Chapter 2
Generalized nepotism

Let's start by specifying why sociology is important to take into account to complete Marx's observations, in order to build a proposal for social organization: sociology also starts from observations from the field, and moreover it applies the scientific method, which allows to verify its claims by reproducing experiences, instead of being content with theoretical reasoning whose foundations are above all ideological.
In this second chapter, we will approach a central aspect of the sociology of the 20th century allowing to better understand the dynamics of organizations at the collective level. The individual central aspect will be discussed in a third chapter, and illustrated in a fourth. Finally, the secondary aspects will be the subject of a fifth chapter.

Definition, origin and consequences of generalised nepotism

Nepotism means promoting the social advancement of family members. We define "generalized nepotism" as the fact that there are different concentric circles around each individual, and that the individuals in these different circles are sometimes enemies, sometimes allies when the enemies are those of a larger circle. Thus, an individual fights against the other members of his family to secure his social position in the family, but then he fights with the other members of his family against the other families of the community, then he fights with the members of his community against other communities, and finally he fights with the members of his nation against other nations. We find the same pattern with the individuals who fight among themselves for the ascension inside the company, but together against the competing companies, which themselves ally to assert their sectoral demands. The same goes for members of a political party who join forces to campaign against the other parties, then wage a merciless war for control of the party. In summary, the slogan of generalized nepotism is "us against them".

To us, the document which presents best the generalized nepotism is the audiovisual report Primates des Caraïbes by Jack Silberman and Jean-Christophe Ribot, although it does not define the term. This document reports and illustrates the results of scientists who observe the social behavior of a community of rhesus macaques imported from India in 1938 on the island of Cayo Santiago. Monkeys cannot leave the island, but they are fed and have no predators. However, what the researchers note is a social functioning where aggressiveness dominates: “While this island could be their paradise, they have mde it their own hell. "
Each individual is part of a family, which itself is part of a group, and the island contains three groups at the time of reporting. Individuals communicate peacefully, mainly through grooming activity, and aggressively, through threats, bites and others. However, the struggle for social position is almost permanent, at all levels. In this sense, peaceful exchanges like grooming can be understood as alliances for future battles. In the dominant group, the monkey at the top of the social hierarchy is named Chester, and is characterized by the fact that he is most active at the level of the network of peaceful interactions. Conversely, number 3 in the hierarchy, named Tony, is the most active in the network of aggressive interactions. The end of the report recounts the fall and then the death of Chester, and the takeover by Tony, proving in passing that their opposing strategies can both lead to the top of the social hierarchy. At the time of the conclusion, the researchers wonder how the observation of these monkeys could allow us to conceive more altruistic societies, but leave the question unanswered.

This documentary calls for three very important remarks.
First of all, the concrete expression at the collective level of the struggle for social rank is the tendency to conduct confrontations on the basis of "us against them". Conversely, an "us against them" confrontation must be seen above all as the collective expression of personal social ambitions. There is therefore a cause and effect link between the two, which can however be difficult to detect because the effect is not always direct, as for example in the case of racism.
Then, generalized nepotism reveals the distinction between friend and enemy to be less stable and permanent than what it is morally comfortable for us to think. These are the same individuals who are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, depending on the circumstances. This raises an important philosophical question, for which we have not found an answer scientifically established: what, at the level of benevolent social relations, is a matter of sincere feelings, and what is a matter of strategy alliance?
Finally, even when Chester is in power, violence prevails within his group. This shows us that, contrary to what we tend to think, what makes a group unhappy is not so much to have a malicious leader as opposed to a benevolent one, but much more the permanent struggle for the social advancement that takes place within the group, regardless of the characteristics of the leader.

