Monday, February 20, 2023

Chapter 2. Backstory: From Cyberocracy To Networks To TIMN

[In my original outline for How and Why Societies Evolve, Some Better than Others, this preliminary draft chapter was going to lay out the basics of TIMN.  But as I was writing an introductory paragraph, it got longer and longer, and morphed into this new backstory chapter.  I hope it helps orient readers.  I have updated the outline at the end of Chapter 1, originally posted here on February  8, 2023.]


Initially, I had no thought of writing about social evolution.  My interest in the topic arose from a progression of happenstances that generated its own flow over the course of ten years.  I have not reminisced about this before — I usually leap directly into laying TIMN out.  But on this occasion I mean to recount this backstory, for it had unconventional effects on how I came to approach social evolution, for the better.  If I had turned to focus directly on social evolution from the start, I would never have unearthed TIMN.


Cyberocracy Is Coming


A few years after starting to work at RAND in 1972 as a specialist on U.S.-Latin American security relations, I happened to read Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) at a friend’s urging.  This book, not to mention other matters — I received my first office computer in the late 1970s, began hearing in the hallways about the ARPANET (forerunner of the Internet), and kept coming across inspiring new speculations about the future, notably William Gibson’s science-fiction novel Neuromancer (1984) — pulled me into sensing that a world-changing information technology revolution would soon take hold.


Thus, literally staring at my office wall in 1978 (1979?) and wondering what I really wanted to be doing, I decided to start taking steps to move beyond Latin American matters and re- focus on worldwide political implications of the dawning information revolution.  In particular, I decided to focus on prospects for cyberocracy, the term I coined at the time for speculating about likely political effects and implications.  It then took me ten years of off-and-on efforts to re-educate myself and make the transition, but I finally produced results: an informal paper about “Cyberocracy, Cyberspace, and Cyberology: Political Effects of the Information Revolution” (1991), plus an iteration for journal publication, “Cyberocracy Is Coming” (1992).


My work in this phase was entirely future-oriented; I still did not sense that I might end up analyzing past, present, and future aspects of social evolution.  Indeed, the word “evolution” appears only once in my first paper thirty years ago:


“What new ‘ism’ or ‘ocracy’ may arise?  The purpose or this paper is to suggest that cyberocracy is coming. This term, from the roots ‘cyber-‘ and ‘-ocracy,’ signifies rule by way of information. As it develops, information and its control will become a dominant source of power as a natural next step in man's political evolution. In the past, under aristocracy, the high-born ruled; under theocracy, the high priests ruled. In modern times, democracy and bureaucracy have enabled new kinds of people to participate. In turn, cyberocracy, by arising from the current revolution in information and communications technologies, may slowly but radically affect who rules, how, and why.” (Ronfeldt, 1991, p. 2)


However, this work did lead me to conclude that the information revolution would increasingly favor and strengthen the rise of new network forms of organization:


“It may turn out that knowledge is to the study of information what wealth has been to the study of economics, and power to the study of politics. (It also may turn out that networks are to the study of information what markets have been to the study of economics, and institutions to the study of politics.)”  (Ronfeldt, 1991, p. 4)


Global Interconnection: Networks Versus Nations. We are moving out of an era of global interdependence and into an era of global interconnection. The attention-getting trend today is the rise of global markets (e.g., for goods, ideas). Yet the spread of transnational and global networks (not only communications, but also social and organizational networks) among corporations, governments, advocacy groups and other nongovernment organizations, international and multilateral agencies, transnational elites, and so on, may have equally profound effects on the nature of the new order.


“As these organizational networks build, cutting across public and private sectors and national borders and interests, influential new sub- and supranational actors may increasingly compete for influence with national actors. As political and economic interests grow in protecting and expanding networks, the networks themselves may increasingly take precedence over nation-states as the driving factor in domestic and foreign affairs. The government that gains the lead in building and shaping these organizational networks should gain enormous comparative advantage to influence the direction the world goes in economically, politically, and socially.” (Ronfeldt, 1991, pp. 77-78)


More to the point, I added to the 1992 iteration a new section — From Hierarchies to Networks — to insist that “The information revolution appears to be making ‘networks’ relatively more important, and interesting, than ‘hierarchies’ as a form of organization” (Ronfeldt, 1992, p. 274).  This proposition became central to my work on most all matters from then on.


Networks To Rule The Future


Given the significance I saw for information-age networks, I then wondered whether to start educating myself about (a) how to analyze social and organizational networks in technical detail, or (b) what other forms of organization besides networks were analytically significant and why.  I knew I could not do both (too much reading, since these were new fields for me).  I also figured it was a choice that could affect my interests and abilities for years to come.  I chose the latter.


