[UPDATE — October 20, 2013: I've added an appendix at the end. It reflects an email exchange between Bennett and me regarding this post.]
As I was saying, the new book by conservative libertarians James Bennett and Michael Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Best Days are Yet to Come (2013) illuminates the importance of the nuclear family for understanding how and why the United States has developed so exceptionally well. And the book does so in ways that are good for TIMN.
I’ve long said that TIMN rests on the nature of the tribal (T) form, and how it is expressed in specific societies/cultures. In particular, differences at the T level may help explain differences in, say, American and Chinese patterns of development. And I’ve attributed American “exceptionalism” to our culture’s emphasis on the nuclear family, in contrast to the extended family, clan, and other T-level designs that prevail in most societies.
Yet I’ve said all that only sketchily in scattered spots (see Part-1 Appendix). I’ve not provided elaboration. America 3.0 offers a compelling elaboration about the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution, in ways that help validate and reinforce TIMN.
Part 1 laid out the themes in America 3.0 that interest me, mostly in its own terms and with few review comments. This Part 2 provides a more pointed look at America 3.0, in terms of TIMN themes and principles (as I understand them so far).
I’ve tried to keep ideological leanings, mine and theirs, out of my discussion. After all, as a whisperer of TIMN, I am far less interested in whether a new writing leans sideways, Left or Right, than whether it leans forward toward quadriformism. There is still plenty of time before Left and Right varieties of quadriformism evolve. Meanwhile, I intend to embrace them all, up to a point (even as I continue to take shots at current triformist varieties of conservatism and liberalism).
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Overlaps with TIMN themes and propositions
Part 1 discussed America 3.0’s key overlap with TIMN: the prevalence and significance of the nuclear family in the American case. This leads to questions about family matters elsewhere. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that there is more to TIMN’s tribal form than the nature of the family. I also spotted several additional thematic overlaps between America 3.0 and TIMN, and I want to highlight those as well. Thus, in outline form, this post addresses:
- Seeking a fuller understanding of family matters beyond the American case.
- Gaining a fuller understanding of the tribal/T form.
- Anticipating the rise of the network/+N form.
- Recognizing that every form has bright and dark sides.
- Recognizing the importance of separation among the forms/realms.
- Recognizing that balance among them is important too.
- Cautioning against the exportability of the American model.
My discussion emphasizes the T and +N forms. Bennett and Lotus also have lots to say about +I and +M matters — government and business — and I’ll squeeze in a few remarks along the way. But this post mostly skips +I and +M matters. For I’m more interested in how America 3.0 focuses on T (quite sharply) and +N (too diffusely).
By the way, America 3.0 contains lots of interesting observations that I do not discuss — e.g., that treating land as a commodity was a feature of nuclear-family society (p. 105), and so was creating trusts (p. 112). Readers are advised to harvest the book’s contents for themselves.
Family matters beyond the American case: America 3.0 focuses on the nuclear-type family and its effects in America, as discussed in Part 1. Yet, like TIMN, America 3.0 also indicates that different family types may account for differences in how cultures and societies evolve elsewhere. Indeed, non-nuclear marriage and family practices are the norm in most places around the world. As a result, the authors note, in cultures where extended family and clan patterns prevail, there's often a tendency toward corruption that is considered natural, even normal, not truly corruption (p. 254).
Thus, America 3.0 hints at an important point that coincides with TIMN: there is still a lot to be learned about the influence of family factors on social evolution. Bennett and Lotus even point to two theorists who should be consulted by anyone wanting to work on such matters: French sociologist Emmanuel Todd and British historian Alan Macfarlane. And the web site for America 3.0 provides a helpful blog roll of essential readings for both here. (In addition, Craig Willy posts a useful overview here, and T. Greer posts additional commentary here.)
Todd’s work looks very pertinent to TIMN. I’d heard about him, but only a bit. So I’m grateful to Bennett and Lotus for stressing his significance, providing guidance. Todd’s key proposition looks particularly interesting:
“A universal hypothesis is possible: the ideological system is everywhere the intellectual embodiment of family structure, a transposition into social relations of the fundamental values which govern elementary human relations: liberty or equality, and their opposites, are examples. One ideological category and only one, corresponds to each family type.” (source)Yet, if I were able to dig deep in this area, I’d also want to look at other studies on the effects of family structures and values, notably by Avner Greif (e.g., “Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origin and Implications of Western Corporatism,” 2005). I’d also want to draw on studies that are broadly about culture, notably by Lawrence Harrison (e.g., Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, 2001). After all, the T form is largely about culture. Furthermore, I gather that a lot more questions and cautions can be raised than I’ve done here about the future of the nuclear family in America; and it would be advisable to take a closer look at those and at literatures about them.
