Friday, November 10, 2017

Readings on tribes and tribalism — #19: a series by James Fallows on using the words “tribal,” “tribe,” and “tribalism”

I started this series of readings largely because I’d found, in reactions to my TIMN writings, that people generally do not cotton to language about tribes, tribalism, or tribalization. It doesn’t fit well in American political discourse; nor among social theorists.

Yet, “tribes” remains the best term available for characterizing the oldest form of organization in the TIMN framework about past, present, and future social evolution. Indeed, the tribal form is still what people revert to, when the more advanced TIMN forms fail them. With this series of readings, I have tried to show I am not alone in my thinking about the significance of the T/tribal form.

So it’s most interesting to learn that Atlantic magazine writer James Fallows encountered a similar difficulty using the word “tribal” to describe recent Republican behavior. What ensued resembles what I’ve experienced.

Here’s what happened: Fallows posted “that today’s GOP leaders, notably Mitch McConnell in the Senate and Paul Ryan in the House, had essentially abdicated their constitutional responsibilities and were behaving in a “tribal” sense” — and readers promptly criticized him for using the word “tribal”. Then, instead of letting it pass, Fallows went on to post a series of Notes about his readers’ emailed reactions — about the pros and cons, and rights and wrongs, of using “tribal”, “tribes”, and “tribalism” in today’s American political context, and about what might be more advisable terms.

In the initial offending post, Fallows had criticized Congress’s retreat from established norms, notably the traditional reliance on checks and balances, as follows:
“The boring name for these unwritten rules is “norms.” Boring or not, they’re at the center of the potential crisis over Donald Trump’s performance in office. By the letter of the Constitution, and by the unwritten norms of American separation-of-powers governance, the main restraint on an overreaching, dishonest, or incompetent executive is a resolute legislative branch. But today’s legislative leaders—Mitch McConnell and his slim Republican majority in the Senate, Paul Ryan and his large Republican majority in the House—are ostentatiously refusing to play that check-and-balance function. They are operating as members of a tribe, the Republican tribe, rather than as components of a branch, the checks-and-balances legislative branch. …
“Because the legislative majority is choosing a tribal rather than a governing role, the checks and balances necessary for democracy have fallen to an ad-hoc group of others [generals, judges, the press, the prosecutor].”
Fallows’ subsequent posts presented feedback from a wide variety of readers. Most were quite critical and suggested other terms: e.g., clan, club, faction, sect, clique, cabal, gang, partisan, pack, team, kin-group, affinity group, my kind, even Japanese counter-part terms, and most unusual and unexpected of all, Paretoism. They also brought up in-group vs. out-group and we vs. they dynamics, as well as herd mentality, group think, identitarianism, and even the Parsonian distinction between ascribed and achieved identities.

Quite a pile of suggestions. I’ve run into most of them too. Yet, as his series has progressed, more readers (myself included) recommended he stay with “tribe” words.

Along the way, Fallows extolled two books that bear on his take: Harold Isaacs’ Idols of the Tribe, and Andrew Bard Schmookler’s The Parable of the Tribes. First I’ve heard of Isaacs’ book. Schmookler’s I already have.

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Meanwhile, I sent the following email to Fallows, summing up my view (but he didn’t use it):
Yes, “tribes” is the best term for what you are analyzing. Its usage has problems, including that anthropologists have long disparaged the concept and Americans generally don’t cotton to the term. I know this from experience as a RAND researcher, now retired, who continues to have an interest in reading and writing about theories of social evolution.

What I’ve found is that, over the ages, people have come up with four cardinal forms of organization for constructing their societies: tribes (i.e. kinships), hierarchical institutions, markets, and information-age networks. Each form has different purposes and uses, along with different philosophical and strategic implications. Each form also has both bright and dark sides, and can be used for good or ill; societies can get them wrong as well as right, in ways that affect their usage of the other forms.

For various reasons, these forms have arisen and matured at different rates — tribes took shape first, hierarchical institutions were next, then markets, and now networks are on the rise. Societies progress according to their abilities to add and combine these forms (and their resulting sectors of activity). How people manage to use and combine the forms, their bright and dark sides, pretty much determines what kind of society they end up with. Advanced societies depend on their people’s abilities to use all four forms in a coherent, well-balanced, well-functioning whole.

Thus, when matters go well, societies advance by adopting and using these forms progressively and properly. But when matters do not go well — for example, if leaders make a mess of the institutional (i.e., government) and market forms, or if people cannot find places for themselves in the institutional, market, or emerging network sectors — then people revert to organizing and behaving in terms of the tribal form, often in dark ways. That’s what’s happening now here in America.

No society can do well without the tribal form evolving well. Its main dynamic is kinship, which gives people a distinct sense of identity and belonging. It is initially expressed best in families, clans, and classic tribes; later in community spirit, civic clubs, and patriotic nationalism; as well as in positive group identities about religion, ideology, ethnicity, and even regarding sports teams and commercial brands. Thus, tribes and tribalism per se are not a bad thing; some is good and necessary.

But dark sides — malignant tribalism — may show up too, as in urban youth gangs, criminal gangs, sectarian militias, partisan cliques, millenarian movements, charismatic cults, etc. Most worrisome now is the tribalization of our partisan politics, especially on the Republican/conservative side.

For when people turn darkly tribal, they exhibit similar patterns of thought and action, no matter their religious, political, or other identity: They boldly tout their unique identity. They exalt “us” and demonize “them. They express sensitive narratives about respect, honor, pride, and dignity for themselves — but call for revenge and retribution for transgressors. All very ugly, and often violent.

Even though the term “tribes” is problematic, I’ve found no better term. Terms such as kinships or kindreds might be alternatives, but aren’t quite adequate either. Clans is too narrow. Bands, gangs, and the like are too small to qualify. Affinity groups is too academic.

So I’d stick with “tribes” — it’s the first and forever form that no society can do without, for better or worse.
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Here’s the first in Fallows’ series, the post that triggered reaction to his using the word “tribal”: “Congress: The Broken Check and Balance”
Here’s the second post, where reader feedback kicks in:  “On the Many Connotations of ‘Tribalism’”
Here’s the third:  “‘The Parable of the Tribes’”
Here’s the fourth in his series:  “‘Scorn for Tribalism Is an American Tradition’”
And the fifth: “The Uses of 'Tribalism' in American Politics” or “A Nation of Tribes, and Members of the Tribe”
Finally, the sixth, which appears to be the last in Fallows’ series: “Tribalism, Before and After the Virginia Vote”

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, during Nov 3-9]

Friday, November 3, 2017

A TIMN-ish article by George Monbiot

Guardian columnist George Monbiot makes TIMN-ish points in this analysis of how to think about a society’s economic spheres. He criticizes that most people, especially our leaders, act as though there are only two: the state sphere, and the market sphere — i.e., the public and private sectors. Not so, says Monbiot, for there are really “four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons.”

This maps perfectly well with TIMN’s four evolutionary forms: tribes, institutions, markets, and networks. The household sector, first recognized by Aristotle, took shape, mostly around families, ages ago as the T/tribal form arose. Monbiot notes that this sector goes unrecognized these days, yet its activities (e.g., home health care) greatly subsidize the next two sectors. The state and market sectors fit respectively with TIMN’s +I/institutional form and the later +M/market form. As for the commons sector, Monbiot observes that it emerged ages ago, then got mostly enclosed and disregarded by political and economic elites, and is only now making a comeback. As for TIMN, it expects the rise of the +N/network form to generate a separate new sector in the decades ahead, most likely a commons sector. Today, recognition of its importance, distinctiveness, and future potential is growing anew, thanks partly to writings by Elinor Ostrom and to theory-and-practice efforts by activist outfits like The P2P Foundation and the Commons Strategies Group.