Let us see to what extent these observations apply to modern humans.
It might be reassuring to say that these findings on primates do not apply to humans since these are supposed to be more civilized. Let's explore how true this is. In the report, the researchers note two distinct modes of operation. In normal times fights are frequent, but of very short duration. On the other hand, what is singular before even the fall of Chester, is that the fights suddenly become long.
Under normal circonstances, one can obeserve very few fights between humans. However, it suffices to make any of us speak to see that the interactions are very often hypocritical, that is to say that the feeling is conflictual, but neutralized by the social conventions that allow, except in young children, to contain latent hatred or anger. It is therefore not expressed in the form of short fights. On the other hand, in a period of crisis, for example at the time of the two world wars of the 20th century, one notes a paroxysmal violence on the model "us against them", which is also expressed by intense and lasting physical confrontations. In The origins of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt seeks a contextual explanation, invoking capitalism, nationalism and anti-Semitism, to explain the outburst of violence that take place during these periods.
Our explanation is different: The instinct for permanent struggle to progress in the social hierarchy exists in modern humans exactly as in rhesus macaques. In normal times, cultural elements allow us, thanks to social conventions, to prevent this instinct from being translated into perpetual physical confrontations. Conversely, periods of crisis that we see in modern humans exactly as in primates, are of unprecedented magnitude because increased by our technological capabilities. It is therefore advisable to reconsider the question of the origin of the problem, which is in fact only the permanent search for social ascent registered in our genetic inheritance. However, if social conventions have proven their capacity to contain violence in normal times, we note on the one hand that they are not capable of regulating violence during periods of paroxysmal conflict, and on the other hand history shows us that these correspond mainly to periods of change of the "great chief" or to the action of particular great chiefs advocating violence. From there, a conclusion seems necessary: ​​a good social system for the 21th century must also be effective to contain violence in all circumstances.
Like Marx who wanted to suppress capital to solve the problems of capitalism, one could consider suppressing the notion of "great chief" to suppress the crises which are linked to his personality or his succession. This is what we do in practice in the second part of this book, without stating, on the contrary, that it solves the problem in its entirety.

Note that by emphasizing the aspect of 'struggle for social rank', we are absolutely not trying to deny humans their altruistic capacity, also contained in their genetic heritage. What we are saying is that it is not possible to build a satisfactory social organization without taking into account the aggressive nature of humans; in other words, Rousseauism is a dangerous illusion. Conversely, the altruistic nature of humans does not need to be taken into account when developing a social organization because its natural and unconstrained expression is the most appropriate. In addition, technological progress amplifies both the consequences of not controlling our belligerent instincts, and the potential benefits of their satisfactory control since nature no longer imposes calamities such as famine for example. Technology gives us control, and therefore responsibility, of our destiny, and perhaps even that of all of the currently most elaborated forms of life, for better and for worse. Science has allowed us to tame nature.
Saint Exupery, The Little Prince, Chapter XXI: "Men have forgotten this truth, says the fox. But you must not forget it. You become forever responsible for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose ...
- I am responsible for my rose ... repeated the little prince, in order to remember. "

It is also important not to ignore the bias that leads the majority of us to overestimate the positive and altruistic nature of human relationships, that is to say, literally, to take our desires for realities. For example, we tend to give tolerance an unconditionally positive character. However, a sentence such as "everyone can have their own opinion" is in fact only a claim to the right to practice anti-science, which, as we will see in chapter 22, actually leads in the end to reverse effect, namely an exacerbation of 'us against them', and therefore of social violence. The only effective tolerance at this level is that which accepts to abandon an idea that we liked, as soon as it is contradicted by facts, and we will see in the next chapter concerning cognitive dissonance that this is far from being the most frequent behaviour. Secondly, tolerance is often only a simple strategy for optimizing generalized nepotism, namely a way of making more friends of circonstances, and therefore of developing one's personal network. Finally, tolerance is too often used as an excuse to dispense with opposing injustice or arbitrariness. In this regard, let us quote Cynthia Fleury in The End Of Courage: "Adaptation strategies are inevitable and signs of maturity, but they are also, alas, the surest path to acceptance and legitimization of the unacceptable. The adaptation of some makes the bed of abuse for others."

Let us also note that altruistic attitudes are rare in situations of intense struggle for social rank, whether they be management positions at work, or mandates in politics. In these environments, alliances are particularly fictitious and fragile. We therefore see that seeking to put in place mechanisms explicitly aimed at limiting the struggle for social rank is a way of promoting altruistic behavior, while denying, minimizing, even glorifying this instinct of struggle, is a way of avoiding the problem, with the consequences on the one hand of ultimately minimizing effective altruistic behavior, and on the other of promoting the emergence of toxic solidarities of the "us against them" type.
To understand that altruism flourishes badly in a hostile environment, we can refer to the book If Tis Is a Man / The Truce by Primo Levi.