So, while I was still not intent on learning about social evolution per se, I headed into reading about the major forms of organization that people used, and how they compared to each other.  It was easy to identify the iconic two forms — hierarchies and markets — for sociologists and economists had written about them for decades.  In contrast, few scholars studied networks prior to 1990.  But there were inspiring exceptions, notably about social movements becoming “segmented, polycentric, ideologically integrated networks” (Gerlach and Hine, 1970).  And by 1991, after getting ahold of “Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization” (Powell, 1990), I had enough materials to feel confident that hierarchies, markets, and networks were the cardinal forms of organization that all societies depended on (see Ronfeldt, 1993, 1996, for details and citations.)


For comparative reasons, I then wondered about hierarchies and markets the way I had about networks:  If networks were the form of the future, enabled by a radical new information revolution, what about hierarchies and markets?  Clearly, hierarchies, in the form of states, armies, and other large institutions, took hold centuries before markets gained sway.  Moreover, I learned, the rise of hierarchical institutions depended on the development of writing and printing technologies; whereas the rise of markets depended on telegraphy, telephony, and other electrical technologies in the 19th century.  In sum, the rise of each older form — first hierarchies, then markets — had required the rise of a new and different information-technology revolution, in one case for writing and printing, in the next for electrical communication and storage.  That fit just fine with my argument that networks would be next.  I had found a progression. 


Next, IMN Evolves Into TIMN


With that observation, I realized I had scoped out not only a future-oriented framework for comparative organizational analysis, but potentially even a framework about long-range social evolution.  It would have at its core the phased emergence and maturation of three forms of organization: first hierarchies, then markets, and now networks.  For arguable reasons, I decided to use “institutions” (meaning hierarchical institutions) in place of “hierarchies” in my formulation — hence the acronym IMN for I/institutions + M/markets + N/networks to denote my first effort to lay out a framework about social organization and evolution (Ronfeldt, 1993).


Yet, after further mulling as well as road-testing a couple talks about IMN in 1992, this formulation felt incomplete.  Social organization and evolution did not start with states; surely there is a fundamental form of organization that preceded states and other hierarchical institutions.  


So, I undertook another round of readings — mostly classic anthropology texts about early forms of social organization, long before states arose.  These impressive writings illuminated the centrality of kinship forms of organization — families, bands, clans, tribes, etc. — and their normally acephalous, segmentary, egalitarian nature (for details, see Ronfeldt, 2007).  Moreover, I learned that an economist had proposed adding “clans” to the categorizations used by economists (Ouchi, 1980)— further confirmation I was stepping in sensible directions.  Which was still further confirmed as I finally began reading about theories of social evolution (notably, Sanderson, 1990, 1995, 1999, 2001).


While I came across several naming options I settled on regarding this early form as the tribal form, added T/tribes to the framework, and renamed it TIMN (Ronfeldt, 1996).  Finally I felt certain that I was in the presence of a potentially full-fledged forward-looking framework about social organization and evolution across the ages, with implications for the future.  Along the way, it immediately proved useful, first for forecasting new modes of conflict we named cyberwar and netwar (Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 1993, 1996), and later for heralding new modes of cooperation among activist NGOs (non-governmental organizations) associated with civil society (Ronfeldt, 2005).


Coda: A Fortunate And Promising Find


And that’s how and why I ended up with TIMN — obliquely and circuitously. If, back in the late, I had been drawn to focus on social evolution rather than the information revolution, and if I had then pursued the topic directly, concentrate on learning about existing theories of social evolution from the start, I would surely never have sensed the rising importance of network forms of organization in the 1980s, much less come up with TIMN in the 1990s. 


To my knowledge, no other scholarly approach to social evolution, then or since, has emphasized the rise of network forms of organization, nor held that quadriform societies may someday supersede today’s triform societies.  Other frameworks do identify major stages of evolution that overlap with TIMN; but none do so in terms of a progression of forms of organization that emerge, interact, and combine to define those stages (phases).  Moreover, while other frameworks observe that social evolution may exhibit historical cycles, spirals, or waves of one kind or another, only TIMN has served to identify recurrent system dynamics that attend the rise of every new form of organization.  Furthermore, TIMN has implications for policy and strategy that other frameworks lack, as I discuss later.  These unique aspects make TIMN worth pursuing, do they not?. 


All the while, I have never regarded TIMN as a framework that I am trying to build.  Instead, it has always felt like an ancient archeological artifact that I inadvertently stumbled across and am still trying to unearth, open up, and see inside.  O Fortuna.


