Indeed, responding to a sophisticated cyber attack may require something of a stochastic process [that is also stigmergic]. And the likelihood of that being successful should increase by making sure we have a broad-based collaborative community in place that reaches into all sorts of sectors, ready to be mobilized. Surely this is not a novel notion (see Appendix C for past examples).

These challenges are not unique to cyber security. Washington has steadily acquired — and evidently required — more “czars” than ever. Each is a function of some bureaucratic dysfunction, in one complex issue area after another. Similar concerns about interagency, intergovernmental, and public-private collaboration afflict them all. However, one notion may make cyber security unique in comparison to these other issue areas: the notion that cyberspace is a strategic commons. That line of thinking may bear a lot of watching and maneuvering, for it could have negative as well as positive consequences.

In sum, cyber defense is important on its own merits — right now. But it’s also interesting as a long-term challenge because it may well be one of the pivotal proving-grounds for America’s evolution to developing a cybercratic nexus state that will rule through “government by network” as well as by tribe, hierarchy, and market. Hopefully, this next stage in the nature of the state will be characterized by “guarded openness” and “collaborative community” — but that’s likely only if we get cyber security right.


* * * * *

Appendix A: "We need coordinators, not czars." (circa 1996)

The following excerpt from John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, The Advent of Netwar (1996, Ch. 5, titled “Challenges for U.S. Policy and Organization,” p. 86) reflects our early preference for coordinators over czars, in keeping with our broader view that it takes networks to fight networks. However, I would not persist with the Khan notion that the excerpt mentions.
Exasperation with the operational, bureaucratic, and the various other difficulties of dealing with terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and similar threats, now including those in cyberspace, normally leads to calls to create a “czar” for that threat domain. This may be muted by avowals that, yes, it should be an interagency czar who is skilled at coordinating. But the call — so well symbolized by the very term “czar” — still tends to signify the creation of a hierarchical superior who can centralize disparate activities. And that is part of the problem, as former senior U.S. official Paul Strassmann notes:
“I never understood why everybody called the top man “czar” and not emperor, eminence, lord, majesty, king, pope, kaiser, governor, caliph, shogun, sovereign or shah. I guess that the notorious czarist profligacy, incompetence, inability to govern and dismal endings were the fate to wish on the reigning data center monarchs.” (Strassman, 1995, p. 479, footnote)
Management literature increasingly makes the point that information-age organizations should move away from hierarchical, centralized designs, toward ones that emphasize heterarchical teamwork (e.g., Drucker, 1993). Some of this literature points out that some multiorganizational problems may be best addressed through informal network designs that emphasize “coordination without hierarchy” (Chisholm, 1989), or designs that are tantamount to what are called “virtual corporations.” In this vein, business-oriented literature that talks about the future as the “Age of the Network” puts the focus not on czars but on coordinators:
“[T]he person who makes particular networks happen is the “coordinator.” . . . Coordinators appear everywhere in the Age of the Network. . . . Networks began developing new leaders long before computers enhanced their reach. In a richly connected environment where many potential projects are sparking, growing, diminishing, and disappearing, a new role arises, that of the coordinator, whose distinguishing characteristic is the ability to see “connections” among people.” (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994, p. 173)
Although czar-like leadership may be needed at first to ensure that the members of an interagency network are committed to it, coordinators are ultimately preferable to czars. But if we must use a catchy term, would “khans” not be preferable to czars? Unlike a czar, the Khan ruled with topsight. He saw the “connections” among the diverse, widely separated regions of his dominions. And he took a decentralized approach to leadership, rarely intervening in operations. He was a coordinator as well as a commander.

* * * * *

Appendix B: "It takes networks to fight networks." (circa 1999)

This excerpt is from a subsequent chapter with Michele Zanini as an additional co-author, “Networks, Netwar, and Information-Age Terrorism” (1999, pp. 55-56, italics in original). It reiterates our basic maxims:

Hierarchies have a difficult time fighting networks. There are examples across the conflict spectrum. Some of the best are found in the failings of governments to defeat transnational criminal cartels engaged in drug smuggling, as in Colombia. The persistence of religious revivalist movements, as in Algeria, in the face of unremitting state opposition, shows the robustness of the network form. The Zapatista movement in Mexico, with its legions of supporters and sympathizers among local and transnational nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), shows that social netwar can put a democratizing autocracy on the defensive and pressure it to continue adopting reforms.

