Friday, September 20, 2013

America 3.0 illuminates significance of nuclear families — in line with TIMN (Part 2 of 2)

[UPDATE — October 20, 2013:   I've added an appendix at the end.  It reflects an email exchange between Bennett and me regarding this post.]

As I was saying, the new book by conservative libertarians James Bennett and Michael Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Best Days are Yet to Come (2013) illuminates the importance of the nuclear family for understanding how and why the United States has developed so exceptionally well. And the book does so in ways that are good for TIMN.

I’ve long said that TIMN rests on the nature of the tribal (T) form, and how it is expressed in specific societies/cultures. In particular, differences at the T level may help explain differences in, say, American and Chinese patterns of development. And I’ve attributed American “exceptionalism” to our culture’s emphasis on the nuclear family, in contrast to the extended family, clan, and other T-level designs that prevail in most societies.

Yet I’ve said all that only sketchily in scattered spots (see Part-1 Appendix). I’ve not provided elaboration. America 3.0 offers a compelling elaboration about the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution, in ways that help validate and reinforce TIMN.

Part 1 laid out the themes in America 3.0 that interest me, mostly in its own terms and with few review comments. This Part 2 provides a more pointed look at America 3.0, in terms of TIMN themes and principles (as I understand them so far).

I’ve tried to keep ideological leanings, mine and theirs, out of my discussion. After all, as a whisperer of TIMN, I am far less interested in whether a new writing leans sideways, Left or Right, than whether it leans forward toward quadriformism. There is still plenty of time before Left and Right varieties of quadriformism evolve. Meanwhile, I intend to embrace them all, up to a point (even as I continue to take shots at current triformist varieties of conservatism and liberalism).

* * *

Overlaps with TIMN themes and propositions

Part 1 discussed America 3.0’s key overlap with TIMN: the prevalence and significance of the nuclear family in the American case. This leads to questions about family matters elsewhere. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that there is more to TIMN’s tribal form than the nature of the family. I also spotted several additional thematic overlaps between America 3.0 and TIMN, and I want to highlight those as well. Thus, in outline form, this post addresses:
  • Seeking a fuller understanding of family matters beyond the American case.
  • Gaining a fuller understanding of the tribal/T form.
  • Anticipating the rise of the network/+N form.
  • Recognizing that every form has bright and dark sides.
  • Recognizing the importance of separation among the forms/realms.
  • Recognizing that balance among them is important too.
  • Cautioning against the exportability of the American model.
After these points, the post ends by summarily noting that America 3.0 is more triformist than quadriformist in conception — but a worthy kind of triformist plus, well worth reading.

My discussion emphasizes the T and +N forms. Bennett and Lotus also have lots to say about +I and +M matters — government and business — and I’ll squeeze in a few remarks along the way. But this post mostly skips +I and +M matters. For I’m more interested in how America 3.0 focuses on T (quite sharply) and +N (too diffusely).

By the way, America 3.0 contains lots of interesting observations that I do not discuss — e.g., that treating land as a commodity was a feature of nuclear-family society (p. 105), and so was creating trusts (p. 112). Readers are advised to harvest the book’s contents for themselves.

Family matters beyond the American case: America 3.0 focuses on the nuclear-type family and its effects in America, as discussed in Part 1. Yet, like TIMN, America 3.0 also indicates that different family types may account for differences in how cultures and societies evolve elsewhere. Indeed, non-nuclear marriage and family practices are the norm in most places around the world. As a result, the authors note, in cultures where extended family and clan patterns prevail, there's often a tendency toward corruption that is considered natural, even normal, not truly corruption (p. 254).

Thus, America 3.0 hints at an important point that coincides with TIMN: there is still a lot to be learned about the influence of family factors on social evolution. Bennett and Lotus even point to two theorists who should be consulted by anyone wanting to work on such matters: French sociologist Emmanuel Todd and British historian Alan Macfarlane. And the web site for America 3.0 provides a helpful blog roll of essential readings for both here. (In addition, Craig Willy posts a useful overview here, and T. Greer posts additional commentary here.)

Todd’s work looks very pertinent to TIMN. I’d heard about him, but only a bit. So I’m grateful to Bennett and Lotus for stressing his significance, providing guidance. Todd’s key proposition looks particularly interesting:
“A universal hypothesis is possible: the ideological system is everywhere the intellectual embodiment of family structure, a transposition into social relations of the fundamental values which govern elementary human relations: liberty or equality, and their opposites, are examples. One ideological category and only one, corresponds to each family type.” (source)
Yet, if I were able to dig deep in this area, I’d also want to look at other studies on the effects of family structures and values, notably by Avner Greif (e.g., “Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origin and Implications of Western Corporatism,” 2005). I’d also want to draw on studies that are broadly about culture, notably by Lawrence Harrison (e.g., Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, 2001). After all, the T form is largely about culture. Furthermore, I gather that a lot more questions and cautions can be raised than I’ve done here about the future of the nuclear family in America; and it would be advisable to take a closer look at those and at literatures about them.

Along the way, I’d hope to find clarification not only about the influence of family structure on social evolution, but also about a notion I’ve long wondered about: Could it be that each TIMN form is associated with a different marriage pattern? In short, T-centric systems emphasize arranged marriages; +I systems bring Church- and state-sanctioned marriages; +M systems bring “marriage markets” where women gain more freedom of choice. And as for +N, I’m not sure what it may bring; but if recent trends are indicative, same-sex marriage may be part of what’s next. All this, if true, would cut across whether family structures tend to be nuclear, extended, or of a type more clannish and tribal in specific cultures. Maybe that would be an interesting finding. If so, it would uncover one more area where TIMN may be meaningful.

Tribes/T as the first and forever TIMN form:  The nature of the family is the kernel of the tribal/T form in TIMN. But TIMN’s larger point is that it takes more than families to hold a society together; there is more to the tribal/T form than the nature of the family.

The T form is broadly, essentially, about perpetuating a sense of familial kinship throughout a society — one that engenders identity and belonging, mutual pride and respect, sharing and cooperation, even harmony and enthusiasm. It’s about how people feel toward each other, how people treat each other. It’s about stories people tell to make them feel part of their society. Thus, as often noted, it’s about communal / collective / social solidarity, a group feeling that renders social cohesion and trust. It’s also about constructing “imagined community” (term from Benedict Anderson). Metaphorically, it’s about social glue. More traditionally, the T form is about what Ibn Khaldun identified as asabiya (or asabiyya).

As I’ve noted before,
Each TIMN form has its particular philosophical and ideological proponents — such as Thomas Hobbes for hierarchies and Adam Smith for markets. However, the tribal form, perhaps because it is so ancient, lacks exemplary early proponents who left writings behind. Of course, the Bible and the Koran contain numerous passages about tribal principles. But if one is looking for a theoretical perspective, then one of the earliest examples is Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), an Arab (Tunisian) who was so concerned about the decline of the Islamic caliphate that he became one of the world’s first historians to analyze the rise and fall of civilizations. For him, the key factor was the loss of asabiya (an Arabic word for group feeling, unity, solidarity), which I take to be a tribal impulse. He was particularly critical of the negative effects that the growth of cities had on those ancient, nomadic, especially Bedouin, ways of life that reflected asabiya (Galtung and Inayatullah, 1997).” (2006, pp. 63-64)
For an American, asabiya is an alien term. But it is gaining adherents. According to my files, I’ve learned more about it from blogger L.C. Rees (aka Citizen Foust), military experts William McCallister and Montgomery McFate, social evolutionists Peter Richerson and Peter Turchin (esp. here), and anthropologist Linda Darling (whose paper here may be best of all), not to mention others. So the term is taking hold in some analytic circles. Thus it seems worth keeping in mind as a defining dynamic. Otherwise, social solidarity and group feeling seem preferred terms.

But these are generalities about the essence of the T form. TIMN’s further point is that, as societies become more complex, more advanced, this tribal/T form shows up in many areas besides family life — e.g., in clubs and gangs, in alumni gatherings and old-boy networks, in community fairs and church gatherings, in nationalism and patriotism, in ethnocentrism and identity politics, in cronyism and patrimonialism, just to specify a few manifestations. I wish I could offer a full set of analytic categories, indicators, and measures about this. It would help in discerning the significance of family factors not only by themselves but also relative to other factors that make up the tribal/T form, broadly defined, in particular societies. Unfortunately, I’ve not worked that out yet; it still needs to be developed for the T (and every other TIMN) form if TIMN is ever to become a working model.

Meanwhile, here’s a dark point to close this sub-section: As America 3.0 says, Americans from nuclear families tend to be individualists as well as team-players. And in so being, they’ve been a positive force for political, economic, social, and cultural progress, without seeming all that “tribal” psychologically and culturally. But, according to TIMN, once a society falls under pressures that rack the later forms, people tend to revert to the T form: they get tribalized, often in bitter angry divisive ways And it seems to me, looking at what’s going on around our troubled country, that many Americans (including from nuclear families?) can turn as madly tribal as anyone anywhere. America 3.0 rightly treats America’s tribal/T base as a great strength, a source of opportunity. However, I’d add, based on TIMN, that all sorts of reversions to rank tribalism pose a considerable threat to America's future nowadays. And my concerns include especially the mean partisanship exhibited in Washington, particularly among conservatives.

Networks/+N as the TIMN form now on the rise: As I’ve often noted, TIMN implies the rise of the network/+N form in the decades ahead. Network forms of organization will take hold in myriad areas of society. More to the point, they will generate the creation of a new sector of society, separate and distinct from the established public and private sectors. It will surely emerge from out of civil society, not the economy or government.

