Monday, October 19, 2009

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

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

Now, here is Part II:

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- - - - -

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

This is why I sometimes say that TIMN is pro-market but not necessarily pro-capitalist; for capitalist practices may turn out to contradict the best of +M (not to mention T, I, or N) principles.

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

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

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

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

Triform societies where market (+M) principles have altered the nature of the (+I) state provide the archetypes of liberal democracy. As Charles Lindblom observed (1977, p. 116): “Not all market-oriented systems are democratic, but every democratic system is also a market-oriented system.” Hallmarks of the spread of +M principles into government include competitive political parties and elected legislatures. TIMN’s implication is not so much that liberal democracy per se makes a nation stronger; it’s that once a level of complexity is reached, a nation cannot turn stronger without turning liberal-democratic. China, as a newly triform system that today is more a consultative dictatorship than a democracy, will eventually become a major test of this proposition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *


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

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


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