We continue from Politics Part 4; House Select January 6 Committee.
The period beginning in the middle of the 19th century, till perhaps 1970, was marked by the development of the social sciences, and of psychology, the science of the mind. Replacing the mere assertions of philosophy, Marx, Pareto, William James, Freud, B.F. Skinner, et.al took inspiration from the physical sciences to find, derive, and prove unicorns of the real world, cold hard facts about human behavior.
The unicorns do not exist. Due to the stubborn persistence of free will against the assaults of Skinner, nothing can be proven about individual behavior. Study of behavior en masse has had some success; the limitations are more obvious. It is still impossible to predict large scale social change. For a society in stasis, Pareto’s Principle is a remarkable, isolated exception.
Vilfredo Pareto was, for some period of time, a fascist sympathizer, remembered for encouraging Mussolini to march on Rome in 1922. His work other than mathematical is largely ignored. What sociology professor would put on the reading list an out-of-print book whose author had a fascist taint? With some justification, his rehabilitation has been attempted, his fascism downplayed as the temporary aberration of a committed libertarian. This was my assumption when reading his great work of sociology, The Mind and Society. There is nothing political about it.
The Mind and Society is a backdoor attack on free will. It is a meticulous four volume compilation of what people believe, mostly primitive, replete with an indexing system resembling Dewey Decimal. It argues that among the vast majority in whom belief is the dominant mode of thought, the menu is finite and repetitious. It has a part in the explanation of why, if history does not repeat itself, it does tend to rhyme.
The Mind and Society is useful in challenge of the idea that a political system can idealize human behavior. It is the undoing of Marxism — how can a new proletariat be created if the extent of their beliefs are limited to Pareto’s dictionary? It implies that evolution of any society or political system in the liberal direction has limits. At some point, the consensual box of democracy is punctured by a recrudescence of the primitive. As a liberal, I am not happy about this.
This is just a nibble at what’s going on now. In the hard sciences, the goal is unique explanation. This is not (or should not be!) legitimate in the social sciences, where legitimacy requires triangulation. If you choose to challenge, you might assert something about culture, which overlays the primitive. You might assert that the limits of culture are not etched in stone.
Singapore is a highly atypical yet successful multicultural state, with weak protections for the individual, no freedom of the press, and no jury trials. Yet it has a reputation for good government. In some situations, culture can supply what is absent in law. In the U.S., the obverse is the failure of constitutional protections when undermined by political culture. (CNN) Texas GOP’s election denial underscores the ongoing threat that’s central message of Jan. 6 hearings.
Why is Singapore, a tiny country with no natural resources, successful? Does it have any lessons for us? In the next article, we’ll continue with triangulation.