From Modernity to After-Modernity (14)

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

4.6.  Twenty determinant 'individual- society' interrelations  (Part 1)

The graph that follows illustrates the dynamic that shapes the life of species. Each living species has two polarities: societies (-, feminine) and individuals (+, masculine). The interactions or the play between these polarities is what generates the reality or the life of species.

As stated in "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' = le life of species (see graph here under).

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' and 'how' 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."

 Here follows a graph illustrating these 25 interactions.

5 of these interrelations are the polarity-plays of the cycle of life. They are represented by the horizontal arrows in the graph and have been analyzed in “4.5. Five polarity-plays between individuals & society”. The other 20 arrows represent 20 determinant interrelations between the individuals and their society.

4.6.1. Societal reproduction - Individual for change

Modernity, and more particularly Late-Modernity, imprinted the idea in our minds that the individual urge for change arises under conditions where individualism is strong. This was then used as an ideological justification for belittling any initiative that may come from societies. In other words the ideological bias of individualism is reigning supreme.

But individualism and competition are not being felt with the same intensity and at the same time by all the individuals for the good reason that, in parallel to competition, the biological and societal evolution of species have instilled a need for cooperation and communion within groups of individuals. When we think about evolution we automatically think that it is all about a competition resulting in the survival of the fittest which was Darwin's interpretation of evolution by natural selection. But Darwin himself, who was grappling with matters relating to social insects, suggested that natural selection can also act by instilling cooperation in groups. Competition has been viewed for a time as the unique driver of evolution but, during these last decades, cooperation has been observed to be an equally determinant factor (1). This means that evolution is now being understood as resulting from the polarity-play between competition and cooperation.

It follows that the recently changing perception about what powers evolution asks for a recalibration of our understanding about the urge for change. 

About the urge for change

In “Part 3: About consciousness” (see 1 23) we have seen that consciousness is opening the human field of vision on  ever larger fields and by enriching its knowledge base it induces the production of increased complexity in all fields. It is along that process that the urge for change is emerging.

Knowledge formation by groups exploded the realm of the perceived reality by growing the distance between the observing individual and the field of his perception and so the path of perception expanded in the direction of the whole. But the farther the individual's perception reaches the more abstract his observations are and the more detached they become from his daily life considerations. This is how complexification operates. Complexification grows a distance between what is the contained field of daily life pragmatism and what is an ever expanding field of exploration.
In other words pragmatism privileges the field of the known while consciousness is attracted by the understanding of the unknown.” (2)

As we see here an increasing consciousness forges an increasing complexity and increasing complexity, in turn, detaches from matters relating to daily life pragmatism. In other words the detachment of complexity, from daily life pragmatism, pushes consciousness to find ways to integrate it in the ways of life and in systemic reality. This whole process,  - of consciousness to increased complexity and  - of increased complexity to systemic reality,  is what is called the individual urge for change.

It is at this very junction of pushing for the integration of increased complexity into systemic reality that the individual urge for change enters into conflict with the societal urge for conservation which is primarily concerned with the reproduction of the individuals and of itself.

Being the mother of all necessities societal reproduction makes societies wary of individuals promoting ideas of change which could distract from the need of societal reproduction. So societies unleash a flow of conservation measures to weigh on the individual urge for change by striving to slow and orient change along a manageable path while making extreme change a virtual impossibility.

What we have here is the crystallization of a contradiction in the interaction between the tactical principle of competitive growth and the strategic urge for more complexity. In other words in Modernity:
  • the tactical principle of competitive growth has been privileged for ideological reasons and as a result it has been extracted from the polarity-play  competition-cooperation which killed the polarity-play and destabilized the balanced course of evolution.
  • the strategic urge for more complexity has not been accompanied by an equal urge for increased consciousness by the individuals to stabilize higher levels of societal complexity through higher levels of cooperation among themselves.
So Modernity ended up with the tactical principle of competitive growth defeating the strategic urge for more complexity for the only reason of a failure of consciousness by societies, that under pressure from ideological considerations, have pushed knowledge to their margins thus freeing the level playing field to the exclusive use of competing individual atoms and the aberrations that followed.

The consequences of such a chain of events, as we observe them in Late-Modernity, should render societies particularly attentive to the need to coordinate the integration of increased complexity within the culture of the day. Alas Modern societies have been blinded and deafened to the need of cooperation to auto-regulate themselves...