Organizational and social networks certainly figure in America 3.0, especially for envisioning the future. According to the authors, the American nuclear family led to our engaging in myriad “networks of voluntary organization” (p. 39) throughout our history. In the decades ahead,
“Americans [will] rely on voluntary organizations and networks to accomplish many collective tasks that in other countries would either not be done at all, or which would be handled by extended families, or by government.” (p. 40)
What the authors have in mind includes “church-based social service networks” (p. 6) and “volunteer networks” for monitoring (p. 10), along with “task-based networks” (p. 204) in many areas, a “network of compacts” (p. 6) at state levels, and “global networks of affinity” (p. 265) among nations organizing into network commonwealths along cultural lines. They also anticipate that networks of small suppliers (p. 210) and larger “networks of companies” (p. 271) will redefine manufacturing as well as education sectors.

So, they do indeed offer a “vision of a networked future” (source). But it is mainly economic in nature, although as I noted in a prior post they imply — without explicitly stating — that civil society may also be revitalized by new network technologies and forms of organization:
“[A] revival of civil society appears to be in store. New technology, which allows people to connect in new ways, is likely to lead to a revival of civil society in new forms. We expect this process to continue and to evolve rapidly. What we now refer to as “social media” are only early and primitive versions of the civil society-enabling technology we will be seeing in the years ahead. Nonetheless it is too early to say exactly how, and how much, new technology will revive and strengthen civil society.” (p. 41)
Thus America 3.0 contains lots of markers for anticipating many kinds of networks. But the markers are scattered; they’re not pulled together in a singular way. And while some refer to organizational networks, others are about social networks. Perhaps that’s what the authors mean. But the result is the sort of view I often see: all sorts of networks are going to affect everything everywhere — not one area more than any other, although if anything it’s probably economics and business that receive the most attention in such views.

TIMN implies that network forms of organization are going to affect everything too. But it also says that +N is not just some affects-everything form; it will end up having focused effects on particular actors, creating a distinct sector of thought and action. I continue to doubt (à la here and here) that this sector will be primarily economic in nature; businesses already have their fundamental form, the +M form, even though it will be modified by +N forces. Instead, something new will emerge — probably, if my intuition is correct, out of civil society, while also taking some activities away from the current public/+I and private/+M sectors. My guess remains that these redirected activities will have mostly to do with health, education, welfare, and the environment (and lately I wonder about insurance too) — all activities underpinned by a sense that a commons is at stake. But I don’t know for sure, and it may be decades before anyone does — assuming TIMN holds true.

In other words, America 3.0 isn’t quite about +N. Thus it’s not quite quadriformist. But at least its future orientation is looking and stepping in the right directions.

Each TIMN form as having bright and dark sides: TIMN recognizes that all four forms have bright and dark sides, and implies that societies should try to elevate the bright over the dark:
“Each of the four forms, writ large, embodies a distinctive set of structures, processes, beliefs, and dynamics about how society should be organized — about who gets to achieve what, why, and how. Each involves different codes and standards about how people should treat each other. Each enables people to do something — to address some social problem — better than they could by using another form. Each attracts and energizes different kinds of actors and adherents. Each has different ideational and material bases. Each has both bright and dark sides, both strengths and weaknesses. And each can be gotten “right” or “wrong” in various ways, depending on circumstances. …
“Societies that can elevate the bright over the dark side of each form and achieve a new combination become more powerful and capable of complex tasks than societies that do not.” (source)
America 3.0 does not exhibit exactly the same view. But there is some overlap. In particular, the authors observe that the principles and traits associated with the nuclear family, though generally positive, have both bright and dark sides. This is noticeable, for example, in middle-class families whose views exhibit a “defensive-mindedness … [that] can be applied in arbitrary and even brutal fashion” (p. 42). It’s also noticeable in the ways America is a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38), creating difficulties for some people. The authors also seem to regard government as having more dark sides than bright.

That both bright and dark sides exist is more a passing than a key theme in America 3.0. But for TIMN it is a key proposition, even though I have barely discussed it so far. If/when TIMN can be turned into a modeling framework, it will be important to specify indicators of the bright and dark sides of each form that may be present in societies under assessment.

[Brief aside: Lately I’m struck that so many enterprises, not to mention individuals, are able to combine bright and dark sides, as though doing so were a deliberately integral part of their business model. Maybe this pattern merits an analytical term. Two-faced is slangy. Bipolar might fit; but it’s mostly identified with oscillations between two poles (as in a bipolar mood disorder), or with a system that has independent separated poles (as in the Cold War’s bipolar system). Maybe ambipolar — as in “the ambipolar enterprise” — is what I’m looking for, since this term from physics means “applying equally to both positive and negative ions” and “operating in two directions simultaneously”. Not a healthy sign in a democracy.]

Separation of the TIMN forms and their realms: TIMN observes that the rise of a form leads to creation of a new realm/sector of society. It also claims that societies function best when these realms/sectors are kept relatively separate. If not, distortions and corruptions are bound to occur, such as when penetration by patrimonial clans hinders the proper professional functioning of a government or business, or when a totalitarian state tries to intervene in all realms of society.

As though in the spirit of TIMN, America 3.0 draws on British historian Alan Macfarlane’s view that “the distinguishing feature of modern life is the separation of the various spheres of life: politics, economics, religion, and kinship” (p. 83). And the authors associate this English, and then American, penchant for separation with their theme about the nuclear family:
“The English were from an early time remarkable in their ability to break up the spheres and keep them separate. In that sense, the English were "modern" before modern times. …
“We speculate that the separation of spheres, and the institutions that grew up in a "separated" society, are all downstream consequences of the underlying family structure we have detailed above.” (p. 84)
According to America 3.0, what has allowed these separated spheres to keep working together harmoniously was the English, and then American, penchant for voluntary association, in ways that expressed civil society:
“… A key to the success of the English, and then the Americans, was allowing voluntary association in each realm: political parties, business firms, church congregations, and nuclear families. Civil society associations of all kinds, formed on a voluntary basis, are the central defining feature of England and later America. It provided the glue that held together the divided spheres.” (pp. 84-85)
The authors go on to say that, “To achieve the economic and political benefits of modern life, any country, any group of people, must achieve this separation to some degree.” They note cases across history where despotic regimes have resorted to a “reintegration of the spheres, with the concomitant loss of freedom and faltering economic growth.” (p. 85)

This is all very TIMN-like. As presently configured, TIMN does not identify exactly the same spheres as they do, but there is a big overlap. Macfarlane’s spheres correspond roughly to T, I, and M, if we count both kinship and religion as aspects of the T form.

Moreover, relating the separation principle to the nuclear family principle looks like a valuable point. TIMN could benefit from offering more clarification about this. I’ve long thought that the separation principle, as well as the balance principle (see below), may be most difficult to carry out in societies whose systems are penetrated by extensive T-type dynamics — i.e., in societies where politics, economic, and other affairs revolve around traditional extended-family, clan, and/or truly tribal dynamics.

Balance among the TIMN forms and their realms: TIMN is not only about the separation of forms/sectors. It also about keeping them in balance vis à vis each other, so that they reinforce each other in positive ways. Otherwise, distortions and corruptions occur.
“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.” (source)
“My third point is about balance: It has been easy to find examples of the tribal form persisting in activities ruled by the other TIMN forms. But it is not easy to specify how much is good, or bad. Too much tribalism can restrict and distort the other forms. But too little may hinder the other forms’ taking root and functioning as well as they could. An appropriate metaphor is glue. The tribal form resembles a kind of social glue that holds a society together. If that glue is too strong and spread too wide, it can keep the later forms from developing their own cores and dynamics. But if it is too weak and spotty, a society may become so atomized and lacking in social trust that it cannot progress further. Presumably, there is a middle ground where balance is important — where the forms interact, but none dominates. Presumably, too, each society must find its own way on these matters. Indeed, one way such matters get addressed is through epochal debates. Thus, for example, the Enlightenment initiated great discussions about whether and how commercial behaviors were subverting old family and community ways, a discussion that at times rears anew even now.” (2006, pp. 67-68)
America 3.0 isn’t quite about balance in the same way, but it does make good points that are pertinent to and consistent with TIMN:
“Striking a balance between freedom and rules, between independence and security, between individualism and the common good, has been the perpetual challenge of American life. By and large, over the centuries, in the face of many challenges, Americans have gotten the balance reasonably right.
“In recent years, however, it has become more and more obvious that the balance has been lost. Indeed, this "unbalanced" political and economic order we live with now, which we call America 2.0 — and is also known as the Blue Model, or the welfare state — is on the verge of falling apart.
“... We will rework existing institutions, and build new ones, suited for emerging conditions. This new era, which we call America 3.0, will be more consistent with our cultural foundations than the world that is now fading away.” (p. 49)
The authors seem particularly critical of government’s huge size and scope. I’m more inclined to point fingers at corporatism in the private sector. But we all worry about the increasing fusion — i.e., lack of good separation — between big government and big business; America 3.0 and TIMN both lead to being concerned about imbalances in America’s system and society. As I wrote years ago (here), “Today, both liberalism and conservativism — and the American system as a whole — look out of balance in TIMN terms.” In their view, America 2.0 is fraught with public-private “entanglement” and “corruption” (p. xiii), as well as “crony capitalism” and a “rigged game” (p. 36). Thus, America 3.0 and TIMN overlap in urging that we need to rethink and regain a more proper separation and balance, in keeping with our founding principles.