Yet I am also finding it no slam-dunk to tell other theorists and strategists about TIMN, especially if they are already committed to established streams of analysis.  But then again, I have repeatedly flagged and faltered in trying to write it up in full.  Maybe I can do better this time.




Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt, "Cyberwar is Coming!" Comparative Strategy, Vol. 12, No. 2, Summer 1993, pp. 141-165.  Online at:


Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt, The Advent Of Netwar, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, MR-789-OSD, 1996.  Online at:


Gerlach, Luther P., and Virginia Hine, People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1970.


Gibson, William, Neuromancer, New York: Ace Books, 1984.


Ouchi, William G., “Markets, Bureaucracies, and Clans,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 1980, pp. 129–141.


Ronfeldt, David, Cyberocracy, Cyberspace, and Cyberology: Political Effects of the Information Revolution. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, P-7745, 1991.  Online at :


Ronfeldt, David, “Cyberocracy Is Coming,” The Information Society, vol. 8, no. 4, 1992, pp. 243–296. Online at:


Ronfeldt, David, “Institutions, Markets, and Networks: A Framework about the Evolution of Societies,” (Draft Report), Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, DRU-550-FF, 1993.  Available at:


Ronfeldt, David, Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A Framework About Societal Evolution. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, P-7607, 1996.  Online at:


Ronfeldt, David, “A Long Look Ahead: NGOs, Networks, and Future Social Evolution,” in Robert Olson and David Rejeski, eds., Environmentalism and the Technologies of Tomorrow, Washington, D.C.: Russell Sage, 2005, Ch. 9, pp. 89–98.  Online at:


Ronfeldt, David, IN SEARCH OF HOW SOCIETIES WORK: Tribes — The First and Forever Form, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, WR-433-RPC, 2007.  Online at:


Powell, Walter W., “Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization,” in Barry M. Staw and L. L. Cummings, eds., Research in Organizational Behavior: An Annual Series of Analytical Essays and Critical Reviews, Vol. 12, 1990, pp. 295–336.


Sanderson, Stephen K., Social Evolutionism: A Critical History, Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1990.


Sanderson, Stephen K., Social Transformations: A General Theory of Historical Development, Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1995.


Sanderson, Stephen K., Social Transformations: A General Theory of Historical Development, expanded ed., New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999.


Sanderson, Stephen K., The Evolution of Human Sociality: A Darwinian Conflict Perspective, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001.


Toffler, Alvin, Future Shock, Random House Inc., New York, 1970.



Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Re-Post of "Points To Ponder As We Move Ahead With TIMN — #1"

[#12 in a chronological series meant to update this blog with write-ups I failed to post during 2021-2022.]

Originally posted at Substack on September 27, 2022, at:

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Now that I have posted a draft of Chapter One, and since I’m likely to be as slow to draft the next chapters, I am adding this side-discussion (probably a series of side-discussions) about additional points that may figure in later chapters.  They seem worthy of broaching right now in order to provide perspective on where I am headed, and how I would advise readers to approach TIMN: 

  I have never regarded TIMN as something I am trying to create or construct.  Instead, it feels like an archeological artifact that I stumbled upon and am still trying to unearth, open up, and see inside. 

Moreover, TIMN is not about extending the ideas of any particular philosopher or theorist. It has plenty of room for all sorts of influences, all mixed together.  As I have mentioned in earlier write-ups, TIMN appears to have Darwinian, Hegelian, Marxian, and Parsonian aspects, but others could be noted as well, including from modern complexity, chaos, and collapse theories.  TIMN even seems concordant with ages-old Buddhist principles about seeking harmony and balance.  This is not because I meant for TIMN to reflect such influences (I am not an expert on any of them) — they have simply become evident, the more I unearth TIMN.

This multiplicity of reflections seems a strength of TIMN, connecting it to a variety of philosophical and theoretical strands, as I hope to elaborate in a later chapter.  For now, however, I would note a curiosity: the seeming disinterest of Darwinian social theorists whenever I have attempted to call TIMN to their attention.  I’ve only had brief interactions with a few over the years, so I am not certain that my perception is correct. 

My own view is that TIMN is thoroughly Darwinian.  It could easily be written up in terms of the key principles of Darwinian evolution: variation, adaptation, selection, and replication.  So, someday, I shall have to try anew to find out why Darwinian social theorists seem to find TIMN uninteresting, even objectionable.  Perhaps it is because I have not fielded it in Darwinian terms?  Or because TIMN focuses on “forms” whereas today’s Darwinians focus more on “levels” of social evolution.  Or because I am not using a standard data-based scientific method?  Or because I regard TIMN as predictive, primed to forecast the emergence of a new realm, whereas Darwinians seem averse to prediction?  Or, as noted, perhaps my perception is wrong?  It could be instructive to find out someday.

