The main idea of this book is that ideologies and parties are not the same. Ideologies are coalitions of people with relatively closed set of ideas, while parties are coalitions of people in pursuit of democratically assigned political power. American society went through long process of development when ideologies grew into internally consistent sets of ideas and took over parties making them into conduits of specific ideologies and creating polarization and gridlock in that results from division of power in American system. This book is the review of this process.
- Introduction: Distilling Their Frenzy from Some Academic Scribblier
This starts with introduction of two men who were not men of action, but whose ideas created foundation for a lot of political actions in XX century. The first was Herbert Croly who built ideological foundation of contemporary left progressivism and second was William Buckley who built ideological foundation of right conservatism. Author characterizes these ideologies as “Jeffersonian Ends with Hamiltonian Means” for Croly and “Standing Athwart History Yelling Stop” for Buckley. From here author goes to the main thesis of this book that ideology and political party are different and in American history mostly where not internally consistent until recently.
- The Coalition Merchants: Ideologies, Parties, and Their Interaction
Here author defines Ideologies and Parties as different types of coalitions that influence each other, but include individuals with different views and approaches because they pursue different purposes. The ideology seeks to increase number of individuals adhered to its ideas and therefore necessarily purify these ideas, make them attractive, and pushes out renegades who deviate from these ideas. Political parties seek winning coalitions in order to obtain majority of voters and therefore easily tolerate deviations from purity as long as ideas are not completely subverted. Moreover political parties could and did maintain coalitions with wide variety of contradictory ideas as long as obtained power benefited all its constituents.
- Creative Synthesis: Why Ideology?
This chapter provides details about mechanism of formation of ideological coalitions. Author defines ideology as set of policy preferences derived from personal make up of individuals, both genetically and culturally, combined with their interests broadly understood. Author believes that ideology formed via process of Rawlian reflective equilibrium when ideology switches from deduction to induction and back to reach judgment about “right and wrong”. He also defines “long coalition” based on preference matrix from game theory. Author also provides illustration of key features of ideologies:
- Ideologies would apply principles and connect issues from one context to another
- Ideologies would care as much about Who is Right as about What is Right
- Ideologies would focus on resolving internal conflicts and sorting out what it means to hold the ideology.
- The Independent Development of Ideology
This chapter is about development and change in ideology. It attempts to measure this process by using statistical analysis of correlation between various ideological issues and change of these correlations over the time. It demonstrates how the ideological positions crystallized into internally consistent set of ideas with correlation growing continuously over the time. The process is traced from the middle of XIX century till present time. This review covers hundreds issues, thousands pundits, and opinions. A very interesting list of ideological issues in discussion by decade is provided starting from1910 with analysis of how these issues were incorporated into ideological coalitions.
- Ideology Remakes the Parties
The next step is analysis of how ideological coalitions practically took over parties turning them from mainly partisan organizations combining various ideologies and dedicated to moving partisans into position of power into ideological organizations working to implement ideology. It also reviews development of progressive ideology as initially non-partisan ideology versus Liberalism and Conservatism.
- Issue Politics in Ideological Context
This is review of development and politization of two issues: Race and Abortion.
- Ideological Parties and Polarization
This chapter analyzes contemporary polarization of American polity as consequence of ideologies taking over political parties that in turn was result of growing irreconcilable divisions between intellectuals. It has an interesting graphical representation of the process based on pundits’ ideal points changes from 1910 to 1990..
- Conclusion: Toward the Study of Creative Synthesis
The conclusion is about implication of research results provided in this book. It looks like we’ll have relatively long period of paralyzed government because American system designed to support action only when at least some part of minority supports them.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This is an interesting review of political development of American democracy. It looks like this system went through process of development and organization from initial small time corruption mechanism when politics mainly were used to obtain access to limited power government and take away some goodies for friends and family with ideological underpinning playing relatively insignificant role, to the big and practically unlimited power government when corruption is expanded from stealing to controlling allowing politicians to implement whatever grand ideological schemes they can come up with using majority of resources available for society. At this point it is somewhat restricted by American system of division of power so highly polarized parties of somewhat equal power and representation are able to keep divided government from acting. But it will last only until one of the parties will be able to obtain electoral supremacy and start implementing its ideology on the mass scale. It is a big question whether loosing side would continue to adhere to democratic process if their ideological believes are being crashed and their way of live is being destroyed.