Along the way, I’d hope to find clarification not only about the influence of family structure on social evolution, but also about a notion I’ve long wondered about: Could it be that each TIMN form is associated with a different marriage pattern? In short, T-centric systems emphasize arranged marriages; +I systems bring Church- and state-sanctioned marriages; +M systems bring “marriage markets” where women gain more freedom of choice. And as for +N, I’m not sure what it may bring; but if recent trends are indicative, same-sex marriage may be part of what’s next. All this, if true, would cut across whether family structures tend to be nuclear, extended, or of a type more clannish and tribal in specific cultures. Maybe that would be an interesting finding. If so, it would uncover one more area where TIMN may be meaningful.
Tribes/T as the first and forever TIMN form: The nature of the family is the kernel of the tribal/T form in TIMN. But TIMN’s larger point is that it takes more than families to hold a society together; there is more to the tribal/T form than the nature of the family.
The T form is broadly, essentially, about perpetuating a sense of familial kinship throughout a society — one that engenders identity and belonging, mutual pride and respect, sharing and cooperation, even harmony and enthusiasm. It’s about how people feel toward each other, how people treat each other. It’s about stories people tell to make them feel part of their society. Thus, as often noted, it’s about communal / collective / social solidarity, a group feeling that renders social cohesion and trust. It’s also about constructing “imagined community” (term from Benedict Anderson). Metaphorically, it’s about social glue. More traditionally, the T form is about what Ibn Khaldun identified as asabiya (or asabiyya).
As I’ve noted before,
Each TIMN form has its particular philosophical and ideological proponents — such as Thomas Hobbes for hierarchies and Adam Smith for markets. However, the tribal form, perhaps because it is so ancient, lacks exemplary early proponents who left writings behind. Of course, the Bible and the Koran contain numerous passages about tribal principles. But if one is looking for a theoretical perspective, then one of the earliest examples is Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), an Arab (Tunisian) who was so concerned about the decline of the Islamic caliphate that he became one of the world’s first historians to analyze the rise and fall of civilizations. For him, the key factor was the loss of asabiya (an Arabic word for group feeling, unity, solidarity), which I take to be a tribal impulse. He was particularly critical of the negative effects that the growth of cities had on those ancient, nomadic, especially Bedouin, ways of life that reflected asabiya (Galtung and Inayatullah, 1997).” (2006, pp. 63-64)For an American, asabiya is an alien term. But it is gaining adherents. According to my files, I’ve learned more about it from blogger L.C. Rees (aka Citizen Foust), military experts William McCallister and Montgomery McFate, social evolutionists Peter Richerson and Peter Turchin (esp. here), and anthropologist Linda Darling (whose paper here may be best of all), not to mention others. So the term is taking hold in some analytic circles. Thus it seems worth keeping in mind as a defining dynamic. Otherwise, social solidarity and group feeling seem preferred terms.
But these are generalities about the essence of the T form. TIMN’s further point is that, as societies become more complex, more advanced, this tribal/T form shows up in many areas besides family life — e.g., in clubs and gangs, in alumni gatherings and old-boy networks, in community fairs and church gatherings, in nationalism and patriotism, in ethnocentrism and identity politics, in cronyism and patrimonialism, just to specify a few manifestations. I wish I could offer a full set of analytic categories, indicators, and measures about this. It would help in discerning the significance of family factors not only by themselves but also relative to other factors that make up the tribal/T form, broadly defined, in particular societies. Unfortunately, I’ve not worked that out yet; it still needs to be developed for the T (and every other TIMN) form if TIMN is ever to become a working model.
Meanwhile, here’s a dark point to close this sub-section: As America 3.0 says, Americans from nuclear families tend to be individualists as well as team-players. And in so being, they’ve been a positive force for political, economic, social, and cultural progress, without seeming all that “tribal” psychologically and culturally. But, according to TIMN, once a society falls under pressures that rack the later forms, people tend to revert to the T form: they get tribalized, often in bitter angry divisive ways And it seems to me, looking at what’s going on around our troubled country, that many Americans (including from nuclear families?) can turn as madly tribal as anyone anywhere. America 3.0 rightly treats America’s tribal/T base as a great strength, a source of opportunity. However, I’d add, based on TIMN, that all sorts of reversions to rank tribalism pose a considerable threat to America's future nowadays. And my concerns include especially the mean partisanship exhibited in Washington, particularly among conservatives.