  Try not to get hung up on the terms I use to name each form.  If you prefer kinships (or segmentary lineages) over tribes, or hierarchies over institutions, that is okay with me (and it has happened).  What matters is that each form’s defining structures and dynamics remain the same (or much the same), whatever synonym or cognate term is preferred.  Bear in mind too that my use of the institutions here refers to hierarchical institutions like states, militaries, and corporations.  It does not refer to a common academic usage whereby any long-established custom or other pattern of behavior, like marriage or slavery, is viewed as institutionalized, and thus an institution.

I have yet to see a better term than markets, though exchanges comes close.  However, I would object to substituting capitalism for markets, for they are not the same.  The +M in TIMN is about model market systems that are ideally open, free, and fair.  Capitalism can work that way, but that is often not its nature.  For its actors often try to fashion quite the opposite — dynamics that are not open, free, or fair — perhaps through biased infusions of the tribal form (e.g., cronyism) or the institutional form (e.g., legalized monopoly), thereby exploiting old T-type and I-type forces in order to avoid, displace, and deform +M’s nature, creating a rigged and possibly malignant hybrid, the case with what is being called “late capitalism.”  For example, I now think a case can be made that American-style late capitalism is a principal cause of the enormous systemic problem we know as homelessness — whereas it would make no sense to claim that the market form per se causes homelessness.

As for the term networks, when I unearthed TIMN in the early 1990s, references to network forms of organization were fairly rare, appearing mostly in the small emerging fields of social network analysis and economic transaction analysis.  But by now, decades later, networks has become a hugely expansive concept, driven by the rise of network science, complexity theory, and social network analysis as new fields of academic and scientific endeavor.  Their proponents tend to view all forms of organization as networks, meaning that all of TIMN’s four forms — tribes, hierarchical institutions, markets, and networks — are just varieties of networks.  Compared to my original intent, that is too expansive and generic a view of networks — it is tantamount to conceptual imperialism.

My original intent was to name a fourth form of organization that is distinct from the other three.  My sense, as I shall explain in later chapters, is that TIMN implies the emergence of a distinct kind of network form and the consolidation of a realm of actors and activities around it — a network-based design that allows egalitarian equitable organization (and administration) across a large set of actors, activities, and issues.  

Once this becomes clearer, months (years?) from now, I may morph TIMN into TIME, by replacing +N (for networks) with +E (for “equinets”).  To specify a form that may define a new realm and its sector, “equinets” seems a more apt, more distinctive term than plain “networks.  We shall see.  If so, the TIMN framework will then become the TIME framework.  But I have lots of matters to clarify before that may be a sensible step.

  I would advise readers to avoid wondering where quadriformism may fit on today’s political and ideological spectrums — whether it bends Left or Right, or whether it is a progressive, liberal, or conservative concept.  For the most part, today’s grand isms — progressivism, liberalism, conservatism — are ideologies tied to the nature of the triform system; they are designed for taking positions about what to do with that system’s structures and processes.  All that will change if/as quadriform ideas emerge and take hold. 

For now, I sometimes try to fashion myself as a nascent quadriformist.  But I have no idea whether I am a left- or right-leaning or a purely centrist quadriformist, or whether today’s kinds of Left and Right will make sense in the future.  I am sure, however, that neither capitalism nor socialism — key isms for over a hundred years now — will endure in the ways we see them today.  I will explain in future chapter posts. 

Meanwhile, I hope you too will entertain becoming a quadriformist.  Indeed, if quadriformism seems appealing to you, then I would advise you to be wary about trendy new ideas for transformative societal reforms, be they from the Right, Left, or Center, that ultimately retain the triformist design — the case, for example, with many current proposals for reforming capitalism, including by creating “a fourth sector of the economy” (and only the economy).  They may be good ideas, worth pursuing for a while, but the ones I have come across are not as radical and transformative as may be presumed.  I will be writing more on this later. 

• The worlds of statecraft and grand strategy are currently focused on the vast struggle taking shape nowadays between autocracy and democracy.  TIMN offers a perspective that could help improve U.S. strategy. 

Proponents of U.S. policies and programs to export liberal democracy have generally focused on developing the political structures and processes that liberal democracy requires abroad: pro-democracy leaders, political parties, free and fair elections, independent legislatures, diverse information media, etc.  Policies and programs for doing so usually notice the importance of cultural and economic conditions as well, but these tend to be background rather than up-front concerns.

TIMN instructs stepping back to see the roles that each TIMN form has played in the rise and functioning of liberal democracy. To put it bluntly, what made liberal democracy thinkable and doable several centuries ago was the rise of the +M market form, for it embodies the ideals of free and fair competition and open information flows that political democracy requires.  Liberal democracy is the result, then, of the +M form feeding back into and reshaping the +I form in environments where strong T-type forces (e.g., dynasties, aristocracies, cronies) can be contained.

