Monday, January 02, 2017

On Coalitions

John Tooby argues that humans do not live in groups; rather, we live in coalitions.
Coalitions are sets of individuals interpreted by their members and/or by others as sharing a common abstract identity (including propensities to act as a unit, to defend joint interests, and to have shared mental states and other properties of a single human agent, such as status and prerogatives). 
A coalition is something you can " form, maintain, join, support, recognize, defend, defect from, factionalize, exploit, resist, subordinate, distrust, dislike, oppose, and attack." Unlike a group, which is sort of the human equivalent of a pile, a coalition has structure, identity, and emergent properties. Societies are made up of a variety of coalitions, but it would probably be best to identify a society as an interactive set of coalitions than of a group of people. That is, a society would be a degree of complexity greater than a coalition, and a coalition a degree of complexity greater than its human constituents. 

It may be the case that the stronger coalitions are, the weaker the society, and vice versa. That is, the Hayekian Great Society requires relatively weak coalitions to ensure a high degree of social cohesion at the level of a given society. That society may or may not be limited to a given nation's borders, as the fact that one can go to Europe and, for the most part, fit in and get along without a great deal of trouble proves. That is, there is a degree of "society" that transcends national borders, and is increasingly encompassing the globe. 

We need to better understand coalitions and their roles in our lives if we are going to better understand our social psychologies. These coalitions in part overlap many of our organizations, but may include many such organizations, or none. These coalitions in part extend out into greater society, but at the same time weaken as they extend. Of course, that weakening is both a problem (we may feel something missing in our lives) and a solution (the weaker they are, the better we can get along with others). This is clearly something we need to better understand to develop better ideas of what it means for us to have a healthy classically liberal society and what it means for the idea of individualism, and what individualism itself means.
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