Previously, I’ve directed the TIMN proposition about balance at the balance between/among the forms and their realms — a horizontal perspective. As a result of reading America 3.0, I’m sensing that the proposition about balance should be modified to apply within a form/realm as well — from a vertical perspective. If so, then as America 3.0 observes, new attention should be focused on correcting the balance among federal, state, and local governments, as well as among big, medium, and small business enterprises. TIMN’s balance principle seems to have both horizontal and vertical aspects — a matter to keep an eye on verifying as we go along.

Finally, I’m wondering whether the TIMN propositions about separation and balance may be connected in ways I’m just beginning to notice. Could it be that the more imbalance there is in a society, the less likely is proper separation among the forms/realms? Does this manifest itself in the growth of dysfunctional complexes and hybrids, such as the old military-industrial complex or a monstrous public-private hybrid like Fannie Mae? If the answers are yes, then this might lead to an additional TIMN proposition, and to another overlap between America 3.0 and TIMN.

Caution about the exportability of the American model: TIMN sharpens — at least it is supposed to sharpen — our understanding that how societies work depends on how they use four cardinal forms of organization. This simplification leaves room for great complexity, for it is open to great variation in how those forms may be applied in particular societies. Analysts, strategists, and policymakers should be careful about assuming that what works in one society can be made to work in another.

In this vein I once wrote that:
“A sound theory of social evolution would be handy to have. Although there are philosophers and social scientists who question whether evolution has brought real progress to humanity, U.S. policymakers and strategists operate on assumptions that societies based on political democracy, market economies, and independent civil societies are better — more advanced, civilized, peaceful, stable, productive, equitable, and responsible — than other societies. And, indeed, many foreign policy problems facing Washington concern one aspect or another of social evolution — such as how to keep former communist countries on democratic paths, how to sustain economic liberalization in Asian and Latin American nations where elites may prefer cronyism to capitalism, how to motivate tribal systems in Africa and the Middle East to modernize, and how to deal with ethnic conflicts in places that lack professional states and may be under the sway of criminal clans. In addition, assumptions about social evolution lie behind both international and U.S. assistance programs, which are supposed to lift people out of poverty, diminish the lures of crime and terrorism, create middle classes, and put all on paths to freedom and prosperity.
“But are such assumptions valid? What are the keys to social evolution?” (2006, p. 7)
In retrospect it seems I pulled my punch there. I left out what might/should have come next: TIMN-based counsel to be wary about assuming that the American model, especially its liberal democracy, can be exported into dramatically different cultures. I recall thinking that at the time; but I was also trying to shape a study of just the tribal form, without getting into more sweeping matters. So I must have pulled that punch, and I can’t find anywhere else I used it. Even so, my view of TIMN is that it does indeed caution against presuming that the American model is exportable, or that foreign societies can be forced into becoming liberal democracies of their own design.

Meanwhile, America 3.0 clearly insists that Americans should be wary of trying to export the American model of democracy. Since so much about the American model depends on the nature of the nuclear family, policies that work well in the United States may not work well in other societies with different cultures — and vice-versa. Accordingly, the authors warn,
“American politicians are likely to be wrong when they tell us that we can successfully export democracy, or make other countries look and act more like the United States.” (p. 24)
“A foreign-policy based primarily on "democracy-promotion" and "nation-building" is one that will fail more times than not, ... .” (p. 254)
TIMN is not a framework about foreign policy. But as a framework about social evolution, it may have foreign-policy implications that overlap with those of America 3.0. In my nascent view (notably here, here, and here), the two winningest systems of the last half-century or so are liberal democracy and patrimonial corporatism. The former is prominent among the more-advanced societies, the latter among the less-developed (e.g., see here). As Bennett and Lotus point out, liberal democracy is most suitable where nuclear families hold sway. And as I’ve pointed out, patrimonial corporatism is more attractive in societies where clannish tribalism holds sway.

Those are gross generalizations, but they speak to a mutual point: It’s no wonder that America has not succeeded very well at exporting liberal democracy, though the effort has been somewhat fruitful in some places. TIMN does not mean that U.S. actors should stop trying to influence and aid democratic possibilities elsewhere, but TIMN probably implies a thorough rethinking of how we go about doing so — a topic for another day, perhaps.

Closing comment: America 3.0 is more triformist than quadriformist

TIMN holds that America is trying to evolve beyond a triformist T+I+M society, in order to become a quadriformist T+I+M+N society. If so, +N forces will lead to the emergence of a new sector, along with a vast reform and rebalancing of the entire American system.

The viewpoint of America 3.0 doesn’t quite overlap this formulation. Its great strength, from a TIMN viewpoint, is its attention to the roles of the nuclear family as the underpinning of the T form in America. But the analysis falls short of TIMN in terms of how it assesses the roles of network forms of organization (i.e., +N).

In sum, then, America 3.0 is a worthwhile read, but it is still in the mold of triformist (T+I+M) analysis — albeit a conservative libertarian kind of triformist plus (say with a little +n). Thus it makes for a good companion and contrast to Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect — another triformist plus analysis, but from a kind of liberal progressive viewpoint, as I’ve discussed. While there are few peer progressives in America 3.0, Future Perfect offers too little about family life.

* * * * *

Appendix: Q’s and A’s: Bennett and Ronfeldt

After I posted the above Part 2 about America 3.0, book co-author James Bennett emailed some follow-up comments and questions. This led to an informal exchange. This Appendix provides excerpts that offer some clarifications about TIMN, as well as about conservative libertarian vs. TIMN thinking.

Neither he nor I expected our exchange to end up in this appendix. If we had, we might have written more carefully. No matter, we understand — as should readers — that our comments amount to rough drafts, subject to revision at any time. As Bennett notes in a recent email, “Fair enough as a snapshot of a conversation at that point in time.”

Bennett: 1. I understand that TIMN is additive; at each stage, the old layer of relationships remains, and finds new ways of interacting with or using the new layers. (One obvious example is criminal clans that feign loyalties to institutions but infiltrate them and use their positions to further the criminal ends of the clan.) So, what is your criterion for when the new layer becomes the predominant or characteristic mode of a society? When a majority of the productive relationships are mediated primarily by the new mode? When the great majority (say, >80%) are? No society has even entirely eliminated earlier modes, I believe, although modern Northern European and Anglosphere societies have pushed kinship modes into the corner pretty well.

Ronfeldt: I've not settled on specific criteria for any single form. But overall, I'd start with generally supposing that a form has emerged and is on a path to maturity when people say it's happening: i.e., / e.g, when distinctive values, ethics, rules, codes, practices cohere; when a particular set of organizations are said to define a sector; when philosophers and theorists cluster around it; when growing problems can be addressed in new ways.

Your remark emphasizes "productive" relationships. That's an economics term, apropos the market form. I doubt it's the right optic to emphasize for the other forms.

Modern people think less/least about the tribal form. Yet, in TIMN, no earlier mode disappears; nor should It be made to — that would be self-defeating. It may seem as though Anglosphere societies have "pushed kinship modes into the corner" — but I see functional equivalents all over the place. They just get remarked about using other language. As I’ve said before, in my view, America is currently fraught with lots of reversions to kinship-like tribalism, from Burning Man to … well, you name it … and let's include what's occurring in Congress. Tea-Party proponents often display tribal rhetoric and dynamics.

Bennett: 2. Haven’t markets and institutions pretty much co-evolved? The first city-states in Mesopotamia had fairly sophisticated market mechanisms visible early on; some of the first writing we have deals with contracts, disputes, prices, billing and payments, etc. – even before the existence of coined money. It also shows how markets were dependent on institutions from early on, since adjudication more or less implies adjudicators and enforcers.

Ronfeldt: Sure, but I’d add that all the forms have coevolved to some extent. Institutions and markets just get the most attention. I've come to think that all four forms start out in a tribal way, as endeavors pushed by spirited bands of brothers who believe they are onto something radically new. Thus, clan-based chiefdoms create the bases for early states; later, well-positioned families create transnational banking systems essential for markets; now, tribes of geeky activists are into peer-oriented network-building. As a form matures / professionalizes, the tribal aspects should diminish; but they may have been crucial for the initial co-evolution. I don't know for sure, but that's what I’d speculate for now.

I'd have to know more about the ancient cases of "market mechanisms" that you mention. I've focused so much on tribes and networks that I’ve not done the reading and writing for even a proto-chapter about either institutions or markets, except for what's in my original paper.

But, it's one thing to observe that economic transactions with some early market-like attributes took place back then. It's quite another to claim that market mechanisms had a strong existence.

Bennett: 3. Question 2 brings in question 1. Under some definitions one can say that markets of course have existed, and have been the primary means of mediating human relations in some societies for a very long time, but they were not the ruling mode until the 19th century. One way to look at this is to ask “what is the largest and most complex artifact a given society can make, and what is the most complex and elaborate social institution a society possesses? And which mode of interaction is used to produce that result?” For much of recorded history the largest and most complex artifact has been the largest ship that society has used. For most of history that ship would be a capital warship, produced by an institution, usually a naval dockyard. For the first time, in the 19th century, commercial ships built by commercial shipyards became equal or larger.