From a TIMN viewpoint, then, today’s great ideological cleavage between autocracy and democracy is the surface manifestation of a deeper evolutionary cleavage between those societies that can adopt and adapt to the +M form in positive ways, and those that have not and still cannot do so properly (like Russia, Cuba, Venezuela).  Today’s debates are usually conducted as though there is a choice between autocracy or democracy; yet the deeper choice, the real challenge, is whether and how to adopt and adapt to the market form in all its aspects, which are about much more than just economics and economic freedom.

This goes for America  too:  TIMN seems to imply (pending further analysis) that if an economic market system is distorted and decays, then political democracy will become distorted and decay too.  If that hypothesis is sound, then it can be said that the right-wing anti-democratic movements besieging U.S. politics nowadays are mirroring the downsides of “late capitalism” — they are negative externalities of each other (though positive for right-wing ideologues).  Which may mean America will not be able to rectify what is going wrong in our political market system if we cannot also repair and rectify what should be going right in our economic market system.  Aargh.

That’s all for now.  More next time

Re-Post of TIMN Draft "Chapter 1. Anticipating The Emergence Of Quadriform Societies"

[#11 in a chronological series meant to update this blog with write-ups I failed to post during 2021-2022.]

Originally posted at Substack on September 27, 2022, at:

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[Prospective Manuscript Title]


Chapter 1. Anticipating The Emergence Of Quadriform Societies 


Our society, like most societies, has three major realms: civil society, government, and the economy.  How and why we came to have a society that has those three realms is a long story; but have them we do — nearly everybody says so; and nearly everybody takes them for granted, as a design we have always had, and seemingly always will have. 

But here is the bottom line up front:  In the decades ahead — and it will take decades — America’s future depends on achieving a major evolutionary transition from its current triform design — meaning it has those three major realms (civil society + government + market economy) — to a next-generation quadriform design with four major realms (civil society + government + market economy + a-new-realm-yet-to-unfold). 

Why does a fourth realm seem likely to emerge?  And, what actors and activities seem likely to comprise it?  While neither question has a certain answer at this point, the why question has a clearer answer than the what. 

The why is because of the emergence of new network forms of organization, enabled by history’s latest (digital) information and communications technology revolution.  Across the ages, each time a major new form of organization has come to the fore, along with a new information and communications technology revolution, the result has been the definition of a new realm of activity and governance.  As I shall explain later, there have been three such history-bending transformations in the past; we are now in the early phases of a fourth.

Looking ahead, the what question comes down to figuring out what mounting challenges a growing society faces that have finally outgrown the capabilities of its existing forms of organization, and thus require new forms of organization for those challenges to be effectively addressed and resolved.  Best I can tell, based on a logic I shall unfold in subsequent chapters, the actors and activities that are most muddled and can benefit the most from the emergence of a new network-based realm are in the fields of health, education, welfare, and the environment.  These may appear to be markedly different fields; but they are quite interrelated — improvements in one field usually benefit the others too.  What interrelates them thematically is that they are all about care: not power, not profit, but care — ranging from people care to planet care, preferably for the common good. 

For decades they have been treated as separate policy problems, with some pieces in the public sector, others in the private sector, while other aspects are tossed back to burden families and communities in the civil-society sector.  Yet health, education, welfare, and environmental matters have become so crucial and complex, so interconnected and interactive with each other, that it is advisable to view them as a combined set and let them move, and be moved, into their own realm and sector: a care-centric net-work-based “commons sector,” separate from but also linked to our customary civil-society, public, and private sectors. 

If/when this occurs, America will have accomplished a transition to a quadriform system.  America will emerge stronger and better-structured as a complex society.  It will be newly able to get more things done, more simply and effectively, easing and improving people’s lives better than ever.  It will be better designed to resolve crucial policy problems.  It will cease to face the systemic deadlock and decay it currently faces.  It will become re-energized as a society and civilization.

If America cannot make this structural transition, its current two-centuries-old triform design may still be adjustable enough to muddle along.  But America’s current system is close to (perhaps already over) the limits of what a triform design can accomplish well, politically, economically, socially, and otherwise.  Barring a transition, America is likely to become evermore indecisive, ineffective, and grid-locked, so riven by political tribalism and policy confusion, that it may collapse rather than keep muddling along.

Triform?  Quadriform?  A fourth sector?  Those terms may seem odd, even jarring at first sight.  But bear with me — for what they mean is simple enough, and only a few paragraphs away.  They are concepts that work to chart the past, present, and future of our society’s evolution. 