This book is review of intellectual attitudes to market and capitalism in Western thought. It starts with defining who are the people producing intellectual environment, form attitudes of population, and eventually define issues and approaches to their resolution. The scope of this book is from the late XVII century through the end of XX century and it includes all main intellectual currents related to capitalism either positive or negative.
The introduction describes genesis of this book and defines main notion used in it: capitalism- the system based on market exchange and private property of legally equal individuals. Obviously it exists only to the extent in conditions when the state with its violent machinery supports and protects two keystones of capitalism: equality before law and private property of individuals.
CHAPTER ONE- HISTORICAL BACKDROP: RIGHTS, RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND VIRTUE
This is historical review of relationship between morality and commerce. Ever since ancient Greeks and all the way through development of Christian civilizations this relationship was pretty bad. The main issues and suspicions always were around real intentions and honesty of the commerce participants. The profit as intent of activity was considered impure and activity itself was considered suspicious because of common attitude that there is a given amount of wealth so any commercial activity leading to increase in wealth of one person was at the expense of another. However it was somewhat compensated by accepion of property rights as legitimate part of god’s creation. Eventually medieval Church found equilibrium in pushing unacceptable part of commerce such as usury to outsides such as Jews while making legal system and property rights into noble institutions.
CHAPTER TWO – VOLTAIRE: “A MERCHANT OF A NOBLE KIND”: The Rise of the Intellectual; Exchange and Toleration: The Political Argument; Intellectual Speculation; The Defense of Luxury; Avarice and the Jew: The Limits of Enlightenment
This chapter is about new type of a person – intellectual who is professional thinker and is capable to make living by selling his/her books, ideas, opinions, and lessons. It is written based on the life and writings of Voltaire who had quite positive views of capitalism and commerce. He strongly defended market exchange and believed that it creates tolerance and prosperity. However being also a businessman and dealing in real world he had quite a few nasty encounters with other businessmen and was not really impressed with their honesty and integrity. Neither they were impressed with his personal qualities. It was probably one of main reasons for him to develop strong anti-Semitic views since many of these people were Jewish.
CHAPTER THREE – ADAM SMITH: MORAL PHILOSOPHY AND POIITICAL ECONOMY: Smith’s Life and Milieu; The Consumer Revolution; Explaining the Market; The Legislator and the Merchant; The Moral Balance Sheet of Commercial Society; The Visible Hand of the State; Virtues Inferior and Superior
This is review of live and writing of Adam Smith – the first serious analyst of capitalism as economic system. Somehow it is usually missed that Smith was not an economist, but rather a moral philosopher and his analysis of capitalism concluded that it is not just an effective system of production and distribution, but, even more important, it is a superior moral system because it dramatically decreased violence in interactions between people and promoted tolerance by creating condition when well being of people in society mutually reinforcing.
CHAPTER FOUR- JUSTUS MOSER: THE MARKET AS DESTROYER OF CULTURE: The Virtues of Knowing One’s Place; Destroying the Local Culture; Creating the Poor; Commerce and the Eclipse of Virtue
Much less known, but really important conservative thinker Justus Moser reviewed in this chapter had quite a negative view of capitalism not least because of its meritocracy that destroyed well-organized and stable hierarchical societies. The list of capitalism’s crimes in his opinion was long and, interestingly enough, still repeated by many leftists: destruction of culture, disruption of orderly functioning of society, promotion and enrichment of undeserving people, and eventually destruction of virtue.
