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Scarcity of Social Capital Sustains Institutions

For almost twenty years it has been pointed out countless times how all the knowledge we get from universities is online for free.  Time after time people have predicted the collapse of universities or that for-profit colleges will take over.  Not only has the institution of the University not collapsed, tuitions are higher than ever and the for-profit colleges are the ones that have seen their business model collapse. At first, this seems counter-intuitive as the corrosion of the establishment’s credibility accelerates.

Though colleges are no longer sacrosanct as they once were they can keep hiking tuition to the pace of loans because there are no viable alternatives.  Red-pill dissidents have spent years bashing the college degree as a “piece of paper” while missing the point.

College offers access to reliable high-status social capital in a modern society where any sort of non-adversarial, high-trust social interaction is extremely scarce.  For most people entering adult life with even slightly above average IQ, campus is the funnel they must squeeze through to avoid the wasteland of service jobs where they’ll live without prospects surrounded for the rest of their lives by people they cannot really connect with. 

Also, there are far more people scrambling to take respectable white collar “real jobs” that require degrees than there are slots available.  This pressure means those who make it have to know someone on the inside.  To establish rapport with someone on the inside they need to have experienced the unique culture of life on campus.  People reach out and help those they feel are like them and with whom they have shared culture and experiences.  To get that gen X manager to reminisce about college days over lunch while you’re there as an unpaid intern can easily be the difference between having a career and being a barista. 

For those who do not go to university the military is one of the last sure reservoirs of reliable social capital.  The most cynical blue collar people you’ll ever meet will curse about the polticians, the government, the country but still glow with almost religious reverence if you mention the military and thank you profusely “for your service” if you were ever in it.  For average people who did not grow up with deep, high quality roots to see them through life, that’s pretty much the last social ladder available to them.

Then there is of course the public education system.   The crowning genius of the 19th century-style nation-state may well be the ability of compulsory mass education to standardize culture.  People instinctively understand that even if someone learns better through home-schooling, they are at a disadvantage by not having the standard life experiences in the standard environment installed in their meatware.  Someone who strays away from the insitutional status ladder finds themselves standing just outside the tribal circle as they interview for jobs, vie for promotions, try to make friends, and go out on dates.

The backbone of a society is not jobs, an economy, or even armed men.  The central structures of society are ladders and funnels leading to high quality social capital like lifelong friends, stable social roles, family, marriage, or even just the bare minimum status to be seen as eligible in one’s dating pool.  In a hunter gatherer band or a traditional agrarian village there are rites of initiation to test for eligibility and connect cooperators with the social capital they need to flourish.
The nation-state institutionalized these networks on a mass scale of millions.  The industrial revolution did not just lead to the mass production of goods, but also of culture and social status.

This assembly line of souls is still very crude compared to the simple organization of a village.  With such a large system, a glitch can send 10 million souls tumbling into the abyss where they have no role and no one cares if they live or die.  Overwhelming numbers made these casualties sustainable.

When everyone has been to the same sort of schools since they could walk, then go to the same boot camps, you can crank out 100 divisions of soldiers who can all understand each other and work together.  The 21st century however has heralded the shift away from mass culture and the return to inequality, caste, tribe, and natural aristocracy.

Neo-tribal groups are sprouting through the drab concrete slabs of the establishment but they will only be able to displace institutions when they can bust the monopoly of social capital and offer better prospects of meaningful belonging.

When Imperial China’s College Bubble Popped…

“In 605 CE, a year after murdering his father and seizing the throne, the Chinese emperor Yang Guang established the world’s first meritocracy. Weary of making bureaucratic appointments solely on the basis of letters of recommendation, Yang set aside a number of posts for applicants who performed well on a new system of imperial examinations. In theory, any peasant who took the trouble to memorize 400,000 characters — which is to say, anyone who conducted six years of study with an expensive tutor — could join the country’s political elite…

As time went on, more and more people took — and passed — the exam’s first round. Test prep academies proliferated. Imperial officials started to worry: there were now more degree-holders than there were positions, which threatened to create an underclass of young men with thwarted ambitions. When the Ming dynasty fell in 1644, their successors, the Qing, resolved to make the test more difficult. By the middle of the 19th century, 2 million people sat the exam, but just over 1 percent passed its first round; only 300 candidates — .016 percent — passed all three.

Failure could be discouraging. In 1837, after botching the exam’s second round for a second time, Hong Xiuquan, an ambitious 23-year-old from a village near Guangzhou, suffered a nervous breakdown. The precocious Hong had come in first on the county-level test, but after he turned 15 his family could no longer afford the customary tutor. Nor could Hong afford to bribe the examiners, as many test-takers did. The notional possibility that anyone could pass the test concealed a bitter truth: for a poor countryman like Hong, making it past the second round was all but impossible.

Eventually he convinced himself and a band of other young men defeated by the test that he was Christ’s younger brother. A consensus emerged among the converts that it was Hong’s destiny to build a heavenly kingdom purged of sexual depravity. He assembled an army and began the work of conquering China…

So began the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest conflict of the 19th century. By the time Hong’s forces were defeated in 1864, 20 million people had died.”

The Taiping rebellion seriously ranks among the top 10 ten most destructive wars ever fought.  There were clashes between massive armies numbering well into the hundreds of thousands. It lasted a full decade.   The Taipings effectively had their own empire with its own government and capital city.  The state religion was an odd hybrid of Christianity and Chinese philosophy.

They were popular with ethnic minorities such as the Hakka and regularly sent regiments of female warriors into combat.

A lesson here: Elites can be lulled into complacency by ruling over proles who will accept domination and oppression without complaint so long as just enough of them have just enough food in their stomachs.

Problems arise when society fails to incorporate educated young men:

French revolution: an urban phenomenon started by disaffected “overeducated” and “entitled” types.  Not only did rural peasants not participate, they were typically loyal to the King and were even brought into the cities during riots to beat up urbanite hippy protesters.

Russian revolution: started up by an odd mix of urban Jewish intellectuals, Caucasian gangsters, lead by a man who was part Tatar.  They were outsiders from the fringes of society.  Hardly a grassroots movement arising from downtrodden ethnic Russian peasants!

Taiping rebellion: same as the other two.  “Entitled” guys lose patience and try to take matters into their own hands.

A critical mass of precocious young men who haven’t been cut into the game end up causing trouble sooner or later.

I certainly don’t mean to predict armed revolution in our own time because there are a thousand more effective, less risky means for disillusioned men to quietly express their displeasure.

And of course outright revolution typically makes things even worse, especially if it succeeds.

Indeed, I would hope these current generations of bright, outcast men choose to focus on making something better than what came before.  To create something that can gradually, peacefully displace a decrepit old system by inherent superiority instead of trying to conquer by mere superior force.

The single most important thing that can be done right now:  For groups of disaffected men to cultivate asset bases that free them from the conventional wealth system controlled by women and “successful” men.  Without a basic amount of wealth that frees men from pressing financial necessity, nothing of significance can be done.

Step 1:  Escape our Sisyphean dilemma of hating the system but being too broke to escape.  To be full of ideas but never have time to develop them in full, to want to reach out to the like-minded but be bound to the land by wage slavery…

LINK

Credit to: Captain Capitalism

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