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  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#57: Narcissists, Strongmen, and Technocrats pt. 2

(01/01/2022) Why are states incapable of navigating the ecological crisis? We progress to the third of our six explanatory levels for comprehending any sociopolitical condition—species-typical behavior—in pursuit of answers to this question, describing the process of state formation as the imposition of a dominance hierarchy onto an existing social form. We contrast this with the standard narratives of states (and many social scientists), which describe dominance hierarchy as necessary for social complexity, surveying the extensive evidence that sedentism, agriculture, and urbanism always precede the formation of states. We describe the cross-cultural and cross-species modes of egalitarian power that prevent aspiring autocrats from attaining dominance, the unique degree of cooperation found in despotic and egalitarian human societies alike, the role of costly infrastructure in generating social cohesion, the psychosocial profiles of despots, the relationship between civilization and domestication, the chaos of meaningless violence states claim to protect us from as an evolutionary dead end found in no species, the biological mechanisms that generate social stability by ritualizing aggressive displays and diminishing the need for actual violence, and the factors shaping social organization in species ranging from leafcutter ants to lions, woodpeckers to chimpanzees.

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