CHAPTER FIVE – EDMUND BURKE: COMMERCE, CONSERVATISM, AND THE INTELLECTUALS: The Intellectual in Politics; The Market for “Intelligence” and “Public Opinion”; The Critic of Abstract Reason; Burke as Supporter of Commerce; Burke and the British East Indian Company; Burke’s Analysis of the French Revolution; The Noncontractual Basis of Commercial Society
Another conservative thinker – Burke, represents quite different approach to capitalism. He not only accepted free market approach in production of goods and services, but also expanded it into the area of ideas and politics promoting market place of ideas. His conservatism was also constructive when he provided critique of abstract reason stressing its limitations and impossibility to match complexity of reality. He also pointed out non-contractual nature of society rejecting popular at the time ideas of Rousseau.
CHAFFER SIX – HEGEL: A LIFE WORTH CHOOSING: Feeling at Home in the Modern World; The Setting of The Philosophy of Right; Individuality and Universality; Civil Society and its Discontents; Beyond Civil Society; The General Estate and the Role of the Philosopher
The next thinker – Hegel reviewed here is interesting by simultaneous affirmation of market and somewhat worshipping attitude to the state. The main reason for this was his understanding of society as entity created and held together by the state and his rejection of ideas of natural rights. He also saw property as result of historical process rather than natural right of men. Consequently while understanding positive role of market in economy, Hegel viewed state and civil service as superior entity that should control and direct market forces. Naturally at the top of this hierarchy he saw philosophers as himself explaining and pointing out right direction for state to act.
CHAPTER SEVEN- KARL MARX: FROM JEWISH USURY TO UNIVERSAL VAMPIRISM: Marx’ Jewish Problem an His Labor Problem; From Hegelianism to Communism; Engels’ Critique of Political Economy; Jewdom Transferred; Beyond Particular Identity: The Communist Manifesto; From Usury to Vampirism: Capital; The Aftermath
Obviously nobody had more influence in building intellectual basis for attitude to capitalism than Marx and Engels. Their main ideas were expressed in Communist Manifesto and did not change that much until the end of their lives. Key parts of their ideas: labor theory of value and correspondent theory of labor exploitation by capital, continuous worsening of conditions for labor classes, proletarian revolution with complete nationalization of private property followed by dramatic increase in productivity that would allow ridding of division of labor and return to earthly paradise that they believed existed in form of primitive communism, all these proved to be wrong, however they still remaining popular among pseudo intellectual products of western universities. Author also allocates lots of space to discussion of Marx’s anti-Semitism as expression of his believe in direct link from Jewish religion and culture to capitalism and it’s most ugly in his opinion form-usury. Author points out that Marxism spawn two main political movements: communist movement – virulent and deadly murderous produced Soviet and Chinese communist systems that practically self-destruct by the end of XX century due to economic non-performance, while other relatively benign social democratic movement is still with us, albeit in continuously weakening form.
CHAPTER EIGHT – MATHEW ARNOLD: WEANING THE PHILISTINE FROM THE DRUG OF BUSINESS: Life Among the Philistines and Hebraists; Arnold’s Critique; The Roles of the Intellectual
This chapter is about a lot less known contemporary of Marx – Arnold, who actually produced much more potent anti-capitalism ideas. The main potency of his ideas came from his suggestion to leave commerce more or less alone and direct main efforts to domination of intellectual areas of society especially education and control over government. His vision was of society with lowly materialistic part producing wealth, while superior intellectuals would form upper class controlling and directing use of this wealth in “common interest” including limiting levels of production is they feel it necessary. Arnold ideas, while initially overshadowed by Marxism, seems to be feeding current elitist anti-capitalism movements around western world substituting to large extent discredited ideas of socialism.