Finally, it should be noted that for an alliance to be positive, it is not enough that it took place into benevolent mode. What prevails is the goal of this alliance, in other words: is it at the service of a project built with reason and in accordance with the collective interest? There is a tendency to attribute too much importance to the intention displayed at the expense of the content, and this is easily explained: the intention displayed, and the non-verbal attitude of the interlocutor are decoded instantly and effortlessly, whereas following one's reasoning requires a much greater cognitive effort. Most of the time, we just give in to ease and make the assumption that the form reflects the substance. Already in Antiquity, rhetoric used this weakness for the purpose of social advancement, but in the modern era, rapid techniques and means of communication made this bias so efficient, and therefore problematic, that it requires that the new social organization that we will propose also opposes specific resistance to altruistic presentations whose effective aims are not.

Let us now return for a moment to the question we had left open: do our benevolent social attitudes attest sincere altruism or a strategy of alliance. Note that from childhood, what is asked of a young pupil at school is not to love his master or his mistress, but to respect his authority. In other words, the fact that this eventually involves adopting a hypocritical attitude raises no problem. At this point, we are simply finding that the basis of education is not the development of sincere benevolent attitudes, but simply the containment of violence, possibly through hypocrisy. We all understand that hypocrisy consists in taking on oneself, in accumulating resentment, or hatred, which risks spilling out suddenly in the event of an overflow. In other words, our education system is optimized for the time where all is well, but in doing so aggravates the intensity of the paroxysmal violence. Is this a reasonable optimization of our nature?
We will see in the next chapter concerning cognitive dissonance, that our main objective will not be to directly fight against lying in social relations, because we have not found an efficient tool to discern the sincere from the simulated, but more to fight the lie to yourself. For this, it will suffice for us to understand that it is above all lies to oneself that prevents simple dialogue from resolving disputes. We will come back to this again in chapter 22, when setting moral rules.

Now remains a difficult task: to raise awareness of the major importance of what we formulated previously, namely that the misfortune of a group does not come so much from the malice of the leader as from the permanent struggle for social advancement. First, let's see why this question is so difficult to understand. Quite simply, because we have all been conditioned, on the one hand by the stories of our childhood, and on the other hand by the national narrative.
The stories of our childhood generally tell the confrontation between good and bad, and the story ends well, peace returns, if the good wins. In fact, we get into the habit of equating peace with a benevolent leader.
Regarding the national story, we are conditioned by the charter of human rights: men are born free and equal in rights, which is presented as an improvement compared to the Old Regime where birth assigned to everyone his social status. The underlying argument is that freedom is better than servitude. Admittedly, it is much more equitable, but the flip side is the exacerbation of the fight for social status, since the good places are to be conquered instead of being allocated at the start. This is what led some reactionaries to reject the French Revolution not so much to preserve their privileges, but by fear of the disorder that would result from this intensification of social struggles. Enlightenment thinkers have largely idealized the competition for social status, assuming that the qualities and courage of individuals would take precedence, whereas we have just seen that our instinct pushes us much more towards the game of alliances and the generalized nepotism which results. In fact, the objective of equal opportunities supported at the level of national education is constantly fought by the parents, who do everything to promote their offspring, for example by bypassing the French school card, and in all cases the system of alliances based on "us against them" regains the upper hand at the latest when entering the world of work.
Furthermore, what Marx has masterfully shown in The Capital is that once the privileges are abolished, servitude can in practice continue in the form of a social classes, if the social organization - the legislative system in the representation of Marx - does not sufficiently limit the appetites of the elites themselves organized as a class as opposed to deserving individuals. The "us against them" comes back in force in the form of class struggle, and at the beginning of the 21st century, of the common people's struggle against the elites.