The principle of prudence

The recognition, that adding increased complexity in the cultural context of societies is destabilizing, should motivate societies and individuals to be prudent. Observing the working of societies through history we see that the application of this principle of prudence was exercised in two steps:
  1. first step: the proposed increased complexity has to be tested to check its workability in the societal context and to check for any possible side-effects. This principle of prudence rejects the integration of any element of complexity that could be disruptive or to the individuals or to societies and so the process of change is necessarily strenuous and long which does not fit well in modern consumerist cultures of immediate gratification.
  2. second step: when increased complexity has been tested and its effects are recognized safe it can finally be spread in society at large. But its introduction will  destabilize the societal order which has to be compensated by building up a stronger bonding between the individuals. Such a stronger bonding of the parts naturally reinforces the cooperation between the individuals which strengthens the societal set-up and this is what makes it resistant to the introduction of tested  complexity. 
A discussion of this principle is given in “1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+”. China's perception of the long history impacted directly its decision making and this caused Joseph Needham's bafflement at the country's retreat from external ventures. Its resulting closure to the world around 1500 instigated a debate among 'China watchers' about the reasons that motivated the country's decision making.

The history of Modernity figures like a counter example to the attitude of the Chinese. Modernity gradually detached more and more from the recognition of the principle of prudence and by Late-Modernity the principle was thrown in the dustbin of history. As a result  innovation and increased complexity are de-facto offered on the market without any consideration for prudence any longer. The examples abound: cell phone radiation, side-effects of medicines, side-effects of pesticides on bees and people's health, side-effects of food additives on obesity and cancer, side-effects of CO2 emissions, etc… The case of the automobile always amazes me. Car crashes kill some 33,000 people per year in the US alone and maims many more but nobody questions the wisdom of such a slaughter. Contrast that with the country losing its cool on 9-11 when 3000 people were killed in New York. Since 2001 till the end of 2015 nearly 500,000 American citizens lost their lives in car crashes but this is considered normal while 9-11 is consuming the country in a war on terrorism that expands terrorist anger… How rational is all that?

The damage inflicted by the side-effects of human activity has multiplied to incalculable proportions during Late-Modernity:
  • many in science and technology are so excited about the abdication of human will in favor of the technological singularity that its protagonists have no qualms at all with the idea to abandon the principle of life to the good-will of Artificial Intelligence. Again how rational is that? It baffles me that otherwise rational people could so easily lose their minds.
  • the industrial and digital phases of Modernity are powered by fossil fuels (80% of world energy consumption) that emit huge quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere. As a direct consequence the world average temperatures are increasing. But as we have seen earlier the band of 'life sustainability' is very narrow indeed. It is generally admitted that an increase of the world's average temperatures of 4 to 5 degrees C signifies the end of human life on earth. Human activity, as of today, has already increased world average temperatures by over 1 degree C and what has already being emitted along the last 30 years, but not yet factored into future temperatures increases, should add 1 more degree C. That means that even if humanity disappeared from the surface of the earth tomorrow morning the earth would witness a total increase of temperatures of more than 2 degrees C starting from the beginning of industrialization till temperatures peak 30 years from now. 
But humanity will not disappear tomorrow morning and so carbon emissions will continue unabated over the next years and possibly decades… adding 1-2 or more degrees C to the world averages! I still have not spoken here of the tipping point unleashing the methane stored in the oceans and under the Siberian and Northern Canadian permafrost which is forecast to add a few more degrees C to the world average within the timespan of a few short years. And the most baffling of all is the “dimming effect” which “is the gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface that was observed for several decades after the start of systematic measurements in the 1950s. The effect varies by location, but worldwide it has been estimated to be of the order of a 4% reduction over the three decades from 1960–1990.  … the effects of global dimming have masked the effect of global warming to some extent and that resolving global dimming may therefore lead to increases in predictions of future temperature rise.” (3).

I could continue enumerating a longer list of Modernity's side-effects but I guess everyone got the picture.

Answers to humanity's Late-Modern predicament

The impact, in Late-Modernity,  of the individual urge for change on societal reproduction obliges us to recognize our shortcomings as competing individual atoms. Dr. Mobus theorizes that such a shortcoming is going to be corrected during the next "societal hierarchical restructuring" that, in his view, could possibly bring about a mutation in the human brain as an answer to humanity's present deficit in sapience (4).

Societal hierarchical restructuring is one of the most important principles in the history of biological and societal evolution. With the individual urge for change there is always the risk that the changes wrought about will disrupt societal harmony or weaken society towards the outside and that in consequence society could eventually collapse. This principle warns us of the dangers of change weakening or even destroying the ability of societies to reproduce. Let's never forget that this societal urge for reproduction is the centrally most important factor of societal life so the dangers invoked here are not to be taken lightly. But there is always hope it seems... The weakening or  destruction of the ability of societies to reproduce will eventually provoke a societal hierarchical restructuring that keeps the society afloat.

The direction of evolution follows the arrow of time adding incremental changes on top of one another and thus shaping new outcomes that distinguish themselves by their increased complexity. If life contains such a principle it is only logical that the particles that materialize it would also contain that principal and societal change induced by the individual urge for change should thus be understood as the principle of life in action. But this does in no way imply that life approves of any and all individual initiatives toward change. Change is retained as the outcome of a successful selection among a myriad of possibilities at a bifurcation point from chaos to order. In other words societal evolution does not give a free pass to individuals who strive to change societal norms and functioning. Successful change has to be gained as the result of a competitive life-race among the multiple possibilities present at that particular time. But this process of change being probabilistic the cooperation between individuals in dreaming a given future outcome may eventually give more weight to one of the possibilities at the bifurcation point and as such their dreams and ideals about the future may well be what decides the outcome.