CHAFFER NINE – WEBER, SIMMEL, AND SOMBART: COMMUNITY, INDIVIDUAIX1T, AND RATIONAITY: Setting the Terms; Commercial Transformation; Weber: Efficiency and Disenchantment; Simmel: Money and Individuality; The Dialectics of Means and Ends; Sombart: Blaming it on Jews; The World War as Turning Point
This chapter looks at three German thinkers who provided influential prospective on capitalism and its development. Weber linked capitalism to Protestantism and its ethics. He maintained that capitalism was the most effective method of production, but culturally deficient because it distracted people from pursuing greatness of their nation. Simmel also mainly supported capitalism but he believed that it represents triumph of means over ends. He believed that by making people to spend lots of intellectual efforts on making money capitalism diminished their ability to spend these efforts to achieve nobler objectives. The third German thinker Sombart hated capitalism. As usual it comes together with hate to the most capitalistic people – Jews, destroyers of everything beautiful, cultural, and with their attraction to lowly commercial activities antithesis to noble militaristic high culture of German people.
CHAPTER TEN – LUKACS AND FREYER: FROM THE QUEST FOR COMMUNITY TO THE TEMPTATIONS OF TOTALITY: From Intellectual to Revolutionary; Educator of the Revolution; The Party as Community; Freyer: Alienation and the Quest for Community; The Particularist Critique of the Market; War, the State, and the Preservation of Cultural Particularity; Revolution from the Right?
This chapter is about another couple of German thinkers – enemies of capitalism. Both of them hated economic and political freedom of common men, both of them supported big government control over economy, both of them had vision of united community led to progress by wise leaders. The small difference was that one of them Lukacs was Jewish and another one Freyer was not. Consequently one of these philosophical twins, the Jewish one, become communist and another one – national-socialist. One particularly interesting legacy of the communist thinker Lukacs is idea of capitalism as system of illusion that deprives regular people of ability to understand their own interests. So these poor souls mistakenly believe that their best interest is to have good home, abundance of goods and services, and good live overall, while in reality their real interest is to work themselves to death on some great project of communism. Obviously only individuals with superior intellectuals power are capable to understand this real interest and lead stupid masses in correct direction. For both of these guys there is no limitation on methods used to achieve their “noble” goals so deception, violence, and anything else conceivable is a fair play.
CHAPTER ELEVEN- SCHUMPETER: INNOVATION AND RESENTMENT
Creativity and Resentment in Schumpeter’s Early Writings; The Birth of Irony form Catastrophe; From Prosperity to Depressions; Schumpeter’s Analysis of the Depression and New Deal; Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy; The Role of Intellectuals
This chapter is a very interesting view at Schumpeter that I really did not think about when reading his works. While being very strong defender of capitalism and promoter of idea of creative destruction Schumpeter writes a lot about inevitability of socialism and how it could work (Interestingly he was not able to find way for socialism to work well economically). The point made here is that Schumpeter actually used irony to get through intellectual defenses of socialism and big government ideas build in through educational system of indoctrination into minds of vast majority of people.
CHAPTER TWELVE – FROM KEYNES TO MARCUSE: AFFLUENCE AND ITS DISCONTENTS: The Paradox of Keynes; The New Affluence and the End of Ideology; The European Roots of Markuse’s Thought; Redefining Oppression as Repression. Domination Through Sex and Affluence
This chapter reviews ideas of Keynes and Marcuse. The first one creating pseudo scientific justification of big government that intellectuals were looking for to justify their continuous struggle to grab more power, while the second one developing somewhat weird combination of sexual obsession with economical and political issues. Both these thinkers are intellectually of low grade, but they both got fame and money by meeting not too discrete needs in intellectual justification and sophistry of government bureaucrat and hormonally challenged teenage baby boomers. It makes sense that when baby boomers get older and somewhat less obsessed with sex, Marcuse was discarded, while Keynes ideas alive and well despite being proved wrong many times over both in theory and practice. The obvious reason for continuing presence of these failed ideas is their value for government bureaucracies as justification of their resource redistribution activities.