Networks/+N as the TIMN form now on the rise: As I’ve often noted, TIMN implies the rise of the network/+N form in the decades ahead. Network forms of organization will take hold in myriad areas of society. More to the point, they will generate the creation of a new sector of society, separate and distinct from the established public and private sectors. It will surely emerge from out of civil society, not the economy or government.
Organizational and social networks certainly figure in America 3.0, especially for envisioning the future. According to the authors, the American nuclear family led to our engaging in myriad “networks of voluntary organization” (p. 39) throughout our history. In the decades ahead,
“Americans [will] rely on voluntary organizations and networks to accomplish many collective tasks that in other countries would either not be done at all, or which would be handled by extended families, or by government.” (p. 40)What the authors have in mind includes “church-based social service networks” (p. 6) and “volunteer networks” for monitoring (p. 10), along with “task-based networks” (p. 204) in many areas, a “network of compacts” (p. 6) at state levels, and “global networks of affinity” (p. 265) among nations organizing into network commonwealths along cultural lines. They also anticipate that networks of small suppliers (p. 210) and larger “networks of companies” (p. 271) will redefine manufacturing as well as education sectors.
So, they do indeed offer a “vision of a networked future” (source). But it is mainly economic in nature, although as I noted in a prior post they imply — without explicitly stating — that civil society may also be revitalized by new network technologies and forms of organization:
“[A] revival of civil society appears to be in store. New technology, which allows people to connect in new ways, is likely to lead to a revival of civil society in new forms. We expect this process to continue and to evolve rapidly. What we now refer to as “social media” are only early and primitive versions of the civil society-enabling technology we will be seeing in the years ahead. Nonetheless it is too early to say exactly how, and how much, new technology will revive and strengthen civil society.” (p. 41)Thus America 3.0 contains lots of markers for anticipating many kinds of networks. But the markers are scattered; they’re not pulled together in a singular way. And while some refer to organizational networks, others are about social networks. Perhaps that’s what the authors mean. But the result is the sort of view I often see: all sorts of networks are going to affect everything everywhere — not one area more than any other, although if anything it’s probably economics and business that receive the most attention in such views.
TIMN implies that network forms of organization are going to affect everything too. But it also says that +N is not just some affects-everything form; it will end up having focused effects on particular actors, creating a distinct sector of thought and action. I continue to doubt (à la here and here) that this sector will be primarily economic in nature; businesses already have their fundamental form, the +M form, even though it will be modified by +N forces. Instead, something new will emerge — probably, if my intuition is correct, out of civil society, while also taking some activities away from the current public/+I and private/+M sectors. My guess remains that these redirected activities will have mostly to do with health, education, welfare, and the environment (and lately I wonder about insurance too) — all activities underpinned by a sense that a commons is at stake. But I don’t know for sure, and it may be decades before anyone does — assuming TIMN holds true.
In other words, America 3.0 isn’t quite about +N. Thus it’s not quite quadriformist. But at least its future orientation is looking and stepping in the right directions.
Each TIMN form as having bright and dark sides: TIMN recognizes that all four forms have bright and dark sides, and implies that societies should try to elevate the bright over the dark:
“Each of the four forms, writ large, embodies a distinctive set of structures, processes, beliefs, and dynamics about how society should be organized — about who gets to achieve what, why, and how. Each involves different codes and standards about how people should treat each other. Each enables people to do something — to address some social problem — better than they could by using another form. Each attracts and energizes different kinds of actors and adherents. Each has different ideational and material bases. Each has both bright and dark sides, both strengths and weaknesses. And each can be gotten “right” or “wrong” in various ways, depending on circumstances. …
“Societies that can elevate the bright over the dark side of each form and achieve a new combination become more powerful and capable of complex tasks than societies that do not.” (source)America 3.0 does not exhibit exactly the same view. But there is some overlap. In particular, the authors observe that the principles and traits associated with the nuclear family, though generally positive, have both bright and dark sides. This is noticeable, for example, in middle-class families whose views exhibit a “defensive-mindedness … [that] can be applied in arbitrary and even brutal fashion” (p. 42). It’s also noticeable in the ways America is a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38), creating difficulties for some people. The authors also seem to regard government as having more dark sides than bright.
