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The Scarcity of Social Capital in Western Societies

In most of the world and through most of history, social capital has been far more important for most people than money won by participation in the market.  The 1st world has become a dramatic reversal in how human society works with jobs rendering people’s wellbeing far more than friends, family, or community.  The beginning of our lives we spend with parents or caretakers is now a passing larval stage, our adulthood spent fluttering aloft on market forces.

The strange inversion of commerce and social life means there are millions of strangers paying monthly bills with few connections between them all.  The irony of a mass commercial society is its scarcity of social capital on all levels of human relations.
After we leave school, we spend most our time at work and that’s where we tend to form our social circles.  But these are circles of convenience, the tacit understanding that these associations are temporary and subordinate to paycheck or promotion.  We watch what we say with friends at work, never knowing if we could be talking to our future supervisor or if we could be turned in by informants for our irreverent gossip.

In the hours of the day we have left, we go to bars and meetup events but there everyone has their guard up because the baseline of social trust and commonality is far too low in a milling stew of millions.
Even mating is stymied by a multitude of social and sexual harassment tripwires.  Meeting the future wife at the company christmas party becomes a quaint artifact of 80s romantic comedies.  So now, when someone finds a rare non-adversarial scene to interact with the opposite sex, it’s a secret to be closely held like that sweet spot for fishing or mushroom hunting.

In this anonymous mass, filters of pre-selection are essential.  This is in fact how humans have always been, but modernity forces us to struggle to create from scratch the kind of communal structures that were already well-established for our ancestors.

Any kind of social filter is useful as long as it is hard to fake or at least sufficiently uncomfortable.  There must be sacrifice.  In Islam, we have to give up alcohol, fast for a whole month, kneel like fools on prayer rugs.  In Mormonism we have to say we believe in disappearing golden tablets, give up all drugs, and pay up 10% of our income.  The humiliation and monotony if kept up is rewarded with a social network and a family.

Even these traditional networks are not as useful as they used to be in an open society.  It is far more difficult to insure against defection when one can periodically disappear into the the crowd and do whatever they want.  The modern 1st world society naturally sees the decline of traditional doctrines wherever it is not held together by other factors such as ethnicity or relative isolation in the countryside.  For most, different sorts of networks are required.

The most basic and common social filter in a commercial society is money.  Have an auction whether for houses or groceries to price out as many people as possible and when you get down to a manageable number, try to interact sincerely with whoever is left standing.  The result is a society of snobbery where the worthiness of others is synonymous with the accumulation of capital.  This influence shapes the entire world view of those who can afford their McMansion and 2 new cars in a nice neighborhood.  It allows them to cocoon there in willful ignorance and contempt even as the society as a whole starts to fall apart and revolt against them.

We are all infused with the habits and attitudes of the class we were born into.  People assort based on these affinities even though many cannot even understand what they do.  We simply associate with those who we simply like on a gut level.  If we doubt the strength of these subtle signs, we need only look at the visceral revulsion the polite middle classes feel towards Trump with his crass working class mannerisms made infinitely more egregious in their eyes by his high station.

Finally, as 1st world affluence becomes concentrated into a smaller number of hands and the youth culture becomes ever more relatively impoverished we see the emergence of more primitive types of sacrifice signalling.  Many dissidents have commented on the enormous popularity of tattoos and stretched ear-lobe holes from mid-millennials onward.  Without money, status, or meaning, people revert to ritual disfigurement, a signal of group allegiance that comes naturally to hunter-gatherers.

An easy tribal initiation is to ask someone to have their face scarred up with a knife.  It’s a simple, effective ritual popular from the Amazon to Papua New Guinea.  It has a universal appeal because it’s an all-in-one package that requires someone to voluntarily undergo significant pain, adopt a signal of allegiance that can’t be taken back, and is impossible to fake. A tattoo on a hipster or bro-ey pothead comes from that same impulse.  When allegiance and affinity are scarce, its most ostentatious advertisements proliferate.

But what if one has no affinity for religious abasement, has little money or care for wealth signals, and has no connection with the outgoing people with tattoos?  There are plenty that fall between these cracks who struggle to find a place in the milling horde of humanity.  This is especially true of outliers of any kind.

Under these pressures we can easily understand the appeal of the dissident right, antifas, or hard-core SJWs.  People who are unusual in some way in the general population try to find ways congregate where their essential nature is distilled.  This is the impetus behind the formation of the first neo-tribes.

Like someone covered in tattoos, the multi-colored hair, pasty acne speckled skin inflicted by vegan diets, and ugly attire of SJWs penalizes them in the normal society while simultaneously giving them a status boost in their community.  Likewise young men who wear crisp white polo shirts to openly protest against Jews are risking everything in the normal society for a spot in a new society where membership actually means something.

The more we are expected to exist as atomized individuals the more powerfully we grasp for compatible chemical bonds that by their sealing, release enormous energy.  The group that best masters these forces becomes the new dominant tribe.

See Also: How the Middle Class Used to Be Affordable

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