CHAFFER THIRTEEN – FRIEDRICH HAYEK: UNTIMELY LIBERAL: The Making of a Liberal; Vienne Liberalism, the Jews, and the Defense of Creative Minorities; Rent Control and the Hazards of State Intervention; Socialism, Planning, and the Functions of the Market; The Critique of “Social Justice” and the Hazards of the Welfare State; The Intellectuals Again. The Hayekian Moment; The Tensions and Limits of Hayek’s Thought
The final chapter is about Frederick Hayek and his ideas about technical impossibility of socialism as effective economic system due to complexity of knowledge and information flows in contemporary society, the problem resolved quite satisfactory by capitalism using free pricing of goods and services. It does mention Ludwig Von Mises as economist who was the first conclusively proving this in his works, but allocates a lot more attention to Hayek as the most effective promoter of the view of capitalism as the greatly superior economic system and free market as one and only method of effective and efficient resource allocation. Hayek also provided effective critic of welfare state developing intellectual ammunition for conservative movement of 1980s that partially reversed economic decline of western democracies. Author also stresses Hayek’s shortcoming especially in his exaggeration of consequences of limitation on market forces. So far welfare state and growth of bureaucracies did not bring us back to serfdom, it just made economy sclerotic, population well fed, but limited in its endeavors by economic stagnation caused by regulations, even if somewhat compensated by flow of new technological toys providing entertainment and distraction.
In conclusion author provides a few pages of very good and brief review of intellectual thought in some 20 points from “Centrality of the Market” to “Vital Tensions” of human lives and their change in capitalist societies.
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is a great review of capitalism related western thought for last 300 some years written from point of view sympathetic to capitalism, but with deep understanding of anxieties of capitalism enemies that causes continuing attacks against this economic system despite the fact that it brought unimaginable before prosperity to everybody in the world. Ironically time and again this prosperity is turned against capitalism mainly for the reason of not everybody being equally prosperous at the same time. However every time when this enmity takes over and capitalism system restricted or even destroyed in some country it always resulted in dramatic decrease in quality of life for people in this country leading sometimes after decades of misery to return to capitalism in one form or another. I believe that the only way out of this conundrum is such change in society organization that would give everyone unalienable property and therefore stake in capitalist system.
The main idea of this book is to review history of humanity with stress on key points of human development that made humans the most successful animal known. These points are:
- Cognitive revolution that created abstract thinking allowing supreme levels of cooperation and communication;
- Agricultural Revolution that created environment for empire building and increase in numbers of humans way beyond natural capacity of environment;
- Discovery of ignorance and Scientific revolution that radically improved quality of human lives.
Final conclusion is that humans practically become gods limited in their abilities only by natural laws and while it is not possible to predict where we are going, it could be said that evolutionary history of humanity ended and we are at the beginning of consciously directed development.
Part One: The Cognitive Revolution
- An Animal of No Significance
This is a brief review of our limited knowledge about existence of different humanoids. Homo Sapience was far from the only one among many apes with big brains, some of them with the bigger one than Sapience. The point is made that with high cost of big brain all these apes could been developed only due to higher survival efficiency caused by this brain and expressed in cooking and other uses of fire. It drastically decreased time and effort needed for feeding. Somehow Sapience were able to benefit from this more than any other species and within relatively short time of less than 70,000 years they settled everywhere around the world exterminating and interbreeding with other brainy apes.
- The Tree of Knowledge
Here it becomes interesting because it introduces an idea of Cognitive revolution that allowed Sapience to create abstract entities capable to coordinate and direct actions of individuals in organized manner. Author provides an interesting table to presents it features and consequences:
- A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve
This is a brief review of what is known about prehistoric societies otherwise known as bands of hunter-gatherers. The main point here is that it was way of live for which we are the most adjusted by evolution of our bodies from our digestive tract and attraction to high calorie food to our social brain effectively supporting complex relationships in groups of up to 150 individuals. It was sustainable, but really tough existence that is only partially could be understood due to absence of artifacts. Part of it is that even if we can find some artifacts they are often support contradictory narratives even in such simple issue as whether war or peace prevailed in live of prehistoric people. There are archeological places with skeletons indicating death from natural causes, but there also places with evidence of massacres. From cognitive revolution point of view an important fact is evidence of art dated to 15,000-20,000 years and demonstrating that at least some abstract ideas start forming in human minds about this period of time.
