Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks – A framework about Societal Evolution

What forms account for the organization of societies?  How have people organized their societies across the ages?  The answer may be reduced to four basic forms of organization:

  • the kinship-based tribe, as denoted by the structure of extended families, clans, and other lineage systems;
  • the hierarchical institution, as exemplified by the army, the (Catholic) church, and ultimately the bureaucratic state;
  • the competitive-exchange market, as symbolized by merchants and traders responding to forces of supply and demand;
  • and the collaborative network, as found today in the web-like ties among some NGOs devoted to social advocacy.

Civil society appears to be the realm most affected and strengthened by the rise of the network form, auguring a vast rebalancing of relations among state, market, and civil-society actors around the world. As will be restarted later, the ability of a society to combine these forms into a whole system is what proves crucial to its evolution. To do well in the twenty-first century, an information-age society must embrace all four forms.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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