It takes networks to fight networks. Governments that would defend against netwar may have to adopt organizational designs and strategies like those of their adversaries. This does not mean mirroring the adversary, but rather learning to draw on the same design principles of network forms in the information age. These principles depend to some extent upon technological innovation, but mainly on a willingness to innovate organizationally and doctrinally, and by building new mechanisms for interagency and multijurisdictional cooperation.

Whoever masters the network form first and best will gain major advantages. In these early decades of the information age, adversaries who have adopted networking (be they criminals, terrorists, or peaceful social activists) are enjoying an increase in their power relative to state agencies.

Counternetwar may thus require effective interagency approaches, which by their nature involve networked structures. The challenge will be to blend hierarchies and networks skillfully, while retaining enough core authority to encourage and enforce adherence to networked processes. By creating effective hybrids, governments may better confront the new threats and challenges emerging in the information age, whether generated by terrorists, militias, criminals, or other actor.

* * * * *

Appendix C: "The United States is evolving a rich, diverse, internetted organizational ecology." (circa 2004)

The following subsection is from the epilogue — titled “Epilogue: The Fight for the Future Continues (January 2004)” — for a reprint in Japan of an earlier article about networks and netwars. This was the last time I paid much attention to cyber security. And this is the first time this excerpt is posted in English.

Concluding Comment about Freedom and Security on the Net and the Web

The Internet and related networks are a new frontier for freedom and security. Many of the issues quickly become technical in nature, since they involve computer capabilities and vulnerabilities. Japan and the rest of Asia should be alert to conflicts on this “virtual frontier” — such as the back-and-forth, cyberspace-based attacks that seem to be occurring between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. The Republic of Korea, one of the most wired nations in the world, also appears to suffer a steady stream of hacker attacks. These cases suggest a need for enhanced defenses — which we tend to associate with the widespread use of very strong encryption, rather than relying primarily on firewalls.

But technical fixes are only a small part of the solution, and we prefer to conclude by extending our organizational perspective: Protecting commerce, freedom and security on the Net depends not only on the development of (top-down) government policies and offices, but also on the (bottom-up) emergence of private-sector firms and civic NGOs that specialize in information-age issues, and finally on the abilities of all these organizations — in government, industry, and civil society — to cooperate, formally and informally, with initiative coming from whoever has impulse and reason. (12)

The United States is far from being a paragon of achievement in this respect, but it is headed constructively in this direction. In the first place, U.S. government efforts to assure the security of U.S. (and related international) computer networks has led, over the past few decades, to the formation of numerous special offices in all parts and at all levels of government. Some of the most prominent — e.g., the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC); the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO); and the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) — have been relocated to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

All parties recognize that broad public-private cooperation is crucial for network security. This has led to the formation of other organizations for bridging between government and industry actors, such as the CERT Coordination Center (CERT) and the Internet Security Alliance (ISA). Meanwhile, the array of business and non-profit firms concerned with computer security keeps expanding; examples are the Internet Storm Center,, @Stake Inc. (formerly Hackernews), and the Gibson Research Corporation. In addition, research and analysis centers are being established in university settings.

Some of these computer-security organizations are designed for early warning and rapid response to emergency situations, others for identifying best practices and standards. Many of these efforts are also supposed to be concerned with freedom and privacy issues. But anyone interested in the latter is well advised to turn to another array of activist civil-society NGOs that have sprung up, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), not to mention NGOs in other parts of the world. (13)

This is not a smooth system. Relations are often quite contentious among these varied government, business, and civil-society actors. Indeed, it is not unusual for some computer-security firms to criticize some government agencies or corporate actors for deficient performance in regard to preparing for and responding to hacker attacks. It is also quite common for some activist NGOs to oppose some government positions regarding privacy and freedom issues. However, such friction is not surprising, since the networking is creating links between sectors of society that were traditionally kept carefully apart: between what is civil and military, foreign and domestic, and federal, state and local.

In sum, the United States is evolving a rich, diverse, internetted organizational ecology. Government offices and agencies keep growing, but for-profit and non-profit firms and civic-minded NGOs keep growing as well, even faster — and all are engaged in formal and informal efforts to build webs of cooperation. And that organizational evolution, as much as technical expertise, may prove the best defense against attacks on computer systems, and the best promise for assuring freedom and privacy along with security.