So, Monbiot’s four sectors map well with TIMN. But that’s not all that is TIMN-ish here. He further argues that all four are so valuable that they should be kept in “balance” — a strategic dynamic in TIMN theory — by working to strengthen the weaker two, namely households and commons. Finally, while he doesn’t offer an explicitly evolutionary viewpoint à la TIMN, he hints that a proper recognition of all four sectors could induce “the social and environmental transformation for which so many of us have been waiting.” TIMN foresees that as well.

Here are some eye-catching passages:
“Both sides seem to agree that state and market are the only sectors worth discussing: politics should move one way or the other along this linear scale. In fact, there are four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons. The neglect of the last two by both neoliberals and social democrats has created many of the monstrosities of our times.” …

“I’m not proposing we abandon either market or state, but that we balance them by defending and expanding the two neglected sectors.” …

“I hope such parties can take the obvious step, and recognise that the economy has four sectors, not two. That’s the point at which it can begin: the social and environmental transformation for which so many of us have been waiting.”
How far Monbiot can/will continue to move in this direction, I’ve no idea, for his writings are fairly new to me. He is somewhere on the Left. But that’s fine with me, for now I can add his name to the few other writers, all on the Left, who are also developing frameworks that have much in common with TIMN, notably Michel Bauwens and Kojin Karatani. I’m still waiting and hoping for thinkers on the Right to become more TIMN-ish.

A step I wish Monbiot had taken — it’s somewhat implied but not stated explicitly — is to point out that his four-part design would make a sound basis for crafting a new political narrative that reorients how people think about current trends and also looks far ahead to a brighter future. He does write appealingly about the importance of political narratives in a prior article (I’ll point to it in the first comment below), but he has yet to put it all together. I want to do likewise with (and for) TIMN, but I’m moving and maneuvering awfully slowly these days.



As noted above, here’s the article (and book) where Monbiot provides a stirring analysis of the importance of “powerful political narratives”, in which he observes that:

“The first observation is the least original. It is the realisation that it is not strong leaders or parties that dominate politics as much as powerful political narratives. The political history of the second half of the 20th century could be summarised as the conflict between its two great narratives: the stories told by Keynesian social democracy and by neoliberalism.” …

“But because we have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to replace our tired political stories with a compelling narrative of transformation and restoration, we have failed to realise this potential. As we rekindle our imagination, we discover our power to act. And that is the point at which we become unstoppable.”


[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Oct 17.]

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The NRA in light of STA:C and TIMN: libertine and tribal — not truly conservative:

An excerpt from an old 2016 post, prompted in part by seeing reactions by the NRA and its cohorts to the recent mass-murder shooting in Las Vegas:

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My work on people’s space-time-action orientations and their import for cognition and culture (STA:C) indicates that conservatives think largely in terms of boundaries, far more so than progressives (they think more in terms of horizons). The NRA and its Republican cohorts claim to be highly conservative. Yet their views about guns are so lacking in boundaries as to mean they are not truly conservative — instead, they seem virtually libertine.

There are only a few issue areas where Republican conservatives favor largely unbounded policies. Guns is one such area, perhaps the major one. Here, their alignment with the NRA’s policies and positions is said to express conservatism. Yet, from what I’ve seen, the NRA and its fans have little sense of boundaries regarding gun production, technology, marketing, and ownership. They evidently believe that the more guns and the fewer the boundaries, the better for themselves and for American society and culture. Thus, if I look at the cognitive underpinnings from a STA:C perspective, the NRA’s positions are so unbounded that they contradict true conservatism.

Meanwhile, I gather some NRA proponents argue that the NRA is more a libertarian than a conservative actor. Some libertarians in particular seem to believe this. But the NRA has not embraced this view. Besides, a thorough libertarian would surely favor letting people acquire “smart guns” if that’s what they wanted, and wouldn’t necessarily oppose research on gun-related violence.

From all this, it seems reasonable to conclude, from a STA:C standpoint, that the NRA and its cohorts are not so conservative as they claim. Nor are they liberal in an old-fashioned pro-freedoms sense. And they’re not thoroughly libertarian either. Instead, when it comes to guns, their positions are essentially libertine — not quite in a dictionary-definition way, but close enough. For the NRA and its Republican cohorts espouse a kind of boundless “free love” for guns that seems a functional equivalent of the libertine “free love” for groins that Hippies used to tout in the 1960s. All self-servingly in the name of individualism, freedom, self-expression, and tribal identity — yet so lacking in boundaries as to contradict traditional conservatism.

Meanwhile, the NRA and its Republican cohorts have generated a significant boundary that is in keeping with today’s conservatism: a tribal boundary. The NRA and its cohorts seem to have evolved collectively much like a tribal identity movement built around “identity politics”, in ways that work to keep allies in line and outsiders at bay. The tribal boundary is the most important boundary I can find involving the NRA and its conservative Republican cohorts. (Tribalism has been evident among Republicans for years, as I once tried to lay out here.)

And how does this manifest itself? Extreme tribalists divide the world between “us” and “them”. They stress group identity, loyalty, and solidarity — kinships, brotherhoods, sisterhoods. They constantly talk about honor, pride, dignity, and respect. They flash totems and slogans. They claim tradition and purity for their side. They vilify and demonize opponents. They believe it’s morally okay — maybe not politically-correct, but tribally-correct for sure — to lie to and about outsiders. They readily turn combative and uncompromising. They force people to take sides, to become tribal. They shun moderates once on their side. They engage in magical and conspiratorial thinking about their prospects. Et cetera. And of course they accuse the other side — in this case, gun-control advocates — of tribalism.

This overall pattern of thought and action is common wherever people become susceptible to an excessive malignant tribalism. And it looks to me that the NRA has become bound up in it, partly as a way to advance its own institutional interests, but also as a way to claim a mantle of conservatism that, according to my understanding of STA:C, is questionable, if not in error.

I have no particular interest in the NRA. I’m fine with the Second Amendment and with owning some guns. I’m not steeped in gun policy matters, pro or con. I’ve no policy recommendations to push. And I suppose I’d be wiser to stay focused on other matters about STA:C and TIMN. But the NRA sure is an interesting creature from both STA:C and TIMN standpoints.

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Here’s a blog post from last year that elaborates on what I say above. I’d meant to go do a second post about how the NRA may correspond to what Jane Jacobs called “monstrous moral hybrids”, because of the ways the NRA mixes TIMN’s tribal, institutional, market, and network dynamics. Plus a third speculative post proposing that, if/as TIMN’s +N form takes hold in the decades ahead, creating a new commons sector that will subsume some of the resources and activities currently in the grip of our aging public and private sectors, then it may make sense to regard the Second Amendment as an assurance commons, having quite an effect on gun policy. But I’m not there yet…

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Oct 4.]

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Readings on tribes and tribalism — #18: Andrew Sullivan, “Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism” (2017)

Like I was sayin’ … just when I was wondering whether to continue this series urging thinking about tribes and tribalism systematically, not just as a synonym, or move on to something else, along comes this incisive sweeping article by Andrew Sullivan, “Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism” (2017), that illuminates both the bright and dark sides of the tribal form while recognizing its essential nature. One of the best readings yet in this series — at least that’s my view today. Also worthy are review articles it has stirred up, especially Michael Gershon’s (as I’ve posted in the comments section).

I’m too slow right now to provide a substantial write-up, but here’s an excerpt that will, I hope, spur you to read the full article:
“I mean a new and compounding combination of all these differences into two coherent tribes, eerily balanced in political power, fighting not just to advance their own side but to provoke, condemn, and defeat the other.
“I mean two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own. I mean two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white; where one tribe lives on the coasts and in the cities and the other is scattered across a rural and exurban expanse; where one tribe holds on to traditional faith and the other is increasingly contemptuous of religion altogether; where one is viscerally nationalist and the other’s outlook is increasingly global; where each dominates a major political party; and, most dangerously, where both are growing in intensity as they move further apart.
“The project of American democracy — to live beyond such tribal identities, to construct a society based on the individual, to see ourselves as citizens of a people’s republic, to place religion off-limits, and even in recent years to embrace a multiracial and post-religious society — was always an extremely precarious endeavor. It rested, from the beginning, on an 18th-century hope that deep divides can be bridged by a culture of compromise, and that emotion can be defeated by reason. It failed once, spectacularly, in the most brutal civil war any Western democracy has experienced in modern times. And here we are, in an equally tribal era, with a deeply divisive president who is suddenly scrambling Washington’s political alignments, about to find out if we can prevent it from failing again. …
“Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life.”


