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The Social Nature of Dictatorship and Democracy: Biology Determines – Economics Shapes – Paul Tolmachev

All social communities of living organisms (and communities are not only social) are a form of uniting efforts of individual living organisms, usually of their own species, on a permanent basis to maximize the chances of sending their genes into the future.

Human communities are obviously no exception, even though special anthropological factors, such as culture or religion, influence the formation and development of human social communities.

However, in general, the formation and transformations of human societies are subject to general bio-evolutionary foundations and patterns. Starting from such biological foundations, we can present the development and transformations of human society within two main evolutionary types of social communities: collectivist and cooperative.

Any social community primarily means cooperation – constant and close interaction of individuals for optimal adaptation and continuation of their genes in new generations. Cooperation in this case can be either collectivist or cooperative.

Collectivism and cooperativism are two different kinds of cooperation.

Let us now turn to the consideration of human cooperation through the prism of these two basic formations of social processes and try to trace how they form and differentiate into two clusters the human society, in the modern world, formed as dictatorships and democracies.

The point of reference in further implication may be the extraction or production of goods, the natural and basic process that ensures the existence of life and its continuation. By goods we may mean any product, not just food or other resources necessary for survival.

Under collectivist cooperation, the product is common to all, and all participate in its creation or extraction with the nominal goal of distributing the product on some basis: either equally or according to social status and degree of dominance, but never according to the effort expended and personal contribution to creation. The latter requires differentiation of costs, definition and consideration of efforts, and, most importantly, their evaluation, both per se and relative to the costs of other participants. Obviously, in a collectivist community, where there is no motivation in the form of personal benefit in relation to the invested efforts, no one is willing to voluntarily admit that someone else is more worthy of a larger share because he worked harder. And even more so, if someone has the power to determine who should be given how much of the final product, he will do so first for himself, second for his friends, and third for those who have promised to share with him if he gets a larger piece.

Collectivist societies are primitive because they create the simplest product, often a rented one that requires minimal knowledge and skill sets. Its creation mostly requires physical or other rudimentary skills and effort, which are most effectively organized to produce synergy vertically and hierarchically. Then there is inevitably a social construct with an obligatory domain-chief and vertical subordination as the most adequate way of organizing the productive-extractive process, as well as vertical loyalty as the most efficient way of obtaining the greatest amount of benefits for each of the participants.

However, this construction determines, among other things, the way in which the resulting benefits are exchanged within the same constructed distributional vertical and at the will of the superior dominant member of the group. This same construction determines the ethics and setting of social relations.

When actual effort has no effect on the final personal reward, there is a stowaway effect – the desire to receive benefits equal to or greater than those received by other group members, but, unlike them, without incurring any costs. This leads, first, to degradation of quality and reduction of usefulness of the product, as well as to intragroup tensions – distrust and aggression in case of detection of cheating. And secondly, it stimulates the search for shorter and more protected ways to get a larger share of the total product. It becomes profitable to develop a vertical hierarchy and to develop primitive violent domination, robbery or theft.

This factor is one of the two determinants of aggressiveness in a collectivist society.

The second factor of aggressiveness is the cultivation of a constant external threat to the community. Such atavism is a perfectly rational way for a non-productive but extractive system without personal economic incentives (in which rewards are adequate to effort and knowledge) to preserve the cohesion of community members and eventually ensure the survival of the community as such. This is all the more relevant in the inevitably increasing stratification of social groups in the developing vertical hierarchy, where, on the one hand, it is constantly necessary to keep the lower members of the community in subordination and force them to perform their duties, and, on the other hand, to compete for holding a dominant position or obtaining a higher one. Vertical hierarchy develops because, as mentioned above, it is more convenient to select, dominate and obey those above, demonstrating loyalty to them, and thereby secure more personal rewards for oneself at a lower cost.

Thus, a collectivist society is characterized by a social modus operandi of aggressiveness toward the outside world on the one hand, and subordination to primitive norms of violent domination in the “inner world” on the other.

The situation in individualist-cooperative societies is just the opposite. Individualistic-cooperative societies presuppose individual responsibility and the independent search for opportunities, which is an incentive for constant improvement of skills, accumulation of knowledge, and development of technology. Above all, a member of such a community relies on himself or herself to survive and compete with the external environment and his or her peers. Cooperation in such a community develops when there is a real need for some good, which cannot be produced alone, and this means that such a product is more complex and labor-intensive than one created alone.

Creating a complex product requires more sophisticated skills, knowledge and technology, and a deeper differentiation in their application. And this means different value and nature of effort and skills. Specialization arises.