(12) For example, read about the efforts to halt the debilitating Code Red worm in 2001 by an individual in the private sector who did take initiative: Steve Gibson, “The Register, Vmyths & My Code Red Advisory” (Gibson Research Corporation, July 30, 2001, at

(13) Each organization mentioned in this sub-section has a website, whose address usually consists of the organization’s acronym followed, as appropriate, by .gov, .com, .org, or .edu.

* * * * *

[ADDENDUM: “Part of the problem is the term ‘public-private partnership’.”

Pasted below is text from a comment I left at the IntelFusion blog, August 23, 2009, in connection with a post that day calling for inputs for a forthcoming book by the blog’s author. I'm leaving it here today (August 31, 2009) as a final update to this post:
I’d like to just posit a comment, irrespective of the more formal inputs you’re inviting.

Part of the problem may be the very term you emphasized in the former title of your final chapter: “public-private partnership.” This concept sounds so sensible, and it slides into place so easily in recommendations everywhere these days. But perhaps it’s an aging legacy concept, more suited to the passing industrial era than to the emerging information age, even though the latter’s proponents keep embracing it (which I’ve done at times too).

Consider its meaning(s): It divides matters into public (i.e., governmental) and private (i.e., business), as though they’re the only two sectors that exist. Good governance then mostly means finding the right mix of public and private measures to enable government and business, plus sometimes an occasional non-profit civil-society actor, to work hand in hand. And this usually ends up meaning key/big government agencies allying with key/big business corporations, often through subcontracting and outsourcing.

I doubt (and I hope others doubt) that this is the wisest direction to keep trying to go in. For one thing, the two-sector/public-private model is headed for obsolescence. An additional sector has been emerging for years now, though its nature remains unclear and it still lacks a good name (Drucker called it the social sector, and I like that name best so far; but others call it the third sector, the citizen sector, or the social benefit sector). Whatever, it seems to consist mostly of relatively small, agile, non-profit organizations that pertain more to civil society than to government or business, and that are suited to operating in sprawling collaborative networks with each other, as well as with traditional public and private actors.

While this deep re-organizational trend bears mainly on the future of social issues (e.g., health reform?), it may also be significant for cybersecurity, especially cyber defense. Indeed, the way I see matters, your Grey Goose Project is in this new sector.

I’m not disputing that the big government and industry actors have crucial roles to play. They do, and they must improve at operating in partnerships. But my country is going to need a multi-tiered, multi-sectoral cyber defense system (or set of systems) that is not adequately denoted, or properly motivated by, the prevailing notion of public-private partnership.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TIMN and the emergence of “collaborative community” — a concept apropos +N

As a prior post indicated might occur, this post is set on reviewing an interesting paper I recently learned about, thanks to a reference at the blog. The ideas in the paper bear on figuring out what the addition of networks (+N) will mean for TIMN evolution, and in what ways such networks will be different from tribes (T).

Since this post has turned out to be far, far longer than I intended, here’s an overview, drawn from the section headings. First comes a summary of some of the authors’ key points:
  • They posit a trifold framework for analyzing organizational trends in the corporate world: hierarchy, market, and community — and claim that community needs to be revived in a major way.
  • They identify three types of community: gemeinschaft, gesellschaft, and collaborative community — and favor the collaborative one.
  • They show that collaborative community will involve a new kind of work ethic based on mutual trust — which I like, but question a bit.
  • They claim that collaborative community will arise most where trust is highest — but I claim it will occur most where out-competing depends on out-cooperating.
All of that serves to substantiate aspects of TIMN. But it’s prelude to what I mainly wonder and finally turn to address:
  • Could their trifold framework be made fourfold — like TIMN?
  • If so, won’t collaborative community pertain more to +N than to the +M realm they emphasize?
All in all, it’s a very interesting, insightful paper that benefits TIMN. And it serves as a good foil for making various points about TIMN, some of which I have barely begun to make and present at this blog.