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Sullivan's article stirred up lots of commentary.

Here’s Michael Gerson’s up-beat review, “Tribalism triumphs in America”(2017:

Here’s a down-beat review by Isaac Chotiner, “Andrew Sullivan’s simplistic diagnosis— and unrealistic cure—for what ails us” (2017):

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Sept 20.]

Monday, October 30, 2017

Molly McKew on Russian information ops and the Gerasimov doctrine:

Molly McKew is a leading analyst of Russian information operations. I’ve posted her writings three times before. Here’s her latest. It illuminates what’s called the Gerasimov Doctrine, which is constructed largely around soft-power measures for dividing and confounding people’s thinking and thus their behavior in a target society — in this case America.

Here’s an excerpt:
“The United States is the latest target. The Russian security state defines America as the primary adversary. The Russians know they can’t compete head-to-head with us—economically, militarily, technologically—so they create new battlefields. They are not aiming to become stronger than us, but to weaken us until we are equivalent.
“Russia might not have hacked American voting machines, but by selectively amplifying targeted disinformation and misinformation on social media—sometimes using materials acquired by hacking—and forging de facto information alliances with certain groups in the United States, it arguably won a significant battle without most Americans realizing it ever took place. The U.S. electoral system is the heart of the world’s most powerful democracy, and now—thanks to Russian actions—we’re locked in a national argument over its legitimacy. We’re at war with ourselves, and the enemy never fired a physical shot. “The information space opens wide asymmetrical possibilities for reducing the fighting potential of the enemy,” Gerasimov writes. (He also writes of using “internal opposition to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”)
“Not all Russia-watchers agree on the Gerasimov Doctrine’s importance. Some say this is simply a new and well-articulated version of what Russians have always done, or that Putin is inflated as an all-powerful boogeyman, or that competition among the various oligarchic factions within the Kremlin means there is no central strategic purpose to their activities. But there’s no question that Russian intervention is systematic and multi-layered. This structure challenges us, because we don’t necessarily understand how it has been put into practice; like all guerrilla doctrine, it prioritizes conservation of resources and decentralization, which makes it harder to detect and follow. And strategically, its goals aren’t the ones we’re used to talking about. The Kremlin isn’t picking a winner; it’s weakening the enemy and building an environment in which anyone but the Kremlin loses.
“Herein lies the real power of the Gerasimov-style shadow war: It’s hard to muster resistance to an enemy you can’t see, or aren’t even sure is there. But it’s not an all-powerful approach; the shadowy puppeteering at the heart of the Gerasimov Doctrine also makes it inherently fragile. Its tactics begin to fail when light is thrown onto how they work and what they aim to achieve. This requires leadership and clarity about the threat—which we saw briefly in France, when the government rallied to warn voters about Russian info ops in advance of the presidential election. For now, though, America is still in the dark—not even on defense, let alone offense.”

Here’s the full article:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Sept 11.]

Brief blurts about tribes and tribalism — Anne-Marie Slaughter:

Frankly, I’ve never cottoned much to her writings. Yes, she has helped spread new ideas about the importance of information-age network designs. But, her writings about networks have always struck me as more derivative than innovative, years behind the cutting-edge.

However, in this interview she makes an attractive point that fits well with TIMN-type thinking — “we have too many tribes and not enough networks”. But much as I cotton to that pithy quote, what she means is not spelled-out anywhere I can find, and not particularly clear to me. And her point that “we need different networks for different purposes” is sound but very old news

Here's the full quote:
“Knowledge@Wharton: Does the building of networks become even more of a challenge right now because of this fracturing in American society among different people with different backgrounds?
“Slaughter: “Yes, I would say we have way too many tribes and not enough networks. In other words, we’ve got plenty of people who are deeply and closely connected to people who think like them. It is well documented that as we are more segregated into red and blue communities and more segregated by class, we are less likely to come into contact with people who think differently than we do. Some of these more old-fashioned civic networks — Little League, the United Way — brought us together in ways that we were connected to others who were different. We need to rebuild a lot of that. It’s harder now.
“”Again, lots of people will say, “I know I need a network.” But my point is, not just a network — we need different networks for different purposes.””

[Brought over from my Facebook page post, September 5.]

Brief blurts about tribes and tribalism — Charles Blow (twice)

“And, when I say army, I’m not speaking solely of armed militia, although there is a staggering number of guns continuously being put into circulation. As the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action wrote in June: “Each month of Trump’s presidency has seen over two million firearm-related background checks. Only in 2016, when Americans faced losing their Second Amendment rights forever, did the F.B.I. run more checks during a January to April period.” I’m also talking about the unarmed, but unwavering: the army of zombie zealots.

“How do you raise an army?

“You do that by dividing America into tribes and, as “president,” aligning yourself with the most extreme tribe, all the while promoting militarization among people who support you.”

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“This is the man we have: one who doesn’t want to lead a country but wants to rule a tribe.”

[Brought over from my Facebook page post, September 4.]

Monday, September 4, 2017

Brief blurts about tribes and tribalism — Karen Attiah:

““The Americans on both sides of the political spectrum like to talk about identity politics, or white identity,” said Mustapha Okango, a Kenyan anthropologist based in Nairobi. “The Americans like to lecture us and other Africans about keeping tribalism out of our politics and putting country ahead of our ethnic groups. America’s institutions are strong. But when I saw the images of those white men in polos carrying Party City tiki torches and weapons, it’s pretty clear American white tribal politics are alive and well, explicitly fueled by President Trump’s regime. White supremacy doesn’t just hurt blacks or other minority groups, it hurts the whole country. Take it from us Kenyans, it’s a dangerous recipe. We had hoped better for America.””

[Brought over from my Facebook page post, September 2.]

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Brief blurts about tribes and tribalism — Intro to a new series + Robert Wright

In posting a series of readings on Facebook that express sustained views about the significance of tribes and tribalism in America (and sometimes elsewhere), I’ve passed over many good short quotes where the author is making more a passing or wrap-up remark than a sustained article-length argument. By now I’ve accumulated so many of these, and many are pithy so and illuminating, I figure I might as well pass them along in quick blurts.
So here we go, in no particular order.
Robert Wright:
“… But I will say that the evidence I see for purpose includes not just the direction of biological evolution, but the direction of technological evolution and of the broader social and cultural evolution it drives — the evolution that has carried us from hunter-gatherer bands to the brink of a cohesive global community. And if the purpose involves sustaining this direction — becoming a true global community — then it would seem to include moral progress. In particular, our purpose would involve transcending the psychology of tribalism that can otherwise divide people along ethnic, national, religious and ideological lines. Which would mean — in light of recent political and social developments in the United States and abroad — that our work is cut out for us.”

[Brought over from my Facebook page post, September 1.]

Friday, August 25, 2017

What TIMN is good for — #3: explaining systemic corruption, cont. (Chayes on Trump)

Let’s wrap up this three-part effort to compare the CEIP and TIMN frameworks as ways to explain systemic corruption.