That both bright and dark sides exist is more a passing than a key theme in America 3.0. But for TIMN it is a key proposition, even though I have barely discussed it so far. If/when TIMN can be turned into a modeling framework, it will be important to specify indicators of the bright and dark sides of each form that may be present in societies under assessment.
[Brief aside: Lately I’m struck that so many enterprises, not to mention individuals, are able to combine bright and dark sides, as though doing so were a deliberately integral part of their business model. Maybe this pattern merits an analytical term. Two-faced is slangy. Bipolar might fit; but it’s mostly identified with oscillations between two poles (as in a bipolar mood disorder), or with a system that has independent separated poles (as in the Cold War’s bipolar system). Maybe ambipolar — as in “the ambipolar enterprise” — is what I’m looking for, since this term from physics means “applying equally to both positive and negative ions” and “operating in two directions simultaneously”. Not a healthy sign in a democracy.]
Separation of the TIMN forms and their realms: TIMN observes that the rise of a form leads to creation of a new realm/sector of society. It also claims that societies function best when these realms/sectors are kept relatively separate. If not, distortions and corruptions are bound to occur, such as when penetration by patrimonial clans hinders the proper professional functioning of a government or business, or when a totalitarian state tries to intervene in all realms of society.
As though in the spirit of TIMN, America 3.0 draws on British historian Alan Macfarlane’s view that “the distinguishing feature of modern life is the separation of the various spheres of life: politics, economics, religion, and kinship” (p. 83). And the authors associate this English, and then American, penchant for separation with their theme about the nuclear family:
“The English were from an early time remarkable in their ability to break up the spheres and keep them separate. In that sense, the English were "modern" before modern times. …
“We speculate that the separation of spheres, and the institutions that grew up in a "separated" society, are all downstream consequences of the underlying family structure we have detailed above.” (p. 84)According to America 3.0, what has allowed these separated spheres to keep working together harmoniously was the English, and then American, penchant for voluntary association, in ways that expressed civil society:
“… A key to the success of the English, and then the Americans, was allowing voluntary association in each realm: political parties, business firms, church congregations, and nuclear families. Civil society associations of all kinds, formed on a voluntary basis, are the central defining feature of England and later America. It provided the glue that held together the divided spheres.” (pp. 84-85)The authors go on to say that, “To achieve the economic and political benefits of modern life, any country, any group of people, must achieve this separation to some degree.” They note cases across history where despotic regimes have resorted to a “reintegration of the spheres, with the concomitant loss of freedom and faltering economic growth.” (p. 85)
This is all very TIMN-like. As presently configured, TIMN does not identify exactly the same spheres as they do, but there is a big overlap. Macfarlane’s spheres correspond roughly to T, I, and M, if we count both kinship and religion as aspects of the T form.
Moreover, relating the separation principle to the nuclear family principle looks like a valuable point. TIMN could benefit from offering more clarification about this. I’ve long thought that the separation principle, as well as the balance principle (see below), may be most difficult to carry out in societies whose systems are penetrated by extensive T-type dynamics — i.e., in societies where politics, economic, and other affairs revolve around traditional extended-family, clan, and/or truly tribal dynamics.
Balance among the TIMN forms and their realms: TIMN is not only about the separation of forms/sectors. It also about keeping them in balance vis à vis each other, so that they reinforce each other in positive ways. Otherwise, distortions and corruptions occur.
“Balanced combination is imperative: In the TIMN progression, the rise of each new form depends on the successes and failures of the earlier forms. Each form (and its realm) builds on its predecessor(s); the development of each, in turn, may be crucial for the next to arise and take root. For a society to progress optimally through the addition of new forms, no single form should be allowed to dominate; and none should be suppressed or eliminated — some kind of balance and equilibrium should be sought. A society’s potential to function well at a given level, and to evolve to a higher level of complexity, depends on its ability to integrate these inherently contradictory forms into a well-functioning whole. Balanced combination is best for long-term evolution. Indeed, balance may be the key watchword of the entire TIMN framework. Otherwise, enormous structural and ideological distortions may occur; for imbalance — too much of this form or that — may bring out the worst aspects of a form.” (source)
“My third point is about balance: It has been easy to find examples of the tribal form persisting in activities ruled by the other TIMN forms. But it is not easy to specify how much is good, or bad. Too much tribalism can restrict and distort the other forms. But too little may hinder the other forms’ taking root and functioning as well as they could. An appropriate metaphor is glue. The tribal form resembles a kind of social glue that holds a society together. If that glue is too strong and spread too wide, it can keep the later forms from developing their own cores and dynamics. But if it is too weak and spotty, a society may become so atomized and lacking in social trust that it cannot progress further. Presumably, there is a middle ground where balance is important — where the forms interact, but none dominates. Presumably, too, each society must find its own way on these matters. Indeed, one way such matters get addressed is through epochal debates. Thus, for example, the Enlightenment initiated great discussions about whether and how commercial behaviors were subverting old family and community ways, a discussion that at times rears anew even now.” (2006, pp. 67-68)America 3.0 isn’t quite about balance in the same way, but it does make good points that are pertinent to and consistent with TIMN:
“Striking a balance between freedom and rules, between independence and security, between individualism and the common good, has been the perpetual challenge of American life. By and large, over the centuries, in the face of many challenges, Americans have gotten the balance reasonably right.
