But “the parable of the tribes” is clearly not the whole picture of what’s problematic in civilization. Even if human beings were, somehow, “ideal” creatures (which I am not claiming we are).
Inventing a new life-form – i.e. a creature’s designing and implementing the requisite structures to enable human life to unfold in whole ways (just, peaceful, fulfilling, etc.) – would be a huge challenge even if there had been no problem of anarchy in the intersocietal system.
Some of the challenges might well involve limitations inherent in human nature. (For example, I don’t know enough to rule out there being some inborn human tendency to have antagonism toward “out groups,” toward people who are different in race or culture or belief, or just on the other side of group-defining boundaries).
And some of the challenges might involve other systemic dynamics besides those arising from the “war of all against all” (that is an inevitable consequence of civilization’s arising in a state of intersocietal anarchy).
In my own work, I’ve explored a couple of other systemic issues that open the door to Brokenness in civilized societies:
1) One I call the “Intrasocietal Analogue to “theparable of the tribes.” (A discussion of this analogue can be found in the 1984 book, pp. 271-76.)
The idea (with this “Analogue”) is that much the same “problem of power” has obtained within civilized societies as among them: namely, that a disproportionate role tends to be played by those both willing and able to do whatever it takes to get power.
The Anarchy that has almost completely characterized the overarching system of civilized societies can be reduced but never wholly eliminated from the workings of power within the boundaries of sovereign entities. Thus, much of the nightmare of history comes from the ascent to power –within societies – of gangsters and warlords.
(Arrangements like the American Constitution can be understood as an attempt to eliminate that Anarchy, to introduce a better order for answering the question “Who Will Wield Power?” But as we have seen in America in recent times, although constitutional democracy is a great improvement over the unfettered Reign of the Spirit of the Gangster, it is not a fool-proof solution.)
I will discuss this “Intrasocietal Analogue” to the parable of the tribes here subsequently in an installment titled, “Who Will Wield Power?”
Rather than consider this “Intrasocietal Analogue” an additional systemic dynamic, alongside “the parable of the tribes,” it might better be regarded as a component of that same problematic dynamic. Once again, it’s about “Anarchy,” albeit in a more subtle and complex form. And, again, it’s that same elevation of the Spirit of the Gangster, and the same “selection for the ways of power.”
But the second systemic dynamic that I’ve explored is actually a whole different “power system.”
2) The subtitle of my 1993 book (The Illusion of Choice) was How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny.
As the son of an economist, growing up well-tutored in the “free market economy’s” virtues of efficiency, I am not opposed to giving market forces a major role in a free society.
The book’s main thesis, however, is that the market – unless adequately counter-balanced by collective decision-making – robs the people in the market society of the ability to choose what their society will become.
(And, it should be noted, this critique is of the market in its ideal form – the one that Adam Smith presented in his classic, The Wealth of Nations, in which perfect competition gives no buyers or sellers “market power,” and one in which the wealth achieved does not corrupt the society’s political system.)
That’s because even a “perfect” market economy operates with a logic of its own, built into its having only a very partial vision of the goods at stake: there are domains of value that the market registers extremely well, but also domains to which it is blind.
The result of the system’s distorted “perception” of the full range of values at stake in the human world is – if uncorrected – that the system will drive the “market society” toward a correspondingly distorted destiny.
The consequence of the system’s unbalanced weighing of “costs and benefits” is that – in order for the people in a market society to be able to choose how their society will evolve, that society must adjust the economic process to correct for the system’s blind spots.
Otherwise, it will be the dynamic of the system – rather than the collective desires of the members of the society – that determines (in very predictable ways) fundamental aspects of how that society develops.
Some of the major aspects of how an unregulated – or under-regulated – market economy warps the evolution of a society are delineated in The Illusion of Choice (the book with that subtitle, “How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny”), published by SUNY Press.
(It should be noted that what distinguishes that critique of the market from others is precisely its emphasis on the system’s power as a social evolutionary force.)