I hope you agree that Chayes' study of Honduras, the focus of my prior post in this three-part series, helps to verify TIMN, by showing that systemic corruption is likely to arise and endure in societies where the T (tribal, for want of a better term) form, broadly-defined, is tenaciously, even improperly strong, and the TIMN forms as a whole are not well separated and shielded from each other. The stronger that T-type forces and actors are, and the more they penetrate into the other TIMN forms and sectors of activity, then the more prone that society will be to systemic corruption.
Meanwhile, unlike Honduras, the United States and its government are supposed to be relatively immune to systemic corruption. Madisonian checks and balances, along with preventive regulations and professional ethics, supposedly see to that. Also, our culture has gotten the T form mostly right for a long time, such that its more corrupt clannish actors haven’t been able to thoroughly penetrate and distort activities that pertain to the other TIMN forms. 
But there's been a lot of slippage over the decades, particularly of late. CEIP’s Sarah Chayes notices this in "Trump and the Path Toward Kleptocracy" (2017). Let’s use it as a fitting ending for this three-part series about her work.
• Her theme is quite jarring (though I’ve wondered about the possibility for a while) — the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency raises concerns about kleptocratic corruption networks spreading and taking hold inside our American systems.
“Ever since President Donald Trump took office, people have been struggling to explain his administration’s sometimes sharp departures from American norms. Theories have ranged from personality disorders to alarms about the potential birth of an American autocracy.
“Let me suggest another: kleptocracy. The Trump administration, its personnel and early practices, resembles nothing so much as a kleptocratic network of the type seen in many developing countries and post-Soviet states. No, I am not implying that Trump is about to turn the U.S. into a banana republic. But Americans would do well to scrutinize nascent changes in the ways the most powerful sectors of our society are interacting.”
• Mounting signs of this include the rubbing-out of boundaries between the public and private sectors, and the rising use of family members and cronies by top leaders:
“One feature of these networks is their horizontal integration. Americans can get into heated arguments about which is more pernicious, the public or the private sector. But we presume there is a distinction between the two. In kleptocracies, that line is rubbed out.”
“A common trend in all these places is how family members serve as ligaments binding the intertwined systems together.”
• Drawing on her extensive research on kleptocratic systems around the world, Chayes warns that “capture” of the judicial system by the Trump administration would be a particularly ominous sign:
“Of all government functions, though, the institution that kleptocratic networks absolutely must capture in order to survive is the justice system. It’s not merely that corrupt leaders need to protect themselves. It’s that their networks are held together by a bargain. Subordinate members funnel a part of their take upward to their seniors. This goes for everything from “petty” bribes extorted by cops or teachers at street level up to public procurement fraud on multimillion-dollar contracts. In return, those at the top guarantee impunity down the line. If the deal is violated, the system collapses.”
• Here, then, is what she concludes from her years of analyzing kleptocratic corruption networks around the world:
“First, it is impossible to operate in economic sectors controlled by such networks — in places like Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Kazakhstan or Turkey — without becoming entangled. …
“Second, networks are stubborn, flexible, resilient structures. In case after recent case, sanctioning a top network member, even bringing down a government, has failed to eradicate the network and its practices.”
• All these observations and considerations, she concludes, put America at risk, especially with an administration like Trump’s in power:
“The lesson for Americans is this. These networks are like weeds, and it takes far more than the punishment of a few crimes, even spectacular ones, or the removal of a few people to fully uproot their tendrils from the economic and political institutions we hold dear.”
• Her article also provides further grist for worrying and warning that the divisive cronyism, clannishness, and tribalism infecting our country are having adverse effects on our democracy. Indeed, a variant of my TIMN contention about corruption stemming from the strength of T-heavy forces and actors applies to understanding why so many societies fail to develop into liberal democracies — a TIMN topic for another day.

To read for yourself, go here:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Aug 25.]

What TIMN is good for — #3: explaining systemic corruption, cont. (TIMN vis à vis Chayes’ Honduras analysis)

Can TIMN — a potentially grand theory of social evolution — explain a condition so mundane and counter-evolutionary as corruption? Yes it can; and its ability to do so is a natural logical result of TIMN’s structure — primarily because TIMN is built atop the nature of the T (tribal) form. As that form goes, so goes much of the rest of a society's evolution.
Many theorists and commentators today — from Right to Left — keep emphasizing economic factors and conditions as explanations for what is going on. TIMN does not deny their importance; but it does imply, even insist, that conditions etc. at the socio-tribal level may be more determinative than is commonly recognized. Analyses of corruption help confirm this. 
My prior post was about Sarah Chayes’ initial efforts, starting years ago, to use network analysis to illuminate systemic corruption. This post focuses on her most recent case study. Once again, my goal is to show that TIMN is (equally? better?) suited to explaining corruption


Chayes has done a series of country studies using the network-analysis framework she and CEIP laid out in 2014. Her latest study — “When Corruption Is the Operating System: The Case of Honduras” (2017) — provides the best application yet.
• First, Chayes provides an articulate reiteration of the theme she has pursued or years — that systemic corruption is more a function of networks than of individuals: 
“In some five dozen countries worldwide, corruption can no longer be understood as merely the iniquitous doings of individuals. Rather, it is the operating system of sophisticated networks that cross sectoral and national boundaries’ in their drive to maximize returns for their members. Honduras offers a prime example of such intertwined, or “integrated,” transnational kleptocratic networks.”
“It is no longer possible to think of corruption as just the iniquitous doings of individuals, be they street-level bribe payers, government officials, or business executives. In the five dozen or so countries of which Honduras is emblematic, corruption is the operating system of sophisticated networks that link together public and private sectors and out-and-out criminals — including killers — and whose main objective is maximizing returns for network members. Corruption is built into the functioning of such countries’ institutions. And, like the criminal organizations that are threaded through their fabrics, the networks cross international boundaries. Exchanging favors and establishing beachheads with partners and service-providers around the globe, they might best be considered transnational kleptocratic networks.”
• Chayes then finds that networked corruption in Honduras — much like elsewhere — is structured around “three interlocking spheres” of kleptocrats: a private, a public, and a criminal sphere or sector.  As she puts it, 
“The principle is to examine in turn the public, private, and criminal sectors, as well as outside people and institutions [enablers] that are interacting with the political economy of a given country, for signs that they are colluding in the illegitimate capture of wealth on behalf of network members — that they are, in effect, looting the commons.”
These are not separate or separable sectors, for they are crisscrossed by kinship, friendship, and and other collusive connections that serve to network all together. As she sees it, 
“The novelty of this framing is its focus on the interpenetration of the three sectors. A ranking government official may have a brother who provides legal services to a drug cartel, or be married to the CEO of a company that depends on public contracts or permits. Individuals may cycle in and out of business and government. is flexible interweaving of the strands of kleptocratic networks is what makes them so resilient. So it is worth exploring the different ways that interpenetration is manifested. Are individuals wearing two hats, for example, playing a role in the public and the private sectors simultaneously and thus serving as a node linking the networks? Are key leaders in one sector represented in others by a nephew or a confidante? Or does an exchange of favors constitute the main form of interaction between one sector and another?”
As Chayes shows, examples of “all three categories of intersection are abundant” within Honduras’s kleptocratic sectors, as are network ties that stretch transnationally. 
• While Chayes discusses details about corruption networks in all three sectors — public, private, and criminal — what caught my TIMNista eye is her observation that traditional old families of “shared Levantine origins” dominate the private-sector networks. For me, this verifies that much corruption is traditionally rooted in clannish T-based actors.
Yet, important as these Levantine circles are, Honduras’ business world is far larger than them. It contains many business actors who are not part of the corruption networks: 
“The individuals or families referred to here as private-sector members of Honduras’s kleptocratic network by no means control the nation’s entire economy. Plenty of businesses exist outside the network: the small restaurants that line the roads and city streets, small-scale manufacturing for local or regional consumption, agriculture — even much coffee cultivation, processing, and export — do not fall within the networks’ purview.”
Indeed, the kleptocratic private-sector networks, as well as the public- and criminal-sector ones, are quite selective in what they pursue: 
“Kleptocratic networks focus on those economic activities that are most likely to generate and concentrate exponential returns in relatively few hands, especially by way of government favoritism, or that are most likely to attract significant international financing. In Honduras as elsewhere, banking, energy and natural resources, export agriculture (licit or illicit), and large-scale construction are prime targets of network predation.”
• In analyzing relations among the three corruption networks, Chayes is careful to clarify that, while each operates quite separately and distinctly, all “are bound together by a kind of elite bargain”, whereby “different revenue streams tend to accrue to different elements of the network.”
Accordingly, the corrupt private-sector networks span banking, energy, palm oil, construction, fast food, and various other business enterprises. The kleptocratic political networks are found in Congress, the judiciary, the police, prisons, and varied regulatory commissions and agencies. The criminal networks occupy narcotics trafficking and smuggling, human trafficking, gangs and other armed groups. Her study provides details about these and other network elements, as well as about internal and external enablers. These “enablers” are crucial because “kleptocratic governing systems” require that “agencies displaying independence or representing a potential threat to network interests are intentionally hamstrung or short-circuited.”
• Historically, network collusions existed mostly between the public- and private sector components. However, “In the past decade or so, both the elite public- and private-sector circles have been establishing increasingly close connections with the out-and-out criminal networks that run the narcotics trade as well as other types of smuggling, such as trafficking in people.” 
• From a comparative viewpoint, Chayes observes that Honduras’s corruption networks, particularly in the private sector, are generally more fractious and autonomous than those prevailing in more highly structured, clan-dominated societies elsewhere:
“The networks that have been ushered into control of the Honduran political economy by this process are perhaps less unitary than those of such highly structured kleptocracies as Azerbaijan, or Cambodia, or Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s Tunisia. In those countries, the private sector is or was almost entirely dominated by subordinate members of the ruler’s clan. In today’s Honduras, by contrast, the public, private, and criminal sectors, while closely intertwined, are quite fractious and retain at least some autonomy.”


