08 October 2005

A tribal animal?

The conception of the human mind as a blank slate, so beloved of those of socialist bent during the twentieth century, has been thoroughly discredited by modern scientific analysis. Academics such as Stephen Pinker through his book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, have brought the fallacies of the blank slate view of human development to public attention. This being generally accepted, an arguably opposite point of view has re-emerged, more closely allied with the conservative conception of human nature, something akin to the idea that humans have their natural station in life. It seems reasonable to contend that the truth is somewhere in the middle of the nature-nurture debate and that the exact percentage influence of either is relatively un-important in any analysis of human behaviour.

With that preamble, it is interesting to examine the question of whether humans possess an innate tribal instinct derived from our socio-evolutionary past? This does seem pertinent to the functioning of an anarcho-capitalist society, for if humans are indeed more tribal when unconstrained by the divisive policies of the state then Hoppe's analysis of communities formed along 'tribal' lines being more prevalent than today does appear to stand up.

Personally I feel little tribal loyalty and see myself as a radical individualist, obviously not shunning friends or family in a hermit like manner, but in so far as denying any particular need to belong to a collective social entity greater than my immediate social circles. Others, however, clearly feel differently; the supporting of sports teams, political party loyalty, patriotism, all betray a need to belong to the greater (tribal) collective. Whether tribalism is inherently widespread or not, it does not affect the basic economics of anarcho-capitalism, which stand up regardless of the social arrangements any individual or group of individuals pursue. What it would affect is the social character of society. I would argue that anarcho-capitalism encourages heterogeneity as there is no centralised homogenisation, but, if tribalism were prevalent, then it seems likely that society would evolve towards homogenous enclaves in a heterogeneous network.

My personal opinion, as in the nature-nurture debate, is that society would exist as a mixture of both, as indeed it appears to have done historically. On the fringes homogeneity will increase as like minded (or otherwise alike) individuals group together to reinforce their own set of values and beliefs, whilst the urban dynamos will remain, where heterogeneity is demanded by the complex networks of a modern economy.

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