As a conclusion, from the moment when we decide that humans are born free and equal in rights, it becomes necessary that the chosen system of social organization succeeds in: on the one hand limiting the effectiveness of the game of alliances for the conquest of social positions, in order to avoid exacerbating the "us against them" and the universal violence which results from it; on the other hand, to ensure that servitude does not reappear in the form of social classes which also generate violence of the "us against them" type, what Marx had called class struggle.

Generalized nepotism in the world of work

In the second part of this chapter, we will study how the objective of social advancement, and the general nepotism it produces at the collective level, is expressed in the world of work. For that, let us call upon the work of C. Northcote Parkinson, and more precisely his article Parkinson's Law published in 1955 in the review The Economist. Parkinson notes that, during the first half of the 20th century, the number of Royal Navy boats decreased considerably, while the number of personnel did not decrease in the same proportions, and that the number of managers even increased significantly.
Parkinson's finds the cause on two levels. On the one hand, when a person finds himself saturated with work, he is generally not just assisted by a second; he rather becomes the manager of a small department, so the supervision part increases. On the other hand, when a person lacks work, he tends to seek or invent new activities, generally of a bureaucratic nature, to maintain his position. In fact, the supervision of organizations tends to increase continuously over time, gradually reducing the ratio of work directly effective to total work, and therefore the productivity of the whole.
Then, like Marx, Parkinson seeks a rigorous formalism, this time in the form of a formula making it possible to predict the staff number increase over time. As in the case of Marx, it is not this formal aspect that is the most interesting, but rather the analysis of the causes of the problem observed, namely the continuous inflation of staff in the administration. In terms of methodological rigor, Parkinson has the same requirements and the same limits as Marx: he does not just observe and denounce. He analyzes the causes, the mechanics that produce this. However, he does not offer a solution to remedy it.

Nowadays, the effect of Parkinson's law is denounced in the books and articles devoted to "Bullshit jobs", but the interpretation has become ideological, taking the form of an intention of alienation of workers by capital, whereas we see in it only an effect of our genetic heritage expressed in a capitalist environment. The development of this point is reported in Chapter 19 about world trade.

By bringing Parkinson's work closer to the notion of generalized nepotism that we have just exposed, we discover that what Parkinson notes and quantifies is the long-term effect of the struggle for social rank, in an environment where strong social conventions are enough to stop direct manifestations of violence. However, the effect he sees is more or less the progressive suffocation of the organization under the weight of bureaucracy.

Parkinson's works have been too little exposed to the general public, and above all their disregard is the source of the biggest political error from the 1980s, namely ultra-liberalism.
Milton Friedman notes, like C. Northcote Parkinson, the continual inflation of the administration staff during the glorious 30s, and deduces that the problem is inherent in the concept of administration, and therefore that the solution is widespread privatization. However, Parkinson's work, then those synthesized by Meyer and Rowan that we will analyze in the next chapter allow us to understand that private companies are also subject to progressive inflation of the staff numbers, at the same level, namely management, and for same reasons, namely the objective of social advancement of individuals. What is supposed to protect private companies from this drift is competition. Again, Meyer and Rowan explain why it doesn't work. Companies standardize their practices for the sake of credibility with their investors, customers and employees. In addition, once a certain size has passed, the elimination of the least productive companies, called creative destruction in capitalist jargon, more or less stops because the community decides to save them to avoid the domino effect on subcontracting and other interdependencies.
On the other hand, once one massively privatizes, the problem, already denounced by Marx, of progress which is not put at the service of all, is worsen, in particular because economic instability and job insecurity increase. Indeed, in the long term, growth is not accelerated by ultra-liberalism. The exceptional growth observed in Western countries during the 19th and 20th centuries is the product of technical progress, which itself is the result of the application of the scientific method. The economic system only plays to the extent that an overly ideological system can hinder this growth, for example in the case of communism in the USSR. What worked best during this period was social democracy as advocated by Marx in The Capital. Conversely, ultra-liberalism, that is to say the market freed from all hindrance, has shown that it generates excitement which is inevitably followed by collapses, whether it be the Great Depression of 1929 or the Lehman Brothers case in 2008, so the alleged gain does not exist over time. Said learnedly, the market does not have an endogenous regulatory mechanism. On the other hand, ultra-liberalism does indeed amplify the first criticism formulated by Marx with regard to capitalism, namely the imbalance in the relationship between employer and employee, which has the effect of soaring inequalities. In the end, the net effect of ultra-liberalism is not better growth in the long term, but an increase in inequality.