* * * * *

Adler's and Heckscher's trifold framework: hierarchy, market, and community

The paper is Paul Adler’s and Charles Heckscher’s “Towards Collaborative Community” (2005 — a chapter for their book The Firm as a Collaborative Community, 2007). As I blurbed previously regarding one of their tables, they discuss three cardinal principles of organization: hierarchy, market, and community. Their focus is the corporate business realm. And their concern is that hierarchy and market ways of doing things have displaced community ways far more than is desirable, especially now that the corporate world is entering an information-age era when collaborative knowledge production is becoming a paramount endeavor.

What’s needed, they say, is a revival of the community principle to go along with the prevailing hierarchy and market principles:
“Hierarchy and market are not the only possible organizational forms, and for this purpose they are not the best ones. Community is an alternative form of coordination — one that is essential to knowledge creation.” (p. 29)

By “community” they mean much that other analysts mean by “network” and related terms — a form whose functioning depends primarily on shared values and norms, especially interpersonal trust. Thus their trifold typology is rather standard, as depicted by the adjacent screen-grab of Table 1.1 (from p. 16; click to enlarge). But their key point is unusual and innovative:

They advise against returning to a traditional concept of community. It is too inclined toward separating insiders from outsiders, exalting eternal values, and stifling individual autonomy and innovation — little of which is conducive to the operation of information-age enterprises.

What’s required is the construction of a new, higher form of community — “collaborative community” — better suited to the information age. Unlike the traditional concept, it would be open to people with multiple identities; facilitate crossing boundaries; place trust in peer dialogue, review, and accountability; and inspire the collective creation of shared value. Indeed,
“[W]ithout a rebuilding of communal institutions, the potential of a knowledge economy cannot be realized. . . .

“Our central thesis is that an increasingly knowledge-intensive, solutions-oriented economy requires collaborative community.” (p. 37)
Their best examples — and hopes — for its evolution presently reside in the scientific community and the open-software movement.

Three types of community: gemeinschaft, gesellschaft, and collaborative

To make their point, Adler and Heckscher depict three types of community, from older to newer, as indicated by the nearby screen-grab of Table 1.2 (from p. 17; click to enlarge):
  • gemeinschaft (community in the shadow of hierarchy);
  • gesellschaft (community in the shadow of market);
  • collaborative community (community itself as the dominant principle).
This depiction reflects the classic view of 19th century sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies that societies evolved from traditional gemeinschaft (“community” based on tribal and hierarchical bonds) to the more complex gesellschaft (“society” or “association” based on capitalist market dynamics). According to Adler and Heckscher, it’s time for an update: the longing for communal ways of working now calls for a kind of collaborative approach that goes beyond the terms of the older approaches. Developing a new way is especially important for business enterprises that aim to produce knowledge based on teamwork. Even the nature of teamwork must be transformed.

Adler and Heckscher identify each type of community with different kinds of organizational values, designs, and identities. Table 1.2 shows this in some detail. Their text provides lengthy elaboration.

The whole paper bears reading. But I’m going to discuss only selected points of particular interest to my efforts to develop TIMN.

Collaborative community will involve a new kind of work ethic

Adler and Heckscher identify collaborative community with Max Weber’s classic notion of “value-rationality.” Weber originally associated it mainly with premodern societies, in contrast to the “instrumental rationality” that he said took hold with the rise of modern societies. But Adler and Heckscher claim that the former can be revived and revised to suit postmodern work:
“Collaborative community is distinctive in its reliance on value-rationality — participants coordinate their activity through their commitment to common, ultimate goals. Its highest value is interdependent contribution, as distinct from loyalty or individual integrity.” (p. 16)
Thus, collaborative community would rest on an ethic of “interdependent contribution.” And this ethic would be constructed “around two elements: contribution to the collective purpose, and contribution to the success of others.” (p. 39) It would also involve “two dimensions of responsibility — ‘vertically’ to the collectivity and ‘horizontally’ to the success of peers.” (p. 43)

As the authors observe, this is different from the kind of work ethic that normally suits a hierarchy or a market. It’s an ethic that is also in line with my sense of what pertains to +N networks. But at the same time, this ethic does not look all that different from what may occur in tribes; they too depend on collective, interdependent collaboration. So, it’s not clear yet to what extent Adler and Heckscher are spelling out a truly new kind of community ethic relevant for +N, or anticipating a revival in partial disguise of an ethic from ancient T.

I/we must dig deeper to find out.