Across The Centuries: From Monoform To Biform To Triform Societies

The reason people assemble into societies is to enable them to live better by living together.  That is why, ages ago, people first clustered together in familial clans and communal tribes centered around kinship ties, structures, codes, and customs — making tribes the first major form of social organization and evolution.  Then, centuries later, people began to benefit from and accommodate to the formation of states, armies, and other hierarchical institutions — making institutions the second major form of organization, which enabled large undertakings that required central command and control, undertakings that tribes alone could not accomplish well, such as constructing irrigation systems and organizing territorial defense forces.  Next, still more centuries later, people transformed their societies again, this time to make room for the growth of markets based on free fair exchanges of goods and services — making markets the third major form of organization and evolution, which enabled businesses to grow and commerce to flourish, alongside but relatively free of preexisting tribal and statist constraints.

Not everybody benefitted along the way. But overall, this evolutionary progression — from tribe-centric, to state-centric, to market-centric systems — has enabled most societies to perform better, so that people lived better.  Thus societies grew in complexity and capability across the ages as people learned to add and combine the tribal, institutional, and market forms of organization.  

In doing so, societies gradually advanced in complexity from monoform (tribes-only), to biform (tribes + institutions), to triform designs (tribes + institutions + markets).  Along the way, the tribal form morphed into becoming the core of what we now call civil society, the institutional form into today’s modern administrative state, and the market form into today’s capitalist economy — making civil society, government, and the market economy into the three grand realms of all modern societies.

The best result has been the United States of America.  For over two centuries, it has been the paragon of a triform society — the epitome of a liberal democracy aglow with an energetic civil society, a strong and trusted system of government, and a thriving market economy.  Indeed, after the fall of the Soviet Union (a dictatorial biform system that deliberately excluded the market form), the success of our own and other triform democratic societies inspired an optimistic belief in the end of history” idea, whereby

What we may witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankinds ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” (Fukuyama, 1989, 1992).

However, matters have not evolved that way; and they remain unlikely to do so.  The fight for Ukraine has revitalized Fukuyama’s and others’ hopes to revitalize the “end of history” model.  Even so, it is essentially a trifom model, fielded not only at the moment of its greatest power and success in the late 20th Century, but also, unknowingly, on the eve of its evolutionary finitude.  Belief in this supposedly final model has thus limited peoples thinking about how societies could and should be structured in the future.  For this model does not recognize the emergence of a fourth grand form of organization and evolution: information-age networks. 

Most nations are still trying to get the triform model right — this is not easy to do, and the world would be a far better place if they did.  But other nations, America in particular, are so advanced that, even as our leaders endeavor to fix what has gone wrong in each existing triform realm, they would be well advised to at least begin thinking and planning for transformation to a quadriform model.  Doing so is not on any leader’s agenda today, but it will eventually become imperative. 

The rise of the fourth form — the digital-age network form of organization and evolution — will lead to a renewal of history, not its end.  Indeed, history has restarted each time a next-new form has emerged to take hold in the past.  It will do so again.

Emergence Of The Network Form  Of Organization And Evolution

Distributed decentralized multi-node network forms of organization have existed for ages; in modern eras, some business enterprises as well as activist civil-society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were early adopters.  But networks were not deemed a distinct form of organization worthy of specialized academic analysis and theorizing until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the spread of fax machines and then other new digital devices, services, and systems, especially the internet, made network designs far more feasible and attractive. 

Today, networks of all kinds attract constant massive attention; they have spread everywhere, affecting everything in all realms and sectors of society.  People are turning to networks wherever they can, sometimes as though networks may prove the cure-alls that earlier people used to think hierarchies or markets would be.  At first it was thought that CSOs and NGOs would benefit more than other actors, but this is not what has happened so far.  Indeed, dark actors from uncivil society (terrorists, criminals, etc.) have benefitted as much as civil-society’s bright-side actors from turning to information-age networks designs

Yet, the rise of the network form — along with its particular enabling technologies, organizational dynamics, and philosophical implications, distinct from those of the earlier three forms — is still in early disruptive phases.  It remains unclear exactly what kinds of actors and activities — and what kinds of systemic functions — the network form may be best suited to enabling and energizing in the decades ahead.  

For the time being, the rise of the information-age network form helps account for the vast loosening and questioning, both functional and dysfunctional, that has beset all three realms of our aging triform system.  Indeed, none of these realms and their sectors are functioning properly.  Civil society’s variously-named sector(s), the government’s public sector, and the economy’s private sector all appear to be in distress, overburdened, and out of whack, thus functioning poorly, even coming apart.  Some problems — too many to list in this first chapter, but voiced everyday by people everywhere — are internal to each sector.  Others pertain to how the three sectors interconnect.  Some problems are now so chronic and complicated that multiple observers, from Left to Right, claim our society is failing. 

