Why Arendt Matters: Revisiting “The Origins of Totalitarianism”

The astonishing  statement Donald Trump made at a January 2016 campaign rally in Iowa seems like the essential moment in his unexpected rise to power: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody,” he said, “and I wouldn’t lose voters.” In saying that he could kill in broad daylight and remain popular, Trump did more than draw a logical conclusion from polls showing that his supporters demonstrated unprecedented loyalty. He understood that he was not running a political campaign but was the leader of a mass movement. Most importantly, he understood something that his critics still fail to understand: the essential nature of loyalty in mass movements.

Mass movements, writes Hannah Arendt in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, are one of the core elements of totalitarianism. Arendt does not say that all mass movements are totalitarian; to take seriously President Trump’s claim to be the mouthpiece of a movement is not to claim that he is a totalitarian leader or that he is leading a totalitarian movement. He has not mobilized terror, concentration camps, arbitrary arrests, a secret police, and a party apparatus that rises above the state — all of which were essential parts of Arendt’s description of totalitarianism in power. Mass deportation of undocumented immigrants — disgusting as it is — is not the same thing as de-naturalization, imprisonment, and deportation of citizens. Common sense insists that we not abandon reality and imagine that the United States is experiencing totalitarianism.


Posted in Arendt, Totalitarianism | Tagged ,

Cooperation emerges when groups are small and memories are long

The tragedy of the commons, a concept described by ecologist Garrett Hardin, paints a grim view of human nature. The theory goes that, if a resource is shared, individuals will act in their own self-interest, but against the interest of the group, by depleting that resource. Yet examples of cooperation and sharing abound in nature, from human societies down to single-celled bacteria. In a new paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, University of Pennsylvania researchers use game theory to demonstrate the complex set of traits that can promote the evolution of cooperation. Their analysis showed that smaller groups in which actors had longer memories of their fellow group members’ actions were more likely to evolve cooperative strategies. The work suggests one possible advantage of the human’s powerful memory capacity: it has fed our ability as a society to cooperate.


Posted in Cooperation, Groups | Tagged ,

Origins of Human Cooperation

Biological explanations of cooperation are based on kin altruism, reciprocal altruism, and mutualism, all of which apply to human and nonhuman species alike. Human cooperation, however, is based in part on capacities that are unique to, or at least much more highly developed in Homo sapiens. In this chapter, an explanation of cooperation is sought that works for humans but does not work for other species, or works substantially less well. Central to this explanation will be human cognitive, linguistic, and physical capacities that allow the formulation of general norms of social conduct, the emergence of social institutions regulating this conduct, the psychological capacity to internalize norms, and the formation of groups based on such nonkin characteristics as ethnicity and linguistic behavior, which facilitates highly costly conflicts among groups. Agent-based modeling shows that these practices could have coevolved with other human traits in a plausible representation of the relevant environments. The forms of cooperation to be explained are confirmed by natural observation, historical accounts, and behavioral experiments and are based on a plausible evolutionary dynamic involving some combination of genetic and cultural elements, the consistency of which can be demonstrated through formal modeling. Moreover, the workings of the models developed account for human cooperation under parameter values consistent with  what can be reasonably inferred about the environments in which humans have lived.


Read also: Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation

Posted in Human cooperation | Tagged

Cultural Evolution of Human Cooperation

We review the evolutionary theory relevant to the question of human cooperation and compare the results to other theoretical perspectives. Then, we summarize some of our work distilling a compound explanation that we believe gives a plausible account of human cooperation and selfishness. This account leans heavily on group selection on cultural variation but also includes lower-level forces driven by both microscale cooperation and purely selfish motives.We propose that innate aspects of human social psychology coevolved with group-selected cultural institutions to produce just the kinds of social and moral faculties originally proposed by Darwin.We call this the “tribal social instincts” hypothesis. The account is systemic in the sense that human social systems are functionally differentiated, conflicted, and diverse. A successful explanation of human cooperation has to account for these complexities. For example, a tribal scale cultural group selection process alone cannot account for human patterns of cooperation because, on one hand, much conflict exists within tribes and, on the other, people have proven able to organize cooperation on a much larger scale than tribes. We include multilevel selection and gene–culture coevolution effects to account for some of these complexities and discuss empirical tests of the resulting hypotheses. In particular, we argue that strong support for the tribal social instincts hypothesis comes from the structure of modern social institutions. These institutions have conspicuous “work around” that shed light on the underlying instincts.


Read also: Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation

Posted in Cultural evolution, Human cooperation | Tagged ,

To build a Cooperative Society, is it better to punish or reward?

