From Modernity to After-Modernity (12)

Part 2. Theoretical considerations
Chapter 4. About societal governance and societal evolution

Political theory has always addressed the exercise of power by referring to the opinions of European classical thinkers about that subject. Nowadays political scientists particularly focus on Modernity and the Nation-State which are also European constructs. With the globalization of the reach of capital, that was put in motion in the 70ths through the actions of various international organizations, that European model of political theory is being imposed all over the world as if it was the sole truth of the matter about things relating to political science.

But the fact is that Europe represents no more than 5% of the world population. Adding to that 5% the geographical extensions it imposed on natives, along the initial phase of merchant capitalism (1), this 'European cultural domain' still counts no more than 10% of the world population. A question then arises. Why is the field of societal governance, which is what political theory is all about, so blind to the historical experience of such great countries as China (18.8% of the world population) and India (17.6% of the world population) (2)?

4.1. Hegemony

The word that best describes what is going on here is 'hegemony'. Hegemony is the cultural dominance resulting from the economic and military might of one or more nations. Hegemony throughout Modernity was seen moving from one area to the next:
  1.  the crusades opened up long distance trade between the Middle-East and Europe. This gave the Italian City-States an hegemonic role in the very early phase of Modernity
  2. 'triangular commerce', between - Britain (raw wool) - Bordeaux (wine) and – Bruges-Flanders (wool spinning and weaving), moved the center of power of the “Modern Economy World” to Bruges in Flanders-Belgium that at the time was called the Southern Netherlands. Bruges had built the most sophisticated money markets of the times (establishment in 1309 of the bourse of Bruges: world's first ever stock market) and was attracting merchants from all over Europe. But the silting of the Zwin gradually moved its activities to Antwerp that sits some 80 km further to the North-East. Unfortunately, for its future, Antwerp's protestant elites came in conflict with the occupier Catholic Spain and the city was sacked and burnt in 1580 and 1600. So capital holders and merchants moved again a little further to the North-East and the marshes of what was called at the time 'Northern Holland'.
  3. Spanish religious intolerance gave way to Dutch pragmatic tolerance and this accelerated the movement of capital holders to Amsterdam. This was so true that during the 17th and 18th centuries immigrants formed the majority of the population of the city and all kinds of languages: Dutch, German, Flemish, French, Scottish etc... were spoken by the city council members. A stock market was established in 1602 that financed the expansion of Holland's expeditions to the four corners of the world. The resulting dominance of Holland was truly the golden age of merchant capitalism. But soon two factors signaled that Holland's economic dominance was coming to an end: - 10% of Amsterdam's population died between 1663 and 1666 from the bubonic plague – and more importantly, while it was basking in the opulance of commerce, Holland completely missed the boat of the industrial revolution.
  4. British merchant capitalism ('triangular trade' between – Britain-nails – Africa-slaves – the Americas-sugar/cotton + the East India Company) morphed into mercantilism: "We must always take heed that we buy no more from strangers than we sell them, for so should we impoverish ourselves and enrich them" (3). This mercantilist principle justified the imposition by the East India Company of the opium trade on China and the 1721 British parliament ban to import Indian cotton goods. Philosophic rationalism had overtaken the universities which influenced entrepreneurs to start experimenting new production methods. The ban on the import of Indian cotton goods offered them a real incentive and opportunity and soon British industrially produced cotton goods overwhelmed the world. Britain remained the industrial hegemon during the whole 19th century. But competition was rife – first from Germany which was solved by the 1st world war – then by the US which was solved by the bankruptcy of Britain during the 2nd world war.
  5. the US is a state formed by European immigrants who systematically murdered the Indian natives in order to steal their lands and resources. In total, depending what study one refers to, some 20 to 50 million native people were killed or died victims of bacteria and germs transmitted to them by these invading Europeans. So the country was founded on a genocide but it never got condemned for it. The US then relied on slaves shipped from Africa to power the cultivation of cotton in its Southern States; that cotton was then shipped to Britain to be used as the raw material of choice of its industrial revolution. The US then used all means possible to steal British and other European technology. The same complaints, expressed today by Americans who are accusing China of stealing their technology, were voiced along the whole 19th century and first part of the 20th century by Europeans against the US. The 2nd world war was a boon for the US. Not only did it extirpate the country from its 'thirties recession' it also bankrupted the European nations clearing the level playing field for US domination in the future. But the opening of borders since the eighties to Western big capital holders, known as globalization, resulted into something that had not been forecast. Remember that the theory about globalization, at the time, explained that the delocalization of industrial activities from the West to the South was compensated by the fact that the West retained full control over science and technology, and industrial culture in general (management, marketing, design, packaging, etc…). But history judged otherwise.
  6. China soon became the cheap factory of the world and, while it supplied the West with extremely cheap consumer goods, it accumulated financial reserves. These reserves, which were accumulated over the span of a short two decades, can be summarized like this: – the equivalent of some four trillion dollars in foreign reserves – internal savings representing the equivalent of some 28 trillion dollars in bank deposits – home ownership rates reaching 90% without any significant mortgage debt – significant investments in foreign countries, in the stock market, in gold and other luxuries for which I did not find any valid figures. The question now is what will China do with such a bounty? We are assisting today at the emergence of the first signs of how China is going to handle its future economic dominance. The Chinese themselves call it an era of “win-win economic relations” and they are pushing this new model very strongly to establish a continental wide region of “co-prosperity ” that will be traversed by the land and sea “silk roads” that are presently receiving the bulk of their outward investments. The transition from US to Chinese economic and cultural dominance is shaping faster than such past transitions. The size of China's population explains the immensity of each of its economic moves and its impact on the world. But I think that it is the size, the depth, and pragmatism of its traditional culture that is going to play the determinant role in how the world reshapes along the next decades. To measure the speed of China's move to economic hegemon check the following graph.
Graph by the economist