- The Flood
The final chapter of this part discusses expansion of humanity throughout the world. While still maintaining structure of small bands and still relying on hunting and gathering humans become so good at it that they were able to move everywhere in the world in process extinguishing multiple species of big mammals who were good targets for coordinated hunting by the group of humans with decent planning and communication capabilities.
Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
- History’s Biggest Fraud
This chapter is about transition to agriculture. Interestingly enough it presented agriculture as a big fraud that nature inflicted upon humanity. The promise of agriculture was easier living due to ability to grow more food, but biological nature of humanity caused humans to multiply as soon as more food become available pushing them into Malthusian cycle and in process decreasing quality of life by making people work harder, accept deteriorating diet of grains or rice, and fight each other in territorial wars. All these developments related to agriculture taken together put high premium on tribe’s ability to expand beyond 150 individuals and direct coordinated actions of thousands people in war or big long-term projects. The tribes that managed to meet this challenge by inventing abstractions of god(s), great leaders, and such become winners taking more land, incorporating other tribes in their society, and acquiring slaves to till their fields.
- Building Pyramids
This chapter is review of abstractions that people come up with within framework of agricultural society. These abstractions run from Hammurabi code (1776 BC) to US Constitution (1776 AD), from religions of old with multiple and highly specialized gods to contemporary monotheistic religions like Christianity or Islam, and atheistic religions such as communism or National Socialism. Author provides common characteristics for imaginary order created based on such abstractions:
- The imagined order is imbedded in material world
- The imagined order shapes our desires
- The imagined order is inter-subjective meaning it is subjective, but shared by multiple individuals, typically by majority of the people in society.
- Memory Overload
This chapter is about next cognitive step when people invented tools to overcome memory limitations of individual human. This step was invention of writing that allowed fixing information in stone and much later in computer memory, creating foundation for managing millions of individuals as one body via nervous system of bureaucracy. Correspondingly continuing development of knowledge created multiple scientific languages for different areas such as calculus, mathematics, chemistry, and many more.
- There is No Justice in History
This chapter is about organization of society at the level of unequal groups of people defined by various often randomly selected individual features such as skin color. Author provides framework of development of vicious cycle of rigid social system:
Discussion is related initially to racism and then goes to sexism, providing an interesting table of attitude changes:
Author also poses an interesting question: “How come that human society that extensively relies on cooperation the less cooperating sexual group (males) are routinely dominate ove more cooperating group (females). He has no answer at this point.
Part Three: The Unification of Humankind
- The Arrow of History
The view of history had changed from image of arrow flying in some predefined direction to quasi-static condition continuously interrupted by unpredictable events and therefore moving chaotically from one direction to another. In other words it is being in flux with no predestination whatsoever, but with some loosely defined direction nevertheless. This direction could be rather defined as consolidation of humanity that started at very low level of groups and growing into one global entity of humanity. This process is based on foundation of three abstractions: money, empires, and religions.
10 .The Scent of Money
The first abstraction – money supports effective division of labor and exchange of goods and services. This chapter is a very short discussion of money with stress on its function as trusted medium of exchange.
- Imperial Visions
The second abstraction – imperial visions provides for unification of humanity in large entities that provide security, create common trade space, and develop common cultural space for huge numbers of people over extended territories. Here is tabulated representation of empires life cycles:
The final destination of this vision where we are moving now is a global empire that includes all of humanity held together by common culture and common interests.
- The Law of Religion
The third abstraction – religion provides for unified philosophical view of the world that support culture of the society and cohesiveness of its members. This chapter reviews a number of religions developed by humanity including secular religions such as Buddhism and Communism. It also provides a useful graph for their understanding:
It also distinguish as a separate category humanist religions:
- The Secret of Success
This is discussion of how humanity get to the point it is in now – a dominant species in process of merging into one global entity. The point is made that history is second-order chaotic system meaning that any prediction changes outcome, making it unpredictable in principle. For the most part history did not lead to improvement of human lives, this is very recent phenomenon and even so it was not true for many people who perished in calamities of last century despite dramatic increase in productive abilities of humanity and improvements in all areas of technology.
