Emancipating my tribe

Inclusivism and exclusivism in sacred and secular subcultures. Or, scaling up the in-group.

Assumed audience:

People who feel righteous when they do the right thing

A placeholder. I hope to touch upon the idea that

  1. People work collectively organise into tribes to address real and legitimate problems they face
  2. The tribes will often be antagonistic, conformist, cruel or otherwise not a great way to run society at large
  3. We should still address the real and legitimate problems at a large scale
  4. It is important to distinguish between dynamics of the tribe and the dynamics of the problem

Connection to pluralism. Connection to Idle Kantianism.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field; I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

β€” did Rumi actually say this? It sounds like the kind of thing he would have.

Collectivism is necessary and probably cruel

Collectivist cultures tend to meanness, and paranoia, and spite. To the extent that many subcultures have adopted collectivist modes to work together to lessen the burden of a dominant culture, they (which is to say, we) are likely to be vindictive.

Talheim and co-workers have written at length on collectivism.

Ingroup vigilance Liu et al. (2019).

From Liu et al. (2019); living somewhere high in collectivism (which is associated with rice agriculture) is also assocaited with suspicion regarding other people in the in-group. Suggestive moral: people who need to work together to survive learn to stay together use mistrust and coercion.


See pluralism.

Ecologies of communities

DRMacIver: Ladders between communities:

There’s a term of art I use, β€œcommunities of last resort”, which basically means communities that will take anyone as long as they can put up with the community. I have in mind places like 4chan, and some of the other forums of that ilk. They’re not good places, but for people who need a community of people who understand them, they’re often the only option, and they’re often surprisingly valuable. I definitely know people for whom 4chan was a positive and formative experience, and many others even more so.

I think what we often need is ladders out of these communities, and people who are from communities in β€œthe next level up” to help people out. Less Wrong has served as this for a lot of peopleβ€”many people find Less Wrong hugely life improving, partly because they come from a 4chan or Something Awful background, and this is the next community up from that for them and is willing to both tolerate their initial undersocialisation and help them improve their life.

To consider: Communities that have flourished as minorities. Jews, expat Chinese, Mormons, Quakers. Should scientists count there? Rationalists?

Ecosystems of minority communities. de Tocqueville-style meshing subcultures possibly connect here.