4.2. What is a society?

The widely circulated words of Margaret Thatcher “There is no such thing as ‘society’ ” offer a very short answer to that question. But I'm afraid that instead of an answer it is more like an ideological vision that is totally detached from reality (4).

The traditional way to explain what is a society refers to a grouping of individuals. It certainly appears that societies are groupings of individuals but why then do individuals feel the need to assemble with others into groups?

A few direct answers come immediately to mind. But generally the narrative goes along the lines that individuals voluntarily assemble in groups to multiply their individual energies in order to attain something that they can't attain on their own. A society could be envisaged as such a build-up were it not for its size that immediately excludes the possibility that its individuals assemble on a voluntary base. So there must be more foundational mechanisms at work that explain the existence of societies.

When you look at what is a society through the prism of set theory you discover that a society is a sub-set of a larger set called a species and a species contains multiples societies or groupings of individuals.

All along “From Modernity to After-Modernity. Part 1: A rapid overview of the history leading to Late-Modernity” the picture that is painted is one of societies that are evolving. Societal evolution, as it unfolds along the arrow of time, is like a process of change that is being stoke up by necessity. Here is fast sketch remembering us the moments of societal evolution that were determinant in shaping the path to our present:
  • for some contextual reason not yet known as of today the conflicts between individuals of small kin groups trying to ensure their survival provoked a mutation in the DNA-RNA or other code of life that set in motion the growing of a new layer, the neo-cortex, on top of the existing brain layering.
  • once the neo-cortex had fully grown, some 200,000 years ago, this is when Homo-Sapients reached their present form.
  • the neo-cortex gave Homo-Sapients the faculty of abstract reasoning that very fast led to the expansion of spoken language and language allowed to groom more people. Grooming is what ensures trust building between the individuals and trust is what ensures that individuals can coexist. That activity takes a lot of time which explains why kin groups formed small gangs of only some tens in headcount. So the expansion of grooming capacity due to spoken language allowed for an increase in the size of the groups that as a result passed from a few tens to 150 on average (Dunbar number).
  • such an expansion of the group's headcount had tremendously positive consequences. Not only was gathering and hunting supplying vastly larger quantities of food per capita but the time invested in those activities decreased radically and so the individuals experienced something new: leisure time that had to be filled. Craft productions and feasts occupied the individuals' minds while the group proceeded to systematize the formation of knowledge. For reasons that are still not very well understood tribes universally adopted the same kind of knowledge formation set-up. They delegated the task to a 'man of knowledge' who in compensation for his devotion was freed from the obligation to work but was nevertheless allowed to share the proceeds of such work by the whole group.
  •  some 15-12,000 years ago a warming climate melted the ice sheets that covered most of the land mass. Such a changing environmental context proved to be a life multiplier. Plants grew in profusion in the freed valleys. Animals followed the plants and humans followed the animals. Women soon started to help mother nature and, at the image of the bees or the wind, they helped the plants whose seeds and grains they collected to spread over wider areas. Agriculture was born that, for a same amount of work, supplied larger quantities of food and as a direct consequence the groups' headcount increased. But as soon as the headcount of tribal groups passed the limits that had been assiduously respected all over the world for so many tens of thousands of years the tribal practices stopped functioning. Agriculture was perhaps, as Jared Diamond states, the biggest mistake humans ever made because the non-respect of their traditions that it provoked destroyed the magic of the golden 'Dunbar number' that was ensuring tribes could manage their affairs without the need of power institutions.
  • agriculture and the abundance it supplied devalued the importance of hunting and the male population must have wandering around for some time not knowing how to spend their energy. In the chaos unleashed larger groups did not succeed to self manage as they had been doing over the past tens of thousands of years and the need for an institutional set-up of power imposed itself as self evident. It is at this junction that more enterprising male individuals took up the idea of replacing the traditional guiding role of women in the organization of the tribe and submitted the group to obey the most physically powerful among them who then assumed the role of tribal chiefs. All these changes made a mockery of what tribes had been all about but the language did not integrate those changes and so what were definitely no longer tribes continued nevertheless being called tribes with all the confusion you might image this produced in the communication. I personally use the concept “early kingdoms” to describe the transition between tribes and empires. What some call a tribal chief is nothing else than the chief of an early-kingdom that eventually grew to the size and institutional set-up of a kingdom many generations later.
  • eventually, after a period of transition that lasted some 7,000 years or more, kingdoms stabilized by reproducing over the generations. One among those kingdoms then succeeded to regroup the others thus creating an empire. The men of power achieved this feat by associating with the men of knowledge and so were born the first religions and animism+ in China.
  • modernity then emerged some 800-600 year ago as an accident of history. I speak about accident because the set of conditions that had to be met for Modernity to emerge was so highly improbable that it is difficult to imagine how all these conditions came in place at the right time:  – after Christianity fostered a perception of the individual self during more or less one Milena  – projecting an image of luxuries in the minds of the European aristocracy the crusades were fostering a craving in these same minds for the possession of such luxuries  – long distance trade arose to answer such a craving by the aristocracy  – Europeans had been practicing only short distance trade till then and so the experience of long distance trade with all the risks attached must have caused the loss of a lot of gold  – to avoid losing the gold of their clients long distance merchants had to find new ways  – new financial instruments, like the letter of credit, were borrowed from the Arabs  – double entry accountancy was also borrowed from Arab merchants  – but even more fundamentally long distant merchants were soon convinced that the money invested in their trades developed its own internal logic  – the money invested in such trades was soon called capital  – and capital was understood as being driven by its internal reason – the success of the long distance traders manifested in the building of palaces and mansions which blew quite a few minds away  – after centuries all wanted to be as rich as those long distance merchants  – lastly the universities conceptualized a philosophic system based on what they understood was the reason at work within capital  – rationalism, as an expansion of the reason at work within capital, gave way to experimentation  – mercantilism offered an avenue for such experimentations to make a ton of money  – and industrial capitalism was finally born…

