Apr 18, 2014

Positive Change using Biological Principles Pt 2: The missing Community Principle

Welcome to the second in our 4 part series about social change strategy.

In part 1, it was proposed that common campaigning barriers and successes might be explained in part by a “Campaign Complex” comprised of 4 “biological” Principles – the organism’s drives for equilibrium, agency, equanimity and energy conservation.

For each, we proposed an evolutionary adaptive purpose, how their effects manifest in our lives, their possible consequences for campaigns, and their strategic implications for change agents.

In this article, we shall propose a fifth Principle. This became increasingly conspicuous by its absence during the analysis, when all the strategic implications seem to point to a similar solution.


5) The Community Principle:

EquilibriumPurpose. The purpose of a cooperative species is to construct and maintain a web of social interdependence (a “super-organism”) which enables a more stable, predictable, productive and specialised relationship with the immediate environment, and a more effective response to threat, than would be possible for individuals alone.

Effects. Once such a community has established a workable culture of interrelationship with its everyday environment (capacities / patterns of behaviour / roles / rituals etc.), it will tend towards experiences which build on it and avoid those which might threaten its integrity or interrupt its processes.

Consequences of its absence. Without a web-of-interdependence there is no ongoing concrete experience of shared purpose, identity, culture or action, or of negotiating and expressing Agency in pursuit of the commonwealth. Whilst Agency is freed from community constraints, the individual must also bear the responsibility for achieving stable Equilibrium alone.


The Role of the Community Principle within the Campaign Complex

The effects a Community Principle would have on the other Principles within the Campaign Complex strongly implies that under natural conditions it should be there.

Firstly, it would reinforce Equilibrium and Equanimity – by conferring a strong, stable and resilient social web-of-interdependence.

Secondly, it would address an imbalance in the role of Agency – by constraining selfish needs which threaten the common good, and by providing opportunities to express individuality in pursuit of shared purpose.

Lastly, it would allow greater Energy Conservation –  the efficiencies of having specialisation and workload distributed across many, should mean that individuals need to do less.

Sound like the ingredients of a good campaign?

Below is a hypothetical diagram of these systems dynamics (click the image to open in a new tab).

Systems Dynamics of Campaigning


Where is the Community Principle?

So if, as is suggested, the Community Principle has biological roots and adaptive purpose for Homo Sapiens, where has it gone?

One possible explanation for its absence might be the decoupling of culture from geographical place. In recent centuries, modern technologies – particularly the phone, car, plane and internet – have vastly expanded the range of human individuals.

As a consequence, we no longer live, work and play in our neighbourhood with our neighbours or depend on them for our everyday needs. 

There is neither opportunity nor pressing incentive to participate in those daily transactions and rituals from which common identity, values and purpose emerge. We have become detached from the people and environment that produce the things we consume, and the consequences of our business and purchasing decisions.

This disintegration of a geographically-grounded community has also meant our personal needs and goals are no longer constrained or guided by our neighbours’ needs and goals.

Putting our personal skills in service of our local commonwealth is no longer a natural and obvious idea. Agency is no longer obligated to anything but the self.

Indeed, the loss of the controlling influence of the Community Principle, could be one of the key drivers behind a global culture founded upon individual entitlement. Our everyday lives are now saturated with the message that competitive self-determination, the accumulation of personal property and power, and unbuckled consumption are the only worthwhile channels for Agency.

The supreme expression of this culture, and its ultimate role models, are oligarchs and celebrities who wield wealth and influence unprecedented in the history of civilization, able to steer global government, law and the mass opinion for their own aggrandizement.

And within this cultural context, a vestigial Community Principle is no longer seen as a natural balance for Agency but as its ideological opponent (e.g. capitalism vs socialism / private vs public / liberalism vs environmentalism, and so on), a barrier to individual rights and freedom which must be eradicated once and for all.


In summary, it is Arkadian’s view that Technology has disengaged modern humans from the Community Principle, and an  ‘unleashed’ Agency Principle has fashioned a culture to keep things that way.

We hope you’ll join us again next Friday when we’ll be discussing our new found freedom, and how the downsides may help explain some common campaign bugbears:  ignorance, gullibility, apathy, carelessness and denial.

Leave a comment

Recent Posts