But first, a codgerly side-comment: I bridle at the term interdependent. As a former specialist on U.S.-Mexico relations, I’ve had lots of experiences with language about dependence, independence, and interdependence — and with scholarly efforts to array these terms as a spectrum for analyzing something. It’s not just that I’m tired of it. It’s that the spectrum may turn out to be biased, even misleading. Consider how Adler and Heckscher associate hierarchies with dependence, markets with independence, and collaborative community with interdependence. Okay, I see their point. But it may also be true that hierarchies and markets are rife with their own interdependencies. Furthermore, the interdependencies may become so deep and intricate that a term (and a spectrum) with the root “depend” isn’t accurate enough anymore — terms like interconnection and internetted and integration may make more sense.

But I digress (except don’t forget the mention of integration — it’s going to come up again soon, and not just in passing).

Collaborative community will thrive most where out-competing depends on out-cooperating

Adler and Heckscher are convinced but not optimistic about the emergence of collaborative community. It — in particular, the ethic I just summarized above — will not be an easy or natural choice in the business world for quite a while yet. It may take a generation or longer to develop. There will be plenty of setbacks. And the likeliest paths will be halting zigzags.

Indeed, competitive pressures make it likely that corporations will continue to opt for “the reassertion of hierarchy and market rather than community” (p. 65). But over time, it will become evermore evident that interdivisional and inter-firm networking are crucial for competitiveness. As this proceeds, advantages will accrue especially to those firms that can operate according to higher forms of trust. Indeed, they hypothesize (p. 67), “if efforts to create trust as a response to competition do not succeed, economic activity will tend to shift to higher-trust regions.”

That, I think, is an important hypothesis. But I’d like to reframe it, in order to stress a strategic dynamic.

Who trusts whom is indeed a decisive factor. Yet, that should not be taken to mean that community forms of organization and coordination depend on trust more than do hierarchies or markets — a view that Adler took in an earlier paper (2001). All durable forms of societal organization depend on trust. Social network analysts have gone too far in identifying networks and their variants with the trust factor. Hierarchies and markets depend on trust too, though it may be a different kind of trust (e.g., trust in doctrine, trust in credit).

What matters is what can be done with the trust. And what I like here is that Adler’s and Heckscher’s hypothesis about higher-trust plugs into a view that, in the information age, out-competing will increasingly depend on out-cooperating — a favorite theme of mine, especially after I understood it in the dynamics of high-speed draft lines in NASCAR races at Daytona. This has been termed “cooperative competition” (Golden, 1993), and for an ugly term, “co-opetition” (Brandenburger & Nalebuff, 1996). Sociologists Laurel Smith-Doerr and Walter W. Powell, in their paper on “Networks and Economic Life” (2003), illuminate it in terms of how “groups of collaborators become involved in multiple forms of cooperation and competition”:
“We argue that these new patterns of affiliation, with shifting rival alliances competing and recombining on a project-by-project basis, lead to new interpretations of the nature of competition. First, recognize how profoundly a competitive relationship is altered when two parties compete on one project, but collaborate on another. The goal of competition cannot be to vanquish your opponent lest you harm your collaborator on a different project." (p. 18)
For strategists in all arenas, having a comparative advantage has usually meant having a competitive advantage. Now, however, comparative advantage is often more about having a cooperative advantage — by being able to out-collaborate with selected partners, even if only episodically in ever-shifting alliances. Adler’s and Heckscher’s notion of collaborative community tracks with this, as does their supporting hypothesis that a lot depends on the nature of trust.

Their trifold framework could be made fourfold — like TIMN

So far in this blog post, I’ve summarized Adler’s and Heckscher’s paper and highlighted points that bear on TIMN. But I haven’t really tried to remodel their framework to make it more like TIMN. So now I’ll turn to that, as a possibility.

Their trifold framework does not overlap readily with TIMN, a fourfold framework. Yet, their implicit distinction between old and new forms of community aligns with the TIMN distinction between tribes and networks. And of course, hierarchies and markets figure in both our categorizations. Thus, their framework might be made fourfold, after a little rethinking, mainly by bifurcating their concept of community into old and new.

But is this justifiable? In laying out their framework, Adler and Heckscher draw on several classic dichotomies: Tönnies’s between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, Weber’s between value rationality and instrumental rationality, and though less discussed, Emile Durkheim’s between mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Their framework also draws on a classic trichotomy: Weber’s about three types of authority — charismatic, traditional, and legal-rational. They also draw on Karl Marx, though not in terms of these kinds of categorizations.