Do you believe that it would be possible for history to reproduce such an incredible list of conditions? I do but I have to confess that I don't believe that such a kind of assembling would be historically easier to emerge than life itself.

One characteristic accompanies each step of this very fast sketch of societal evolution. I mean societies are always mirrored by the individuals:

  • during tribal times society appeared to cover the entire spectrum while the individuals willingly submitted to societal needs. I mean that the animistic worldview was the exclusive narrative that filled the individuals' minds and as such we can safely say that the ego was absent in such societies.
  • “chiefdoms” or early kingdoms initiated the ego in the minds of the men of power and those around them and by extension these egos projected an image of indispensability into the minds of their 'subjects'
  • further developments of power societies expanded the number of subjects whose minds were being driven by egoism and individualism and this inexorably accentuated the perception of the importance and indispensability of the ego
  • modernity definitely freed the genie of egoism and individualism from its bottle.

From all this I conclude that societies and individuals are complementary. It looks indeed like they need each other and can not survive on their own. I propose to join this observation with the observation here above that a society is a sub-set of a larger set called species. What we immediately observe is that the self-centered ego is unable to see his own inclusion into a larger set than himself and as a result he starts to fantasize about his god like capacities. Doing so he turns ever farther away from reality. But in the end reality always re-asserts itself and when that happens the ego is being crushed under the impact of a re-balancing by the larger sets containing his own contextual set.

Societies and individuals are sub-sets of their species which itself is a sub-set of mother earth which is a subset... Societies and individual interact provoking feedback loops that balance their being. Those interactions are at the image of what I call the dance between polarities and in that sense their interactions are polarity-plays. Human individuals and human societies are the polarities of the human species. That means that their polarity-plays is what powers the reality of humanity.

4.3. A systemic approach of society and governance

I want to approach the subject of governance and societal evolution from a different angle than the traditional Eurocentrist model. My ambition is to lay-out a systemic model of societal life and of societal governance that, in my personal observation, appears to be in application in all living species.