“In recent years, however, it has become more and more obvious that the balance has been lost. Indeed, this "unbalanced" political and economic order we live with now, which we call America 2.0 — and is also known as the Blue Model, or the welfare state — is on the verge of falling apart.
“... We will rework existing institutions, and build new ones, suited for emerging conditions. This new era, which we call America 3.0, will be more consistent with our cultural foundations than the world that is now fading away.” (p. 49)The authors seem particularly critical of government’s huge size and scope. I’m more inclined to point fingers at corporatism in the private sector. But we all worry about the increasing fusion — i.e., lack of good separation — between big government and big business; America 3.0 and TIMN both lead to being concerned about imbalances in America’s system and society. As I wrote years ago (here), “Today, both liberalism and conservativism — and the American system as a whole — look out of balance in TIMN terms.” In their view, America 2.0 is fraught with public-private “entanglement” and “corruption” (p. xiii), as well as “crony capitalism” and a “rigged game” (p. 36). Thus, America 3.0 and TIMN overlap in urging that we need to rethink and regain a more proper separation and balance, in keeping with our founding principles.
Previously, I’ve directed the TIMN proposition about balance at the balance between/among the forms and their realms — a horizontal perspective. As a result of reading America 3.0, I’m sensing that the proposition about balance should be modified to apply within a form/realm as well — from a vertical perspective. If so, then as America 3.0 observes, new attention should be focused on correcting the balance among federal, state, and local governments, as well as among big, medium, and small business enterprises. TIMN’s balance principle seems to have both horizontal and vertical aspects — a matter to keep an eye on verifying as we go along.
Finally, I’m wondering whether the TIMN propositions about separation and balance may be connected in ways I’m just beginning to notice. Could it be that the more imbalance there is in a society, the less likely is proper separation among the forms/realms? Does this manifest itself in the growth of dysfunctional complexes and hybrids, such as the old military-industrial complex or a monstrous public-private hybrid like Fannie Mae? If the answers are yes, then this might lead to an additional TIMN proposition, and to another overlap between America 3.0 and TIMN.
Caution about the exportability of the American model: TIMN sharpens — at least it is supposed to sharpen — our understanding that how societies work depends on how they use four cardinal forms of organization. This simplification leaves room for great complexity, for it is open to great variation in how those forms may be applied in particular societies. Analysts, strategists, and policymakers should be careful about assuming that what works in one society can be made to work in another.
In this vein I once wrote that:
“A sound theory of social evolution would be handy to have. Although there are philosophers and social scientists who question whether evolution has brought real progress to humanity, U.S. policymakers and strategists operate on assumptions that societies based on political democracy, market economies, and independent civil societies are better — more advanced, civilized, peaceful, stable, productive, equitable, and responsible — than other societies. And, indeed, many foreign policy problems facing Washington concern one aspect or another of social evolution — such as how to keep former communist countries on democratic paths, how to sustain economic liberalization in Asian and Latin American nations where elites may prefer cronyism to capitalism, how to motivate tribal systems in Africa and the Middle East to modernize, and how to deal with ethnic conflicts in places that lack professional states and may be under the sway of criminal clans. In addition, assumptions about social evolution lie behind both international and U.S. assistance programs, which are supposed to lift people out of poverty, diminish the lures of crime and terrorism, create middle classes, and put all on paths to freedom and prosperity.
“But are such assumptions valid? What are the keys to social evolution?” (2006, p. 7)In retrospect it seems I pulled my punch there. I left out what might/should have come next: TIMN-based counsel to be wary about assuming that the American model, especially its liberal democracy, can be exported into dramatically different cultures. I recall thinking that at the time; but I was also trying to shape a study of just the tribal form, without getting into more sweeping matters. So I must have pulled that punch, and I can’t find anywhere else I used it. Even so, my view of TIMN is that it does indeed caution against presuming that the American model is exportable, or that foreign societies can be forced into becoming liberal democracies of their own design.
