Episode One: “Can’t We Just Tweak Things a Little?”
by Kerri Coombs Jan 10 2020
Is capitalism a holarchy or a hierarchy, what’s the difference, and who cares?
I can’t begin this series without a quick overview of holarchy. The building block of a holarchy, a “holon”, describes a complete entity that is also part of a greater whole, which is also a complete entity. For example, you’re an individual, but you're also part of a family, a community, and a nation. Each of those entities is a holon in its own right. A set of holons is called a holarchy.
Holarchic theory is what you might expect if a batch of Russian nesting dolls spawned a love child with a Venn diagram.
Capitalism is not designed to respect the integrity or nourish the wellbeing of all the different holons impacting your experience of life. It more closely resembles a system designed by male chimpanzees to establish mating and foraging rights—male apes kowtow to stronger males and thump on the weaker ones to protect their position in the pecking order.
It’s no coincidence that capitalism is starting to crack now that people other than violent men have a say in how our society should be organized. After winning a century of battles for representation and inclusion, it turns out non-aggressive people don’t feel super comfortable with cultural norms that were established tens of thousands of years ago to broker social cohesion between males through the medium of violence and intimidation.
For most of recorded history, coercion and violence has been the norm, manifesting many different toxic holons rooted in male primate aggression and sexual competition—holons like feudalism, colonialism, neoliberalism, monopoly, financialization and oligarchy.
With such a track record, it’s hard to even imagine what a social system deliberately designed to nurture whole people, whole families, whole communities and healthy nations might look like—the social contract female primates might write, if they could. Nevertheless, since the spring of 2020, that’s what I’ve been up to, and I have a laptop.
Revolutions need good storytellers; otherwise people die for nothing.