Humanity is indeed not the only species that has to find workable ways to organize its affairs. In reality, whatever contemporary apologists of Modernity may affirm about the primacy of the individual, the fact is that along the entire span of life on earth, that totaled nearly 4 billion years, the atoms of all living species shared a common need to live in groups. All living species live in societies and for sure the form of these societies varies greatly from one species to the next.

The earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago and life emerged a little less than 1 billion years later. To put things into perspective Homo-Sapients, in our present form, appeared only some 200-250,000 years ago. This may appear as an eternity in the mind of an individual but such a length of time is barely visible on the line represented by the 3.5 billion years of life on earth. And, notwithstanding its short span, humanity already experimented a variety of different societal forms.

What is even more chocking is that Modernity and the Nation-State have been in existence during far less than 1% of the entire span of human societal life. This should normally suffice to instill a little dose of humility in our minds but an Eurocentric political theory nevertheless brushes all that under the mat as if it was a non event.

I have never been able to accept the reality proposed by political theory nor by economic theory for that matter. In my eyes all species live in societies and we can observe that they experiment with a very large variety of societal forms indeed.

The way I see it we should situate societal forms, their evolution, and societal governance in the frame of set theory. This would give us some perspective on the foundational nature of societies and from there we could inquire about the factors that determine how different societal forms and governance approaches take shape. This is what I have in mind when referring to the lay-out of the foundations of societal life and its governance as it applies to all living species.

Now I'm well aware that completing such a program is a herculean task. I'm no hero so I don't plan to complete such a task! My ambition is more limited. I'm a painter in search of answers to the following questions:
  •  “what is art?
  • why has humanity lost that knowledge?
  • how will humanity eventually reconnect with such a knowledge?”.
To get at the matter containing these answers I feel the need to dig into the roots of societal life. I hope this clarifies the limits of the settings of what follows.

4.3.1. Principles impacting societal evolution

Some of the principles that were exposed, in the past chapters of this part 2, are having a direct impact on societal evolution and governance so I'll now give some short notes about these principles.

A. Sets and polarity-plays

The investigation of reality confronts us with cascades of facts that flood our minds and in order to make sense out of it we somehow have to sift this multiplicity of facts by applying a system of lenses to our observations.

Such lenses are what makes sense emerge out of the multiplicity of facts that we observe. Mathematics act like such a system of lenses and its Set Theory, more particularly, helps to extract sense out of the multitude of human observations.

About Sets.

The interrelations of the parts within a set is what shapes its wholeness or the unity of the set standing on its own.
  • a set contains interrelating sub-sets and their systems auto regulate thus leaving the set to constantly change in order to adapt to the new realities fostered by its interrelating sub-sets.
  • the dance of the polarities of the parts of a set shape the evolving life of that set. That means that the auto-regulation of sub-sets and their systems is being structured along the paths taken by their polarities. In other words the balancing auto-regulation within a given set is the outcome of the dance between the polarities of each of its sub-sets and systems. That dance is indeed shaping the evolving of each part and the interactions between such evolving parts is what shapes the contours of the auto-regulation of the set.
  • an entity is a set that strives to balance the effects of the auto-regulation of its sub-sets through its own polarity-play. It does this in order to try containing, the ensuing balance resulting from the auto-regulation of its sub-sets, to a middle of the road approach that avoids too extreme behaviors that could indeed spell too much disruption for the reproduction of the set itself. I call such a set an entity because it seems to imply the presence of some level of consciousness about outcomes. Consciousness is the essential character of a set-entity acting to ensure the possibility of its reproduction by weighing on its polarity-play in order to correct trajectories set in motion by the auto-regulation of its sub-sets.
  • the idea of entities striving to balance the effects of the auto-regulation of their sub-sets implies that this process is at work throughout the whole universe including at the level of the whole. But the universe does this without any action on its part. This ultimate non-action results from the simple fact of the universe's being. In other words the universe does not need to protect itself from its sub-sets. The being of the universe projects to its sub-sets what is feasible and this explains why the knowledge of the universe's being appears as the ultimate knowledge that all its sub-sets would gain mastering in order to render their own actions compatible with the working of the whole and thus avoiding crashing in the wall of universal feasibility. Another way to put this is to observe that the behavior of the parts is limited within the confines of the universe's being which means that parts can't generate an outcome for themselves that is outside of the universe's being.

All sets are given by:
  • their own sub-sets that in turn contain their own sub-sets that... and so on.
  • being themselves one of the sub-sets of a larger set that itself is a part of another larger set that... and so on.
  • this whole dynamic between sets and sub-sets is contained within the framework of the whole set or the universe and in that sense the universe is the dynamic between sets and sub-sets
  • from whatever direction of the zooming we look at it seems that sets are like the reification of one moment in the unfolding of a fractal like imaging video show.

