Individualism and collectivism

An actor (or agent) in social evolution can be both an individual and a collective, although individuals have ontological priority over collectives: Whereas individuals can exist without binding into a group (for a short period of time, at least), no collective is possible without individuals. Because we humans are inept predators as individuals, and we cannot survive long as individuals, however, we must live as groups; the group has been part of our “natural environment” since the early time of our species (Caporael and Baron 1997). Inevitably then, group categorization, identity and living influence individuals’ psychology and behavior profoundly and pervasively (Caporael 1997; Brewer and Caporael 2006), as the “minimal group paradigm” in social psychology has vividly demonstrated (for a review, see Tajfel 1982). Hence, collectives exhibit characteristics that individuals or even a loose collection of individuals do not exhibit. Both individualism and collectivism are indispensable for understanding human society.

Again, the challenge is how to synthesize individualism and collectivism organically. Such a synthesis should follow the following five principles. One, individuals make collectives, thus holding ontological priority over collectives. As such, all collectivism theories must contain assumptions at the individual level, implicitly or explicitly. Two, collectives have extra properties other than the sum of individuals’ properties: Collectives cannot be reduced to the simple sum of the individuals in the collective. Three, individuals invent and deploy both material artifacts (e.g., conflict, temples, and monuments) and ideational artifacts (e.g., ideas, rituals, identities, norms, institutions, and culture) to hold collectives together. Four, once created, however, these collective-derived properties come back to shape individuals’ mentalities and behavior and thus, in turn, social outcomes. The information flow between individual and collective is an enclosed circle rather than a one-way street. Five, to adequately understand human society, we need to understand the interaction between individuals and collectives (i.e.,how individuals’actions shape collectives and how collectives shape individuals). This interaction, in which the much debated agent-structure problem is only a part (e.g., Parsons 1937, 1951; Giddens 1979, 1984; Archer 1995; Bunge 1999, 4-6, 88—91; Wendt 1999), has been one of the major driving forces behind the evolution of human society (Tang 2013a, Chapter 5).

Biological determinism, socialization, and anti-socialization

No social theory is possible without some assumptions over human nature. Contrary to sociobiolog)' and EP, however, human nature has been a product of social evolution (which builds upon biological evolution), not just biological evolution.3 Broadly speaking, there are three drivers of human behavior (or putting it differently, human nature has three key dimensions): biological evolution, socialization, and anti-socialization, with both socialization and anti-socialization underpinned and constrained by the part of human nature determined by biological evolution. As a result, there are three paradigms that capture our human nature: Biological determinism, socialization, and anti-socialization.

Once again, we must synthesize the three paradigms toward human nature organically. SSP’s (and thus SEP’s) approach toward human nature entails five principles. One, we shall first admit that human nature has three broad drivers that are captured by the three paradigms, and none of the three paradigms can claim that it alone captures all the human nature. Two, the three broad drivers interact with each other rather than function independently. Three, the part of human nature determined exclusively by biological evolution holds ontological priority over the two other parts of human nature, which are determined by socialization and antisocialization.The three broad drivers of human nature, however, may have different weight in different domains of human behavior. As such, there is no ground for asserting weight for a particular driver of human behavior ex ante (Tang 2011b, 2014). Four, if the part of human nature determined by biological evolution is essentially universal, then the interaction between socialization and anti-socialization must account for the bulk of the diversity of human behavior across different societies. While some of our most primitive emotions (say, our fear of snakes) might have a purely biological basis, most of our psychological traits have been products of social living, thus products of social evolution (for similar takes, see Smit 2014;Turner 2015;Turner and Maryanski 2015).4 Five, because humans constantly invent new ideas, the possible combinations of socialization and anti-socialization are boundless. As such, the diversity of human behavior can be boundless, and a complete theory of human nature is impossible (cf.Turner and Maryanski 2015).

Conflict paradigm and harmony paradigm

Agents have both divergent and common interests. Agents also resort to both conflictual and cooperative actions to advance their interests. As such, most social outcomes are produced by agents’ conflictual and cooperative actions to advance their interests. Consequently, both the conflict paradigm and the harmony paradigm are indispensable for understanding human society, and the challenge again is to synthesize the two paradigms organically.5

An organic synthesis of the two paradigms may resemble the following. Ontologically, we must admit the following three principles. First, there are both conflict of interest and harmony of interest among agents, and they often coexist, although conflict of interest often exceeds harmony of interest. Second, agents engage in both conflictual and cooperative behaviors, depending on circumstances. Third, social outcomes are the products of both conflictual and cooperative behavior. In other words, more often than not, cooperation and conflict are intermixed, and cooperation sometimes is achieved in the shadow of possible conflict.

Epistemologically, we shall follow two principles. First, just because agents have conflict of interest does not mean that they are doomed to actual conflict. Likewise, just because agents have common interest does not mean that they will cooperate or coordinate. Second, and directly following from the first, we cannot assume conflict of interest behind actual conflict or harmony of interest behind cooperation and coordination. Instead, each particular social outcome needs a careful search for its specific causes.

SSP: The first step toward an evolutionary synthesis

Even with the nine bedrock paradigms and the syntheses of them as outlined earlier, we still do not have an adequate framework for understanding the dynamics within a human society. What we need is a paradigm that—in its most complete form—integrates the nine bedrock paradigms into an organic whole.This paradigm is SSP.6 More critically, SSP paves the way toward SEP.

Ontologically, SSP insists that statically, human society is a complex system made of agents, a social structure (i.e., the core component of structure is a society’s institutional system, which includes both formal and informal rules), and the physical environment.7 Dynamically, human society contains all possible processes within the system (see Figure 1.1 in the Introduction). More concretely, a social system contains all the forces/dimensions captured by the nine bedrock paradigms. Moreover, the forces/dimensions interact with each other to shape human society, and the interactions among the nine forces/dimensions generate enormous complexities far beyond what is possible if those forces/dimensions act independently or merely additively (Jervis 1997).

Epistemologically, SSP insists that the system called human society can only be understood with a systemic approach. More specifically, SSP insists that each of the nine bedrock paradigms captures only some social reality, but not the whole human society.To adequately understand the dynamics of a human society we need to synthesize all the nine bedrock paradigms into an organic whole. Moreover, because SSP acknowledges the realness of both unit and process, SSP resolves the divide between unit-based epistemology and process-based epistemology, a divide that has bedeviled sciences since ancient China and Greece (Lebow 2008, 56-60). SSP explicitly argues that only a synthesis of a unit-based epistemology and a processbased epistemology can allow us to gain adequate understanding of human society as a system (Goddard and Nexon 2005).8

Methodologically, because SSP readily admits that interactions among the nine forces/dimensions are enormously complex and that only careful empirical investigation can provide an adequate understanding for any particular social phenomenon, SSP cautions against simplistic measures for understanding society, such as searching for simple (if not mono-)causal links, linear thinking, assigning weight to particular forces, and adding up effects provided by individual factors to understand the whole. Rather, SSP insists that we should look for interactions, emergent properties, feedbacks, and path dependence, etc. when it comes to social dynamics (for a more detailed discussion, see Tang 2016c). When it comes to social outcomes, we should look for indirect/direct, delayed/instant, unintended/intended, and observ-able/unobservable ones rather than just direct/instant/intended/observable ones alone (see also Jervis 1997).

 
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