This conclusion has to be connected with the conclusions  about the need to stabilize increased complexity through a hierarchical restructuring of the societal system. I think such a restructuring can possibly take two paths. One path is through biological evolution another path would be through societal evolution.
  1. a hierarchical restructuring through the biological path  would be applied as a necessary restructuring of the societal system at the level of the biological selection among the possibilities present at any bifurcation point resulting as an answer to contextual changes. The selection of the winning proposition at the bifurcation point from disorder to order would then operate by injecting in the individual atoms the consciousness of the best possible outcome for the principle of life. So the hierarchical restructuring of the societal system through the biological evolution route establishes a strategic hierarchy of choice putting life at the top of all considerations. That strategic hierarchy is then put in operation by instilling in the individual atoms the consciousness of what is best for the principle of life. In other words such a hierarchical restructuring of the societal system does not imply authoritarianism. On the contrary it implies the cooperation of the individual atoms through increased levels of consciousness.
  2. a hierarchical restructuring through the societal route  would certainly be applied a lot faster than a restructuring through the biological route. Under necessity societies can possibly decide on a program of change and adapt to such change within the span of a few short decades. In comparison the biological route would at best be spread over many generations. Late-Modernity has definitely no other option than the societal evolutionary path. But has humanity what it takes to operate such a draconian program in the very short time that is left before a natural re-balancing sets in?
We have seen in “Part 2.  3. Culture, worldviews, civilizations” how the societal evolutionary path is basically the conversion of cultural memes into the worldview. New cultural expressions integrate the worldview after societies share them over the generations. I'm afraid that Late-Modernity does not leave us the luxury of time to social engineer a societal evolution as a way out of chaos. And in conclusion “what is already known is that societies will enter a phase of chaos. Chaos is a natural state that eventually reaches a conclusion. In other words chaos will give way to order eventually later on. This later order corresponds to what I call After-Modernity; a new historical era when people will adjust to the new context by regrouping in new societal forms and to strengthen the cohesion of these new groups they'll devise new narratives, about what reality is all about, that are adapted to their new context.” (5)

4.6.2. Societal reproduction – Individual satisfaction of needs

For societal reproduction to function the individuals themselves need first to reproduce. Individual reproduction is thus essential in order for society to achieve its essential aim which is to reproduce itself and it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that an individual reproduction of good quality is assuredly in the interest of society in its effort at maximizing the achievement of its essential aim. So societies naturally favor a quality reproduction of their individual atoms unless this causes extreme behaviors that somehow impact the middle of the road strategy that is their favored positioning in the polarity-play in which case societal logic would accept some individuals to be sacrificed. It's as if societies applied a cost and benefit analysis in order to maximize their own chances to reproduce.

Late-modern Western societies are confronted with this kind of re-balancing between the need for their societal reproduction in the form of viable finances and economics and the satisfaction of individual objective needs in the form of a social redistribution of the national income. The societal always taking precedence over the individual we are going to observe the sacrifice by Western societies of the well being, and possibly even the existence, of large swaths of their populations. The same kind of reasoning can be extended to all societies on earth and this process is already well advanced in some countries. Being faced soon with intractable problems caused by over population and the peaking of resources we are going to observe a massive and worldwide societal wave of harshness acting like a tsunami on their populations. I know that this idea is kind of taboo and is going to unleash a wave of criticism but, it's not as if it was something I hope would happen, I'm just trying to describe "the way of nature" and we all know that nature does not care about feelings. It cares about the survival of the principle of life which is an all other ball game than the survival of individual atoms.

What I mean to say here is that over-population being at the core of the various factors endangering the principle of life, as well as that of societies, we have to be conscious of the fact that the principle of life, as well as societies, are going to unleash defense mechanisms in order to ensure their reproduction. Humanity defies the fact that societal reproduction has an impact on the satisfaction of individual objective needs at its own risks and peril.

If individual objective needs are not satisfied or are satisfied in a poor way societal reproduction could suffer from the melting away of societal cohesion and the eventual overthrow of the institutions of power. The 'Analects', one of the few books that has been extensively taught to the mandarins in China for more than 2000 years, mentions explicitly that a poor satisfaction of individuals needs is one of the 2 situations in which the citizens have a moral right to demote the emperor. The second situation is a week protection of the borders which leads to encroachments from outside forces. The Confucian view is that the emperor has a moral duty to protect his citizens from  instability provoked by forces from outside of its borders and to supply his citizens with internal conditions that allow them to satisfy their daily needs. The communist party is applying those 2 Confucian lessons to the letter.