 B.  life's urge for ever higher levels of complexity

We have seen in “chapter 2: About consciousness” that:

1. Depending on the context life preservation is based or on the tactical principle of competitive growth or on the tactical principle of cooperation. The mission of these tactical principles is to satisfy the objective needs of the individual:
  • air, water, food + clothes + roof + heating + socialization. These are the objective needs to ensure the reproduction of the individual physical entities.
  • sex for preserving and reproducing its specie.
2. Life development and growth results from the interaction between – the tactical principle of competitive growth/cooperation – the strategic urge for more complexity in the form of a higher level of consciousness. The interaction between the tactical principle of competitive growth/cooperation and the strategic urge for more complexity acts as a booster on the total level of complexity of life systems:
  • through the structure and code of the individual's body.
  • through the economic, political, social and cultural societal systems of the specie.
  • through the interactions of the species with all other species and particles in its environment.
  • through the consciousness of the individuals about the 3 preceding and also how they fit in the whole.
This brings us to conceive of the emergence and development of life as a process of evolution starting with the biological and later extending to the societal (5). In biological evolution natural selection is acting on genetic mutations. In societal evolution natural selection is acting on cultural mutations.

Everything starts with the context an entity is living in. When order and harmony are strong mutations have little chance to be replicated but when disorder is strong and disharmony reigning then the ground is fertile for change. And change happens at a given threshold of tension in the state of disorder/disharmony. That's when a bifurcation point is reached and, under the tension, one or more among the multiple mutations that had developed earlier in the biology or in the culture of the entity happen to free that tension in one or more individual particles. Freeing the tension means that the dance, of the polarity-plays that were causing the disorder, is being neutralized which gives free rein to the energy of order that had been building up in these specific individual particles. Freeing the energy of order launches a new cycle. In other words old disorder dies while new order emerges and the mutations that, for whatever reason freed the tension of disorder, are being replicated - in the biology – or in the worldview.

In biological evolution natural selection sorts out one working proposition among the range of available genetic mutations and so it drives the genetic evolution of a species. In societal evolution natural selection sorts out one working proposition among a range of available cultural mutations and so it drives the evolution of a society's worldview.

Natural selection of new cultural possibilities results from the balancing of the polarities of humanity:
  • individuals: balance of body-mind (consciousness)
  • society: conservation-change (complexity)
Societies resist change. They are trying to force the conservation of what is already there. In contrast the individuals are geared more by an urge for increased consciousness that brings about increased complexity and change that conflict with the societal urge for conservation.

The observation, over the span of the long history of the dance of humanity's polarities, indicates that the individual urge for change rarely succeeds because:
  • innovation is difficult, for, it pumps the energy of the innovator and this is discouraging individuals to follow that path which implies that innovators are like rare aberrations in any societal environment.
  • individuals prefer to borrow for free a successful innovation.
  • If innovators are a rare breed and individuals prefer to borrow for free a successful innovation that means that between the occurrence of a real innovation and its adoption at large by a society there is a time lag corresponding to the testing of the workability of the innovation and the further spread of its use to all. That time lag is the outcome from the battle between the individual urge for change and the societal urge for conservation
Societal evolutionary change is not only occurring as a consequence of individual innovation. Many societal changes are indeed imposed by the weight of forces from outside of human societies:
  • within the set containing these societies (self-set): earth environment, climate, balance between living species, etc...
  • from the larger sets that contain the 'self-set' and the systems outside the earth (macro-sets): solar flares, comets smashing the earth, etc…
The imposition of societal evolutionary change under the weight of forces from outside of societies has happened frequently but always outside of the consciousness of humanity. We are perhaps the first generation of humans that consciously observes:
  • how the weight of factors, from outside of our societies, is imposing itself on us with dramatic effects for the principle of life around the world
  • how human action can impact these factors and increase the impact of their effects on the principle of life.
Paradoxically this consciously acquired knowledge by some individuals is not automatically transmitted to the mind of our societies. In other words some individuals develop a consciousness of the working of their societies and their impact on the environment, the resources, and onto themselves and are concluding that urgent action is required to channel the evolutionary changes initiated by modernity on a path that can be better sustained by the principle of life. But their voice is not being heard by their societies. Human societies have indeed not achieved until today the indispensable feat to dote themselves with a mind and a societal consciousness of its own. But it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak about the individuals consciously setting up mechanisms that could act like the brain of the species. In other words political action by the individuals sets up the appropriate institutional mechanisms to bring about higher levels of societal consciousness. This also means that individuals should not always complain about their societies' inaction in the face of observed real problems. They should act following their own consciousness and societies will eventually adapt after a critical mass of them has opened a new path.