The Lean manufacturing, as described in The Machine That Changed the World by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, Daniel Roos, and Donna Sammons Carpenter, on the other hand, provides a real answer to the problem raised by Parkinson.
The Lean is a reaction movement against Fordism. Fordism is the continuation of what Marx describes in The Capital: industrialization leads to a shift in the demand for labor from skilled craftsmen to workers performing repetitive work that can be mastered without specific training. These workers do all that the machines cannot do yet, then are replaced by machines, and literally thrown away to the street. Alongside this very socially disadvantaged working class, a more privileged class, management and engineers, is gradually developing. Marx already evokes it in The Capital, in a single line. With Fordism, the duality miserable working class versus outside production class, becomes central, and contradicts the class struggle as envisaged by Marx. Indeed, the major objective of individuals becomes to move from the working class to that of management and not to overthrow the system or to fight collectively as advocated by Marx. This development will produce what is called 'the middle classes'. We therefore arrive at what Parkinson describes. This is where the Lean comes in, by revaluing the working class, both in terms of remuneration, training and accountability, with the double effect of limiting the workforce outside production identified by Parkinson, therefore ultimately leading to a better productivity, and better quality products, because those who produce them know what they are doing throughout the production chain, while a Fordist organization is content with external controls often at the end of the chain. The spearhead of The Lean was the Toyota organization which at the turn of the century produced the most reliable cars in the world.
But the Lean is not solely a response to the problems of Parkinson and Marx. It involves three other changes. The first is the financing of companies by banks that are more or less integrated into large industrial groups, and therefore capable of working over a longer period. The second is the overhaul of the customer / supplier relationship (B to B), with cross shareholdings, cross audits, and a balance which is established as a fair distribution of efforts and profits, whereas a Fordist system establishes balance on the basis of a power relationship. The third is the overhaul of the producer-consumer relationship (B to C), with the effect of greater loyalty from a customer who is less interested in the good deal, and the global effect of a greater stability of the economy, which in turn ensures another pillar of the Lean social contract, namely lifetime employment.
This brings us to the problem raised by the Lean: it is a global system of organization of production, which supposes cultural elements that where present in Japan during the second half of the 20th century. However, its transposition in the West has been reduced to a simple optimization of the production processes, therefore one more tool in the service of ultra-liberalism. More precisely, the perverse effect of this distorted application is increased pressure on operational staff, without limiting inflation of the management staff and the associated bureaucracy, therefore a system that is ultimately counterproductive vis-à-vis the issues raised by Marx and Parkinson, with the net effect of just another increase in inequality.

As a summary, Parkinson provides us with the tool to understand that when state services no longer seem to live up to their operating cost, the solution is not to reduce the scope of public services by privatizing and by liberalizing, nor by imposing austerity in a purely macro-economic logic, but rather by strengthening the fight against inflation in non-directly productive jobs.
In addition, this chapter has taught us something more surprising, namely that the bureaucracy of the state on the one hand, and racism or nationalism on the other, have the same origin which is the struggle of individuals for their social ascent, which leads on the one hand to the proliferation of hierarchical levels, and on the other to the exacerbation of behaviors of the "us against them" type.