Meanwhile, America 3.0 clearly insists that Americans should be wary of trying to export the American model of democracy. Since so much about the American model depends on the nature of the nuclear family, policies that work well in the United States may not work well in other societies with different cultures — and vice-versa. Accordingly, the authors warn,
“American politicians are likely to be wrong when they tell us that we can successfully export democracy, or make other countries look and act more like the United States.” (p. 24)
“A foreign-policy based primarily on "democracy-promotion" and "nation-building" is one that will fail more times than not, ... .” (p. 254)TIMN is not a framework about foreign policy. But as a framework about social evolution, it may have foreign-policy implications that overlap with those of America 3.0. In my nascent view (notably here, here, and here), the two winningest systems of the last half-century or so are liberal democracy and patrimonial corporatism. The former is prominent among the more-advanced societies, the latter among the less-developed (e.g., see here). As Bennett and Lotus point out, liberal democracy is most suitable where nuclear families hold sway. And as I’ve pointed out, patrimonial corporatism is more attractive in societies where clannish tribalism holds sway.
Those are gross generalizations, but they speak to a mutual point: It’s no wonder that America has not succeeded very well at exporting liberal democracy, though the effort has been somewhat fruitful in some places. TIMN does not mean that U.S. actors should stop trying to influence and aid democratic possibilities elsewhere, but TIMN probably implies a thorough rethinking of how we go about doing so — a topic for another day, perhaps.
Closing comment: America 3.0 is more triformist than quadriformist
TIMN holds that America is trying to evolve beyond a triformist T+I+M society, in order to become a quadriformist T+I+M+N society. If so, +N forces will lead to the emergence of a new sector, along with a vast reform and rebalancing of the entire American system.
The viewpoint of America 3.0 doesn’t quite overlap this formulation. Its great strength, from a TIMN viewpoint, is its attention to the roles of the nuclear family as the underpinning of the T form in America. But the analysis falls short of TIMN in terms of how it assesses the roles of network forms of organization (i.e., +N).
In sum, then, America 3.0 is a worthwhile read, but it is still in the mold of triformist (T+I+M) analysis — albeit a conservative libertarian kind of triformist plus (say with a little +n). Thus it makes for a good companion and contrast to Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect — another triformist plus analysis, but from a kind of liberal progressive viewpoint, as I’ve discussed. While there are few peer progressives in America 3.0, Future Perfect offers too little about family life.
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Appendix: Q’s and A’s: Bennett and Ronfeldt
After I posted the above Part 2 about America 3.0, book co-author James Bennett emailed some follow-up comments and questions. This led to an informal exchange. This Appendix provides excerpts that offer some clarifications about TIMN, as well as about conservative libertarian vs. TIMN thinking.
Neither he nor I expected our exchange to end up in this appendix. If we had, we might have written more carefully. No matter, we understand — as should readers — that our comments amount to rough drafts, subject to revision at any time. As Bennett notes in a recent email, “Fair enough as a snapshot of a conversation at that point in time.”
Bennett: 1. I understand that TIMN is additive; at each stage, the old layer of relationships remains, and finds new ways of interacting with or using the new layers. (One obvious example is criminal clans that feign loyalties to institutions but infiltrate them and use their positions to further the criminal ends of the clan.) So, what is your criterion for when the new layer becomes the predominant or characteristic mode of a society? When a majority of the productive relationships are mediated primarily by the new mode? When the great majority (say, >80%) are? No society has even entirely eliminated earlier modes, I believe, although modern Northern European and Anglosphere societies have pushed kinship modes into the corner pretty well.
Ronfeldt: I've not settled on specific criteria for any single form. But overall, I'd start with generally supposing that a form has emerged and is on a path to maturity when people say it's happening: i.e., / e.g, when distinctive values, ethics, rules, codes, practices cohere; when a particular set of organizations are said to define a sector; when philosophers and theorists cluster around it; when growing problems can be addressed in new ways.
Your remark emphasizes "productive" relationships. That's an economics term, apropos the market form. I doubt it's the right optic to emphasize for the other forms.
