What are the effects of the social arrangements we construct for ourselves?
We tend to talk openly about constructing or intervening in a limited subset of
these, say “a robust free press”, and “competitive markets”.
Our lives are, however, the site of intersections of a whole swag of co-evolved
systems; manners, notions of honour, legal systems, clientilism, slavery,
freedoms, states (democratic or otherwise), property rights, religions…
For all that it is not clear how to measure these things, it is clear that they
make huge differences to our society and how it works… and they are new, and
The world you grew up in is not the only possible one.
(Unless you are Francis Fukuyama circa 2000).
To this last point, I recommend, as a technocratic 21st century global citizen,
sitting down for an afternoon to discuss politics with a hunter-gatherer from a
tiny polity somewhere in the world.
See how much shared vocabulary you don’t have.
I’ll probably file social capital, whatever that is, here, since whatever use
the term does have is about institutional function.
- The Seshat: Global History Databank brings together the most current and comprehensive body of knowledge about human history in one place. Our unique Databank systematically collects what is currently known about the social and political organization of human societies and how civilizations have evolved over time.
- Why Nations Fail
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See original: Institutions