Once societal cohesion is down a poor satisfaction of individual objective needs might signal to the individuals that growing more children is not advisable. In that light it will be instructive to see what the statistics of Western countries during these times of depression accompanied by very low levels of societal cohesion will be looking like. From the other side the example of China in the sixties and seventies indicates that high levels of societal cohesion easily overcome a weak satisfaction of individual needs and eliminates any negative impact such a weak satisfaction could have on societal reproduction.

4.6.3. Societal reproduction – Individual communion

Societal reproduction strives to bring about the stabilization of higher levels of societal complexity and it counts on its individual atoms to realize this through higher levels of cooperation among themselves. But force is to observe that since Early-Modernity the irresistible human pull toward communion has been under constant attack by the genie of greed and individualism that religions and traditional philosophies tried to keep firmly imprisoned in its bottle (6) but that the reason of capital set free. We now observe that the genie is being unleashed upon the individual atoms of all human societies on earth which is accelerating the coming of the "global convergence" between modernity's side-effects and consequences (7). In 4.6.3 we just saw that "Modernity ended up with the tactical principle of competitive growth defeating the strategic urge for more complexity for the only reason of a failure of consciousness by societies, that under pressure from ideological considerations, have pushed knowledge to their margins thus freeing the level playing field to the exclusive use of competing individual atoms and the aberrations that followed ". We also saw that this deficit of consciousness will eventually  be corrected, in a following era, through the coordination of cooperation between the individuals during the coming bout of "societal hierarchical restructuring" as theorized by Dr. Mobus. The genie of greed and individualism that led to a terminal failure of consciousness could thus eventually be forced to reintegrate its bottle under the pressure of "societal hierarchical restructuring" that itself is being unleashed as the instrument at the hand of societal reproduction.

The individual urge for communion, if satisfied, results in a strengthening of the bonding between the individuals which acts like a strong glue that unifies the group and guarantees its reproduction. The satisfaction of that urge is thus an imperative for all societies. But how is it being satisfied and what is the glue that binds the individuals?

It has been observed since the down of time that the sharing of a common perception about what reality is all about, a worldview, constitutes such a glue. Left on their own some individuals will automatically start debating among themselves about the most performing understanding about reality in the context of their time. But at a crucial moment for the stability and or reproduction of their society the decision makers in power societies make a choice and impose one of the available doctrines to all their citizens at the exclusion of the other.

Something like this has been observed repeatedly along history. I will try now to sketch one such crucial moment in the history of both the western civilization and the Chinese civilization:

1. The adoption of Christianity as the religion of state under the Roman empire.   
After many wars and much instability during the years of its expansion the Roman empire had a stretch of stability for over 200 years starting with emperor Augustus in 30bc but by the 3rd century the army's corruption was a drag on its efficiency at defending the territory against barbarian invaders while it also made and unmade numerous emperors. Wars and pestilence crashed population levels and the empire appeared on the verge of collapsing. Trying to control the army the idea emerged of adopting a state religion.     Rome was a primitive backwater when it conquered the East in the centuries before Christ. So it is no surprise that it adopted much of Greek art, literature and philosophy and that flourishing Eastern religions spread West. Every sect and prophet made it to Rome where they tried to influence the decision making. By the 3rd centuryad Mithraism, a religion originating in Persia, was a strong competitor with Christianity. The choice of Christianity by Constantine seems to have been related to the following perceived characteristics of that religion at the time (8):
  • its "intolerance and inflexibility derived from the Jews" was considered to be a decisive propaganda advantage over Mithraism. That intolerance brings the Christians to destroy all signs of the existence of other belief systems and more particularly the animist body of knowledge accumulated through observation along the preceding tens of thousands of years. This is where the western civilization parts roads with the Chinese. This is where lays the fundamental reason for the incomprehensibility between Easterners and westerners…
  • Its belief in an after-life dictated by god's judgment was reinforcing the perception of its intolerant character  in the eyes of its followers.
  • miracles played a large part in the Christian propaganda which conveyed the idea of the church's exceptionalism.
  • the values and moral attitudes of the Christians were vastly superior to those of the followers of competing beliefs.
  • the Christians appeared as a single organized bloc that strengthened their unity and authority as a group.
The choice of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman empire resulted in the transfer to Western Europe of the heritage of the East. Christianity was born and had developed as a purely Judaic religion that incorporated much of the philosophic productions of Greece so when it reached Rome and other western parts it transmitted its Judaic and Greek content to the West. Meanwhile the centuries old domination by Rome of the East, the South and the North had accustomed the Romans to the idea that they represented a single unique worldwide civilization managed under a single government. So after it was made the state religion and the empire started to flounder that conception of centrality and uniqueness that had developed under the empire was absorbed by the church which made it its own. This explains how the church shaped itself institutionally on the model of the roman empire and behaviorally on the model of the conquering Roman armies. Therein lays the reason of the church's willingness to expand its influence over the whole world through its well known proselytism.