My contention from a TIMN perspective is that corruption is largely a function of how the T/tribal form evolves in a society. Corruption is most likely to take hold in societies where dark sides of the T form, broadly-defined, are tenaciously strong, and the TIMN forms as a whole are not properly separated and shielded from each other. The stronger that dark T-type forces and actors are in a society, and the more they can subvert that society’s other TIMN forms and sectors of activity, then the more prone that society will be to systemic corruption. Indeed, many societies that are systemically corrupt — e.g., Iraq, Mexico, and Russia, not to mention myriad other societies that remain historically unable to resist corruption — are societies where T-type actors can willfully penetrate +I (government, military), +M (business), and newer  +N (networked civil society?) sectors for predatory purposes. Analysts of corruption should look for explanations not just in a society’s government, business, or civil-society sectors, but rather, and I’d say above all, in what TIMN treats as its “tribal” (for want of a better term) sectors and practices.
That’s the TIMN contention I’ve wondered about for years. That’s the contention I fielded in my first post in this three-part series. And that’s what I’d say is now borne out by my look at Chayes’ study of systemic corruption in Honduras.
To confirm this, I’d say only two criteria need to be met. The first is that the purveyors of systemic corruption pertain primarily to TIMN’s T form, far more than to any other TIMN form. Chayes’ study provides ample evidence that systemic corruption in Honduras revolves around blood and fictive kinship networks that are based on family, clan, gang, buddy, and similar personal solidarity ties. Some may result in what look like modern professional organizations, yet their internal cultures remain quite tribal and they remain embedded parts of Honduras’s “kleptocratic corruption networks”. In sum, they do indeed pertain far more to TIMN’s T form than to its +I, +M. or +N forms of organization and behavior.
The second criterion is that these purveyors of systemic corruption are so strong and so committed to the T form that they work to prevent every other TIMN form from developing properly. They don’t want clean, professional, independent, government agencies or business enterprises to develop, possibly to deny and displace their influence. To this end, they have numerous network nodes embedded throughout the government and business worlds. Chayes’ study of Honduras provides extensive evidence for this second TIMN criterion.
Overall, then, Chayes’ approach is excellent. Plus, her approach can be extended to make points that TIMN makes — e.g., systemic corruption hinders liberal democracy from taking hold. But I hasten to add that TIMN, besides allowing for similar network analyses of corruption, has a distinct advantage: its evolutionary orientation. TIMN automatically perceives that systemic corruption is associated with the earliest form of organization — the tribal form — and that the enduring strength of the dark sides of this form leads to distortions and and delays in the proper development of the later +I, +M, and +N forms. Among other matters, this explains the failure of countries like Honduras to become liberal democracies, despite U.S. policy and strategy efforts to the contrary.


In discussing how to counter Honduras’s kleptocratic networks, Chayes points to the growing efforts of activist civil-society NGOs in various issue areas. They presently operate mostly on their own, apart from each other. She proposes they begin to form into their own “positive networks". Thus, according to Chayes,
“The foregoing picture is dark. But Honduras is also a place where members of the research team were struck and inspired by the countervailing models they found, whose precepts and practices held promise for confronting challenges extending far beyond the country’s borders. For an analysis like this to be most effective, it must include a similarly careful examination of constructive networks and individuals. Some of the grassroots organizations we visited were actively building networks with allies both inside and outside Honduras, by way of frequent visits and meetings to pursue common agenda items. But often those constructive actors are just individuals, lacking the resilient network structure that characterizes their kleptocratic counterparts. Part of the task of reinforcing them would be to study what it might look like for them to be more effectively woven together in such a hostile context.”
I'm pleased to see Chayes say this, not only because it's a good hopeful idea, but also because it resembles our old RAND work on "social netwar" in the information age, echoing our 1997 maxim that "It takes networks to fight networks." It also fits with TIMN’s claim that +N forms are on the rise, and that they will restructure societies and alter the course of social evolution. The kleptocratic corruption networks she analyzes are, from a TIMN viewpoint, relics of the malingering strength of the T or tribal form and their enduring ability to subvert and deform the +I state and +M market forms. Hopefully, civil society can give rise to NGO networks that start to push and pull Honduran society in +N directions, while limiting and confining the roles of T-type kleptocrats vis à vis the +I and +M sectors.
Yet this will prove a daunting challenge, given what these civil-society actors are up against. As Chayes stated during a podcast discussion about her new book, Thieves of the State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (2016), “We’re not looking at a government that’s failing because of corruption … rather, we’re looking at a criminal enterprise succeeding because it’s masquerading as a government.”

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Aug 24.]

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What TIMN is good for — #3: explaining systemic corruption (TIMN vs. CEIP’s framework)

Corruption keeps thriving around the world, constantly hindering  social, economic, political, and military modernization, while also interfering with U.S. policy and strategy abroad. TIMN offers a way to look at corruption that is different from (better than?) the ways it is usually viewed. I’ll argue this by comparing what TIMN implies about systemic corruption to what is currently considered the best framework for analyzing systemic corruption — the one under development by Sarah Chayes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). 