C.  Knowledge formation and acquisition

I concluded “Chapter 1: About knowledge” with the observation that knowledge is not an absolute quantity but is something that emerges out of a given context and I concluded “Chapter 2: About consciousness” with the observation that knowledge addresses two distinct dimensions:
  1. the relative dimension of knowledge relates to its utilitarian function that is derived from the context of the human 'self-set'. This dimension helps people to manage their daily lives and to integrate the societal fold. This relative dimension of knowledge is what we call the societal worldview and culture.
  2. the absolute dimension of knowledge is imposed on all its parts by the universe's being. Such an absolute knowledge does not impact daily life directly. It acts as a perpetual unifier by adjusting the behaviors of the parts to the working of the whole.
  • It is not directly useful in peoples' daily life-style
  • it is not part of the citizens' field of knowledge acquisition
  • it is the domain of the men of knowledge. But having relegated the men of knowledge to the dustbin of history Modernity has unfortunately boxed itself in a corner from where it is blinded to this absolute dimension of knowledge and in consequence its relative knowledge has erred wildly. But a re-balancing is in the card… it's only a question of threshold or critical mass before a re-balancing action sets in.

D.   The evolution of worldviews

Knowledge in its absolute dimension acts like a memory. That memory acts as a sensor that orders the utilitarian dimension of knowledge to remember its relative nature and as such the absolute knowledge of the universe begs humanity to keep humble. It is the role of the men of knowledge to ensure human behavior remains humble but Modernity demoted the men of knowledge and in consequence humility was shoveled in the dustbin of history. The result is the great convergence of Late-Modernity…

Worldviews are approximations of reality that “are steeped in how we perceive the constraints imposed on us by nature and our cultural adaptations to those constraints as well as the entire gamut of ways of doing and thinking of a specie or a society. In other words societal approximations are derived from the knowledge available at a given moment in a given society and are then shared over the long history by the citizens of that given society”. (6)

These approximations eventually evolve over time adapting to the evolving context of societies through feedback loops between culture and worldviews. The completion of such feedback loops indicates that new cultural expressions (cultural mutations) have been replicated in the worldview.

4.3.2. Society is shaped by the polarities of humanity.

As we have seen earlier (The axioms of civilizationThe civilization of China = animism+) the way humanity wanders inside reality is structured along the path of its two polarity-plays :
  • on one side human societies.
  • on the other side the individual atoms or the citizens of those societies.
The citizens act like the atoms of their societies. They assemble in the molecular form of families or of groups and associations that position themselves towards their society. This action-reaction process that the individuals, families and groups are engaged in is like a dance around their society to maximize their interests. The same kind of dance is also operated by societies in their efforts to guide the individuals, families and groups on a path that it considers to be sustainable for itself.

This dance between the human species' polarities is also observed to be in application in all other species albeit eventually resulting in different arrangements.

 A.  Pilars of society versus individual necessity

The "polarity-play 'individual - society' " generates a set of 5 "individual necessities" and 5 "pillars of societal houses". See the graph here under.

Between themselves these 5 individual necessities and these 5 pillars of societal houses generate:
  • 5 new polarity-plays that, in reality, are polarity-plays derived from the initial "polarity-play 'individual – society' " that I have written about in “Part 2. About the formation of consciousness”.
  • 20 more interrelations.

The 5 pillars of societal houses and the 5 necessities of individual life constitute what is called the determinant factors of individual and societal life. They are the same determinant factors that we see at work in the graph about the cycle of life. The urge for societal coexistence does not figure in the cycle of life for the good reason that this graph focuses on the polarity-play between individual and the species. Society is only shown incidentally in this graph as the place where some of the interrelations between individuals and species take place.