Ronfeldt: Whoa, it would take extremely expansive definitions of markets indeed to justify claims about markets being "the primary means of mediating human relations … for a very long time" and then becoming "the ruling mode". It's part of TIMN that all four forms have existed since ancient times, but they've risen and matured at different rates. I see no reason why — and I can't think of any theorists who'd argue that — TIMN should succumb to a definition of markets that is more expansive than definitions for the other forms. (See below for additional comment.)

I'm not sure what to make of the questions about the "largest and most complex artifact" and "the most complex and elaborate social institution". I think I’ve seen these notions before, and they make some sense. But they also strike me as a good way to start indefinite discussions. Sure, an aircraft carrier is a wondrous artifact. But does the answer have to be a stand-alone artifact? What about … well, I don't know where to start and stop.

True, as societies advance according to the TIMN progression, they should be able to produce increasingly complex artifacts and entities. And that is surely a good measure of something. Or is it a kind of truism?

Bennett: What is the largest artifact produced by networked peer-to-peer production? Arguably, the Linux programming language. But of course the core of that artifact was the product of an institution.

Ronfeldt: Why can't the answer be the usual one: the Internet? It's earliest version was the result of a band of technologists operating at the behest of government institutions. It morphed after businesses latched on to use and produce for it. But the greatest growth and innovation was more the result of "networked peer-to-peer" activities.

If you want your question to apply only to what "networked peer-to-peer production" can come up with, I doubt we've seen much yet. It's still early. Most writers who are into that kind of thing keep focusing on business enterprise futures. But I continue to doubt that the most exemplary results will be so market-oriented.

Bennett: 4. Do all societies eventually go through all four modes? What makes the new forms emerge, or eventually become predominant? Why do they emerge in some societies and not others? (As you have probably have seen, answering these questions in regard to the T>I transition is one of the perennial unresolved disputes of anthropology.) Looking at the case of England, following Campbell and Macfarlane, we see that market mechanisms emerged very early as an important means of mediating social relations, and certainly by the 13th century market mechanisms became as essential, integral part of everyday life. In fact Macfarlane’s work probably would support an argument that markets were the predominant means of mediating social relations in England from the 13th or 14th c. onward.

Ronfeldt: If TIMN is valid, then yes, all societies should/will ultimately go through all four modes (and maybe there's a fifth yet to come). But there has been and will be plenty of variations.

It's good for England (and America) that the market form took hold early there. But again, I’m far from accepting that "markets were the predominant means of mediating social relations" as you put it. More research might enlighten me. But that word "predominant" looks suspect; it doesn't match what I’ve read trying to educate myself.

Bennett: 5. If markets existed very early on, one can argue that networks did too. The relationship among monastic houses in medieval Europe has a number of network characteristics, even as they also had institutional and market aspects as well. The “republic of letters” among Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars and scientists certainly had network characteristics, as did the Masonic order that closely overlapped that network. Medieval guilds were also mixtures of institutional, market, and network characteristics, and of course the Masonic Order was originally a guild that left behind its direct economic function. And that super-guild, the Hanseatic League, was a fascinating example of an entity that functioned as an institution – it almost functioned as a state -- but had no institutional form at all, and had both market and network characteristics.

Ronfeldt: Yes, there are lots of instances all across history where particular forms seem nascent in bits and pieces ahead of their time. A challenge for TIMN.

But as for examples you mention, many may seem like mixes of markets and networks, not to mention institutions. But don't leave out tribal aspects. In my view, they figure in almost all you mention: monastic houses, medieval guilds, masonic lodges — to some extent they had some attributes of networked tribes or tribal networks.

Bennett: 6. One reason our work did not take a quadriform character is that we are not yet convinced as to whether networks should be considered a fourth, distinct form of human organization, or whether they are just a special case of markets. It is not yet clear to me how a society can organize itself primarily around peer-to-peer production and still have everybody make a living. Most of the peer-to-peer advocates seem to be trustafarians or holders of some sort of sinecure in academia or government, or people on the fringes of market institutions, like consultants and self-employed hackers. Linux was a fascinating phenomenon, but at some point when it got real people went back into the marketplace and formed conventional for-profit companies like Red Hat.

Ronfeldt: Networks as a "special case of markets"!? First I have to joust with advocates of social network analysis and network science who claim that networks are the mother of all forms, that tribes, hierarchies, and markets are just special cases of networks, and that TIMN‘s notion of a distinct +N form lacks merit. Now I come across libertarian advocates of markets who want to engulf networks. See my comment about Max Border's view in my Part-4 blogpost about Steven Johnson’s book in July. According to Borders, activity that pursues value through voluntary interaction is a market activity — making networks a subordinate form. Do I have to put up with this for much longer !?

TIMN would never hold that "a society can organize itself primarily around peer-to-peer production". And hardly any of p2p's radical proponents even go that far.

As I’ve said before, a word other than "networks" may ultimately be needed for TIMN. That might help clear matters up. But I haven't spotted such a word yet. "Platforms" doesn't quite seem right, for example.

And here's a speculation I’ve wondered about: Rather than networks being a special case of markets, maybe it's more likely that networks will turn out to be a 2.0 version of tribes — which would mean there are only three cardinal forms, not four, and also that 2.0 versions of institutions and then markets lie further ahead.

Bennett: Personally, I am a Hayekian, so to me any voluntary exchange system is a subcategory of a market. (Tribal societies are not markets because they depend on people carrying out inherited kinship obligations.) Will networks and peer-to-peer become a genuinely different way of organizing society and production, or will they become permanently and necessarily intertwined with markets? To me, that point is unclear. Of course if that happens it would be a major transformation of markets and a new era of economics, to be sure. Perhaps as significant as the rise of joint-stock corporations. But not a watershed as significant as the T>I>M shift.

Ronfeldt: I'm far from inquiring fully into definitions of and requirements for markets. Yes, exchange lies at the heart of markets. TIMN agrees with that. But I see little reason to expect that any exchange means a market is present, anymore than any command means an institution is present.

Besides, what about exchanges of marriage vows? Exchanges of artillery fire? Do those mean that markets are present? That markets is the best optic for such matters?

Also, you mention about networks becoming "permanently and necessarily intertwined with markets"? But what if civil society, or something that emerges from it, is the key domain for networks? Does that mean civil society is part of markets? Doesn't seem right to me for TIMN.

— End of Appendix —

- - - - -

[A thankful h/t to Michael Lotus for helpful (and corrective) comments on a draft of this post. Another thankful h/t to James McCormick for comments, mostly on my Part-1 post, that raised questions and cautions about the future of the nuclear family in America — more than I can attend to here.]

Thursday, September 5, 2013

America 3.0 illuminates significance of nuclear families — in line with TIMN (Part 1 of 2)

[UPDATE — September 13, 2013: I’ve added an Appendix at the end. It was initially going to go at the end of Part 2, but in light of the way that next part is evolving, this Appendix fits better here.]

When working on TIMN, I browse mostly for new writings about what may happen to the +N network form as it unfolds in the future. Hence my recent four-part write-up (here) about Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect and its concept of peer progressivism.

It and similar writings express mainly Left-leaning views. So far I’ve found little to help me with understanding +N on the Right.

But a new book by two conservative libertarians — James Bennett and Michael Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Best Days are Yet to Come (2013) — is captivating for another reason: It offers a keen analysis of the importance of the nature of the family — the kernel of the tribal/T form — for understanding how and why the United States developed so well, so uniquely. In a sense, America 3.0 does for the tribal form what Future Perfect does for the network form: provide an illumination in line with TIMN.

Since the beginning, I have said that TIMN rests on the nature of the tribal (T) form, broadly defined, and how it develops in specific societies/cultures. In particular, differences at the tribal level may explain differences in, say, American and Chinese patterns of development. And I’ve attributed American “exceptionalism” to our culture’s emphasis on the nuclear family, in contrast to the extended family, clan, and tribal designs that prevail in most other societies.

Yet I’ve said all that only sketchily in scattered spots — see Appendix in Part 2. I’ve not provided much elaboration. This book by Bennett and Lotus provides a compelling elaboration, with intent and vigor, illuminating the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution in ways that, in my view, help validate and reinforce TIMN.

Since this post has grown longer than I intended, I’m breaking it into two parts. This Part 1 lays out the themes that interest me in America 3.0, mostly in its own terms and with minimal review comments by me. Part 2 will take a more pointed look at America 3.0 in terms of TIMN themes and principles.

* * *

Insightful analysis of America’s evolution

America 3.0 is about America's evolution: from its deepest cultural origins in the Germanic tribes who populated England as the Anglo-Saxons, through the foundation of the agrarian frontier-oriented America shaped by the Constitution and Bill of Rights (America 1.0), to the industrialized centralized Big-Government Big-Business America of recent decades (America 2.0), and looking ahead to the future realization of a newly decentralized, voluntarist, anti-bureaucratic America that revives our society’s founding values and principles (America 3.0).