But none of those references provide a good clue for stretching their trifold into a fourfold framework. I could criticize their association of gemeinschaft with hierarchy, for my sense is that Tönnies associates gemeinschaft more with tribal community — as do I. That could help pull tribes into the picture.

For my way of thinking, however, the best clue is in a footnote the authors wrote about Talcott Parsons.

I’ve noticed before that there is some overlap between TIMN and Parson’s famous typology of four “functional imperatives” that every social system and its sub-systems must meet: “pattern-maintenance (including tension-management), goal-attainment, adaptation, and integration” (1958, p. 294). These four imperatives correspond roughly to the TIMN forms: pattern-maintenance to the tribal form, goal-attainment to the institutional hierarchy form, adaptation to the market form, and system-integration to the network form.

And now I see, according to the footnote, that Adler and Heckscher have a nearly identical view, except that their concept of community collapses two of Parson’s imperatives, the very two I associate separately with tribes and networks:
“Since this chapter uses a Parsonian framework in part, we should explain the relationship between this three-part formulation and the four-part Parsonian analysis of societies. Markets and hierarchies correspond closely to Parsons’s adaptive and goal-attainment subsystems. ‘Community’ combines his other two categories (integration and pattern maintenance). The current social phase as we are describing is really about the redefinition of both those sub-systems through differentiation and relinking: what we describe as the ‘ethic of contribution’ is the pattern-maintenance aspect of the emerging community, and ‘interdependent process management’ is its integrative aspect. In this work we are analyzing the development of both aspects and the dynamics of their interchanges.” (fn. 10, p. 95; and for more on their view of Parsons, see Heckscher, 2007)
By pursuing this clue, it might be possible to remodel their framework to make it fourfold and overlap better with TIMN. I’m not going to try to do that — hey, it’s their framework, not mine, and I’ve got my own to work on. But I’ve learned from this digging around that another look at Parsons may be advisable at some point, in order to understand the integration imperative better. The pattern-maintenance imperative, which emphasizes the role of culture, corresponds well to the tribe or community form. In contrast, the integration imperative is mainly about systemic coordination, not cultural community.

In light of this, “collaborative community” is starting to look like a misnomer for denoting a fourth, future form. To stick with the same linguistic roots, it might be more accurate to rename it “communicative collaboration” — which would have the added benefit of connoting Jürgen Habermas, another theorist they admire. (This might also help align their concept to the interesting concept of “collective intelligence” that organization theorist Thomas Malone is developing at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.)

Whatever it’s called, it’s about new approaches to collaboration, far more than community. Indeed, it seems to be mainly about professionals teaming together for specific purposes, without turning tribal. They may share a sense of community while on a team, but it’s fleeting and team-specific, partly because these kinds of professionals keep moving from one team endeavor to the next, and each team has different members and purposes. Over time, it’s all very open-source, in ever shifting, swirling, swarming, streaming kinds of ways, held together by novel communication flows, as well as by the kind of ethic that Adler and Heckscher identify.

That’s one way I have viewed +N as operating, and Adler’s and Heckscher’s paper is pertinent because it provides one of the most suggestive treatments I’ve come across. That might make a nice note to end on — but there’s still an important discrepancy to discuss.

Much depends on the emergence of +N as a distinct new realm

Adler’s and Heckscher’s focus is the corporate business world, a part of the +M realm. They nod to broader trends, by maintaining that collaborative community is needed throughout society, not just in the corporate world. I agree.

But they write as though collaborative community were a principle that may emerge and reside equally in all realms of society, along with the hierarchy and market principles. Indeed, this is a common stance among theorists who write about organizational forms and principles. I must disagree, for I’ve found that TIMN instructs otherwise.

According to TIMN, the rise of a cardinal form of organization results in the eventual emergence of a distinct realm of social endeavor that revolves primarily around that form. That has already been the case with the tribe, the hierarchy/institution and the market forms. Hybrids and other mixtures may occur in any and all realms; but even so, a cardinal form must still define and dominate a distinct realm — i.e., culture for tribes, the state for hierarchies, and the economy for markets. The forms Adler and Heckscher study are powerful in the corporate area because those forms have already taken hold to define their own realms — except for their future notion of collaborative community (or whatever it should be called).