Specialization and extension of knowledge develop more intensively under conditions of freedom of decision, certainty of rights and positive expectations of tomorrow, because specialization implies a unique value and identity of each actor. Combination of specializations allows to receive either more significant joint result and to divide it, including on the basis of the expenses which have been enclosed and predetermined, or it allows each participant to receive more usefulness of own product at the expense of universal efforts. That is, there is highly organized cooperation – the cooperation of self-sufficient agents with special skills and capable of creating their own product, who have decided, however, to combine their efforts.

Such cooperation entails several consequences, the two most important of which are equal individual rights and voluntary obedience to rules based on individual rights. This is the primacy of the private over the common, despite the fact that all are engaged in cooperation to create something in common. To enforce these rules against all, the mechanism necessary for this appears – justice, through which it determines when and by whom rights are respected and when and by whom they are violated.

An important difference between the two social systems under consideration is the following.

Collectivist society concentrates on the coercion of duties and considers disobedience to such coercion the main crime.

In the individualist-cooperative society, the main focus is on the observance of each other’s rights, while these rights are identical, and the violation of such rights is considered a crime. Obligations are not the subject of coercion; they are the subject of a market-based, mutually beneficial exchange. Accordingly, the right of each is, in fact, the source of the projection of the universal right.

Thus, in an individualistic-cooperative society, observance of the right is a subject of coercion to follow and fulfill, and hence, violation of rights is a consensually recognized punishable offense, while duties are voluntary and the subject of market transactions. In a collectivist society, however, duties are subject to coercion, enforcement, and crime, while rights are subject to voluntaristic vertical distribution that does not assume firm universal rules for such distribution in reality. This leads to negative expectations of insecurity and a preference for survival rather than planning.

Another important nuance should be noted.

In collectivist societies, the social system is hierarchical, and power at any level is obtained through domination, violent subordination or loyalty, both to the superior and to the general domain.

In cooperative societies, where the social system is constructed on the basis of a direct competitive exchange of effort and knowledge, power is obtained in the same competitive and market-driven way. Power is here the same personally or cooperatively produced product – the subject of the application of knowledge and effort to ensure the rights of members of society and equal access to opportunities. 

Accordingly, in a cooperative society, power is obtained competitively through an economic exchange called social contact or social transaction: someone offers his knowledge and skills for managing public resources and securing the rights and opportunities of each member of the community. This someone must convince society that his offer is better than someone else’s. In the process of competition, society chooses the best candidate and hires him or her for a fixed term. The candidate receives power, society receives management of public resources and maintenance of enforcement mechanisms.

Finally, it is worth noting, based on the above, that individualistic-cooperative societies condition the maximum development of technology, humanism, tolerance, well-being of members and low level of aggression simply by virtue of the very nature of this type of social cooperation.

First, the equal exchange and voluntary cooperation in the application of individual original skills and knowledge implies competition as the optimal way of offering and the most effective tool for meeting demand, which means an incentive for the constant accumulation of knowledge and the development of new technologies.

Secondly, the competitive environment determines the need for equal rules and rights for all, which, on the one hand, generates confidence in security, and on the other, generates positive expectations in the long term horizon. These are important factors for the development of creativity, creation and increased efficiency.

Thirdly, rights and rules that are equal and equally applied to all neutralize the atavistic intention of violent domination, channeling the natural inclinations to leadership and competition, to higher social status and to having more goods – into a constructive, productive, and economic plane.

Fourth, by exchanging skills and efforts for mutual benefit in creating some common product or to increase the utility of one’s own, members of a cooperative society inevitably expand their capacity for empathy. There is no need for them to constantly look back at the other, suspecting that he or she is not making an effort and will receive the same reward, or worse, standing with a whip in his or her hand behind the worker’s back – and will end up getting even more. The level of distrust and forced aggression within the cooperative community is reduced: everyone in the community knows that he can compete for benefits on a universally recognized basis of rights and rules and receive benefits in accordance with the costs incurred. It is evident that everyone then has an interest in the decency, lawfulness, and goodwill of the other – and so on up the chain throughout the community. Hence, in cooperative societies, humanism, empathy, law-abidingness, benevolence develop intensively. This naturally shapes tolerant and liberal ethical values, cultural traditions, household habits, and, importantly, reduces the level of aggression, as well as the importance of the atavistic component in social behavior in general.

Thus, we can assume that individualistic-cooperative societies are a progressive way of humanistic development of mankind, of technological growth, of increasing productive efficiency.

Collectivist societies, by contrast, are degrading, archaizing and primitivizing socio-economic formations, with a clear decline in humanism, personal identity, technology and productive efficiency.

After all, collectivist societies, in any of their variations or manifestations, are simply dangerous for humanity. 

It is enough to look at what modern Russia is doing today.