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Social Atomization Highlights Unwantedness

I have written about some of the direct and indirect effects of social atomization in previous posts. Consider this one as another step along the path of exploring that phenomena.

All functional social groupings, especially those made up of deliberative individuals, require a set of unwritten but important preconditions. One of them is that individuals need to feel “wanted” by the group to continue playing nice with other individuals.

A large part of human thought, culture, behavior and rituals is driven by the often unconscious understanding that people will stop co-operating if they are made to feel “unwanted”. As a corollary, most people do not expect those who are made to feel “unwanted” to continue playing nice or fair. Indeed, it is fair to say that the percentage of individuals that feel “unwanted” is very strongly linked to the level of dysfunction in any given society.

Being “wanted” in human societies is not as simple as sniffing each others secretions and accepting group membership- as is the case for insects or most animals. It is a far more complicated and dynamic process with many opportunities for failure and widespread disaster.

For most of human history, a series of social, economic and logistical considerations kept most people from feeling “unwanted”. Most people were pretty poor with few material possessions and therefore depended on interpersonal relationship for survival. Under such conditions making any more than a few people in your group feel “unwanted” was a recipe for personal disaster. Moreover changing fortunes and the vagaries of illness, disability and death made it rather foolish to create unnecessary adversaries.

However the rising standard of living and increasingly impersonal nature of living under the current socio-economic setup has fundamentally changed the need to behave humanely to people around you. Today it is possible to treat people around you like crap without suffering any real consequences. All you require is a bit more power in one particular situation than the person you are abusing.

This new found ability to abandon millennia of basic social protocols does however carry a nasty long-term consequence- a fatal weakening of the very structure that allows civilization to function.

As I have previously said, most people will play nice with others as long as they are made to feel “wanted”. However feeling “wanted” is not an end in itself. As far as human beings are concerned it is the precursor to benefiting from group membership. You can scam people into feeling “wanted” only to later screw them over so many times before they become too cynical.

Social atomization, by its very ability to isolate people from the consequences of their actions, encourages people to scam others by making them feel “wanted”. However it simultaneously it much harder for the disillusioned individuals to get support after being scammed. To make a long story short- it pumps put an ever-increasing number of cynics. But that is only half the story.

The considerable worldwide decline in birthrates has also cut the number of naive replacements who could be indoctrinated, abused and exploited. Therefore we have a self-accelerating increase in the real number (and percentage) of cynical individuals in societies as well as a concurrent decrease in the number of naive individuals who could replace the hardened cynics.

Today most people under a certain age are fairly cynical individuals whose life experience has shown them that they are “unwanted” by others and pretty much alone.

Somehow all of our sociolo-economic institutions, rules, laws and models are still based on the assumption that these people are naive individuals who can be exploited because they supposedly like to be “wanted” by people around them. But if that were the case why would so many prefer laptops, gaming consoles, smartphones, books and Netflix to interaction with people around them?

Could it be that, deep down, they know they are “unwanted” by others around them?

The next question is- Can a society made of individuals who know they are “unwanted” by people around them withstand even a moderate crisis or disruption of the rather delicate status quo? Would you cooperate with others if you knew that you are “unwanted” and would not benefit from your sacrifice for the group? Face it- nobody want to be the sucker who took one for the team and was ridiculed for their naivety.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. February 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Another great post!

  2. ThousandMileMargin
    February 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I think the west is currently going through an economic slump that will last well into the next decade, and this will create a generation that learns early that society considers it disposable.

    In the absence of trust people will transact on a “cash-only” basis. Loyalty and long-term commitments make no sense, you only “trade” with people who can offer a benefit right now. Next month they may have nothing to offer you. That’s true for jobs, friendships and sexual relationships. You do what works this week and you stop believing in the long-term, because you’ve learned that people don’t come through, and they’ll drop you when you are off no further use.

    So I think the west will become more of a “low-trust” culture – like the Third World. And I think living standards will decline accordingly, and crime will rise accordingly. Gang membership may rise as a reaction to the general low-trust culture.

    Low-Trust in an economic sense means less access to credit, higher interest rates for unsecured borrowing, a move towards lower private sector debt levels as a result. And a prolong depression as a move away from debt leads to lower spending. More of a cash economy than a credit economy. The declining economy leads to higher goverment deficits and eventually money printing and high inflation (e.g. Argentina) though I wouldn’t expect hyperinflation in any major economy.