From a TIMN perspective, corruption is largely a function of what’s happened to the T/tribal form. Systemic corruption is most likely to arise and endure in societies where dark sides of the T (tribal) form, broadly-defined, are tenaciously strong, and the TIMN forms as a whole are not well separated and shielded from each other. The stronger that dark T-type forces and actors are, and the more they can subvert the other TIMN forms and sectors of activity, then the more prone that society will be to systemic corruption. Indeed, many societies that are systemically corrupt — e.g., Iraq, Mexico, and Russia, not to mention dozens of other societies that remain historically unable to resist corruption — are societies where T-type actors can willfully penetrate and collude with particular +I government and +M business sectors for predatory purposes. Analysts of corruption should look for explanations not simply in a society’s government, business, or civil-society sectors but rather, and above all, in what TIMN treats as its “tribal” (for want of a better term) sectors and practices.
By T-type forces, I refer in this instance to practices of patronage, nepotism, cronyism, personalism, clientelism, favoritism, clannism, clubby old-boy networks, and the like, all based on some notion of mutual kinship and identity — as well as to related practices of clan intermarriage, sweetheart deals, insider deals, kickback schemes, compromised gifting, shady dealings, etc. Such practices are often standard in cultures that rest on extended family and clan systems, more than on nuclear families. Such practices tend to strengthen tribe- and clan-oriented priorities, and to keep the other TIMN forms from arising and developing in the separate professional rule-based ways that best suit them (as I've discussed before elsewhere). 
This TIMN contention may seem like saying "it's the culture" — indeed, that's what's often said about corruption. That's OK with me, so long as the sayer goes on to see that the cultural factors at stake mainly pertain to the T/tribal form; that each TIMN form favors a particular kind of culture, just as a particular culture may favor one or another TIMN form; that it is best for social evolution if the bright sides of a form prevail over the dark sides; and that if any one form (and its culture) is too strong, it will subvert, distort, and unbalance the other TIMN forms. The more a believer in “culture” understands this, the more he or she will see that TIMN helps explain systemic corruption by nesting it in a framework about social evolution that emphasizes the enduring “tribal” bases of all societies. TIMN can take analysis farther than old it's-the-culture lines of reasoning, which haven't gotten analysis very far.
But can it take analysis farther than CEIP’s recent turn to network analysis? Indeed, the limitations of prior analyses about corruption, including cultural analyses, is one of the reasons CEIP’s researchers turned to network analysis.


For years, the best studies of systemic corruption have come from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and its senior analyst Sarah Chayes. So I’m using them as reference points for this post — though most everything I've read about corruption provides further evidence for my TIMN contention.
CEIP and Chayes are on the cutting-edge of analysis because they’ve come to view corruption as a functional system operated by kleptocratic networks, and because Chayes has turned to network science as a method of analysis. This is an advance over older views  of corruption that treated it as a pathological dysfunctional system run by individuals and groups determined to exploit a permissive environment.
A seminal study showing this is the landmark CEIP working-group study titled Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security (2014). It appears to be written mostly by Chayes. 
• The following passages lay out CEIP’s then-innovative approach:
"Acute corruption should be understood not as a failure or distortion of government but as a functioning system in which ruling networks use selected levers of power to capture specific revenue streams. This effort often overshadows activities connected with running a state." 
"Corruption is typically seen as a pathology, a fraying at the edges of a system or, at worst, a sign of system failure. Consequently, much of the work to devise remedies is entrusted to aid agencies and local civil society actors, whose hard-fought efforts strive for small-scale, concrete successes. These interventions tend to be focused on remedying technical deficiencies or building capacity.
"But in a range of countries around the globe, corruption is the system. Governments have been repurposed to serve an objective that has little to do with public administration: the personal enrichment of ruling networks. And they achieve this aim quite effectively. Capacity deficits and other weaknesses may be part of the way the system functions, rather than reflecting a breakdown."
• The CEIP study then distinguishes between two types of "acutely corrupt countries” — and subsequent case studies focus mostly on the first:
"… The first consists of those whose corruption is relatively structured, whose governing systems have been bent to benefit one or a very few cliques, best thought of as networks. States may have one or multiple kleptocratic networks, which often coexist only uneasily. …
"The second category of severely corrupt states is somewhat different. It includes those that may experience pervasive corruption, but without the same degree of consolidation at the top of the pyramid."
• Despite the utility of drawing such distinctions among types and degrees of systemic corruption, the CEIP study sagely observes that making too many typological distinctions — disaggregating to an excessive degree — can turn out to be analytically misleading. For “different types of corruption … [often] prove to be interconnected elements of a fairly unified system whose structure and vertical integration such descriptions underestimate.” A good example comes from Chayes field work in Afghanistan:
“Similarly, emphasis on different “types” of corruption within a single country can also be misleading. When the U.S. government was developing anti-corruption policy for Afghanistan in late 2010, the underlying analysis made a sharp distinction between “grand corruption,” perpetrated by political leaders, “petty corruption,” which was seen as greasing the wheels of public administration and therefore not a concern, and “predatory corruption” — largely defined as police shakedowns — which was described as most offensive to ordinary people. Usually, however, different types of corruption like these prove to be interconnected elements of a fairly unified system whose structure and vertical integration such descriptions underestimate. To entirely disaggregate them is akin to describing the steering and brakes of a car as two entirely separate machines."
• Against this background, CEIP calls for new and better methods of analysis — i.e., network analysis:
"A better understanding of the [networked] nature of acute corruption and its implications for international security — as well as systematic analysis of the costs of not addressing it and the availability of “least bad” alternatives — would contribute to improved policy and practice in government, civil society, and business."
To my disappointment, this CEIP study didn't specify how to apply network analysis; but at least it found that "networks" are a choice optic for viewing the problem. This is an advance over saying that corruption is a function of “bad-apples” and other isolates — e.g., particular individuals, families, groups, clans, gangs, etc. — who may be operating alone or in collusive alliances. The network optic allows for a broader, more systematic, insightful way of analyzing and addressing systemic corruption (as should become clearer in the next two posts, also based on Chayes’ work).


Remember, I'm not claiming that TIMN is “better” than the CEIP framework. But TIMN can offer a comparably good understanding of systemic corruption — partly because TIMN has some network-analysis qualities in common with the CEIP framework, but mostly because TIMN has built-in evolutionary qualities that the CEIP framework lacks.
The two frameworks certainly differ as to their purposes. CEIP’s is designed for a specific purpose: analyzing corruption around the world. In contrast, TIMN is a broad framework for analyzing social evolution across the ages and into the future — TIMN’s ability to explain systemic corruption is a byproduct.
Moreover, the two frameworks differ in their treatment of “networks”. Whereas the CEIP framework is entirely about networks, TIMN is only partly about networks. What the CEIP / Chayes framework mean by “networks” is what network scientists and social network analysts generally mean — viewing people, organizations, and other actors and entities as sets of nodes and links (ties, connections), with multi-node, multi-hub, small-world, and other complex network structures often being the result. It's a newish way of viewing and analyzing social relationships such that all social relationships (including all four TIMN forms) are deemed to be “networks” or variants thereof. Quite an advance over saying that corruption is primarily a function of “bad apples” or other isolates and outliers.
In contrast, TIMN is primarily about the evolution of four different forms of organization — in historical order, the tribal, institutional, market, and lately the new network forms. Thus, as a framework partly about future evolution, TIMN is keenly concerned with prospects for the emerging +N network form. Yet just because that's TIMN’s key concern regarding “networks”, TIMN does’t deny or stand apart from Chayes’ or anyone else’s concern with applying social network analysis to the study of systemic corruption. TIMN is entirely amenable to that. But the networks it says to look for are not just any social networks à la Chayes, nor are they TIMN’s specialized +N-type networks.
Rather, TIMN points to the kinds of networks most  associated with systemic corruption and related criminal and other clannish enterprises: i.e., kinship networks — the kinds that stem from family and fictive kinship bonds, that elevate group over individual identities, that value principles of group honor, respect pride, and dignity above almost all else, that justify solidarity and sharing among insiders but have no problems with predation against outsiders, etc. In other words, the kinds of social networks associated with TIMN’s T/tribal form — the kinds that can produce inveterate criminals as well as good citizens.
In Chayes’ framework, “networks” are essentially abstract academic constructions that turn out to be occupied by corrupt kleptocrats. But in TIMN the analytical eye gets directed right away to the archetypal tribal form and, as a result, how these kleptocratic networks affect — subvert, distort, stall? — the development of the other TIMN forms. Because of this evolutionary quality, I'd argue that, TIMN has an analytical strength that is lacking in the CEIP / Chayes framework.
As I offer these comparisons, I'm not proposing that Chayes take account of TIMN in her future work (though I believe it'd help). What I am pointing out is that TIMN implies a similar approach to analyzing systemic corruption: Both frameworks imply looking not for the kinds of isolates and outliers mentioned above but rather for the kinds of social and organizational networks that weave perpetrators together, in a sense becoming “information multipliers” and “force multipliers” to their benefit. No wonder Chayes now views systemic corruption as a functional system. TIMN further enables us to understand that what may seem functional for a system may also be supremely dysfunctional for a society's long-term evolutionary potential.
I hope to make this more evident as we move into the next post.