Throughout their narrative, Bennett and Lotus argue that “The continuous core of our distinct American culture is the American nuclear family.” (p. 26)
“A novel feature of this book is our identification of the defining cultural element that makes us different from the rest of the world. That element is the unique American style of family life that has an unbroken history going back at least a thousand years and possibly for fifteen centuries or more. A feature of our lives we take for granted has made us what we are, and has been the continuous thread linking each of the three “versions” of America.
“... Once our readers have this perspective, they will see that America's history and its future form a continuous pattern that is oriented toward freedom and prosperity. This innate strength will allow us to ride out the dissolution of America 2.0 successfully, and build a superior iteration in its place. The likely continuation of our ancient pattern is a source of hope and optimism to the authors of this book, and we hope our readers will come to agree with us.” (p. xx-xxi)
This particular kind of family — technically, the Absolute Nuclear Family — is defined by its practices:
“(1) adult children choose their own spouses, (2) adult children leave their parents home to form a new, independent family in a new home, (3) the parents do not have a duty to leave their property to any child, and they may sell it during their lives or leave it by will to anyone they choose, (4) children have no duty to provide for their parents, and (5) extended families are weak and have no control over personal decisions.” (p. 52; also see pp. 27-28)
In other words, it’s very different in design — as well as in its consequences and implications — compared to the extended–family, clan, and other tribal designs that prevail elsewhere.

Bennett and Lotus show at length (Chapter 2, pp. 29-45) that the nuclear family explains a lot about our distinctive culture and society:
“It has caused Americans to have a uniquely strong concept of each person as an individual self, with an identity that is not bound by family or tribal or social ties. … Our distinctive type [of] American nuclear family has made us what we are.” (p. 29)
And “what we are” as a result is individualistic, liberty-loving, nonegalitarian (without being inegalitarian), competitive, enterprising, mobile, and voluntaristic. In addition, Americans tend to have middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and a preference for suburban lifestyles.

As the authors carefully note, these are generally positive traits, but they have both bright and dark sides, noticeable for example in the ways they make America a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38) — much to the bane of some individuals. The traits also interact in interesting ways, such that Americans tend to be loners as individuals and families, but also joiners “who form an incomprehensibly dense network of voluntary associations” — much to the benefit of civil society (p. 39).

In sum, the American-style nuclear family is the major cause of “American exceptionalism” — the basis of our freedom and prosperity, our "amazing powers of assimilation” (p. 53), and our unique institutions:
“It was the deepest basis for the development of freedom and prosperity in England, and then in America. Further, the underlying Anglo-American family type was the foundation for all of the institutions, laws, and cultural practices that gave rise to our freedom and prosperity over the centuries.” (p. 52)
The authors go on to show this for America 1.0 and 2.0 in detail. They also reiterate that Americans have long taken the nuclear family for granted. Yet, very different marriage and family practices are the norm in most societies around the world. And the difference is profoundly significant for the kinds of cultural, social, economic, and political evolution that ensue. Indeed, the pull of the nuclear model in the American context is so strong that it has a liberating effect on immigrants who come from societies that are organized around extended families and clans (p. 55) — an important point, since America is a land of immigrants from all over, not just from Anglo-Saxon nuclear-family cultures.

Optimism about transitioning from America 2.0 to America 3.0

Looking ahead, America 3.0 takes the position that “our future will be built on our existing family and cultural foundations.” (p. 48) At the same time, the authors recognize, all is not well: the nuclear family isn’t as widespread and vital as it used to be, for “we are in the midst of rapid and even chaotic change in family life in America.” The changes the authors list are:
“The liberation of women from backbreaking domestic work…, the move of many women out of the house and into the cash economy, the dissolution of traditional family life, the legality and widespread use of abortion, the sweeping impact of no-fault divorce, the effect of fragmented families on several generations of American children, the social acceptance of single motherhood, the appearance of a political and cultural movement demanding civil rights and marriage for gay people, and the rise of ubiquitous pornography on the Internet.” (p. 58; altered from orig. bulleted format)
Yet, while the book goes on to provide detailed analysis about political and economic problems that afflict America 2.0 — from a conservative libertarian view — there is not much elaboration about how the rise of those problems is connected to the decline in family life. Nonetheless, the authors want to convey that there is a connection. This is evident, for example, in their interesting point (p. 210) that our education system has suffered — leading to a swollen public education sector — because of family structure changes in the 1960s and 1970s that left many families with absent fathers and working mothers, such that schools had to take on roles and responsibilities previously performed by healthy families.

The authors are not sanguine about restoring the nuclear family to its former vitality, and they do not explain much how the transition from America 2.0 to 3.0 may lead to resolving family-related policy issues. Even so, their view is that America 3.0 will turn out to be better aligned with traditional family values than is America 2.0. Indeed, they assert hopefully — a bit too abruptly for me — that
“the prospect of a reassertion or revival of family life along more traditional American lines, either generally or among self-selecting communities, cannot be ruled out in the decades ahead.” (p. 58)
In a similar vein, the authors also lament a related decline in civil society under America 2.0 — and again they assert hopefully that a revival will occur with the advent of America 3.0:
“… civil society and voluntary associations have been in decline in America in recent decades. Part of the problem is that government at all levels has become a nanny-leviathan, squeezing out civil society. …
“Nonetheless, a revival of civil society appears to be in store. New technology, which allows people to connect in new ways, is likely to lead to a revival of civil society in new forms. We expect this process to continue and to evolve rapidly. What we now refer to as “social media” are only early and primitive versions of the civil society-enabling technology we will be seeing in the years ahead. Nonetheless it is too early to say exactly how, and how much, new technology will revive and strengthen civil society.” (p. 41)
In my reading, their valuable themes about family life and civil society get too little attention in their discussions about the future, but the authors are quite clear about what should / will happen politically and economically with America 3.0. There will be a great movement toward decentralization and autonomy (pp. 206-207) — and for good reason:
“America’s culture, historically based on Absolute Nuclear Families, makes us naturally receptive to 3.0 decentralization.” (p. 206)
“A critically important reform for the transition to America 3.0 will be the decentralization of the economic and political systems of the country.” (p. 213)
To get there, the authors envision dealing with our enormous fiscal / debt problems by means of “The Big Haircut” at the federal level (p. 189), plus “little haircuts” at state levels (p. 217). Beyond that, they propose an agenda for restructuring government roles and responsibilities on behalf of America 3.0: In particular, they recommend that the Right stop fighting to take over the federal government, and instead push for long-term structural decentralization away from Washington so that most decisions are moved to state and community levels (p. 219). They want the scope of the federal role reduced “to near the classical limited-state definition” (p. 230) — with social functions offloaded to state levels. Moreover, they call for a formation of “multistate compacts” to address some matters, along with a “division of large or conflicted states into several smaller states” (pp. 230-231). They also envision population shifts into “self-sorting” / “self-selecting communities” (p. 8, 17, 58). Quite a restructuring and redistribution.

Along the way, the authors suggest taking contentious socio-cultural issues off the agenda, so that the Left and the Right stop fighting over them so debilitatingly:
“What is needed is a social settlement: a general acceptance on the Right of a plank that takes social issues off the federal political agenda for at least two decades and puts an end to the Left’s ability to play on slippery slope fears. The way to do that is to promote a constitutional amendment that clearly places the main set of contentious social issues, including abortion, the definition of marriage, and in general the police powers of the state beyond the reach of the federal government and the court system entirely, leaving them squarely in the hands of state legislatures and voters.” (p. 221)
As for foreign policy, the authors commend “an emerging phenomenon we call "Network Commonwealth," which is an alignment of nations … who share common ties that may include language, culture and common legal systems.” (p. 260) Above all, they’d like to see the “Anglosphere” take shape. And as the world coalesces into various “global networks of affinity” engaged in shifting coalitions (p. 265), America 3.0 would cease emphasizing democracy-promotion abroad, and “reorient its national strategy to a primary emphasis on maintaining the freedom of the global commons of air, sea, and space.” (p. 263) [UPDATE: For more about the Network Commonwealth and Anglosphere concepts, see Bennett’s 2007 paper here.]

One way or another, this entire agenda reflects the book’s theme about the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution. The authors do not always clearly specify how and why, but at least they steadfastly indicate as much.



(A thankful h/t to Michael Lotus for sending me a copy of the book.)

* * * * *

APPENDIX: Excerpts from TIMN writings that apply to this post

I noted in the main text above that TIMN has long claimed, much like America 3.0, that America’s exceptionally impressive evolution has rested, in large part, on the nuclear family and related attributes that define the T/tribal level in America’s case. This appendix is included so as to document that point, without cluttering my discussion of America 3.0 with self-referential quotes. In addition, the few briefings I did about TIMN during the late 1990s and early 2000s always included a slide or two that spoke to the enduring importance of the tribal (T) form and urged analysts to look out for its effects on other forms — but I see no good reason to include those slides here.

