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  • Afghanistan 2050: Tribes vs. Networks

    Posted by David Ronfeldt on August 13th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Here’s my one-paragraph contribution to your roundtable speculations about the view from 2050, as requested.

    “Because of the way U.S. forces pulled back in the Teens and wars ensued in the 20s and 30s, debates continue as to whether we won or lost over there. Yet, what matters more for this quadriform theory of social evolution is the following: The persistent grip of the tribal form of organization — and thus local resistance to allowing the institutional (statist) and market forms to take hold properly — explains what unfolded in the region and why so little could be changed. At least we finally stemmed the jihadis efforts to spread their monoform religious tribalism elsewhere. But we’ve done less well at our deeper challenge here at home and abroad: adapting to the wrenching rise of the newest of the four forms — the information-age network form. Though we are decades into it, our leaders are still so prone to emphasizing established state and market factors — a legacy of our society’s triformist phases — that they still haven’t allowed the new form to express its key strength: letting a commons-based “social sector” emerge, so that we develop a truly quadriform society. Yes, it’s happening in fits and starts, and we got past the debasing of our polity by revanchist retro-tribal movements on our Right and Left. Yet, it’s disheartening that America’s efforts to use the network form in combination with the other three forms has led not so much to a revitalization of our democratic and entrepreneurial potentials, as to the consolidation of a hyper-surveilling cybercratic security state. This has kept our homeland guardedly open and safe since our pull-backs decades ago — a valid strategic trade-off, since neither Mahdista Momentum nor Xyber-Op LiberTAZ infiltrated to damage more in the 30s and 40s than Al Qaeda used to. But this twist in America’s evolution has knotted-up our ability to compete and cooperate with partners near and far. Indeed, China’s hybrid triform system is now in a stronger strategic position than any of the world’s few national efforts to create quadriform systems that function powerfully. Even so, time is on evolution’s side; it’s normal for the rise of a major new form of organization to take several generations to mature.”

    [Purportedly based on “Tribes, Institutions, Markets, and Networks: A Theory of Social Evolution — Past, Present, and Future” (rev. ed., 2050).]

    Many thanks for including me. My paragraph is too long, congested, and tendentious, and reflects present fears more than future hopes. But it contains a singular theoretical thread that may prove to have high tensile strength over the long run.

    For clarification, visit Visions from Two Theories and see past posts about TIMN.

    Onward.