2. China unified its early kingdoms along the Yellow River some 3000 years BC under the '3 sovereigns' and the '5 emperors'.
Over the next centuries the empire was expanded to the territory of the present provinces of Shanxi, Henan, Hebei, Shandong, Hubei, Hunan, Jianxi. This unification was realized as a kind of confederation of its early kingdoms that were imposed annual tribute to the center. The Chinese traditional conception of governance is called Tian xia which combines the follwing 3 elements: a territory, a sovereign, a shared belief. Tian means the heavens or the sky while xia means below, under. So Tian xia means “all under heaven”.

Tian xia originated at the time of  the '3 sovereigns' and the 'Five Emperors' (wu di) who were the first sovereigns of the Chinese empire starting just after 3000 BC. “In 'The Records of the Five Emperors (wu di ben ji)' and 'The Records of Xia Dynasty (xia ben ji)', two chapters in the Records of the Historian (shi ji) by Sima Qian, the original spatial meaning of Chinese cosmopolitanism is expressed. The Five Emperors were then the ‘universal common masters (tian xia gong zhu)’ among tribal unions or dukedoms in central China. In their imagination, the geographic space under the influence of ancient Chinese was the entire world or ‘all under heaven’, being ‘all corners on which the sun and moon shone’, as well as ‘all boundaries struck with wind and rain.’ In fact, this geographic space conceptualized by ancient Chinese was the area where the ‘universal common master’ went hunting and touring, as well as applied to directly-controlled territory. The Emperor Shun, the last of the Five emperors, divided cosmopolitan space (tian xia), or ‘all under heaven’ into twelve provinces. In the Xia Dynasty, this cosmopolitan space again was divided into nine provinces and the tributary services of five classes. This knowledge represents the ancient Chinese perception of their original geographical and cultural domain.” (9)

The word empire is a Western creation that carries its Western meaning but when speaking about empire in the context of China we have to remember that the meaning of the word is different. The Chinese notion of empire is more akin to a federation regrouping regional entities or 'unions of tribes' that govern themselves autonomously. In its early phase the Chinese empire is conceived of as a territory wherein people share a common vision transmitted to them by a sage who acts like their father.
‘all under the heaven’ is actually the geographic space where the rulers of each dynasty could exercise their influence. The meaning of the Chinese cosmopolitan space or ‘all under the heaven’ is equally expressed as ‘all the world under the heaven within the emperor’s territory while all people under heaven come into the category of the emperor’s subjects.’ Through historical experiences under the Five Emperors and Three Dynasties this Chinese cosmopolitan space had been defined as the common territory of central China and its remote areas in four directions. The concept of Chinese cosmopolitan space had evolved three aspects: first, it is the concept of natural geography; second, it is the concept of the political control from central power to all known remote areas; third, it is the concept of religious and ethical authority at their earliest stage” (9).

The Chinese empire in its early form was thus a grouping of regional entities (tribes or 'unions of tribes' grouped in Early-kingdoms) whose subjects shared the worldview (animism) transmitted to them by a sage who acted as the guide of all animist shaman in the territory. That function was not transmitted along hereditary lines. After the death of a sage it was passed on to the next most respected sage. So for some 800 years Chinese  animistic knowledge gradually took the character of power and its transmission, in all logic, must have been decided by the assembly of the shaman or local men of knowledge disseminated in the territory.

The first hereditary transmission of power starts sometimes between the 22nd and 21st century BC with the Xia dynasty. It will be followed by the Shang dynasty in the 15th century BC that will be overthrown by the first emperor of the Zhou dynasty in the 11th century BC. The federation's institutional model was rife to uprisings at the hands of ambitious kings and by the 8th century BC the Zhou dynasty, while remaining in place, had lost the command and control over its local kingdoms. The empire experienced then a few centuries of wars and conflicts between its local kingdoms until the Qin dynasty reunified it in 221 BC. 

This period of local conflicts unleashed a vast intellectual debate about "what reality is all about" and also about the workings of society. During what is called the period of the "hundred flowers" many schools of thought will affirm their theories. Among the most important ones figure the Taoist, the Confucian, the Mohist, the legalist and so on. Those schools start from a common intellectual level playing field constituted by China's animist foundation upon which early kingdoms and early empires had already attached their own add-ons. So their theories are derivations and expansions upon a common trunk which bring them to specialize in certain functional aspects without necessarily contradicting amongst themselves. This is how Confucianism and Taoism are complementing each other.