Modern people think less/least about the tribal form. Yet, in TIMN, no earlier mode disappears; nor should It be made to — that would be self-defeating. It may seem as though Anglosphere societies have "pushed kinship modes into the corner" — but I see functional equivalents all over the place. They just get remarked about using other language. As I’ve said before, in my view, America is currently fraught with lots of reversions to kinship-like tribalism, from Burning Man to … well, you name it … and let's include what's occurring in Congress. Tea-Party proponents often display tribal rhetoric and dynamics.
Bennett: 2. Haven’t markets and institutions pretty much co-evolved? The first city-states in Mesopotamia had fairly sophisticated market mechanisms visible early on; some of the first writing we have deals with contracts, disputes, prices, billing and payments, etc. – even before the existence of coined money. It also shows how markets were dependent on institutions from early on, since adjudication more or less implies adjudicators and enforcers.
Ronfeldt: Sure, but I’d add that all the forms have coevolved to some extent. Institutions and markets just get the most attention. I've come to think that all four forms start out in a tribal way, as endeavors pushed by spirited bands of brothers who believe they are onto something radically new. Thus, clan-based chiefdoms create the bases for early states; later, well-positioned families create transnational banking systems essential for markets; now, tribes of geeky activists are into peer-oriented network-building. As a form matures / professionalizes, the tribal aspects should diminish; but they may have been crucial for the initial co-evolution. I don't know for sure, but that's what I’d speculate for now.
I'd have to know more about the ancient cases of "market mechanisms" that you mention. I've focused so much on tribes and networks that I’ve not done the reading and writing for even a proto-chapter about either institutions or markets, except for what's in my original paper.
But, it's one thing to observe that economic transactions with some early market-like attributes took place back then. It's quite another to claim that market mechanisms had a strong existence.
Bennett: 3. Question 2 brings in question 1. Under some definitions one can say that markets of course have existed, and have been the primary means of mediating human relations in some societies for a very long time, but they were not the ruling mode until the 19th century. One way to look at this is to ask “what is the largest and most complex artifact a given society can make, and what is the most complex and elaborate social institution a society possesses? And which mode of interaction is used to produce that result?” For much of recorded history the largest and most complex artifact has been the largest ship that society has used. For most of history that ship would be a capital warship, produced by an institution, usually a naval dockyard. For the first time, in the 19th century, commercial ships built by commercial shipyards became equal or larger.
Ronfeldt: Whoa, it would take extremely expansive definitions of markets indeed to justify claims about markets being "the primary means of mediating human relations … for a very long time" and then becoming "the ruling mode". It's part of TIMN that all four forms have existed since ancient times, but they've risen and matured at different rates. I see no reason why — and I can't think of any theorists who'd argue that — TIMN should succumb to a definition of markets that is more expansive than definitions for the other forms. (See below for additional comment.)
I'm not sure what to make of the questions about the "largest and most complex artifact" and "the most complex and elaborate social institution". I think I’ve seen these notions before, and they make some sense. But they also strike me as a good way to start indefinite discussions. Sure, an aircraft carrier is a wondrous artifact. But does the answer have to be a stand-alone artifact? What about … well, I don't know where to start and stop.
True, as societies advance according to the TIMN progression, they should be able to produce increasingly complex artifacts and entities. And that is surely a good measure of something. Or is it a kind of truism?
Bennett: What is the largest artifact produced by networked peer-to-peer production? Arguably, the Linux programming language. But of course the core of that artifact was the product of an institution.
Ronfeldt: Why can't the answer be the usual one: the Internet? It's earliest version was the result of a band of technologists operating at the behest of government institutions. It morphed after businesses latched on to use and produce for it. But the greatest growth and innovation was more the result of "networked peer-to-peer" activities.
If you want your question to apply only to what "networked peer-to-peer production" can come up with, I doubt we've seen much yet. It's still early. Most writers who are into that kind of thing keep focusing on business enterprise futures. But I continue to doubt that the most exemplary results will be so market-oriented.
Bennett: 4. Do all societies eventually go through all four modes? What makes the new forms emerge, or eventually become predominant? Why do they emerge in some societies and not others? (As you have probably have seen, answering these questions in regard to the T>I transition is one of the perennial unresolved disputes of anthropology.) Looking at the case of England, following Campbell and Macfarlane, we see that market mechanisms emerged very early as an important means of mediating social relations, and certainly by the 13th century market mechanisms became as essential, integral part of everyday life. In fact Macfarlane’s work probably would support an argument that markets were the predominant means of mediating social relations in England from the 13th or 14th c. onward.
