Originally posted at Substack on September 27, 2022, at:
- - - - - - -
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
Post a Comment