The common civilizational trunk of China's civilization is animism which resulted from the observation of the natural elements by generations of shaman along a span of tens of thousands of years. With the Yellow emperor the shaman are asked to deliver, on top of the traditional animist base, a supplemental body of pragmatic knowledge that is more directly related to the satisfaction of the daily needs of his citizens:
  • understanding how the present is produced as well as divining the future. The "book of changes" or Yi-Ching is assuredly China's oldest and most complex book. Some archaeologists date at some 6000 years BC the earliest pictograms on rocks and bones relating to this book.
  • helping treat people's illnesses: "The Yellow Emperor Treatise on Medicine" is considered the platform upon which developed "Traditional Chinese Medicine",
  • helping feed the people: Chinese agriculture is based on  the observations of the natural cycles by thousands of generations of shaman who translated their conclusions about the weather and the growth of plants in a very complex astronomic knowledge base that is still put in practice to this very day by old Chinese farmers.
Knowledge in China starts with the study of the body of past accumulated observations to which one adds refinements based on one's own observation. In such a method knowledge production is incremental. Knowledge about the general is induced from observation of the particular and added on top of the knowledge induced from the observations of all the generations that came before. So the Chinese civilization has no moment 0, no real starting point, from where civilizational axioms were derived and this is what distinguishes it from the Western civilization. The Western way of generating knowledge starts with the elaboration of general models from which one deduces particular conclusions which perhaps explains why the body of animist knowledge was simply destroyed by Christianity to be replaced by a story that is totally detached from any pragmatic concern for daily life.

4.6.4. Societal reproduction – Increased Individual consciousness

In “Part 2. 2.3.2. Knowledge formation and acquisition of knowledge” I noted that “Consciousness is the integration by the mind of knowledge the individual has acquired as well as all its implications for the individual particles, their societies, their species and all the other species, the system that contains them all the earth and its neighborhood, etc... To put this in perspective consciousness implies that the mind is able to emit a qualitative judgment about knowings and that once it has emitted such a qualitative judgment it is willing to argue about the wisdom of such knowings. In other words consciousness acts in the same way as the side-rails on a bridge. The rails protect the individual from falling into the abyss. Consciousness protects the individuals and their societies from falling out of the domain of systemic reality.

In that sense consciousness will push the individuals to conform to the ways that ensure societal reproduction. But consciousness is not evenly distributed between the individuals. And so it appears that it is being spread to society at large by those who attain the highest levels of it. This brings us back to the men of knowledge who, through the entire history of Homo-Sapient, have been observed to share their worldview with their fellow tribesmen through the practice of the arts. Sharing their worldview means that the men of knowledge were spreading their consciousness to society at large and this includes the ways to ensure societal reproduction.

As we have seen on multiple occasions already the men of knowledge, in the industrializing West, vanished sometimes in the 18th-19th centuries under the assault of rationality, science, and technology. Due to their disappearance from the societal scene society at large lost the input of their consciousness and started soon to fragment along the lines of sectoral groups' of interest. With the web Late-Modernity sets-in and this fragmentation was amplified to reach full blown atomization. This is when any residue of societal glue was irremediably lost and our societies were overtaken by atomization, corruption, and profiteering. In other words consciousness is no longer guiding the individuals to conform to the ways that ensure societal reproduction… and in consequence the West has put itself on the trajectory of a complete break-down of its social order. Social inequality now reaches levels that have never been observed earlier in history which is illustrated by, newspaper article titles echoing such absurd statistics as, “The 62 richest people own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population”. Social inequality has been observed being the determinant factor in shaping social anger and social anger is indeed fast reaching boiling temperatures in the West. This anger is then amplified by rampant corruption, an oligarchic take over of the political decision making process, a fastening decay of infrastructures that is accompanied by a deepening of social misery and this whole dynamic gives then way to a falling demography… that, at the end of the feedback loop, introduces an automatic reinforcement of the societal break-down and places the West on the path of Exponential Decay that ends in societal collapse.

But what about Southern countries, like China, that recently entered Modernity?

The speed of change in China is certainly destabilizing past certainties and the traditional worldview is breaking down. The rails of yesterday's worldview were protecting the individuals from falling into the abyss. But those rails have vanished and the limits today in the minds of the individuals are what they can get away with. This explains the rampant corruption and the resulting high levels of inequality. Social inequality has indeed reached record levels  that are comparable to what exists in the West. But there is an essential difference with the West and that difference resides in Chinese governance. By Chinese governance I mean the knowledge accumulated over Milena about managing an extremely large bureaucracy through ups and downs and the theories that codify such a unique experience that have been transmitted from generation to generation. Chinese governance has been re-instated by the Communist party and the management of the state is gradually being converted to an intelligent bureaucracy:
  • by introducing exams to select its middle and superior echelons.
  • by re-introducing a system of ethical precepts for the proper management of society through the promotion of the 5 virtues: Ren or humaneness,  Yi or righteousness-justice; Li or rite; Zhì or knowledge; Xìn or integrity.
The principle of knowledge is being applied by adjudicating the exercise of state responsibilities through exams. The principle of integrity is being imposed through the anti-corruption campaign which will be followed by the future implementation of a set of rules and laws that are presently being written. The principle of humaneness passes through the elaboration of income redistribution policies, through the offer of services that cater to peoples' daily needs (infrastructure, markets, health care, old age care, environment, etc… and rules imposing the bureaucracy to answer peoples complaints within a very short time span). The principle of justice and righteousness passes through the implementation of a system of rules and laws by the court system. A completely new justice system is being set up that covers the elaboration of legal codes, the construction of court houses, the education of personal to implement the legal codes, etc… This task is meant to be stabilized over a few generations. In the meantime the system operates with difficulty and to the non-satisfaction of many but this is the price that has to be paid for setting up such a gigantic enterprise.