Amid all the explanations and solutions being proposed, what is yet to be noticed fully is that many of today’s chronic systemic problems are largely the result of:

(1) the success of the triform model at generating so much progress across the last two centuries, for prolonged progress always creates new problems that test and eventually confound a system’s capacity for further growth;

(2) the advent of a next-new form of organization and evolution — this time, the network form — atop a new information and communications technology revolution that offers new ways to grow.

In short. the rise of this network form is shaking up the entire triform design, even as the form’s ultimate implications remain unclear, even unseen.  Indeed, that is what the rise of a major new form of organization always does to societies: it stirs them to pull, apart even as it offers new ways to re-assemble — and the pulling-apart precedes and prompts the re-assembling. 

Unfortunately, Americas current political, economic, and social leaders are still thinking and planning in triform ways, as evidenced by their continual proposals for public-private partnerships to resolve this or that issue, sometimes with nods to strengthening the roles of civil-society actors as well.  Yet, these leaders cannot do otherwise, for the triformist design is all they have known — they are unable to think and act otherwise.

Meanwhile — a long meanwhile by now — America looks increasingly off-balance and out-of-balance, in trouble across all realms and sectors.  Broken individuals, broken families, broken communities, and broken mores afflict civil society, far and wide.  All areas and levels of government seem increasingly broken as well, with more and more people losing faith in its leaders, offices, and operations.  Oligopolistic corporations, rigged markets, and predatory “late capitalism” keep distorting what is supposed to be a free and fair market economy.  And that’s just to mention a handful of pan-systemic ailments and dysfunctions, without noting myriad others and the worsening synergies among them.

Many Americans are living adequately enough (myself included); so all is not doom and gloom.  But in light of the above:  No wonder America seems to be losing ground as an ideal power and exemplary model.  No wonder so many Americans are angry and alienated, reverting to the earliest form of social organization and evolution: the tribal form.  No wonder malignant tribalism is spreading across the political spectrum, led on by exploitive domestic as well as outside actors.  No wonder cruelty and inequity are on the rise.

All sorts of cogent conscientious analyses have appeared about these matters, and myriad more are on the way — too many to comment on here.  But I would hark on one crucial observation:  All of them, even the most transformational analyses, presume that our society has three major realms, and that this will remain the case well into the future.  The triform model is taken for granted; and networks are treated as a modifying form, not a major next-new form that may bring an end to the triform design.  (I have come across one exception, to be discussed in a future chapter.)

Onward Toward Quadriform Societies (Based on TIMN)

Thus we find ourselves caught in an evolutionary quandary, peering Janus-like in two directions, facing two grand choices that we seem barely aware of: 

·      One is to persist with the triform system we know — the legacy of the past, the presumptive given — and keep trying to reform and adjust it.

·      The other, once it is glimpsed, is to head deliberately toward a quadriform re-shaping — the promise of the future. 

It is an unsettling choice, bound to bring difficulties and uncertainties no matter which choice is made.  But the first option will ultimately prove futile; only the second can prove fertile. 

I shall argue for pursuing the quadriformist option.  And I shall rely on what I call the TIMN framework to do so.  Actually, I have used it throughout this chapter; I just have not said so until now.  All mentions of tribes, institutions, markets, and networks as cardinal forms of organization are based on TIMN, an acronym comprised of the first letters of those four forms.  The ideas about an evolutionary progression from monoform to biform to triform and potentially to quadriform societies are also drawn from TIMN.  I will lay all this out in coming chapters. 

TIMN has plenty to offer regarding how to assess and address the problems our triform system currently faces.  So, even if you do not accept that a quadriform system is a possibility that would work better in the future, you may still learn something new from TIMN about how to improve our current system.  However, my primary objective is to call for moving toward a quadriform transformation.

This will be accomplished in the chapters ahead by conveying what appear to be three unique implications of TIMN:

• The first is that social evolution revolves around not only a core set of four organizational forms but also a set of system dynamics (rules, principles) that come into play every time a next-new form arises and matures — to wit, whenever there is a major evolutionary transition.  Identifying these recurrent dynamics, which can be done by examining the transitions from monoform to biform to triform societies, can enable us to prefigure what to expect from a prospective transition from a triform to a quadriform society.

• The second unique implication is that the emergence of the network form will lead to the emergence of a new networks-based realm, with its own sector(s).  It will serve to encompass and resolve complex problems that our aging public and private sectors are no longer suited to addressing, and that cannot, and should not, be left alone to burden families and activists in civil-society.