B.  The 5 pillars of societal houses

Societies are set-entities whose objective is to preserve the species against the short vision and impetuousness of the individual atoms. Societies are somehow conscious, conscious like in the biological sense but in a different way, and they know about their own sub-set status relating to larger sets, about their environment and their own internal constitution and so they drive the individual atoms to build up systems, adapted to their present historical context, in order to ensure their smooth operation. I have been observing and studying the societal reality of European nations, of China and of the USA over the last 50 years. Everywhere we see 5 factors acting like the pillars of societies because they are determinant to their smooth operation:
  1. as conscious living entities societies are responsible for the implementation of the prime rule of the principle of life: they have first and foremost to ensure the reproduction of their own existence and help foster the reproduction of their individual atoms before undertaking anything else.
  2. the strategy devised by societies to ensure their reproduction is to strive to maintain the internal status quo: conservation. They attain this by limiting the size of the waves generated by the individuals quest for change.
  3. to limit the waves generated by the individuals quest for change societies try to solidly glue the minds of their individual atoms through the sharing by all of them of a common worldview. This ensures a strong societal cohesion which allows the group to enjoy a smooth sailing and an easy reproduction over the generations.
  4. the strategy devised by societies to maintain the external status quo is to coexist with their neighboring societies. Such a coexistence furthermore allows for exchanges through trade of products, technologies, and ideas. Those exchanges then infuse a greater variety of – material means by which their individual atoms will more easily satisfy their objective needs – ideas that will broaden the spectrum of their consciousness – and genes, through inter-marriages, that will strengthen the biological qualities of their individuals.
  5. these 4 initial conditions are the basic internal rules of human societies. Being a sub-set of larger sets societies have also to submit to the systemic reality generated by those larger sets and by the whole universe. This is called the inescapable principle of realism or the absolute need to conform to systemic reality that always was the domain reserved to sages who acted as the consciousness of their societies. Over the very long haul societies came to experience that – coexistence with the exterior and – internal societal cohesion are 2 necessary conditions that have imperatively to be fulfilled in order to ensure their smooth reproduction. Both of these are indeed necessary to successfully protect a society from external threats. Societal weakness invites poaching and an eventual annexation by stronger neighbors. The internal societal well-being is furthermore intimately related to the quality of a society's coexistence with its neighbors and vice versa.
It is self evident that the quality of the 5 pillars of the societal house have a direct bearing on the 5 individual necessities. They are the polarities derived from 'the polarity-play individual – society' so, in other words, they are like a second tier polarities of species.

 C.  The 5 individual necessities

Individuals need to reproduce in order to ensure their families and societies existence in the future. Biologists say that genes are selfish and 'manipulate' the individual to reproduce himself so that they themselves can survive over the generations. I'm more inclined to believe that the individual particles of any species are driven by the program of the principle of life and its 2 foundational rules:
  • reproduction or the first amongst “the first principles of life
  • complexification or what gives its direction to the arrow of time
Five factors appear determinant to the lives of the individuals:
  1. all individuals, from whatever species, have been equipped by the principle of life with a computation engine that is watchful to answer any threat against their integrity so that the individual can survive and have a chance to ensure its reproduction. Once a threat has been detected the engine analyzes it and then orders the body to take the adequate actions to protect itself from any damage. The role of the brain is indeed to ensure that the individual survives so that he can further reproduce. This mechanism is at work among all living species albeit in varied forms.
  2. the individuals need to satisfy their objective needs: air, food, drink + clothes + roof + socialization and if that need were to be impaired... they would die! Satisfying their objective needs is left to the responsibility of the individuals who automatically understand that by cooperating with others in societies they will maximize their chances to satisfy these objective needs. In Late-Modernity humanity has been overwhelmed by the ideologies of individualism, the reason at work within capital, and the desire to possess stuff and societies have thus been painted as the enemy of the individual. But such an unnatural individualism had consequences and individuals now find themselves atomized, disconnected from what remains of their societies. In consequence the individuals feel at a loss and eager to share with their peers a common narrative about the working of reality.
  3. under particular contexts some individuals feel the urge to change their behaviors and ideas. This urge, without any doubt, does not attain the level of necessity experienced by the satisfaction of objective needs. But again the ideologies of Modernity are exacerbating in the minds of the individuals the idea that change is imperative and once such an idea has succeeded to build a niche for itself in the mind of an individual it will keep him awake urging him to act proselytizing that change.
  4. the minds of the individuals are in need of communion. Socializing is part of the individual's objective needs but his mind yearns for more. He wants to feel he is an integral part of the group and that his behaviors and ideas are being shared by the others. In other words the individual feels uncomfortable with the idea of being different from the others and so he will act to gain the trust of the others through grooming and communication.
  5. the whole process of interrelations between the brain and the mind results in an increase of consciousness. Under particular contexts the brain is under a lot of stress to find adequate answers and when it can't follow-up existent demands it passes to the individuals the reliquary that it can't handle. It is because of this that the individuals feel an urge to increase their awareness or their consciousness about the reality they live in and the problems they face.
As we have seen, both in the 5 pillars of societal houses and in the 5 individual necessities, these factors modulating the cycle of life don't command the same weight or urgency. Avoiding to die, for example, has more weight than any other factors and this suggests that my initial intuition about what powers the prime urge of reproduction was correct. Reproduction is the first principle in the program of life and when faced with this principle the selfishness of genes looks indeed like a frivolous idea. Such an idea could only have been derived from the ideological dream of a mind that had been made captive of the ideology of materialism and atomism.

4.4.  25 interrelations between individuals & society

Each of the 5 "individual necessities" interacts with each of the 5 "pillars of societal houses" generating a set of 25 feedback loops. These 25 feedback-loops are what gives its substance to the “individual/society polarity-play ”.