The promotion of these 5 virtues is meant to solidify the efficiency of the state bureaucracy in order to promote popular consent and satisfaction. But, for some time to come, the most difficult and delicate task for the Chinese state will be to coalesce people into sharing  a common worldview. This is not something that can be legislated nor imposed. This is something that will eventually emerge out of the Chinese nation's internal and external context and, it seems to me, two factors will appear determinant:

A) the Chinese will be given to observe what goes on in the West and compare the quality of their lives with the lives of Western citizens. The more time passes the more the balance is tilting in China's favor…

B) internally the promotion of the 5 virtues is already gaining popular consent and satisfaction. If they could be systemically internalized the Chinese state bureaucracy would definitely gain an unswerving legitimacy.

All this indicates that Chinese popular consciousness is marching in the opposite direction from Western popular consciousness. In summary the West seems on a path of Exponential Decay while China seems on a path of exponential qualitative growth. Even if this is somewhat difficult to openly recognize the reality of the phenomenon escapes no one's attention and is bound to have determinant effects on the future of humanity.

4.6.5. Societal conservation – Individual reproduction

Societal conservation is motivated by the will manifested by societies to reproduce and the evidence impressed upon them by the myriad of their past experiences suggest to them that the safest way to guarantee their reproduction is to keep a middle of the road approach and to reject all deviations by their individual atoms in extreme ventures. Derogations to this principle are nevertheless observed in term of individual reproduction:
  • when life conditions within a society are so miserable that they constitute a thread for the reproduction of that society individual reproduction, under high cohesive conditions, may be boosted to levels that may appear extreme. The examples that come to mind are Africa and Palestine (10) that have extremely high levels of natality.
  • when life conditions within a society are comfortable the individual atoms indulge in their comfort zone and individual reproduction seems to adjust at lower levels as Western demographic statistics attest.
Such re-balancing operates outside of the realm of the individuals' consciousness. We would indeed not know about the existence of such re-balancing mechanisms were it not for population statistics. And so it seems that societal conservation is directly channeling individual reproduction behaviors along the lines of its own needs.

4.6.6. Societal conservation – Individual satisfaction of needs

The societal urge for conservation challenges people to understands that the need to satisfy individual objective needs is what brings about social peace. The Chinese being highly pragmatic people apply this principle to the letter. But seen from a Western perspective the Communist party of China is presented as a conservative force that first and foremost strives to ensure its own reproduction. Following this perspective the Chinese Communist Party cleverly made the need to satisfy individual objective needs its strategic target because by giving people better daily lives it automatically ensured popular support for itself. One can only laugh at this kind of Western Manichaeism. Being other than the West any action by the Chinese is being perceived by the West as a negative action. So the fact that the Chinese authorities are ensuring a better daily life for its population can not be understood by Western propaganda for the good of it. It has to be understood as a manipulation by the Chinese authorities of their population to tolerate them in their power position.

What is even more baffling than this Manichaeism is observing Western countries acting with the same kind of obtuse ideological bias by refusing to ensure better daily lives to their own people. Austerity policies for the people versus redistribution policies in the benefit of big capital, its banks, and other multinational corporations. And the most laughable is to observe how the Western political elite is marginalizing itself into illegitimacy with the real risk that its perceived illegitimacy expands to the political system as a whole which would mean the following overthrow of its state institutions.

As Confucius stated in "The Analects" people have to obey the orders of the state but when the emperor can no longer supply the conditions that allow them to generate a comfortable daily life then the people gain the moral right to refuse to obey and to dismiss the emperor by replacing him with someone else. This Confucian principle of political science is a natural principle that appears valid in any political system and it indicates the central importance for societal governance to satisfy individual objective needs.

But the fact is that the Western political decision making process has cornered itself to be perceived by its own people, as well as by the people of the rest of the world, as being an oligarchy. It seems to me that this is bound to have worldwide repercussions. This means indeed the end of Western cultural hegemony and the legitimacy that this was projecting in the eyes of the citizens of the world.  And so the actions of the West will result in wiping the level playing field clean of its ideological pretensions while offering its newcomer competitors a clean sheet to write the future rules of the game.