Part Four: The Scientific Revolution
- The Discovery of Ignorance
The science starts with recognition of ignorance. Historically people always new everything about the world meaning that they believed they know everything there is to know and this knowledge is contained either in heads of wise old men or in sacred books. The discovery of ignorance prompted beginning of search of knowledge, creating science:
- The Marriage of Science and Empire
This chapter is about how Europe managed to combine newly found scientific approach to the world expressed in new technology and imperial conquest, while other cultures especially Chinese were not able to do it.
- The Capitalist Creed
This is about another component of European success – capitalism that provided economic foundation for application of science and technology to real life problems. Interestingly enough it looks at capitalism and monetized economy from morality point of view when everything is based on trust. Trust in money being a good conduit for value, but most important trust in the future as foundation of modern economy:
- The Wheels of Industry
This chapter is about some features of capitalism such as technology advancement, mass production including treatment of animals as machines. It also linked to consumerism with an interesting point that in the past objectives of aristocratic elites were dedicated to consumption, while regular people worked hard just to survive. The current conditions of developed capitalism led to situation when business elite works hard to invest capital in most effective way to achieve high return, while regular people work a lot less if at all and consume a lot more.
- A Permanent Revolution
This chapter is about other side of capitalist development: the great weakening of family and community and their substitute by the state and virtual community:
- And They Lived Happily Ever After
This is about human happiness and meaning of life, the issues that become important after science and capitalism provided enough food and consumables to maintain this life nearly effortlessly.
- The End of Homo Sapience
The final chapter is about next phase in history of Sapience when humans achieved ability to consciously redesign their own DNA and rebuild biological world around them to whatever specification they would like. Combined with already dramatically changed material world with its houses, cars, communications, and array of newly created goods and services this final frontier signifies end of Homo Sapience as animal created by evolution and begins new chapter of Sapience that created himself.
Afterword: The Animal that Become a God
The book ends with a charming point that while humans become gods they are still do not know where they are going and what they want to achieve. So the final question is: “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?
MY TAKE ON IT:
I find the framework of history of Homo Sapience presented in this book highly viable with decent explanatory power. Especially interesting is notion of discovery of ignorance that I do not remember encountering anywhere else. Another interesting point while not entirely new, but somehow poorly understood, is that capitalism is economic system build on trust and this is a very important reason for its success. I would not completely agree with author about current situation, which he believes characterized by increase in strength of state and market at the expense of family and community. I think that we will see decrease in the power in influence of state and restructuring of family and community that would change from family held together by external forces of laws and traditions to family held together voluntary by mutual affection. The similar process would happen with community when it will change from territorial community of kin to virtual community of individuals with similar interests and attitudes. In short – the real story of humanity is just beginning.
Human brain is first and foremost tool for social connection between people. The need for social connection is even more important than food for survival and it show in all human activities including initial behavior of infants.
Part One: Beginnings
1 Who Are We?
This starts with the story of author grandparents who were so closely connected that literally could not live one without other. Then story goes through famous Regan / Mondale debates when Regan’s joke allowed to establish direct social connection between him and public leading to victory in elections. Finally it arrives to evolutionary value of social connection with wonderful graph of its historic and developmental progression:
- The Brain’s Passion
This chapter is review of technology and research of brain activities specifically oriented to identify part of brain that is activated by default whenever brain is not tasked with specific activity. It arrives to the Social Brain Hypothesis stating that our super big brain was evolutionary developed to support our connectivity and cooperation with each other.
Part Two: Connection
- Broken Hearts and Broken Legs
This chapter is analysis of fear with interesting point that lots of people more afraid of public speaking than broken leg. From here discussion goes to social pain and suggestion to turn Maslow’s pyramid upside down putting self-actualization into foundation of needs making it more important than physiological needs. As prove two points provided: the first is the fact that painkillers work to sooth psychological pain and another one based on experiments with baby monkey and feeding machine vs. cozy machine. All this supported by fMRI research of brain activities. It was also tested by another set of experiments with Cyberball social rejection game.
