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Tribalism, Race, and Anarchy - Can it all work?

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TronCat Posted: Mon, Nov 5 2012 2:09 PM

Human beings have an innate tendency to be tribal. They will form groups with people similar to themselves. 

To understand why human beings are tribal, and why they will tend to form groups like themselves, one must understand these three concepts: 

1. Dunbar's Number

2. The Similarity Thesis

3. Genetic Similarity Theory 


Dunbar's Number

An innate biological relationship between the number of stable social relationships a human being can maintain, and the relative size of their Neocortex. The Neocortex is part of the human brain that is found on the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres. 

Dunbar's Number is an inherent human cognitive limit that is found in all societies. It defines the maximum number of individuals one can maintain stable social relationships with. By 'stable social relationships', I mean relationships in which an individual: 

- Is familiar with a person and their social group

- Knows how each person relates to every other person

- Interacts with said person on a regular or semi-regular basis

Dunbar's Number has been proposed to range between 100 to 250 people, with a 95% confidence interval. However, the generally accepted average for Dunbar's Number is 150 people. 

The effect of Dunbar's Number in every day human relationships is quite real. It means that the larger a social group becomes, the less likely it is that any member of the group will feel 'connected' to another member of the group, and the less likely it is that any member of the group will feel good about his or her connection to the group. 

Groups that exceed the average of 150 members will tend to split and form two separate groups. 

One result of Dunbar's relationship, is a phenomena known as The By-Stander Effect. This is a phenomena studied in social psychology, where in an emergency, the greater the number of by-standers, the smaller the probability that any one by-stander will assist a person in danger. 

For example, suppose a man falls onto the path of an oncoming train, and there are three by-standers that witness the event. Those three by-standers would be more likely to assist the victime than if there were thirty by-standers present. There are several different factors that cause the by-stander effect: 

1. Diffusion of Responsiblity

- This tends to occur when each member in a group feels that due to the sheer size of the group, that someone else will surely assist the victim, thus abssolving them of any perceived responsibility

2. Fear of Humiliation 

- This occurs when a would-be altruist feels that if he/she assists during an emergency, someone better suited to resuce the victim might also assist and outshine their performance, thus humiliating them in the process

3. Social Influence

- This occurs when by-standers witness the non-responsiveness of other by-standers. The need to conform often subconciously overwhelms the group, and the result is that inaction becomes the accepted group action

Dunbar's Number represents the very essence of human's tribal nature. Not only is our tribalism innate, but it is typically rational to be tribal, as one is more likely to gain utility through positive social connection within people's of ones' tribe, than people outside it. Furthermore, there is a greater probability that members of ones' tribe will act altruistically towards ones' person during a crisis. 


The Similarity Thesis

This suggests that we can see that individuals, when left to their own devices, naturally prefer the company of people like themselves. The greater the level of similarity two people share, in terms of things like race, appearance, education, economic class, intelligence, social skills, tastes, and values, the more likely it is that those two individuals will form an interpersonal relationship. 

This phenomena is found in all places, and is even found amonst negative traits such as alchoholism, druge use, and criminality - anyone involved in these three activities will tend to associate with others who do as well. 

Research has shownthat the greater the level of dissimilarity between two individuals, the less likely it is that those two individuals will form an interpersonal relationship. Furthermore, we can see that when two dissimilar individuals interact with each other, they are more likely to experience anxiety, relative to people who share a greater level of similarity. We can also find that when groups have dissimilar members, there is a high probability that said group will experience a greater level of interpersonal conflict than groups with similar members. 


Genetic Similarity Theory

The research behind this theory has found that genes insure their own survival, by acting to bring about the reproduction of any organism in which copies of itself are to be found. Rather than behaving altruistically only toward kin, organisms are able to detect other genetically similar organisms and to exhibit favouritism and protective behaviour toward the strangers as well as to their own relatives. 


The point of all this is that I have been debating with a number of people (mostly nationalists) on the topic of race, and how society should consider race. Let us assume that races do have differences, PARTICULARLY in cognitive function and ability (which I personally believe). 

Nationalists want to establish states primarily to preserve their culture, ethnicity, and race (their genes). Of course, there are a number of different ways these states could go about their way, but let's assume that it is the most peaceful of ways, and that these states only really emphasize immigration policy to either fully maintain their race 100%, or for the most part (90% or higher). 

Considering all that I have said, is anarchism the most natural way to accept this 'tribalism', as I have described, to function? 