4.6.7. Societal conservation – Individual communion

The societal urge for conservation has always been the reason why the men of power urged their men of knowledge to supply their population with a foundational story or a worldview that could be shared by all. Societal conservation strives indeed to increase the level of societal cohesion in order to enhance cooperation and communion between its individual particles so that they feel united in a common project. As far back as we can go in history we observe that strong societies all had very high levels of societal cohesion while weak societies have low levels of it. This has been a historical constant. Now observing late-modern societies we are struck by the fact that the more advanced the level of Modernity of a country the weaker is its level of societal cohesion.

China again is a good case study. The country is booming. The confidence of its citizens in their economic future is at an all time high (11) but people feel nevertheless uncomfortable which leaves them often irritated and in search of communion with their brethren. Paradoxically while the economic situation was at its lowest in the sixties and seventies the Communist party succeeded nevertheless to make people dream a common worldview of collectivism that did not work out so well for them. But now that the economy is booming the authorities are losing their capacity at finding a story that sticks in people's minds. The people are indeed running in troves to temples, churches, and newer chapels to find a story to share with others so as to quieten their minds about the many hows and whys and increase the levels of trust with those with whom they share that common story.  A shared narrative about what reality is all about allows people to drop their masks and pretensions which opens them to sharing, communion, and cooperation. This allows them to find pragmatic solutions to their daily troubles. China is not the only country to experience low levels of societal cohesion. Western countries fare even worse and to the surprise of fundamentalist atheists religions make a comeback. The Arab spring has shown us that force to conserve the status quo has its limits at controlling populations. When a threshold of anger is passed the repressed or controlled worldviews make a vengeful come back.

The individual urge to satisfy objective needs converges with the societal pillar of conservation. The male individual urge to satisfy his objective needs is like "an old male that is ready to leave his place for a coming young female" represented by cooperation and communion. The will of the individual is like a male force but the urge for communion is mellowing that force into an aged male. As a result the mellowing old male is giving up his seat for a coming young female and that young female is only too happy to join hands with the old societal female force of conservation. The individual urge for communion boost the unity of the group and weakens the individual urge for change and by doing so it does the job that societal conservation would have done on its own.


1. cooperation.
Though the notion of competition as the main mechanism for evolution has enjoyed wide appreciation by the public, presumably because it is relatively easy to imagine, it is by no means the only mechanism. And, as it turns out, it may not even be the main mechanism. The more evolutionary biologists study the life histories of various species, the more they are coming to appreciate a more subtle role that cooperation and coordination play in what may surely be called “progress” in evolution. There is a rapidly growing body of knowledge about how cooperation and coordination act to stabilize a biological system. By that I mean the system as a whole becomes more able to exist and thrive in a much larger environment. Cooperation and coordination have been the main mechanisms involved in the evolution of eukaryotic cells, multicellular organisms, herds, and eusociality — the capacity of individuals to work collectively for the good of the group as a whole“. in “Evolution: The Roles of Competition, Cooperation, Coordination, and Strategy” by George Mobus

2. consciousness and complexity. See 2.3.1. Societies and systems of knowledge formation

3. citation from “global dimming”.
See also the following:
Tiny particles that are released when fuels are burned cause global dimming.
Dramatic emission reductions (35%–80%) in anthropogenic aerosols and their precursors projected by Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 result in ~1 °C of additional warming,” according to an analysis published in the 20 May 2013 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Instead of taking the cherry-picking, conservative approach assumed by academic scientists and the International Panel on Climate Change’s RCP, I’ll use the upper end of the conservative projection: Reducing industrial activity by 35% results in ~1 C global-average temperature rise, and eliminating global industrial activity results in an attendant ~3 C global-average temperature rise.
In other words, the absence of solar dimming associated with reflective particles could cause an abrupt rise in global-average temperature beyond that which has supported the existence of humans in the past
in "Near-term Habitat Loss for Humans" by Dr. Guy McPherson.

4. "societal hierarchical restructuring": Georges Mobus develops this idea in “The Trouble with Complex Adaptive Systems
The law might be generally stated thus: As complexity emerges in a system (to respond to complexity in the larger embedding system) a point is reached wherein the system must restructure to enhance a hierarchical control network in order to improve coordination and avoid the diminishing costs of increasing complexity.”

5. citation from “Part 2.  3. Culture, worldviews, civilizations”

6. “Artsense” by Laodan. See 2.3. “The opening of the gates”.  Pages 97-110.

7. See “Part 1: Late-Modernity”:  1,   2,   3,   4,   5,   6

8. I borrow these arguments from Gibbons in “the decline and fall of the Roman Empire” and Bertrand Russell “The history of western philosophy”

9.  Citation from “On Chinese Cosmopolitanism (Tian Xia)” by by Shan Chun.

10. The rates of fertility in Palestine are among the highest on earth.

11. Pew levels of trust in authorities

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