-The more people in society, the less personal it becomes.
-The more mechanical it becomes, the more sophisticated formal rules and red tape required to maintain order.
-The more people, the more everyone has to sacrifice for everyone else.
-The more people, the less powerful the individual becomes.
This trend is an example of what I like to call friction of association.
Yes, there are tremendous advantages to reaping the productivity of a mass society, but it comes with a terrible price.
Redundancy cushioning is the predictable emergent property of this trend: Eventually the phenomenon of aggregated humanity itself becomes so large that no single person or group can make any significant change. Mass society itself becomes in effect enthroned as a mindless autocrat.
People form into groups to benefit from their combined productivity, for companionship, for protection, for increased variety of available mates. When friction of association reaches a certain threshold, losses begin to outweigh benefits. The abstraction of ‘group’ itself solidifies into a substantial governing force beyond any means of human regulation or accountability. It is difficult to hold a corporation accountable for its ‘actions’ when treated as a single being for legal purposes. It is altogether impossible to do so with an overgrown conceptual construct.
The only way out of such a situation is Fracture. To cease to acknowledge the autocrat, to create a new group.
To prevent the cycle from repeating itself, it is necessary to model new groups with the objective of minimizing friction of association.
One of the most successful ways this has been done is by being selective about who is admitted. Whoever is a member of your society is someone for whom you share responsibility. The beliefs and expectations of each person admitted determine what is to be the collective culture of the group. As such, high selectivity holds a social body to its original ‘intentions’ and keeps it in the service of those who founded it.
History tells us that cultures with precise definitions of belonging and exclusion are the longest lived. Excellent examples are the Jewish and Armenian communities that have persisted across milennia despite multiple attempts to wipe them out altogether.
These two example cultures endured stressors that would break apart any other social group because they had a well defined criteria for belonging (ethnicity) and most importantly, a complex shared tradition formally written down to serve as an impermeable barrier to outsiders and a powerful force of unity to those on the inside.
Friction of Association and Social Selectivity appears here by permission.
[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]
related: Redundancy Cushioning