Aziz, Haris, and Florian Brandl. 2012. β€œExistence of Stability in Hedonic Coalition Formation Games.” arXiv.
Baldassarri, Delia, and Guy Grossman. 2013. β€œThe Effect of Group Attachment and Social Position on Prosocial Behavior. Evidence from Lab-in-the-Field Experiments.” Edited by Angel SΓ‘nchez. PLoS ONE 8 (3): e58750.
Bergh, Jeroen C J M van den, and John M Gowdy. 2009. β€œA Group Selection Perspective on Economic Behavior, Institutions and Organizations.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 72 (1): 1–20.
Bergstrom, Theodore C. 2002. β€œEvolution of Social Behavior: Individual and Group Selection.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 16: 67–88.
Bowles, Samuel. 2001. β€œIndividual Interactions, Group Conflicts, and the Evolution of Preferences.” Social Dynamics 155: 190.
Bowles, Samuel, Jung-Kyoo Choi, and Astrid Hopfensitz. 2003. β€œThe Co-Evolution of Individual Behaviors and Social Institutions.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 223 (2): 135–47.
Boyd, Robert, and Peter J. Richerson. 1992. β€œPunishment Allows the Evolution of Cooperation (or Anything Else) in Sizable Groups.” Ethology and Sociobiology 13 (3): 171–95.
Brandt, Felix, and Martin Bullinger. 2022. β€œFinding and Recognizing Popular Coalition Structures.” Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research 74 (June): 569–626.
Cheng, Joey T., Jessica L. Tracy, and Joseph Henrich. 2010. β€œPride, Personality, and the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Social Status.” Evolution and Human Behavior 31 (5): 334–47.
Couzin, Iain D., Christos C. Ioannou, GΓΌven Demirel, Thilo Gross, Colin J. Torney, Andrew Hartnett, Larissa Conradt, Simon A. Levin, and Naomi E. Leonard. 2011. β€œUninformed Individuals Promote Democratic Consensus in Animal Groups.” Science 334 (6062): 1578–80.
Diamond, Jared. 2004. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking Adult.
Dowding, Keith. 2016. β€œAlbert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States.” In Albert O. Hirschman, edited by Martin Lodge, Edward C. Page, and Steven J. Balla. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press.
Dunbar, Robin I M. 1993. β€œCoevolution of Neocortex Size, Group Size and Language in Humans.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (4): 681–94.
Ehrlich, Paul R, and Simon A Levin. 2005. β€œThe Evolution of Norms.” PloS Biology 3: –194.
Fu, Feng, and Long Wang. 2008. β€œCoevolutionary Dynamics of Opinions and Networks: From Diversity to Uniformity.” Physical Review E 78 (1): 016104.
Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I. Page. 2014. β€œTesting Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12 (03): 564–81.
Gordon, Deborah M. 2014. β€œThe Ecology of Collective Behavior.” PLoS Biol 12 (3): e1001805.
Goswami, Manu. 2020. β€œBenedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983).” Public Culture 32 (2 (91)): 441–48.
Greenhill, Simon J., Chieh-Hsi Wu, Xia Hua, Michael Dunn, Stephen C. Levinson, and Russell D. Gray. 2017. β€œEvolutionary Dynamics of Language Systems.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (42): E8822–29.
Hauert, Christoph, Silvia De Monte, Josef Hofbauer, and Karl Sigmund. 2002. β€œVolunteering as Red Queen Mechanism for Cooperation in Public Goods Games.” Science 296 (5570): 1129–32.
Hawkins, Stephen, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon. 2019. β€œHidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape.” Preprint. PsyArXiv.
Henrich, Joseph, and Robert Boyd. 1998. β€œThe Evolution of Conformist Transmission and the Emergence of Between-Group Differences.” Evolution and Human Behavior 19 (4): 215–41.
Hirschman, Albert O. 1970. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Harvard University Press.
Horst, Ulrich, Alan Kirman, and Miriam Teschl. 2007. β€œChanging Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups.” Economics Working Paper 0078. Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
Lena, Jennifer C. 2012. Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Liu, Shi S., Michael W. Morris, Thomas Talhelm, and Qian Yang. 2019. β€œIngroup Vigilance in Collectivistic Cultures.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (29): 14538–46.
Maerz, Seraphine F. 2019. β€œSimulating Pluralism: The Language of Democracy in Hegemonic Authoritarianism.” Political Research Exchange 1 (1): 1–23.
Maner, Jon K. 2017. β€œDominance and Prestige: A Tale of Two Hierarchies.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 26 (6): 526–31.
MΓ€s, Michael, Andreas Flache, and Dirk Helbing. 2010. β€œIndividualization as Driving Force of Clustering Phenomena in Humans.” PLoS Comput Biol 6 (10): e1000959.
MΓ€s, Michael, Andreas Flache, KΓ‘roly TakΓ‘cs, and Karen A. Jehn. 2013. β€œIn the Short Term We Divide, in the Long Term We Unite: Demographic Crisscrossing and the Effects of Faultlines on Subgroup Polarization.” Organization Science 24 (3): 716–36.
Murphy, Ryan H. 2020. Markets Against Modernity: Ecological Irrationality, Public and Private. Capitalist Thought : Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.
Nowak, Martin A. 2006. β€œFive Rules for the Evolution of Cooperation.” Science 314 (5805): 1560–63.
Pavlogiannis, Andreas, Josef Tkadlec, Krishnendu Chatterjee, and Martin A. Nowak. 2018. β€œConstruction of Arbitrarily Strong Amplifiers of Natural Selection Using Evolutionary Graph Theory.” Communications Biology 1 (1): 1–8.
Rao, Vijayendra. 2005. β€œSymbolic Public Goods and the Coordination of Collective Action: A Comparison of Local Development in India and Indonesia.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, no. 3685.
Richerson, Peter J., and Robert Boyd. 2001. β€œThe Evolution of Subjective Commitment to Groups: A Tribal Instincts Hypothesis.” Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment 3: 186–220.
Richerson, Peter J, Robert T Boyd, and Joseph Henrich. 2003. β€œCultural Evolution of Human Cooperation.” Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation, 357.
Schimmack, Ulrich, Shigehiro Oishi, and Ed Diener. 2005. β€œIndividualism: A Valid and Important Dimension of Cultural Differences Between Nations.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 9 (1): 17–31.
Smith, Kenny, and Simon Kirby. 2008. β€œCultural Evolution: Implications for Understanding the Human Language Faculty and Its Evolution.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 363: 3591–3603.
Talhelm, Thomas, and Shigehiro Oishi. 2018. β€œHow Rice Farming Shaped Culture in Southern China.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY.
Talhelm, T., X. Zhang, S. Oishi, C. Shimin, D. Duan, X. Lan, and S. Kitayama. 2014. β€œLarge-Scale Psychological Differences Within China Explained by Rice Versus Wheat Agriculture.” Science 344 (6184): 603–8.
Waldrop, M. Mitchell. 2021. β€œNews Feature: Modeling the Power of Polarization.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118 (37).
Wilton, Leigh S., Evan P. Apfelbaum, and Jessica J. Good. 2019. β€œValuing Differences and Reinforcing Them: Multiculturalism Increases Race Essentialism.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 10 (5): 681–89.
Young, H. Peyton. 2011. β€œThe Dynamics of Social Innovation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (Supplement 4): 21285–91.

No comments yet. Why not leave one?

GitHub-flavored Markdown & a sane subset of HTML is supported.