In order for collaborative community to become as cardinal a principle as Adler and Heckscher speculate — or as I claim for the network form — it will have to spread enough to generate and define a home realm. And that will have to be a distinctive new realm, not just some knock-off of the +M realm. In my view of TIMN, that means the emergence of the +N network realm. Whether collaborative community becomes a prevalent form in the corporate area they study will depend on the rise of the +N network realm, and then a feed of its principles into the other realms. Without that, there will not be enduring adaptations in the +M corporate area — just as, in an earlier era, liberal democracy would not have taken hold in the state’s +I realm if the +M realm hadn’t consolidated around principles assuring individual freedom.

So, what/when/where is this new realm? According to Adler and Heckscher, collaborative community is emerging best in the scientific and open-source software communities, as well as in parts of some companies they have studied. This resembles the views of other theorists, which I’ve noted previously in other posts, that a new wave of peer-produced, peer-governed endeavors is generating a new information commons, and linking it to progressive interests in other common-pool resources and global public goods. For these theorists, these commons-oriented collaborations represent the makings of the next great new realm. Adler and Heckscher seem inclined to agree.

Meanwhile, my own preferred hypothesis about TIMN remains that the new +N realm will emerge from among civil-society activists who are using new information-age network designs to address complex social problems that old +I and +M actors have generated and are unsuited to resolving. These mostly concern environmental, health, and other social equity issues. In other words, the new realm will not be as grounded in economic production matters as the previous theorists may think. The grounding — and ensuing isms and ocracies — will be something we’ve not seen yet.

So, are those other theorists right, and I’m wrong — or vice-versa? Not necessarily, for there’s a way for us all to be right. And not just because there is some overlap in our respective views. How? By distinguishing between intermediate and ultimate effects.

In TIMN, progress stems from a society’s capacity to proceed from one form of organization to the next, while passing through an intermediate, hybrid, transitional step that mixes characteristics of the forms on either side. The tribe-chiefdom-state progression is like this. The chiefdom is a hybrid of the kinship dynamics that rule tribes, with the nascent hierarchical institutional dynamics that lead to states. Some scholars’ typologies put chiefdoms on a par with tribes and states; but in TIMN, chiefdoms are no more than an intermediate form in the T+I transition. This pattern occurs next with mercantilism. It is an intermediate, transitional stage in the evolution from T+I to T+I+M — a state-centric stage of economic organization prior to the flowering of the capitalist market system and its separation from the state.

Today, for societies on the verge of +N, it makes sense that there is/will be a long, intermediate, hybrid phase before quadriform T+I+M+N societies truly take shape. It also makes sense that, this time around, the most prominent hybridizations occur in the interstices between +M and +N — the very areas observed by Adler and Heckscher, as well as by theorists devoted to the growth of a peer-based information commons. What may come after that — the true +N realm — is what interests me the most.


* * * * *

Caveat: not a miraculous new form — the limits of collaboration

I don’t want to end on a sour note, but I think I should note that while I was drafting this post, a couple of posts appeared regarding the “diminishing returns of collaboration,” first at the Wikinomics blog, then with follow-up remarks at the PublicOrgTheory blog. They do not undermine anything said above, but perhaps it’s relevant to point out that thinking is also proceeding apace on the limits of collaboration. Meanwhile, Mark Buchanan observes that the scientific community — an exemplary arena for Adler and Heckscher — is not currently designed to favor innovation.

Finally, I find it theoretically troubling to notice lately that some of the most advanced practitioners of collaborative community — operating in ever shifting teams, competing one moment, cooperating the next, thus looking like the cutting-edge of what's been discussed in this post — are actors whose influence usually makes me fret and fume: Washington lobbyists. What to make of that?


In all this, I am proceeding out of a scrabbling kind of analytical instinct and intuition, hoping that someday it’ll all feel like insight. In my view, I’m not trying to build the TIMN framework; it already exists — I am trying to excavate it, uncover what it means. Advice is welcome, even though it's still the case that I'm not adept at replying to comments here at this blog.

[As usual, I continue to make occasional minor edits after posting. In this instance, in case anyone notices, I have eliminated the intro paragraph about Iran. It didn't seem to belong.]