comment by crl826 ·
2021-02-06T00:30:57.062Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Chapter 4 Part 1
Marxist Office Theory
Marx provides the core idea we need in his famous line, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”
There is a deep truth here. Social clubs of any sort divide the world into an us and a them. We are better than them. Any prospective new member who could raise the average prestige of a club is, by definition, somebody who is too good for that club.
So how do social groups form at all, given Marx’s paradox?
If your status is clear, and the status of the club is clear (which is, by definition, the average status of all its current members), then either your status is higher, in which case the club will want you, but you won’t want to join, or your status is lower, in which case the opposite is true. If status were precisely known all around, then the only case that allows somebody to join a club is if their status exactly matches the average of the club. The probability of this happening is vanishingly small, even if status could be measured accurately and quantitatively. Worse, this benefits neither joiner nor club.
But consider what happens when all you really know about the club is the range of status, from lowest to highest. If you know you belong in the range, but have no idea whether your status is above or below the average, the uncertainty allows you to join. And your fealty to the group, and the group’s to you, will be in proportion to the legibility of your status. If events conspire to make status too legible, competitiveness is amplified, weakening group cohesion, and stabilizing dynamics kick in, restoring the illegibility, or the group breaks down.
The answer lies in the idea of status illegibility, the fuzziness of the status of a member of any social group. Status illegibility is the key to the Marx paradox, and the foundation of every other aspect group dynamics. Status illegibility is necessary to keep a group stable.
This is governed by what I will call Marx’s laws of status illegibility.
- Marx’s First Law of Status Illegibility: the illegibility of the status of any member of a group is proportional to his/her distance from the edges of the group.
- Marx’s Second Law of Status Illegibility: the stability of the group membership of any member is proportional to the illegibility of his/her status.
The laws imply that in a group of ten people it is much easier, both for insiders and outsiders, to identify numbers 1 or 10 (alpha and omega) than it is to identify number 4 unambiguously.
The legible limit points are necessary to provide basic calibration to potential new members, and to help Sociopaths assess the social capital represented by the group, and negotiate terms with alphas with legitimate authority. The alpha and omega set the range. But the status of anyone who is not the alpha or the omega, is necessarily fuzzy. It requires that the middle be jumbled up. It is a deep form of uncertainty. I am not saying that there is a ranking that is just not known or knowable. I am saying there is no clear ranking to be known. There can be no correct rank ordering, but the group is still meaningfully coherent.
The laws also imply that alpha and omega are weakly attached to the group, while Both are by definition the most unstable members. The alpha can be tempted away into the illegible middle of a higher-ranking group, with more murky room to climb, while the omega, might get sick of being the whipping boy, and move to a higher relative status in a lower group. The obscure middle is stably attached. Should either the alpha or omega leave, a new alpha or omega will emerge through a succession battle. Social groups grow from the illegible but stable center of the status spectrum, and leak at the legible but unstable edges.
Continued in Part 2 [LW(p) · GW(p)]