From my first paper on Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A Framework about Social Evolution (RAND, P-7967, 1996):
“But as I move to discuss that [T form] and later forms, the point should be kept in mind that tribe-like patterns, which once dominated the organization of societies, remain an essential basis of identity and solidarity as societies become more complex and add state, market, and other structures. This is true for societies as diverse as China, where extended family structures constantly affect all manner of political, economic, and other relations, and the United States, where an emphasis on the nuclear family and immigration from all areas of the world has resulted in an unusually loose social fabric, in which societal “kinship” often depends more on a sense of brotherhood than blood, as seen in fraternal associations.” (p. 5)
“In the United States and elsewhere, urban gangs like the “Bloods” and the “Crips” in the Los Angeles area represent in part a recurrence to clannish, combative brotherhoods by youths who lack strong nuclear family ties and do not see a future for themselves in the state, market, or other structures around them.” (p. 6)
“Yet, despite the uniqueness of each case, it appears that the four [TIMN] forms lie behind the evolution of all societies: East, West, North, and South. Western history is emphasized in this preliminary overview, but the framework appears to apply to non-Western societies too. For example, a comparative study might show that many major differences between societies within regions (e.g., between England and Italy) and across regions (e.g., between England and Japan) may be traced to variations in the nature of the tribal/clan form and its incarnations and repercussions in particular settings. As noted earlier, American “exceptionalism” owes in part to the relative weakness and diversity of its T-type bases (which may help explain American adaptability to the post-tribal forms).” (p. 22)

From my monograph on In Search Of How Societies Work: Tribes—The First and Forever Form (RAND, WR-433-RPC, 2006):
“A people’s adaptability to the rise of a new form appears to depend largely on the local nature of the tribal form. It may have profound effects on what happens as the later forms get added. For example, the tribal form has unfolded differently in China and in America. Whereas the former has long revolved around extended family ties, clans, and dynasties, the latter has relied on the nuclear family, heavy immigration, and a fabric of fraternal organizations that provide quasi-kinship ties (e.g., from the open Rotary Club to the closed Ku Klux Klan). These differences at the tribal level have given unique shapes to each nation’s institutional and market forms, to their ideas about progress, and, now, to their adaptability to the rise of networked NGOs.” (p.5)
“ … The challenge is to show the tribal form’s endurance in complex modern societies. Basic places to look include
  • at the family level—including in the nature and roles of the nuclear family, the extended family, clans, and other kith and kin in different societies
  • at the associational level—including among formal and informal groups, affiliations, organizations, and other such entities that constitute the bulk of a society’s structures and processes beyond the family
  • at the ideational level—including in ideas, values, norms, principles, and other such criteria about how people should relate to each other and how a society should treat its members.” (p. 55 — plus see all of pp. 54-60 for elaboration)

From my blog post providing an “Overview of social evolution (past, present, and future) in TIMN terms” (2009):
“A people’s adaptability to the rise of a new form appears to depend largely on the local nature of the tribal form. It may have profound effects on what happens as the later forms get added. For example, the tribal form has unfolded differently in China and in America. Whereas the former has long revolved around extended family ties, clans, and dynasties, the latter has relied on the nuclear family, heavy immigration, and a fabric of fraternal organizations that provide quasi-kinship ties (e.g., from the open Rotary Club to the closed Ku Klux Klan). These differences at the tribal level have given unique shapes to each nation’s institutional and market forms, to their ideas about progress, and, now, to their adaptability to the rise of networked NGOs.”

From my blog post about “Why the Republicans lost: excessive tribalism — a partial TIMN interpretation” (2012):
“TIMN implies recognizing cultural and historical variations among societies. Thus it would explain “American exceptionalism” by, among other matters, pointing to the unusual diversity of our nation’s population, along with our ability to accommodate all sorts of people — in other words, our capacity to dampen uncivil kinds of domestic (T) tribalism, partly so the other TIMN forms work better. During the presidential campaign, tribalists among the Republicans tried to claim the mantle of American exceptionalism. But as I recall, they mostly did so by stressing that American exceptionalism derived mainly from free enterprise and individual initiative (harking back to M-level priorities). Okay, sure, to some degree. But they ignored or misunderstood the historical tribal (T-level) characteristics that make our nation so unique and different from, say, Europe. Yet, perhaps it makes sense they have done so — tribalists have to be very careful about accommodating to ethnic, religious, and other kinds of T-level diversity, and allowing it to be an explanation for exceptionalism. They want their own tribe to be the explanation.”

Saturday, July 6, 2013

In favor of “peer progressives”: how, where, and why they’re good for TIMN (part 4 of 4)

This Part 4 picks up where Part 3 left off examining Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect (2012) — in particular, his concept of “peer progressives” since it helps flesh out the +N part of TIMN.

Again, here are the major areas where Johnson’s themes parallel and overlap with TIMN:
  • Network forms of organization are on the rise.
  • They and their proponents are altering all areas of society.
  • Hierarchy and market forms of organization will endure, though altered.
  • People will treat networks — not just governments or markets — as solutions.
  • New political philosophies and ideologies will emerge.
And here are areas where his observations and speculations fall short of TIMN:
  • TIMN implies that a new sector will grow around the network form. Johnson’s write-up does not detect this, though I suspect it would appeal to peer progressives.
  • TIMN offers a quadriform understanding of society and its future prospects. The view in Future Perfect remains triformist — though a kind of triformist-plus.
Of those seven bullets, Part 1 in this series emphasized the first three, Part 2 the fourth and fifth, and Part 3 the sixth. This final Part 4 addresses the seventh.

Part 1 was laudatory about Future Perfect. Part 2 as well, but it hinted at criticisms. Part 3 was mostly critical, for it focused on shortcomings vis à vis TIMN. This Part 4 fields some final cautions and criticisms, but it also returns to offering praise.

Along the way, I discuss two recent articles that bear on Future Perfect and TIMN. One is by Max Borders on “Peer Progressivism vs. Network Libertarianism” in The Freeman (2012). The next is by Yochai Benkler on “Practical Anarchism: Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State” in Politics & Society (2013). Both are helpful for thinking about Future Perfect and TIMN — but for very different reasons.

* * * * *

Toward quadriform societies — getting all four forms right

TIMN was inspired by observing the recent rise of network (N) forms of organization: How they work differently from older tribal (T), hierarchical institutional (I), and market (M) forms. And how the whole thing may be assembled into a theory of social evolution that spans the ages, from monoform (T-centric), to biform (T+I), to triform (T+I+M), and next quadriform (T+I+M+N) societies. According to TIMN, the information-age network form is strengthening civil society more than state and market actors, and will lead to creation of a new sector that is different and separate from the existing public and private sectors. But more than that, TIMN is about the balancing and compounding of all four TIMN forms and their respective realms, in a preferred progression over time.

That explains my enthused interest in Future Perfect: Johnson’s ideas about the rise of peer networks and peer progressivism slide marvelously into place in TIMN as harbingers of the +N form.

But it’s not a perfect fit. TIMN is about all four cardinal forms of organization, each with its own distinctive attributes, and none of them easy to define and set boundaries around. In general, Johnson does very well at discussing three of the forms: hierarchies (I), markets (M), and networks (N), as I discussed earlier. However, he deviates from TIMN principles at two points: One is where he brings tribes (T) into his analysis, and verges on conflating tribes and networks. Another is where he appears to turn too expansive in a defense of networks against a libertarian who wants to exalt markets. I must object on both accounts and try to clarify for the sake of TIMN. TIMN is averse to conflations and exaltations regarding any and all forms; it implies keeping them all in balance.

Harking back to tribes. While Future Perfect is mostly about networks vis à vis hierarchies and markets (three of the four TIMN forms), Johnson finally brings in tribes — the first and forever form in the TIMN framework. Thus he notes (p. 208) that despite the association of peer networks with advanced technology,
“from a certain angle, they can be seen as a return to a much older tradition. The social architectures of the Paleolithic era — the human minds formative years — were much closer to peer networks than they were to states or corporations.”
Indeed, he says (p. 209), the egalitarian allure of ancient hunter-gatherer bands and societies
“may explain why so many people have been drawn to participate in peer networks, despite the lack of traditional monetary rewards. There is something in the collaborative, egalitarian structure of these systems that resonates with the human mind, an echo of our deep history as a species.”
Moreover, Johnson claims (p. 210) that, thanks to this revival of tribe-like networking in our postmodern era, people no longer have to accept living passively in a mass society ruled by vast government and corporate hierarchies. People can now begin to imagine and create new alternatives.

Quite so, I’d say — but not so much as to obviate the distinction between tribes and networks. At least Johnson does not fully equate networks with tribes. As I’ve posted before (e.g., here), tribes and networks share some qualities, but they are different TIMN forms.

According to TIMN, it may be natural for early proponents of a new form to exhibit a kin-like camaraderie — i.e., tribe-like sentiments and behaviors. That happened with the rise of the +I and +M forms. And it may turn out to be especially so for the +N network form, since it is more collaborative and egalitarian than the institutional and market forms. Even so, peer tribalists, if I may call them that, are not the same phenomenon as peer progressives — and this should become more evident as the network form matures and becomes professionalized in the decades ahead.

Johnson rightly observes that peer progressives relish diversity, and favor expanding the reach of their networks into others’ networks. In contrast, true tribalists relish exclusivity; they want to expand only their own tribe. Moreover, contrary to peer networks, tribes are normally quite paternalistic in their decision-making, trust only kin, and favor single-minded uniform consensus. That’s not the nature of peer progressivism. Peer-progressive networks that have tribal qualities may eventually need to de-tribalize in order to mature.

For example, consider the postures that occur around American gun-culture issues. The NRA’s adherents, even those who are into building networks, resemble peer tribalists more than peer progressives. (Here is an interesting network analysis of the gun-control debates.) Indeed, the most tribalized issues in America — the “culture war” issues — tend to be ones where peer progressives don’t figure.

By noticing that a little tribalism exists among peer progressives, Future Perfect parallels TIMN even further. I just want to caution against conflating the two forms: tribes and networks. It’s important to notice their interactions, and their affinities, as Johnson does. But they are different TIMN forms, despite occasional hybrids — networks aren’t a new species of tribes, and tribes have their own socio-cultural realm to configure.

Avoiding conflations and exaltations. The above ends my remarks about the book that are drawn from the book. But I have one more point to add, prompted by one of the few book reviews I read. And it’s a point somewhat like the one above, which advised against conflating tribes and networks. This one objects to conflating markets and networks, which Johnson verges on doing in reply to a review by Max Borders that advocates “network libertarianism” over peer progressivism.