    In a social sense Low-Trust means more short term relationships, with men avoiding any longer term commitments. And women adapting to a lessened chance of snagging a long-term provider by focusing more on a man’s capacity as a provider. That may sound a little paradoxical, but when finding a provider is easy women are free to focus more on looks, charm and popularity. When hard times make finding a provider harder AND more important, a man’s financial status moves to the top of the list in what women look for.

    So a more mercenary approach to relationships. Men trust women less, women are more focused on finding a good provider, which only reinforces the male perception that women just want a man to look after them and pay for everything, etc.

    I think you’ll see a split amongst women in that there’ll be a LOT more women who are prostitutes or gold-diggers – looking for the immediate financial benefit – and also a lot more who adopt the strategy of marketing themselves as a “traditional” girl and try to snag a beta provider for marriage at a relatively young age. I think that while the number of marriages might decline there will be a lot more girls looking for marriage in their early twenties because good providers will be in short supply and they can’t afford to wait.

    So the primary trend will be that all the men are thugs and all the girls are whores – think Russia immediately after Glasnost. But there’ll be a counter trend of young “good girls” marketing themselves as traditional women who can cook and keep house and know how to respect a man, so they can snag one of the relatively few stable beta providers at an early age (before the other girls get to him).

    • joesantus
      March 4, 2015 at 10:32 am

      “…But there’ll be a counter trend of young “good girls” marketing themselves as traditional women who can cook and keep house and know how to respect a man, so they can snag one of the relatively few stable beta providers at an early age (before the other girls get to him).”

      Meaning (assuming for this discussion that this counter trend occurs), the gender economy will then acknowlegedly function the way it has historically despite the denunciations and oppostions of idyllical wish-it-were-otherwisers: as an exchange of nurture/security for sex.

  3. AC
    February 19, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Too bad you’re feeling lonely today.

    And boy you like the word “nasty”.

  4. P Ray
    February 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I think it’s great that more people are becoming cynical, because then the people who are “all hat and no cattle” get exposed.
    The jobs with the biggest losses will be the humanities, since more people will accept that customer contact personnel will lie to everyone to make a sale.
    That makes people with real technical expertise more valuable.
    Bring on the apocalypse, it’s going to be a fun ride.

    • joesantus
      March 4, 2015 at 11:56 am

      What’s ironic if not hilarious about “people becoming more cynical” is that my latter-half-of-the- USA-Baby-Boomers generation (I’m 59) WERE that kind of cynical in our teens through late twenties.

      The first half of the Baby Boomers (our older siblings, even if metaphorically) were optimistic if not idealistic; they sincerely believed “the system can be improved and wrongs corrected”.

      However, we later Boomers realized “the system protects itself from basic change and from liability”. We’d experienced the US government and politcos lying to us about Vietnam and Watergate, and corporations lying and manipulating concerning environmental hazards, products, and jobs. We’d already recognized the bullshit that is the essence of big-business advertising and marketing. I experienced that cynicism among my peers from high school through college.

      But, as always…subsequent generations come of age, can’t know these things aprt from experiential knowledge, so, have to learn the lessons for themselves. History merely cycles.

  5. P Ray
    March 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    How did a middle class woman with nine siblings lay dead and unnoticed for FIVE YEARS? Tragic story of Michigan IT worker, 44, found mummified when her home was seized over unpaid bills
    Pia Farrenkopf of Pontiac was found mummified in the backseat of her car
    Investigators believe she died at 44 in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2014 her body was discovered
    Relatives and a friend described Farrenkopf, who lived alone, as smart and fun but often solitary
    Her remains were in such a state of desiccation that the medical examiner was unable to conduct a full autopsy and the cause of death is unknown
    She was only discovered after bank foreclosed on her house


    Social atomization and “blood is thicker than water” (sarcasm) indeed …
    also, for the lols:
    “But the tank in the car still had two gallons of gas left, which led investigators to rule out carbon monoxide poisoning and her organs were so mummified, according to deputy medical examiner Dr Bernardino Pacris, making a toxicology report impossible. “

    • March 2, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Yes, I remember that. Nasty shit!

  6. P Ray
    July 13, 2017 at 2:41 am

    Advocatus / Dissention called it first, years earlier. Fear the unwanted!
    Broken homes are fuelling TERRORISM: Family breakdown has reached ‘epidemic levels’, former High Court judge warns
    Sir Paul Coleridge said there was a link between family instability and terrorism
    He said terrorists are from ‘appalling backgrounds’ with ‘no ties’
    Sir Paul, 68, left his job as a High Court judge to promote Marriage Foundation

  1. August 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm
  2. October 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm
  3. October 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm
  4. October 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm
  5. October 31, 2013 at 10:14 pm

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