• The third implication, in keeping with the first two, is that this next-new sector will be as distinct from the prior three sectors as they are from each other.  The others are defined not only by distinct forms of organization but also by their different purposes, functions, values, and motivations, as well as by their different approaches to property and finance, and of course by the different kinds of actors and activities with which we associate them.  According to TIMN, the fourth realm and its sector will be likewise. 

Exactly what actors and activities may comprise the next-new realm?  How might we know apart from sheer speculation?  As I indicated above, and for reasons I shall expand in future chapters, TIMN implies that the fourth sector, like the prior three, will emerge and take shape around a core challenge, or set of challenges, that the prior sectors are no longer suited to addressing and resolving, yet that must be addressed and resolved if a society as a whole is to keep progressing.  Best I can deduce — if you have a better idea, please advance it — the challenges that most fit this criterion are health, education, welfare, and the environment. 

Curiously, these matters, viewed as a set, involve a common cross-cutting theme; and that theme is care, broadly defined — individual and collective care; people care, life care, indeed the care of body, mind, and soul; political, social, cultural, and environmental care, indeed planetary care.  The overarching goal is to assure that people can do their best for themselves, for their families and communities, and for the common good of society.  

For decades these care-centric matters were manageable enough to fit, and be force-fitted, into various public, private, and public-private programs, sometimes with civil-society actors playing roles too. By now, however, these problems have all become so enormous, complicated, unsettled, and unsettling, that they beg for new approaches.  As a set, they have outgrown the triform framework in ways our leaders do not see yet. 

For America to remain on the cutting edge of human progress and social evolution, our leaders better start seeing this.  From a TIMN standpoint, what seems most advisable is that this fourth sector be a “commons sector,” with health, education, welfare, and environmental matters migrated out of the existing three sectors and into this next-new one.  More on that as we go along.

The Chapters Ahead

That is the argument I shall unfold in a series of chapters to be posted here.  The tentative title is How and Why Societies Evolve, Some Better than Others.  The chapter order I currently have in mind is as follows:

1.   Anticipating The Emergence Of Quadriform Societies [this chapter]

2.   Backstory: From Cyberocracy To Networks To TIMN

3.   Overview Of Social Evolution: Past, Present, And Future

4.   Organizational Forms Compared: TIMN vs. Other Frameworks

5.   Explaining Social Evolution: TIMN’s Recurrent System Dynamics

6.   Forecasting The Fourth Realm: Toward A Care-Centric Commons Sector

7.   America Transformed: Implications For Theory, Policy, And Strategy

Decades may pass before anyone can know for sure whether what I am about to lay out amounts to scientific analysis or science fiction — a protopian guide to the future, or a misconceived conjecture.  All I know for certain is that it is my driven duty to try to lay it out, and that I am at least ten years behind in doing so. 

Surely the triform design is not the best design that evolutionary progress can offer humanity — its final stage, the end of history.  That seems way too limiting, even dystopian, lacking in promise.  Quadriform systems are unlikely to become utopias, but they could bring basic massive improvements to people’s lives for generations to come.

- - - - - - -

[P.S.:  I have a pretty good start lying around, beginning with my 1996 RAND paper on the basics of TIMN, and a 2007 follow-up paper on tribes as the first and forever form.  You are reading a first draft of Ch. 1 right now.  Ingredients for Chs. 3-6 already exist in blog posts I’ve written since 2008, but they all need revising and updating.  Ch. 5 on system dynamics will benefit from the fact that my 1996 paper contains a section that identifies some dynamics, and later blog posts reported on others I have uncovered.  Problem is, there are still other dynamics I have found in recent years, but at this point I do not know where I wrote them down.  Much of Ch. 6 exists in blog posts I drafted a couple years ago, but never completed for posting. 

As for Ch. 7 on TIMN’s implications for theory, policy, and strategy, many points already exist in prior blog posts; it should not be too difficult to pull them together in a concluding chapter.  But I also have new deductions to add, notably that TIMN seems “biased” in favor of recognizing the limitations as well as strengths of each form, developing their bright sides while constraining their dark sides, keeping the forms in some kind of balance so that no single form dominates the others, and opposing absolutisms and extremisms of all kinds since they are bound to create imbalances, distortions, and rigidities.  My long-range aim is to identify ways to foster the transition to a quadriform system, but my near-range hope is more practical: to identify principles embedded in TIMN for getting the triform model right too.  More on this later.

I am likely to be repetitive, long-winded, halting, and tentative along the way.  But hopefully that can all be corrected later, amounting to the least of my problems in trying to lay out TIMN and its implications.]