Monday, June 25, 2012

Conservative Social Cohesion -or- Ants At Work

Social cohesion is the key to conservative success.  And what's ironic?  They generally hate "socialism" in any form and many don't believe in evolution.  Yet they rely on the evolutionary advantage of social evolution... Wow.
When two groups compete, the one with the most social cohesion wins in the long run.

This insight arises from research on group selection that reveals how social animals capable of working as a team readily out compete those individuals who must struggle on their own. The astute observer will already note the profound irony here — a political group whose ideology elevates the individual over the group (Conservatives) has managed to cultivate more group cohesion than the political group whose ideology blends community well-being with that of the individual. I’ll come back to this irony in a moment.

Progressives are easily kept on the defensive through the age-old strategy of Divide and Conquer

A fantastic overview of group selection can be found in E.O. Wilson’s groundbreaking new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, which builds a powerful argument for how humanity’s social nature enabled us to dominate every ecosystem we have entered in our 2 million year history.*

The argument goes something like this:

  1. Throughout history, a tiny number of species have developed a capability known as eusociality — advanced social organization comprised of large numbers of individuals with differentiated roles including members that span more than one generation
  2. Most eusocial species discovered in the fossil record are the social insects — ants, bees, termites, and wasps. Every one of these species has been so successful at thriving that their bodies contained more than half of the biomass in the ecosystems where they lived, meaning that they completely dominated the niches populated by them. This pattern continues up to the present.
  3. Humans are the only eusocial species to have the additional properties of strong emotional bonds between group members and advanced cognitive abilities that enable us to form coherent gestalts of meaning — especially the capacity for shared cultural narratives and tribal identities — which have enabled us to out-compete and dominate less socially adept animals in every ecosystem we have entered.
  4. The key strategy underlying this pattern is that well-organized groups, which elevate the needs of the whole over those of individuals, are more successful at acquiring resources and consolidating power than those individuals or groups that are less organized.

Sound familiar? In American politics, we see the top-down authoritarian worldview of Conservatives enabling them to fall in line and take marching orders. They form strong loyalty bonds through religious affiliation, old money networks, and various social clubs that give them an immense capacity for social cohesion.

And what about Progressives? We are divided into issue silos, unable to form lasting coalitions that bond us together under the same ideological flag, and easily kept on the defensive through the age-old strategy of Divide and Conquer. We have difficulty trusting each other and our funders are unable or unwilling to invest in talent for talent’s sake — they always need to monitor the outcomes of their giving and almost never fund the operational needs of our advocacy organizations.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree. Social cohesion is not key to Conservative success. Conservatives are most like Huns or Vandals. They rely upon social disruption and extortion for control. They are pillaging raiders who, themselves, are unfit to govern because they organize themselves into a war tribe, the individuals within said tribe each promised more spoils from the plunder. Tribalism is a conservative form of social organization; Conservatives are more tribal than anything else. Like the Huns and Vandals they do not create civilizations, they disrupt and pillage civilization and civilizing forces.

    Conservatives do not parallel sociobiological theory, a theory which by the way, I reject. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate Wilson. He’s a fine thinker, but sociobiology has its fundamental flaws, one of those flaws is group selection. I agree with some of Brewer’s conclusions about Progressive politics, but the sociobiological premise explaining Conservative politics is off base.

    Conservatives do not value individualism or individuality in any meaningful way. Their ideology does not elevate individual over group. They don’t at all value individuality. Their adherence to a so-called rugged individualism merely propagates an inflated American myth that points toward the merit of financially successful individuals and no others. They pride themselves on American Exceptionalism which again speaks to little more than manifest destiny of relatively few individuals. Their core belief doesn’t represent valuation of diversity - the collection of individuals nor the diversification of roles to strengthen the whole - that would be eusocial. Their social organization is mercenary. They value neither individual nor group.

    Conservatives are exactly the opposite of eusocial. There is no cooperative effort in Conservative social thought. They will cannibalize anyone who doesn’t adhere to the tribe. Conservatives are not “well organized” because they are in any way paralleling a eusocial pattern of existence. They are well organized because their values are transected by elitist propaganda that keeps them circling mindlessly, forever incapable of holding fast to a moral compass which might allow diversion of thought. There’s nothing evolutionary about it. It’s not natural selection influencing Conservatives, it’s the hegemony of the elite.

    Hope you are well. PJ