To read the CEIP study for yourself, go here:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Aug 17.]



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #17 (second of two supplements to #15): Mark Weiner, "The Paradox of Modern Individualism" (2014)

Mark Weiner's "The Paradox of Modern Individualism" (2014) provides still more observations about the significance of the clan form. This article appears in an issue of the journal Cato Unbound, along with three review articles by other Cato-related authors. Weiner's article, plus the review articles, all focus on how and why living under clan rule, versus living under government rule, can alter the prospects for individualism versus collectivism.
• Here Weiner reinforces his theme that government rule benefits individual freedom:
"As I argue in my recent book The Rule of the Clan, among its important benefits, a strong central state provides the most effective means to ensure that persons are treated as individuals, not merely as cousins. In its absence, people are forced to look to other institutions to address their social and legal problems, and the most enduring such organization in human history is the extended family, the clan — for which group loyalty trumps individual rights.
"… Clan organization is now capable of taking a variety of new forms beyond traditional kinship associations, which underscores the fact that individuals must claim their freedom not only against the state, but also through it." 
• Here Weiner reiterates what he means by "rule of the clan":
"First, and most prominently, by the rule of the clan I mean the legal institutions and cultural values of societies organized primarily on the basis of kinship —
"Second, by the rule of the clan I mean the political arrangements of societies governed by what the U.N.’s 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls “clannism.” These societies possess the outward trappings of a modern state but are founded on informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship, and on traditional ideals of patriarchal family authority.
"Third, and most broadly, by the rule of the clan I mean the antiliberal social and legal organizations that tend to grow in the absence of state authority or when the state is weak, including in modern democracies where the writ of government fails to run. These groups include associations dedicated to unlawful activity, such as petty criminal gangs, the Mafia, and international crime syndicates, such as the drug gangs of Mexico — which in their cultural markers of solidarity, their lack of opportunity for exit, and their feuding patterns look and act a great deal like traditional clans. Today racial identity groups and multinational corporations have the potential to transform into similar clanlike systems."
•. Here Weiner explains in more depth the paradox he sees for individualism in the context of the clan versus the state, assuming a state performs effectively:
"In this respect, modern individualism rests on a paradox. For persons to be treated as individuals, and for clans to become clubs, we require the state. If modern individualism is to survive, society needs effective government institutions dedicated to advancing the substantive end of personal autonomy. The state I have in mind need not be centralized (I am personally a strong supporter of federalism in the American context), but it must at all levels be dedicated to vindicating the public interest, defined as policies most citizens would rationally support regardless of their position within society at any given moment.
"Equally, to maintain its legitimacy, government must seek to address the needs that the rule of the clan meets far more directly. It must pursue policies that moderate economic inequality; it must provide a space for the flourishing of voluntary civil society organizations that provide opportunities for solidarity; and it must ensure that individuals have fair opportunities to exercise their autonomy within the marketplace and that they can effectively navigate the host of bureaucratic state institutions that provide the conditions of modern life."
There is surely much more material in Weiner's book, but I've not read it yet. Anyway, this completes my effort to provide two supplements to the major reading (#15) about Weiner's sterling writings about clans and clannism.

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on July 25.]

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #16 (first of two supplements to #15): Interview by Deven Desai, "Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan" (2013)

Weiner's analysis of clans is so pertinent to this series of readings that I'm adding two supplements to post #15, in order to present passages from the two other articles mentioned in post #15. The three articles have overlaps, but I'm hoping that posting these two as supplements will help make his points sink in, even if they seem redundant.
First is this interview by Deven Desai, titled "Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan" (2013). Weiner's answers provide additional insightful observations about what he means by "clans", why he decided to study them, and why they have modern as well as traditional significance.
• Here again is what Weiner means by clans:
"…In my book, I consider clans both in their traditional form, as a subset of tribes, but also as a synecdoche for a pattern by which humans structure their social and lhegal lives: “the rule of the clan.” Clans are a natural form of social and legal organization. They certainly are more explicable in human terms than the modern liberal state and the liberal rule of law. Because of the natural fact of blood relationships, people end to organize their communities on the basis of extended kinship in the absence of strong alternatives."
• Here’s why Weiner decided to study clans now:
"Two reasons. First, the United States is involved militarily in parts of the world in which traditional tribal and clan relationships are critical, and if we don’t understand how those relationships work, including in legal terms, we have a major problem.
"The second reason to study clans, and ultimately for me even more important than the first reason, has to do with our own political discourse here at home. You could say that I became interested in clans because of widespread ideological attacks against the state within liberal societies — that is, attacks on government. By this I mean not simply efforts to reduce the size of government or to make it more efficient. Instead, I mean broadside criticisms of the state itself, or efforts to starve government and render it anemic."
• Here's why rule by government improves and protects individual freedom, more than does rule by clan:
“It’s often said that individual freedom exists most powerfully in the absence of government. But I believe that studying the rule of the clan shows us that the reverse is true. Liberal personal freedom is inconceivable without the existence of a robust state dedicated to vindicating the public interest. That’s because the liberal state, at least in theory, treats persons as individuals rather than as members of ineluctable status or clan groups. So studying clans can help us imagine what our social and legal life would become if we allow the state to deteriorate through a lack of political will.”
• Finally, here is why it’s beneficial for societies to evolve from clans to clubs, and from kinship to social networks:
"But clans are local power brokers, and the development of central authority diminishes their autonomy. One of the objects of constitutional reform in countries with strong clan identities is to provide national incentives for people to cede local power — and, more generally, for people to give their loyalty to a larger public identity that rises well above kinship structures. The ultimate goal of this process is the transformation of clans from hard institutions with legal and political significance to purely soft institutions with cultural and psychological importance. From clan to club. From kinship to social networks. …
"For clan societies to modernize, the economic, social, and political significance of extended kinship needs to be replaced by relationships based especially on individual choice. Societies need to undergo a change “from kinship to social networks” as part of the transformation of the clan from a hard, legal institution to a soft, cultural one."

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on June 27.]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Readings about tribes and clans — #15: Mark Weiner's "The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013)

Mark Weiner's article "The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013) has more in common with TIMN than any prior reading in this series. So do two other articles and an interview he did based on his then-new book The Rule of the Clan (2013). This post draws on all but his book, which I've not read. Yet, as today's reading, I'm pointing only to the article named up top — I like it best as an overview.