One of the basic components of a functional, cooperative society is a code of law, where the laws are usually enforced by some kind of incentive. Social incentives can either be positive (rewards) or negative (punishments), and a society must decide which combination to use to achieve the greatest efficiency, or the highest level of cooperation at the lowest cost. Using a game theoretic model, a new study has analyzed this social dilemma in order to investigate how individuals are swayed by incentives, and how cooperation can emerge due to various incentive strategies. Overall, their results show how a population can evolve to become dominated by individuals who cooperate by default (that is, they cooperate unless they know they can get away with uncooperative behavior) when faced with negative incentives. As the researchers explain in their study, the efficiency in terms of a benefit-to-cost ratio of the two types of incentives depends on the circumstances. In a society where most people cooperate, then it will be costly to reward them all, while a society in which most people defect would pay a high price for trying to punish them all. So the obvious way to transform an uncooperative population into a cooperative one would be to first provide positive incentives, and later punish the few remaining individuals who refuse to be swayed.


Posted in Cooperation, Human cooperation, Social cooperation, Society | Tagged , , ,

Neurodiversity: the key to corporate creativity

Most people haven’t heard of neurodiversity. Last week I wrote an article about my own brush with bipolarism and how mental illness can actually be a positive experience. It seemed to strike a nerve. It fast became one of our most popular articles and was kindly reposted by The Drum (where it’s had over a thousand shares). Thank you to everyone who spread it around and for all the wonderfully positive messages I’ve received. However, what I really want people to think about is bigger than mental illness. It’s about embracing every form of mental variance. The term for it is neurodiversity.


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Information Measures of Complexity, Emergence, Self-organization, Homeostasis, and Autopoiesis

In this chapter review measures of emergence, self-organization, complexity, homeostasis, and autopoiesis based on information theory. These measures are derived from proposed axioms and tested in two case studies: random Boolean networks and an Arctic lake ecosystem. Emergence is defined as the information produced by a system or process. Self-organization is defined as the opposite of emergence, while complexity is defined as the balance between emergence and self-organization. Homeostasis reflects the stability of a system. Autopoiesis is defined as the ratio between the complexity of a system and the complexity of its environment. The proposed measures can be applied at multiple scales, which can be studied with multi-scale profiles.


Posted in Autopoiesis, Complexity, Emergence, Self-organization | Tagged , , ,

Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media

Understanding social media requires us to engage with the individual and collective meanings that diverse stakeholders and participants give to platforms. It also requires us to analyse how social media companies try to make profits, how and which labour creates this profit, who creates social media ideologies, and the conditions under which such ideologies emerge. In short, understanding social media means coming to grips with the relationship between culture and the economy. In this thorough study, Christian Fuchs, one of the leading analysts of the Internet and social media, delves deeply into the subject by applying the approach of cultural materialism to social media, offering readers theoretical concepts, contemporary examples, and proposed opportunities for political intervention.

Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media is the ultimate resource for anyone
who wants to understand culture and the economy in an era populated by social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google in the West and Weibo, Renren, and Baidu in the East. Updating the analysis of thinkers such as Raymond Williams, Karl Marx, Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, Jürgen Habermas, and Dallas W. Smythe for the twenty-first century, Fuchs presents a version of  Marxist cultural theory and cultural materialism that allows us to critically understand social media’s influence on culture and the economy.


Posted in Culture, Economy, Social media | Tagged , ,

Children From “Underserved Minority” Backgrounds Have Strengths for Learning

Children’s learning is fundamentally based on their prior skills and knowledge, as educational institutions enhance and expand students’ skills. The background skills and knowledge that “underserved minority” students bring to school are assets that are often unnoticed, to the detriment of these students and others who could learn from them. Skill in collaboration, for example, is a strength of many Mexican-heritage and Central American children, and it is an important skill for learning and for contributing with which many middle-class European American children have difficulty. Attention to the skills and cultural resources of “underserved minority” students can support their learning and can enhance schools’ instructional approaches, to the benefit of all children.



Posted in Children, Cultural heritage, Cultural identity | Tagged , ,

A Handbook of Children and Young People’s Participation

A Handbook of Children and Young People’s Participation brings together key thinkers and practitioners from diverse contexts across the globe to provide an authoritative overview of contemporary theory and practice around children’s participation. Promoting the participation of children and young people – in decision-making and policy development, and as active contributors to everyday family and community life – has become a central part of policy and programme initiatives in both majority and minority worlds. This book presents the most useful recent work in children’s participation as a resource for academics, students, and practitioners in childhood studies, children’s rights and welfare, child and family social work, youth and community work, governance, aid and development programmes. The book introduces key concepts and debates, and presents a rich collection of accounts of the diverse ways in which children’s participation is understood and enacted around the world, interspersed with reflective commentaries from adults and young people. It concludes with a number of substantial theoretical contributions that aim to take forward our understanding of children’s participation. The emphasis throughout the text is on learning from the complexity of children’s participation in practice to improve our theoretical understanding, and on using those theoretical insights to challenge practice, with the aim of realising children’s rights and citizenship more fully.


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