Excerpt: The Wheels of Society by A.C.B. Wilson @quartetbooks

Out now!

Introduction

Following on from the highlight of A.C.B. Wilson’s book The Wheels of Societyit’s assembly, performance and emotion I am delighted to bring you an excerpt.

Excerpt: The Wheels of Society by A.C.B. Wilson

The Fog of Hubris

Assembly and performance thinking is not difficult, so the first question has to be why wasn’t it noticed many centuries ago? The answer offered here is hubris; the great fallacy of self-importance which was so powerfully promoted by Plato in 400BC. When we think of ourselves privately as individuals, we seldom consider ourselves to be significant. But any group we belong to has a purpose, and the common pursuit of this purpose engenders a shared sense of self-importance: a belief in ourselves which can be ‘personified’ in many different ways. As compatriots we are proudly confident in the importance of ‘ourselves’. But this corporate sense of hubris, hangs over us. Like fog on a landscape, it presides over our corporate quasi-mind. It whispers that we are supreme amongst God’s creations, rulers of the earth. We cannot see our true nature as one of the social mammals until this fog rolls away. We may then find it easier to discern the mechanism of society, and to establish how it works.

Assembly and performance thinking in a nutshell

  1. The human is one of many animals, microbes to mammals, which, despite Darwin’s natural selfishness, have managed to evolve the altruism necessary for cooperation.
  2. So, when something needs to be done, we are able to assemble into a purposeful working group which is more effective than the total of its individuals’ efforts.
  3. The group’s purpose is driven by the ambition to survive and prosper; this always boils down to acquiring energy, ensuring self-protection or breeding, or combinations of these.
  4. The assembled group then performs its purpose, iterating cyclically through three mutually trumping ‘trial-and-error’ functions: > review > plan > act. This is called a cybernetic feedback control loop, referred to here as ‘the Rule of Three’. It is the e = mc2 equivalent of assembly and performance thinking.
  5. This rational thinking only wields a weak social force, and when a crisis hits, the strong force of emotion can disrupt a group and even destroy it. In that case if a new quorum exists, then a new group can emerge.

Society is still as enigmatic as it was in Plato’s day. Actually, it’s worse than that because the rudder’s now gone. We have abandoned the usually humanising dogma of religion without having anything better than political correctness to put in its place. And we are drifting towards a frightening vision of runaway global warming which seems to be the result of us fouling our own nest. We urgently need to under-stand how society works. A good way to start could be to banish our preening hubris so that we can examine the mechanism of assembly and performance.

My thoughts

That’s quite something, don’t you think?

A.C.B. Wilson’s strong words come from a passion to enable society to be more cooperative, more caring for our environment, planet and humanity in order not only to survive but to survive and live in a better way. He says this can only come once we understand how to…

‘…discern the mechanism of society, and to establish how it works.’

A.C.B. Wilson

Information

PublishedQuartet (Paperback 4th February 2021) | ISBN9780704374829

Buy: Your local bookshop | AmazonSmileUK | Quartet Publishing

Author

Tony Wilson was born in Dublin in 1931 and studied economics at Trinity College before qualifying as a chartered accountant. After six years in Paris with Price Waterhouse he went to England working as financial controller in the Avon Rubber Company, GKN, and British Oxygen. 

He lives near Bath where he paints, writes and makes beer. He has had five one-man exhibtions and has shown in the RA Summer Exhibition. 

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