The book review that stirred up the most attention, and controversy, was Evgeny Morozov’s in New Republic. He roundly criticized Johnson’s book for, among other matters, exaggerating that decentralized networks often outperform centralized hierarchies. But, from a TIMN standpoint, I saw little value or accuracy in Morozov’s criticisms. Besides, Johnson offered a balanced rebuttal about the continuing importance of both hierarchies and networks, of both centralized and decentralized ways of getting thing done. [UPDATE — September 11, 2013: Tom Slee offers a somewhat-interesting and harder-hitting (but rambling) review titled “Sixty-Two Things Wrong with “Future Perfect”” at his blog here.]

Instead, a review by Max Borders on “Peer Progressivism vs. Network Libertarianism” in The Freeman (2012) is more instructive for TIMN (h/t Dick O’Neill). This review offers another fight over which form is better, which can outperform which — but this time the fight is about markets vs. networks.

Border defends libertarianism from Johnson’s critique by advocating “network libertarianism.” In so doing, Borders reiterates libertarianism’s uniform emphasis on markets as the best way to foster self-organization without central authority. He claims that peer progressivism hides an old affinity for the state as found in classic progressivism. More than that, he claims that what’s good in Johnson’s concept is actually more about markets than networks — indeed, he claims, peer networks are a species of markets. Here’s an excerpt that shows this:
““Peer progressivism” seems to be built either on one big misunderstanding about markets, or one big philosophical difference about authority. … [B]y libertarian lights a collaborative peer network is a species of market. I claimed as much in a tweeted reply to Steven Johnson himself. In his response to me … Johnson wrote: "@maxborders I think it's the reverse: markets are peer networks, as I say in the book; but not all peer networks are markets."” (source)
Uh-oh: Borders not only exalts markets over networks; he subsumes peer networks under markets. In reply, Johnson doesn’t exalt networks over markets, but he does subsume some markets under peer networks. That’s all I have of Johnson’s reply, but it’s enough to indicate that they’re both running afoul of TIMN principles. I’ve not yet settled on exactly how best to define each TIMN form, but I am sure of this: Beware of imperial definitions of any form that lead to a colonization of other forms.

In Future Perfect, Johnson normally views networks — peer networks, at least — as a distinct and bounded form of organization, different from hierarchies and markets (and maybe tribes too, if he were more aware of them). But in this remark he slips toward a very broad view of networks that has gained sway in recent decades — the view from social network analysis and network science that sees all forms of interaction as networks. If system of interactions can be viewed as nodes that have ties, then it’s a network. In this view, all TIMN forms are just different types of networks; the network is the mother and master of all forms.

I understand the logic behind this view. It’s legitimate, scientific, insightful, and on the rise. But it’s created difficulties for my articulation of TIMN, because its bounded networks are not the same as their generalized networks, as I’ve discussed before. TIMN might be better served if another network-oriented term ever emerges to identify what TIMN is after.

Even so, Johnson’s definitional stance here does not strike me as a grievous violation of TIMN principles; he’s just slipping a bit between the two views of networks, while still sustaining a bounded view that is consistent with TIMN. It’s what Borders goes on to assert that provides the more cautionary tale. He exalts the market form, and folds peer networks under it, by using a grand definition of markets that I’ve not seen before. In his words,
“… What Johnson may not realize, however, is that we libertarian types have quite a liberal definition of markets. Indeed, most of us would define a market as any system in which a participant in said system can pursue some value through voluntary interaction. … [W]e are more interested in the voluntary nature of interaction and not whether the interactions are transactional per se. We have come use the term "markets" in contrast to "mandates."
“… To us, markets are big enough to include peer networks because the latter are also just systems of value creation. These peer networks are libertarian to the extent that joining is voluntary and exiting is fairly low cost. …” (italics in original)
Yes, many discussions about networks do emphasize value creation, and many markets lead to value creation as well. But that definition is so brief and expansive, omitting so much that is normally included in a definition of markets, that I sense it could engulf not only networks but also tribes and hierarchies too — for their members often have occasion to “pursue some value through voluntary interaction” despite having kinship or authority constraints around them. Thus, such a definition of markets is too monoformist for TIMN. By suborning other forms to markets, his definition would obviate TIMN as well as Future Perfect.

Borders is back on track when he says that “peer progressives and network libertarians agree about one thing: most government is too powerful and many corporations are too powerful.” My view of TIMN aligns with that too. But that doesn’t offset the conceptual muddle that his definition of markets starts to create.

Balancing all forms. Fast on track with Future Perfect and TIMN is recent research by one of Johnson’s key inspirations and sources: Yochai Benkler. His new article, “Practical Anarchism: Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State,” in Politics & Society (2013) reports on the performance of various cases of “peer mutualism” (a rewording of his original phrase “commons-based peer production” that is akin to Johnson’s peer networks). It’s about efforts to organize solutions outside of state and market frameworks. A key question he addresses, then, is
“[D]o mutualistic associations offer enough of a solution space, to provisioning a sufficient range of the capabilities we require for human flourishing, to provide a meaningful alternative model to the state and the market across a significant range of human needs and activities?” (p.215)
His most successful cases include NGOs (esp. the IETF) that keep the Internet going, the Free and Open Software (FOSS) movement, and Wikipedia. And he reports approvingly that,
“They have fostered a broader, more general understanding that commons-based peer production, or distributed, voluntaristic, nonstate, nonmarket action provide a solution space for alternative models of approaching a wide range of social tasks.” (p. 230)
He commends other cases as well, including Kickstarter and Ushahidi, but turns critical about a case that depends heavily on government cooperation: the “Open Data” (aka Gov 2.0) initiative of the Obama administration. Thus,
“In combination, the open data and Wikileaks stories suggest a degree of caution about the potential and limits of anarchic, mutualistic solutions to core limitations of corporate or government power. States and companies, increasingly working together in a public-private partnership to retain dominance, can both subvert openness agendas and mount very effective combined assaults on anarchic models that severely constrain the effectiveness of the latter.” (p. 240)
Yet, overall, he finds that
Decentralized, commons-based, peer production systems offer a degree of freedom: a set of affordances and design interventions that allow certain public goods to be provisioned in ways that allow for new forms of bobbing and weaving between the constraints of the state and the market, but also the constraints of more traditional forms of social organization like the church, the union, or the neighborhood association. The point is not that these new models of organization are the apotheosis of free human association. We will almost certainly come to find out, if we do not already know, that these too are, or will become, imperfect; that these too have the potential to create, transmit, deploy, and abuse power. The point is that they provide a new degree of freedom in the design of human systems, …” (p.247)
Benkler’s view of peer mutualism is in keeping with Future Perfect and TIMN. He displays a realistic pragmatic sense of what peer mutualism may accomplish — he does not exalt the network form — and he recognizes that state and market forms will persist. Thus, while wary of “illegitimate capture by a cabal or to subversion by market or state actors” (pp. 245-246), he steadfastly argues that “Introducing peer production and mutualism is then aimed at improving and completing the imperfection of these systems, rather than replacing them” (p. 245). In a passing comment (p. 245), he even expresses hopes that healthcare and education will become new frontiers for peer mutualism — another implication that coincides with my past +N speculations.

Wrap-up comment: Future Perfect — between triformism and quadriformism

Parts 3 and 4 highlighted criticisms, and this final Part 4 has also drifted from focusing directly on Johnson’s Future Perfect. So, to close, I’d like to reiterate that, from a TIMN perspective, I remain very pleased with the book, and particularly its cardinal contribution: the concept of peer progressivism. It represents a solid step toward comprehending what +N may bring in the decades ahead. A mash-up of Benkler’s and Johnson’s concepts — commons-based peer progressivism — might prove extra-interesting.

Even so, Future Perfect does not offer a fully quadriformist vision. In line with TIMN, it does observe the rise of a new form of organization: peer networks. And it sees them as modifying if not transforming all areas of society — economic, political, social, cultural, etc. But it does not go far enough to detect the emergence of a new sector around the network form. Thus Future Perfect remains largely triformist — but it’s a kind of triformism-plus, and for that I’m full of praise. I’ll hope Johnson can do a revised expanded edition in a few years.

Monday, July 1, 2013

In favor of “peer progressives”: how, where, and why they’re good for TIMN (part 3 of 4)

This Part 3 picks up where Part 2 left off examining Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect (2012) — in particular, his concept of “peer progressives” since it helps flesh out the +N part of TIMN.

Again, here are the major areas where Johnson’s themes parallel and overlap with TIMN:
  • Network forms of organization are on the rise.
  • They and their proponents are altering all areas of society.
  • Hierarchy and market forms of organization will endure, though altered.
  • People will treat networks — not just governments or markets — as solutions.
  • New political philosophies and ideologies will emerge.
And here are areas where his observations and speculations fall short of TIMN:
  • TIMN implies that a new sector will grow around the network form. Johnson’s write-up does not detect this, though I suspect it would appeal to peer progressives.
  • TIMN offers a quadriform understanding of society and its future prospects. The view in Future Perfect remains triformist — though a kind of triformist-plus.
Of those seven bullets above, Part 1 emphasized the first three. Part 2 addressed the fourth and fifth. This Part 3 turns to the sixth.  Part 4 will deal with the seventh.

Part 1 was almost entirely laudatory about Johnson’s concept. Part 2 as well, but it began to hint at criticisms. This Part 3 is mostly critical, for it focuses on shortcomings vis à vis TIMN.