As I keep repeating, tribal (TIMN’s T) forms of organization, their dynamics and effects, have been widely ignored by national-security policymakers, grand strategists, development economists, and counter-terrorism theorists, among others — at their peril, to their discredit, and without their even knowing it. They’ve ignored tribes as a distinct form — yet it's the first and forever form, the form upon which every society is grounded. They have also ignored how the tribal form relates to the other TIMN forms that societies use to organize themselves. Yet excessive commitments to the T form lie behind most of the violent troubles we now face around the world; and its pernicious entanglement with the +I institutional and +M market forms accounts for much of the systemic corruption and political illiberalism we see in so many societies.
That doesn't apply to this author. He has an excellent understanding of the tribal / clan form, it's effects and implications. His understanding is not as thorough as TIMN proposes, but it’s the best I’ve seen so far. 
So I'm doing my write-up differently from others in this series. For the others, I've tried to show they advance a recognition of the T form. But this reading is already so advanced that I'm going to emphasize instead where it matches TIMN, such that they mutually validate each other. Also, the points I make below fit with today's reading, but I use quotes from all the articles noted above. (See source note at end for clarification.)
• Weiner, much like TIMN, views clans as a variant of the tribal form — as "a subset of tribes". Clans first took shape around biological kinship principles to become the initial "basic building blocks of civic life”, as “a natural form of social and legal organization.” Later, some clans also became based on "the adjunct principle of “fictive kinship” — in which a non-consanguineous group is treated “like family”." Thus, says Weiner, clan rule "is more explicable in human terms than that most historically anomalous of institutions: the modern liberal state. … Clannism is tribalism’s historical shadow.”^
• Weiner finds, much like TIMN, that clan structures are so decentralized and collectivist that clan system depends on imposing a “culture of group honor and shame”. Indeed, he says, "Group honor and shame allow the rule of the clan’s devolution of power to work by promoting both internal self-regulation within extended kin groups and coexistence among them". In other words, "Honor and shame form the cultural circuitry of such a collectivist system." 
• Weiner observes, again like TIMN, that as societies progress, the clan form does not go away — it persists. This persistence occurs not only via the clan's traditional blood-kin form, but also via morphed modern forms based on "fictive kinship". Indeed, people may remain partly if not wholly beholden to the clan form for both defensive and offensive purposes, for it gives them a place from which to defend and/or expand their personal as well as clan interests. In TIMN terms, people will remain in clan forms to the extent that they cannot find appropriate places in sectors structured by the institutional, the market, or now the new information-age network forms.
• Weiner recognizes, as does TIMN, that people revert back to clan forms especially when societies break down — this is true not only for far-away societies but also, increasingly, right here at home in America. Accordingly, "People … reflexively turn to it as a principle of social organization, especially when state alternatives break down." “For when there is no such thing as society, eventually there are only cousins and clans.” Thus, "people who live under clan rule often — and sensibly — hold it in high regard, just as they rationally return to it when other social structures break down."
• Weiner’s analysis is evolutionary, somewhat like TIMN, in that he looks beyond clan rule to the rise of government rule. As he sees matters, “When clan rule diminishes, two aspects of a society change: its legal and political structure and its culture." What's needed, then, "is the transformation of clans from hard institutions with legal and political significance to purely soft institutions with cultural and psychological importance. From clan to club. From kinship to social networks.” Indeed, Weiner often notes as a theme, that clans must soften into clubs, and their exclusive kinship networks must loosen and evolve into broader more inclusive social networks, in order for social evolution to advance.
• Weiner, like TIMN, warns that clannism is becoming rife and risky here at home as well as abroad. According to Weiner, “The second reason to study clans … has to do with our own political discourse here at home. You could say that I became interested in clans because of widespread ideological attacks against the state within liberal societies — that is, attacks on government.” As he notes elsewhere, "… today, clan rule poses grave international challenges, not just in tribal societies, but in more developed nations, and even in modern liberal democracies.” Extensive clannism has the effect of "making it more likely that conflicts will escalate and spiral out of control."
• Because of the above, Weiner advises, much like TIMN, that foreign-policy and national-security strategists acquire a better understanding of the clan form. Indeed, "appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges." In particular he highlights how “The social and cultural consequences of clannism are insidious.” He sees, as does TIMN (though I lag in writing it up), that "clannism" explains corruption in systems where institutions do not take hold properly: “One step up the development ladder, nations that posses the outward trappings of a modern state but are still firmly in the grip of clannism — like the Palestinian Authority or Egypt — suffer from corruption and stifled economic development.” Weiner also sees urban gangs as another manifestation of clannism in modern societies.
A couple of final points: 
While TIMN treats tribes as a cardinal form of organization, Weiner's focus on clans has resonance in other comparative organizational frameworks: notably, William Ouchi’s typology about clans, hierarchies, and markets; and Clay Spinuzzi’s typology about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks. Weiner’s work helps validate these. Jim Gant deserves credit as well for his efforts to gain recognition of the significance of the tribal/clan form in all sorts of societies. For more on this, see my blog post and accompanying charts here:…/organizational-forms-comp…
Finally, let’s notice that Weiner wrote about "rule by clan" years ago — well before Donald Trump became president. Yet Weiner's analysts bears on this, for in some ways Trump, more than any American president, operates like a clan chieftain who is seeking to install a familial loyalty-driven clan-state inside our nation-state. (An example of a country that has always been more a clan-state than a nation-state is North Korea.)


• First, here's how Weiner describes the nature of clans and "rule by clan":
“What do the European sovereign debt crisis, the difficulty of building a liberal democracy in Afghanistan, and a Mexican drug cartel have in common? To begin with, all three are the predictable result of weak government institutions. On a deeper level, however, they are products of a single basic impulse: They all implicate the fundamental human drive to live under the rule of the clan. Grasping this impulse and appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges.
“So what is the rule of the clan? Ancient Highland Scotland provides a helpful example. Until well after the failed 1745 Jacobite rising, when Britain roundly defeated the cause of "Bonnie Prince Charlie," no robust public identity or state institution in the Highlands effectively superseded clans. Society was organized around kinship groups -- like the MacGregors, Macphersons, and MacDonalds, each associated with its own region -- and the ever shifting confederacies they established over centuries. Under clan rule, groups of extended families formed the basic building blocks of civic life. They remained largely autonomous from central government authority, maintaining their own law and settling disputes according to local custom.”
• Here's how Weiner describes the corrosive corrupting grip of "clannism" in clan-riven societies:
“One step up the development ladder, nations that posses the outward trappings of a modern state but are still firmly in the grip of clannism -- like the Palestinian Authority or Egypt -- suffer from corruption and stifled economic development. Although they possess stronger state institutions, they nevertheless govern through informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship. President Bashar al-Assad centralized and maintained his power through such patronage in Syria. So did Yasir Arafat after his return to Palestine in 1994. Where clannism reigns, governments are co-opted for purely factional purposes, and states, conceived on the model of the patriarchal family, treat citizens not as autonomous actors but rather as troublesome dependents to be managed. At the same time, kin-based patronage groups have the power to discipline their members in accord with their own internal rules."
“The social and cultural consequences of clannism are insidious. Corrupt governments regularly set factions against each other to avoid scrutiny of their own practices, and a lack of economic dynamism encourages out-migration of workers and fosters social unrest. More profoundly, in the words of the 2004 Arab Human Development Report, by "implant[ing] submission, parasitic dependence and compliance in return for protection and benefits," clannism destroys "personal independence, intellectual daring, and the flowering of a unique and authentic human entity." But clannism is not just a relic of the developing world. Modern liberal democracies can and do succumb to clan rule when their central-government institutions are weak or perceived to be illegitimate. In inner cities of the United States, for example, where the writ of the state often runs out, petty criminal gangs enforce their own social order. Likewise, in countries like Italy and Mexico, international criminal organizations and drug syndicates dictate their own internal codes of discipline and engage in intergroup behavior -- like blood feuds -- strikingly akin to that of traditional clans. Even the weakening transnational institutions of the European Union have accelerated the rise of right-wing parties, such as Greece's fascist Golden Dawn party, which claim to provide alternative social orders based on ethnicity."
• Here Weiner again contrasts clan values with liberal values, arguing that the former must soften if the latter are to take hold:
“The rule of the clan everywhere challenges liberal values. But it need not. Over time, as they did in Scotland, clans of all sorts will transform from hard political entities to soft -- if cherished -- markers of personal identity. Over a long span of history, clans will become clubs -- even in the most difficult parts of the world."


I’ve based this post mostly on today’s reading — Mark Weiner's ”The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013), at:

This post also draws on two other sources I mentioned up front. One is the interview by Deven Desai, titled “Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan” (2013), at:…/bright-ideas-mark-weiner-o…
The other is Weiner’s “The Paradox of Modern Individualism” (2014), which is published in a special issue of the periodical Cato Unbound, along with discussion articles by several other analysts, located at:…/mark-s-weiner/paradox-modern…

For a review of Weiner’s book, including comments I made that reappear above, see Mark Safranski's illuminating blog post "Review: The Rule of the Clan" (2016), at:
All quotes above are from these sources. However, my write-up here does not specify exactly which quotes are from which sources. I lost track, and I hope to take care of that tiresome slip-up later.

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on June 26.]