This “individual/society polarity-play ” covers the entire gamut of all possible individual as well as all possible societal plays. It is in the analysis of its 25 interactions and feedback loops that one finds the answers to the "why" of such and such actions and behaviors and also the eventual remedies to correct what is unwanted among them. In other words these 25 interactions and feedback loops offer an analytical framework to analyze and to understand the working of societies and how to operate them the most efficiently.

These are the 25 determinant interrelations between societies and individuals. The outcome of their dance is what shapes the form and content of societies as well as the behaviors of the individuals which means that their interplay is really determinant for the species.

5 of these interrelations are the polarity-plays of the cycle of life (black arrows) and among these 'change versus conservation' (blue arrow) is assuredly the most well known one. It applies, for example, to the traditional division between political parties: conservatives versus liberals. Liberals are understood as being open to innovation and change while conservatives want the conservation of the status quo. Liberals and conservatives are always portrayed as opposites in the traditional dualistic model. This means that each paints the other as being his arch enemy and as such thinks that the enemy has to be vanquished at all costs. In that sense 'the polarity-play conservation-change' is certainly the one that evokes the highest level of animosity at least in our present day Late-Modern context.

But we should always remain aware of the fact that contexts eventually change and individual attitudes adapt to changing contexts. Having said that the fact is nevertheless that to this very day all past worldviews have been privileging conservation and opposing change and the further we go down the path of history the less change was tolerated indeed. So the polarity-play conservation-change is perhaps not as flexible as first thought. One good reason that jumps to mind is that change can be dangerous. Change can push the species into oblivion and our predicament in Late-Modernity is a good illustration of such a dangerous possibility. Meanwhile if conservation can effectively have some drawbacks these drawbacks are never deadly. Put in such stark terms the differentiation in term of danger, in my mind, is sufficient to explain why change was always regarded with suspicion to say the least.

As we saw earlier a polarity-play is not a dualistic opposition. Dualism means that the other has to be eliminated because there is indeed no compatibility between dual opposites. Polarity-plays on the other hand are a totally different affair. Polarities are conceived as being complementary and are seen playing or dancing together which generates a given outcome for the entity or the unity they are the two poles of. In that sense the play between polarities is what powers change in their entities and no other explanation is required to understand how these entities change.

It is thus no news that the knowledge, of how these polarity-plays operate, gives his holder a handle on the future. Mastering such a handle on the future was at the core of the Chinese system of knowledge acquisition with the “Yi-Ching” as the go to work of reference. My approach is certainly influenced by the methodology that is foundational to the Yi-Ching.

In my approach the individuals and societies of any given species are considered being its polarities. From a species' perspective the interplays of their polarities lets one gauge the health of the individuals and of their societies as well as the chances of the species to navigate smoothly forward on the arrow of time. It is my contention that our understanding of the 25 interrelations of humanity is the gauge at which we individuals can measure the real state of health of societies and their individuals.


1. “Economic historians use the term merchant capitalism to refer to the earliest phase in the development of capitalism as an economic and social system. Early forms of merchant capitalism developed in the medieval Islamic world from the 9th century, and in medieval Europe from the 12th century. In Europe, merchant capitalism became a significant economic force in the 16th century, depending on point of view. The mercantile era drew to a close around 1800, giving way to industrial capitalism. in wikipedia

2. “List of countries by population” Wikipedia.
Figures used in this chart are based on the most up to date estimates or projections by the national census authority where available, and are usually rounded off. Where updated national data are not available, figures are based on the projections for 2016 by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

3. “England began a large-scale and integrative approach to mercantilism during the Elizabethan Era. An early statement on national balance of trade appeared in Discourse of the Common Weal of this Realm of England, 1549: "We must always take heed that we buy no more from strangers than we sell them, for so should we impoverish ourselves and enrich them." in Wikipedia

4. A good illustration of this ideological bias can be seen in “ ‘Society’ does not exist (and if it did it should not)“ by Nigel Meek.

5. In a talk in “Edge” titled “Infinite Stupidity ” Mark Pagel states that “The old genetical evolution that had ruled for 3.8 billion years now had a competitor, and that new kind of evolution was ideas. It was a true form of evolution, because now ideas could arise, and they could jump from mind to mind, without genes having to change. So, populations of humans could adapt at the level of ideas. Ideas could accumulate. We call this cumulative cultural adaptation. And so, cultural complexity could emerge and arise orders and orders of magnitude faster than genetic evolution.

6. in “From Modernity to After-Modernity. Part 2. Theoretical Considerations. Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.1. The Context” 

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