But my purpose is not just to show shortcomings vis à vis TIMN. It’s also to show that peer progressives would benefit TIMN (and dare I say, benefit from TIMN) much more if they ever turn into full-on quadriformists.

* * * * *

Strong as his book is, Johnson misses some matters that would help bolster his case. While he keys off Yochai Benkler’s work on peer production, Johnson does not seem to know about the work of the P2P Foundation and the writings of Michel Bauwens, not to mention other P2P proponents. Johnson also neglects John Keane’s writings about “monitory democracy,” not to mention other writings that emphasize civil society. Indeed, Johnson seems to draw on and associate with a rather select set of currently prominent thinkers. Nothing wrong with that — but it may help explain why he has not cast his net far out toward the edges of recent thinking about peer-to-peer dynamics and their implications.

Yet it’s not just a few other edgy thinkers that Johnson misses. From a TIMN perspective, the analysis of peer networks and peer progressivism would benefit from anticipating prospects for (a) the emergence of a new +N sector, and (b) future evolution from a triform (T+I+M) into a quadriform (T+I+M+N) society. I discuss both prospects — and their lapses in Future Perfect — in the ensuing sections, spread over Parts 3 and 4.

Toward a new +N sector

Johnson correctly identifies myriad places where peer networks are taking hold, having effects. But he does so without trying to discriminate whether government, business, or civil society is being affected the most. While it appears that everything is affected, Future Perfect focuses on business and government more than civil society — and if anything, the book emphasizes economics the most. In these tendencies, he has lots of company; many analysts are doing much the same these days. But even though it’s a common tendency in today’s world, TIMN leads me to doubt it’s the most advisable (as discussed here).

TIMN is much more determined to show that, even though the rise of a new form may affect all sectors, some sectors may be more affected than others, as may their relative power and influence. More than that, TIMN implies that the growth of a new form leads to the creation of a new sector around that form. As I’ve written before (e.g., here and here, sometimes using realm instead of sector), that’s what happened with the T, +I, and +M transitions; and TIMN proposes that it’ll happen again with spread of the +N form. If I read Johnson correctly, he has not detected that prospect — he stresses across-the-board effects, almost indiscriminately, and does so mostly in terms of the existing public and private sectors.

My observations and hypotheses about the creation of a new sector are scattered, and I’m not going to do much reiteration here. But as a reminder, a few key points seem pertinent: Since at least the 1990s a lot of theorists have remarked about the prospects for a new sector, and linked them (and it) to the spread of network forms of organization, strategy, and technology, especially among NGOs representing civil society. Peter Drucker named it the social sector — I still like that name — but others, each meaning something a bit different, have called it the third sector, citizen sector, civic sector, social-benefit sector, or commons sector. Whichever, it is likely to consist mostly of small agile non-profit organizations that pertain to civil society more than government or business, and that operate in networks with each other, as well as with traditional public- and private-sector actors. Indeed, one of the most interesting points made about this potential new (+N) sector is that it will be distinct from the established public (+I) and private (+M) sectors.

Against his background, I limit my focus here to just a few matters that peer progressivism is bound to have to take positions on in the future, according to TIMN: One is the role of civil society. The others are speculative possibilities: monitory democracy, and a commons sector.

Importance of civil society. Oddly, Future Perfect does not offer a single paragraph about civil society — a search via Amazon yields nary a mention — whereas there are pages and pages about government and business. Isn’t this a significant inexplicable shortcoming? An analytical imbalance?

In contrast, a new forward-looking conservative analysis by James Bennett and Michael Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century — Why America's Greatest Days Are Yet to Come (2013), recognizes that:
“[A] revival of civil society appears to be in store. New technology, which allows people to connect in new ways, is likely to lead to a revival of civil society in new forms. We expect this process to continue and to evolve rapidly. What we now refer to as “social media” are only early and primitive versions of the civil society-enabling technology we will be seeing in the years ahead. Nonetheless it is too early to say exactly how, and how much, new technology will revive and strengthen civil society.” (p. 41; h/t The Scholar's Stage blog)
Future Perfect might easily have said something similar — and been the better for it, in terms of foreseeing what may turn out to be important to peer progressives. As an aside, I notice that the authors of America 3.0 do not link their point to Edmund Burke’s great concept about the value of “little platoons” in civil society. That could easily be fashioned into a peer-oriented concept in favor of 3.0 conservatism — one that’d be attractive to eclectic peer progressives as well.

Possibility of monitory democracy. Future Perfect expresses hopes for “liquid democracy” — an information-age way to improve representation from inside the political system. But John Keane’s concept of “monitory democracy” —a novel way for civil-society actors to affect democracy from outside the political system — looks more apropos from a TIMN perspective, and it’s not mentioned.

Monitory democracy is entirely consistent with Johnson’s points about peer networks and peer progressivism. As I’ve discussed at length elsewhere, Keane grounds his concept on increases in monitoring roles played by NGOs and other actors representing civil society. As he states in his book The Life and Death of Democracy (2009):
“[T]he years since 1945 have seen the invention of about a hundred different types of power-monitoring devices that never before existed within the world of democracy. These watchdog and guide-dog and barking-dog inventions are changing both the political geography and the political dynamics of many democracies, which no longer bear much resemblance to textbook models of representative democracy, which supposed that citizens’ needs are best championed through elected parliamentary representatives chosen by political parties. From the perspective of this book, the emerging historical form of ‘monitory’ democracy is a ‘post-Westminster’ form of democracy in which power-monitoring and power-controlling devices have begun to extend sideways and downwards through the whole political order. They penetrate the corridors of government and occupy the nooks and crannies of civil society, and in so doing they greatly complicate, and sometimes wrong-foot, the lives of politicians, parties, legislatures and governments. These extra-parliamentary power-monitoring institutions include — to mention at random just a few — public integrity commissions, judicial activism, local courts, workplace tribunals, consensus conferences, parliaments for minorities, public interest litigation, citizens’ juries, citizens’ assemblies, independent public inquiries, think-tanks, experts’ reports, participatory budgeting, vigils, ‘blogging’ and other novel forms of media scrutiny.” (p. 14 here)
Keane makes clear that democracy’s proponents would be well-advised to start understanding and fostering monitory democracy. From a TIMN standpoint, I like Keane’s emphasis on civil society, for TIMN regards civil society as a growing source of monitory power vis à vis state and market actors. Also commendable is Keane’s point that monitory democracy brings new kinds of checks and balances; for TIMN is very much about each form being used in proper ways vis à vis the other forms — ways that would keep the forms and their realms basically separated, limited, balanced, and mutually regulated. Monitory democracy fits well with that.

Even so, Keane’s concept does not imply a distinct monitory sector, for a lot of monitoring will be done by actors in all sectors. Yet, he indicates that the prospects for monitory democracy may depend on people having “equal access to ‘the commons’” — a point germane to the next sub-section of this post. That too is far from his explicitly forecasting a new sector, much less calling for a commons sector. But developing what’s been called a “sensor commons” around peer networks of civil-society NGOs might well be in accordance with monitory democracy and peer progressivism, not to mention TIMN.

Monitoring will surely become a key function of a new +N sector. If Keane’s theorizing about monitory democracy is right (and if my theorizing about TIMN is too), then we are looking at a major area for the growth of peer networks and peer progressivism vis à vis civil society in the future.

Possibility of a commons sector. Nor does Future Perfect contain any reference to the idea of the commons. Elsewhere, it’s making a quiet but noticeable return, especially in regard to what are called the information commons and digital commons. And it’s doing so especially among progressives on the Left who look forward to developing a commons sector. They want it to be separate from the established public and private sectors, to grow to outweigh those sectors on commons-related issues, and to be based on P2P networks and associated principles about shared governance and stewardship.

As Jonathan Rowe once explained,
“It is significant, then, that an old term is reappearing to describe what is being threatened. It is "the commons," the realm of life that is distinct from both the market and the state and is the shared heritage of us all. Vandana Shiva, an Indian physicist and environmental activist, writes about the commons of water and seeds. Lawrence Lessig, an author and lawyer, describes the innovation commons of the Internet and the public domain of knowledge. Others are talking about the atmospheric commons, the commons of public squares, and the commons of quiet. …
“If advocates of the commons in its many forms were to embrace the concept as a defining theme, the result could be a new and potent political force.” (source)
While I’m not sure what to make of this unfolding prospect, I’ve learned enough (e.g., here and here) to see that it fits well not only with TIMN but also with what Future Perfect reports about peer progressivism. The book should have at least mentioned it. If it continues to hold promise and gain ground, peer networks and peer progressives seem likely engines.

Perhaps a reason it’s overlooked is Johnson’s affinity for libertarianism. Traditional libertarians are too dedicated to private property and ownership to favor the return of the commons. But Johnson is well aware of this, as noted in Part 1, and he observes that peer progressives are much more interested in sharing. Thus, why he does not pick up on the rising ferment around the concept of the commons is, for me at least, another shortcoming. Perhaps it seems too far to the Left for him. But the concept may well gain adherents across the political spectrum. (I’ve even tried suggesting that commoneers start experimenting with creating citizens chambers of commons. Isn’t that being somewhat peer-progressive?)

In short, Johnson’s book occasionally recognizes effects that bear on civil society, but his book does little with them and their potential implications. I’m not trying to criticize Future Perfect for missing a few examples, but rather for overlooking civil-society activities in a way that, from a TIMN standpoint, is tantamount to a theoretical lapse about matters that may prove crucial to his prognoses.