Sunday, December 30, 2018

Part 3: Social Justice Sect Coherence

Last post I went over an amateurish classification of social justice sects. The main conclusion was that the adaptiveness of viably adaptive sects was dependent upon their access to resources to reward group members. Co-opting state institutions was an easier way to generate resources necessary to sustain replication. This capacity was dependent upon the ability to create allies. 

Allies can be created by 1) sympathetic ideology and 2) ideology which frames attackers in Kafka-esque traps. New religious movement history shows costly commitment displays, such as 2nd century Christian crjuxifictions can also inspire broad-based ally-ship. Thus, allies can also be created by 3) costly commitment displays by a radical wing.

In this post, I’ll take a look at the confluence of these sects to explore whether these sects will balkanize, unify, or provide mutually re-enforcing benefits while remaining independent.


Adaptively Viable Social Justice Sect
Adaptiveness over time
Strong potential

Missing: sacred values, common ritual, and costly commitment.
Moderate, but strong potential

Missing: common ritual, freeloader detection & punishment, and in-group reciprocity
(Cult of personality) Activist organizers

Freeloader detection to prevent usurpation seems to be an Achille’s heel
Chosen people

Antifa-like protestors

The most obvious solution here is for mutual re-enforcement. Over time, this should produce a common set of beliefs. In some ways this is sort of similar to the slight unification that occurred within American Protestantism during the late 80’s and 90’s via the evangelical movement. Evangelical’s are now defined as much by what they are not (they are not Mormons, Anglicans, 7th day Adventists, etc.) as by what they are (they are Gospel tied, life-style based proselytizers).

One potential resonance is a coming-of-age type ideology based upon a chosen-people veneration. Theorists are energized and operationalized by activist organizers who feed people into various levels of protest movements (with antifa-like experimentation as an ultimate ideal). People then mature into a Puritanical sect that is supported by common experience and where freeloaders are detected by  ongoing commitment tests.

An ability to disavow radical protestors seems key. After all, radical cults, fail for good reasons. But, participation in such experiences should be nostalgic*. Furthermore, such participation should re-enforce the intentions behind such movements, even if other means are deemed more sanguine.

The big conundrum here is the role of the “chosen people of color”. As mentioned last week, this sets up a classic caste-based hierarchy. Will people of color really become a ruling class, or will these identities become flexible enough that they become a clear-cut ideological and commitment based test?

My reading of multi-level cultural evolution (especially work by Turchin) suggests intra-elite competition should produce filtering for potential elites but never produce full power turn-over to a particular group based upon their identity. The only time you really get identity based caste take-over is when the usurping group has a very elevated technological progress advantage on some dimension (reading, weapons, agriculture, group size solutions, etc.). North American and African colonization is an obvious modern example.

It would seem inevitable that this will produce some nasty conflicts between people of color who see themselves as the rightful heirs to power and “ally” elites who won’t give such power up easily. This will select for Stalin-esque sociopaths. The whole thing should blow-up.

I just don’t see full unification as possible. This would require a significant authoritarian dynamic with clear hierarchical structures. This seems antithetic to all sect’s core values.

However, Sweden seems to show that I may be wrong. There you seem to have a fairly coherent set of moral principles that seem to be increasingly pervasive and backed by state authority and supported by a majority of the population. Right-wing backlash suggests an authoritarian trap is inevitable. Ideological authoritarianism has, at best, an uncertain track record in the developed world. Thus, unification may be possible, but seems incredibly unstable over time.

I’m not sure any of these sects can remain viable when isolated. Inter-group competition at the level of socio-political quasi-religion is very steep.  For example, could a “hate speecher” ever make much headway without theorists to support their game?  It is doubtful. Competition in this arena is just too fierce. Political and ideological foes are very motivated.

To summarize, my rough sense is that Social Justice sects should engage in a mutually supportive game that gradually brings the sects together under a general belief system. But, that belief system will likely be very loose. I expect to see unification occur via some idealized coming of age ritual.

Anabaptists have something similar. Young adults are given lots of leeway to "experience" the world before they lock into the demands of adulthood. In general, I expect Social Justice sects to encourage the attitude that  "extremist exploration of social justice values is needed". Its a great way to see just how far such waters can be taken. It also let’s people renounce such foolishness as they age either by an appeal to better methodologies or as a necessary experience of youth. 

Extremist connections are valuable because a small number of mobsters can have outsized effects on the Overton window. This is because of the value violence and intimidation have. And, because of the difference costly commitment displays bring to more moderate sections of the moral movement.

The net structure leverages people of color as an idealized platonic re-imagination of deity. Is this paganism on steroids, or non-supernaturalism ancient Christianity where the historical Jesus is as real as God gets (i.e. a normal mortal who happens, like everyone, to have the capacity to represent a platonic ideal people can imagine)? I suspect its a mimetically fit way to concretize an otherwise abstract moral big brother (group agent).

Problems occur on the leadership front. Do positions at the peak of power require certain types of identity? Or can a profession of ally-ship or request for “adoption” into such groups suffice? Both intra-elite competition and recruitment & retention concerns suggest the inevitable lure of an “adoption” solution over a “pure lineage” solution.  This also helps to justify the pyramidal nature of the enterprise. It also helps avoid a color/sex based caste hierarchy that likely wouldn’t survive modernity.

* It might be wise to remember the experience of 70's era far left terrorists who were able to fully re-integrate into society via left leaning institutions like Universities. Their follies were often rationalized under the idea that these terrorists had good intentions but just picked very bad ways to implement. Usually behaviour was rationalized under "cultish" influences. Core ideology rarely had to be rejected.

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