Dubar's Number:

Dunbar, Robin (1998). Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. Harvard University Press

 Bystander Effect:

Meyers, David G. (2010). Social Psychology (10th Ed). New York: McGraw- Hill

Supporting the Similarity Thesis: 

Yun, K.A. (2002). Similarity and Attraction.

 Dissimilarity Increases Anxiety and Interpersonal Conflict; Similarity Reduces it:

Duck, S., & Barnes, M.K. (1992). Disagreeing About Agreements: Reconciling Differences About Similarity. Communication Monograph, 

Supporting Genetic Similarity Theory


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Interesting points. I've never heard of "Dunbar's number," but I think it could be used as a powerful empirical argument against the viability of anarcho-leftism. As to your question, yes, I think the way that human tribal instincts would be expressed in anarcho-capitalism (e.g. voluntary segregation, exclusive communities, etc) is far preferable to how they're expressed in statism (involuntary segregation, genocide, etc). Anarcho-capitalism won't make people saints, it will only disarm their nasty tendencies, which can still be expressed in non-aggressive ways. Not to say that tribalism is such a "nasty tendency." Up to a point, I don't see anything wrong with it myself. I have no particular desire to see a uniform society.  Viva la difference!

apiarius delendus est, ursus esuriens continendus est
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hashem replied on Mon, Nov 5 2012 10:25 PM

@ TronCat

Given this tendency, or even regardless of it, could an argument be made that the permanent objective state of groups of humans is anarchy? After all, the laws only exist in our minds, and the laws themselves (as mere descriptions) don't prevent individuals from acting however they want.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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TronCat replied on Tue, Nov 6 2012 12:06 AM

Certainly, but in modern Globalist states, we cannot form (exclusive) communities or nations of our choosing, & are not even permitted to control our borders.

A people that cannot self-determine may have to put up with social policies that do not suit it, & I believe e.g. that abortion rates, crime, declining families & massive immigration are negative outcomes of a lack of real self-determination.

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When individuals are free to interact as they wish and form social organisations as they please, I think we will see a greater diversity in the kind of communities out there, including ones that are internally more "homogeneous". There is nothing wrong with this and I think anarchism will prove much more sustainable for it than totalitarian states that exist only to glorify their rulers.

I see nothing wrong with non-statist forms of racialism, anyway.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Walden replied on Tue, Nov 6 2012 4:54 PM

It is a very good argument I think. State nationalism has shown to be a disastrous for the tribe. Mass media unlocked that group instinct where it should never have dwelled.

This election is actually very much an ethno-nationalist race.

Whites half-hope Romney will slow the discomforting creep of multi-culturalism. Even Maher, half-knowingly I think, made a joke saying this election is the last hurrah for whites as they head for minority-hood. (Maybe as Jews they are more culturally immune as being these insular minorities. This neurotic meme can't sustain a thriving nation, this is certain.)

Meanwhile, blacks have put their hopes in Obama, who as far as many can tell, was a mulatto who lived in a bubble far and away from American black culture. I think the resulting narcissism of his disjointed upbringing, had made him more about "Obama" than he is about the 'black people.' But with 90%+ of blacks voting for him anyway, I don't see how he could be described as anything but an ethno-nationalist leader.

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Merlin replied on Tue, Nov 6 2012 5:39 PM



The concepts discussed in the OP show how humans will instinctively tend toward a tribalist order: communism within the smallish clan, war with everyone outside it, a drive to expand one’s clan territory, etc. Basically National Socialism writ large. If you take a look at all past or present human societies organized in an autarchic fashion (with little or no division of labor), you’ll see the tribal society everywhere.

Hayek was fond of making this point: our instincts are our temptation toward collectivism, and only through inherited and ‘artificial’ (that is, non instinctive) yet ‘spontaneous’ (that is, not designed) rules we can put a cap on the destructive tendencies of our instincts. One could say that the game woul be to play one set of replicators (genes) against another (memes, rules of morality). The ideal, I think,  would be to let these instincts work in innocuous settings, as in managing one’s own inner circle of friends and acquaintances, sports and the like, without letting society itself be managed in a clannish way. After all, totally suppressing  one’s instincts is a recipe for disaster and the likely source of the murky Marxist concept of the sense of alienation.  

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Anenome replied on Tue, Nov 6 2012 6:01 PM

Dunbar's number, which I've always accepted as around 200, is one of the reasons why hierarchies naturally form. If you need to manage 5,000 people, say in a corporation, it's not possible to be on top of that many people.

But you can split them into 25 groups of 200, or smaller units, which is where you end up with executives, a whole ton of middle managers, and the much larger general workforce.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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