Ronfeldt: If TIMN is valid, then yes, all societies should/will ultimately go through all four modes (and maybe there's a fifth yet to come). But there has been and will be plenty of variations.
It's good for England (and America) that the market form took hold early there. But again, I’m far from accepting that "markets were the predominant means of mediating social relations" as you put it. More research might enlighten me. But that word "predominant" looks suspect; it doesn't match what I’ve read trying to educate myself.
Bennett: 5. If markets existed very early on, one can argue that networks did too. The relationship among monastic houses in medieval Europe has a number of network characteristics, even as they also had institutional and market aspects as well. The “republic of letters” among Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars and scientists certainly had network characteristics, as did the Masonic order that closely overlapped that network. Medieval guilds were also mixtures of institutional, market, and network characteristics, and of course the Masonic Order was originally a guild that left behind its direct economic function. And that super-guild, the Hanseatic League, was a fascinating example of an entity that functioned as an institution – it almost functioned as a state -- but had no institutional form at all, and had both market and network characteristics.
Ronfeldt: Yes, there are lots of instances all across history where particular forms seem nascent in bits and pieces ahead of their time. A challenge for TIMN.
But as for examples you mention, many may seem like mixes of markets and networks, not to mention institutions. But don't leave out tribal aspects. In my view, they figure in almost all you mention: monastic houses, medieval guilds, masonic lodges — to some extent they had some attributes of networked tribes or tribal networks.
Bennett: 6. One reason our work did not take a quadriform character is that we are not yet convinced as to whether networks should be considered a fourth, distinct form of human organization, or whether they are just a special case of markets. It is not yet clear to me how a society can organize itself primarily around peer-to-peer production and still have everybody make a living. Most of the peer-to-peer advocates seem to be trustafarians or holders of some sort of sinecure in academia or government, or people on the fringes of market institutions, like consultants and self-employed hackers. Linux was a fascinating phenomenon, but at some point when it got real people went back into the marketplace and formed conventional for-profit companies like Red Hat.
Ronfeldt: Networks as a "special case of markets"!? First I have to joust with advocates of social network analysis and network science who claim that networks are the mother of all forms, that tribes, hierarchies, and markets are just special cases of networks, and that TIMN‘s notion of a distinct +N form lacks merit. Now I come across libertarian advocates of markets who want to engulf networks. See my comment about Max Border's view in my Part-4 blogpost about Steven Johnson’s book in July. According to Borders, activity that pursues value through voluntary interaction is a market activity — making networks a subordinate form. Do I have to put up with this for much longer !?
TIMN would never hold that "a society can organize itself primarily around peer-to-peer production". And hardly any of p2p's radical proponents even go that far.
As I’ve said before, a word other than "networks" may ultimately be needed for TIMN. That might help clear matters up. But I haven't spotted such a word yet. "Platforms" doesn't quite seem right, for example.
And here's a speculation I’ve wondered about: Rather than networks being a special case of markets, maybe it's more likely that networks will turn out to be a 2.0 version of tribes — which would mean there are only three cardinal forms, not four, and also that 2.0 versions of institutions and then markets lie further ahead.
Bennett: Personally, I am a Hayekian, so to me any voluntary exchange system is a subcategory of a market. (Tribal societies are not markets because they depend on people carrying out inherited kinship obligations.) Will networks and peer-to-peer become a genuinely different way of organizing society and production, or will they become permanently and necessarily intertwined with markets? To me, that point is unclear. Of course if that happens it would be a major transformation of markets and a new era of economics, to be sure. Perhaps as significant as the rise of joint-stock corporations. But not a watershed as significant as the T>I>M shift.
Ronfeldt: I'm far from inquiring fully into definitions of and requirements for markets. Yes, exchange lies at the heart of markets. TIMN agrees with that. But I see little reason to expect that any exchange means a market is present, anymore than any command means an institution is present.
Besides, what about exchanges of marriage vows? Exchanges of artillery fire? Do those mean that markets are present? That markets is the best optic for such matters?
Also, you mention about networks becoming "permanently and necessarily intertwined with markets"? But what if civil society, or something that emerges from it, is the key domain for networks? Does that mean civil society is part of markets? Doesn't seem right to me for TIMN.
— End of Appendix —
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[A thankful h/t to Michael Lotus for helpful (and corrective) comments on a draft of this post. Another thankful h/t to James McCormick for comments, mostly on my Part-1 post, that raised questions and cautions about the future of the nuclear family in America — more than I can attend to here.]