- Fairness Tastes like Chocolate
This is discussion about fairness with usual reference to ultimate game. However fairness here is defined more as sign of social acception and recognition of value of the person, than anything else. From here it goes to importance of being liked to wellbeing of the person. Then it follows with discussion of using praise and recognition as reward and finally comes to conclusion that need to avoid social pain and obtain recognition is as important as physical pain/pleasure dimension and could even be causally related to altruism.
Part Three: Mindreading
- Mental Magic Tricks
This chapter is about mindreading as it is practiced in social games like Rock- Paper/Scissors when everything depends on reading adversary’s mind. It reviews a number of experiments related to taking into account other’s mind, discusses brain structures that manage this process, and its implication for social cohesiveness.
- Mirror, Mirror
This chapter is about mirror neurons, data and experiments in support of this theory and cracks found in it. It also discusses social evaluation constantly conducted in order to understand behavior of other people and to be able to answer questions How, What, and Why for this behavior. It suggests that mind reading combined with mirroring makes Social Worlds possible.
7.Peaks and Valleys
This chapter discusses ups and downs of human live. Then it goes into three types of human empathy: understanding, affect matching, and empathic motivation. It seems to be supported by the Septal Area of the brain. It also discusses autism and its probable causes.
Part Four: Harmonizing
- Trojan Horse Selves
This is a very interesting take on the problem of consciousness and self-awareness: what is its evolutionary value? The answer here is that it is the Trojan horse that makes people more social and consequently capable for self-sacrifices on the behalf of group. To support this idea author provides quite detailed overview of related parts of brain. Author actually comes up with idea that would probably become all the rage in political and business analysis of focus groups: neural focus group when result based not on what people say, but what area of their brain is gets lighten up when some product or political candidates presented. Looks like it has better predictable power than just asking.
- Panoptic Self Control
This chapter starts with an interesting anecdote demonstrating how a low value gain right now can cause person to forfeit much more gain in the future, kind of restatement of marshmallow experiment findings. Then it goes into brain’s mechanics of self-control reviewing separately a Motor self-control, Cognitive self-control, Perspective taking, and finally control over emotions via mechanisms of suppressing or reappraisal. There is also an interesting question of who benefits from self-control. Unsurprisingly, author believes that society benefits most with mechanism of switching it on and forcing individual to behave as in panoptical environment when being watched changes behavior to comply with norms. At the end of chapter author again stresses that our Self is formed by society to maximize benefits for it, rather than for individual.
Part Five: Smarter, Happier, more Productive
10 Living with a Social Brain
Here author goes into discussion about happiness and its connection with sociality of the brain. He spend some time on explaining “paradox” of money not bringing happiness only to conclude that happiness is linked to social connections and these connections in contemporary world get weaker all the time due to surrogates provided by technological tools like TVs, Internet, and such.
11The Business of Social Brains
This chapter is about implication of social brain to motivation. It represented by SCARF model: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. Author believes that this combination has significant motivational power and should be used extensively in addition to money to improve business relations and consequently productivity.
12.Educating Social Brain
The final discussion is about contemporary education and how it is often fails to take into account social characteristics of human brain. Some ideas for modification of current processes such as special attention to development of self-control, gearing process to age related changes in emotional condition of children, provide also training for emotional regulation and mindreading discussed in detail.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think there is a lot of common sense related to human social connectivity here that is coming greatly enforced by technological understanding of a human brain and psychological experiments that demonstrate various aspects of it. The bottom line humans are social animals whose big brain developed by evolution to support group survival with the same if not higher priority than survival of individual. I find especially interesting the part on motivation, which is going to be more and more important when humanity moves from expansionary phase to sustainability phase with material wellbeing becoming insignificant and human routine labor unnecessary. SCARF and other methods of using intrinsic strive for sociality seems to open way for creating meaning of life in the new environment when plain survival, procreation, and resource acquisition are given and could not provide such meaning any more.