a dire shortage of alternative models

The shift from a market-dominated society to a networked society is well on its way. The TIMN [Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks] model shows how civilization grew from a collection of tribes, added institutions, and later developed markets, as the dominant form of organization. These, in my opinion, aligned with revolutions in communications: from oral, to written, to print. The network era began with the advent of electric communications (telegraph), though it is by no means completely established. As with previous shifts of this magnitude, there is a tendency in parts of society to retreat to the old ways.

TIMN comms

“Tribalism has strong appeal in periods of rapid, tumultuous change, as what the political philosopher Karl Popper called the ‘the strain of civilization’ exerts its pressures on society. The issue of immigration is a particularly potent one: the mythical tribe suddenly under attack by invading hordes from afar. And its impact can be seen everywhere today. A wall must be built against Mexico. The United Kingdom must restore control of its borders. Germany must slam shut its doors. Society must close, and quickly –the barbarians are coming.” —The Angy Quarter

We are missing appealing alternative models to our existing tribes, institutions, and markets. The critical work in all disciplines – economics, politics, education, business – is to change the worldview. The easy alternative is to revert to the old ways. We have gone through these shifts before and they can be painful, such as in England during the sixteenth century, as tenants were kicked off the land they worked.

‘Now the masses were at the mercy of a job market to obtain the means to reproduce themselves socially. Now the process of production was systematically subordinated to market imperatives: “competition, accumulation, and profit-maximization, and hence a constant systemic need to develop the productive forces.”’ —Jesse Myerson: Markets in the Next System

Myerson goes on to propose two alternatives to current market capitalism: cooperatives to de-market capital, and enabling labour to exit the market via the welfare state. Both of these strategies provide ways for people to avoid the effects of careening markets. As our markets become dominated by intangible goods and services, we will see ever increasing volatility.

We have a choice. We can accept the inevitability of a society dominated by markets or we can create alternatives that understand networks. The electric network era can extend our humanity while obsolescing many of our current institutions and markets. We need to create alternatives, based on a new understanding of global kinship, so that society does not reverse back to tribalism.

network society tetrad

network society tetrad

3 Responses to “a dire shortage of alternative models”

  1. Bob Bertsch

    Thanks for this post, Harold. Your explanation of forms of societal organization and their alignment with communication revolutions is eye-opening. My background in communication leads me to look at this new era through that lens. Your model of tribes, institutions, markets and networks lends another historical perspective and deepens my understanding of what networks mean.


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