One last remark to better understand the importance of the Parkinson's article. The motivation he puts forward to move from production to management is social prestige. He is absolutely right, and we have just seen that this is linked to our genetic heritage. In other words, the majority of individuals instinctively appreciate their professional value as linked to the size of the pyramid of people under their orders.
The most telling illustration, because the most extreme, and therefore the most shocking, is the salary of the bosses of large companies. In old industrial sectors such as the automobile, the end result of the company is much more the sum of the additional efforts and the restrictions of remuneration granted by the low end employees and the subcontractors than the effect of the brilliant decisions of the boss. However, the boss does not find it shocking to perceive an incredible remuneration, when compuring the hourly rate it corresponds to. The explanation is that his assessment is in fact based on the size of the social pyramid which he occupies the top, and not on an assessment of his individual productivity. On the other hand, outside observers who are not themselves at the top of a social pyramid, possibly more modest, could make the same assessment, and therefore find all this normal, since they have the same genetic heritage. However, they are shocked, which shows that, as we mentioned in chapter 1, trust in social organization is, on the other hand, linked to the evaluation of one's ability to share progress with everyone, that is to say, in large part to its capacity to produce a certain social justice.
This shows us that the motivation to stop doing it yourself is extremely strong, so fighting against Parkinson's law is very difficult, and yet absolutely necessary to ensure social cohesion. In the next chapter, we will see how it all translates to the level of individual psychology.

[During a first reading, for more clarity concerning the overall vision, you can jump directly to chapter 3.]

A derived theory : transactional analysis

Transactional analysis is largely the result of the observation, and classification, of the effects of generalized nepotism, without however discovering the origin of the phenomenon, namely generalized nepotism, and more precisely the struggle for social rank.
Indeed, at the level of the three ego states, the 'parent' state can be interpreted as the protocol of revalidation of the social hierarchy, exactly like the monkey of higher rank who waits for the grin of the monkey of lower rank indicating his acceptance of the established hierarchy. The 'adult' state corresponds to the rational formulation, without reference to social rank. Finally, the 'child' state in response to a 'parent' state corresponds to the refusal to validate the social hierarchy.

Alternative expressions of social ambition

There are two alternative forms of expression of social ambition.
The first is membership in a group advocating an ideal. One could cite as examples Freemasonry, the Rotary Club, extreme political parties or any religious movement, while making it clear that this in no way implies an equivalence between these different organizations. What they have in common are values ​​presented as higher than what is described as the common standard. The big problem with this form of elitism, as opposed to the artistic expression that we will see right after, is twofold.
On the one hand, it favors lying to oneself, therefore does not conform to the morality that we will suggest in chapter 22. Indeed, the more the group wants to be elitist, the more its unity supposes a form of doctrinal purity which implies an allegiance to the group's values, and more broadly to all the associated mythical beliefs concerning the nature of humanity, of society, of what is natural or not. In fact, the individual has no alternative but to end up lying to himself to conform without experiencing too much cognitive dissonance, or to be ultimately rejected from the group, with more or less thoughtfullness depending on the culture and practices of the group under consideration. The higher the cultural level of the group, the more the discourse put in place to support mythical beliefs will be developed, the tolerance displayed, and the practices refined, so the lie to oneself will be facilitated. However, the purpose and effect of the overall mechanics remains the same.
On the other hand, this form of elitism naturally promotes nepotism and its consequence of "us against them". This is all the more problematic since the elitist, altruistic or moral dimension will be used to justify the associated violence: "It's for a good cause!" "
Religious wars are only the most violent expression of these two factors combined.
This leads us to be extremely reserved concerning any form of group ideal as soon as the group advocates defined values, that is to say something other than submission to the facts and to the scientific method as a way of apprehending them. Refer to chapter 22 to understand what we mean by "scientific method".

The second alternative form of expression of social ambition is art in the general sense.
We first define as art in the general sense any personal aesthetic construction, which includes not only the initial forms such as painting or sculpture, but also more abstract forms such as the mathematical theories of Alexander Grothendieck.
Then, we define sublimation as the expression of an instinct, that is to say of a part of our inheritance linked to evolution, in a transformed maner which makes it possible to avoid a certain number of harmful consequences related to its direct expression.
Once these definitions are posed, we can present art in the general sense as the possibility of a sublimated version of social ambition.
The great interest of this sublimated form is that the individual no longer seeks support solely by the power of the group to which he pledges allegiance, but also by the power of his personal creation. We can therefore see art as one or even 'the' individualistic form of social ambition. From our point of view, this makes it the most completed version. Indeed, the individual is no longer exclusively subject to allegiance to group values, which involves lying to oneself.
In addition, the individualism linked to this form also prevents the vital energy from translating into generalized nepotism, "us against them", and ultimately permanent violence. Unfortunately, this currently only concerns a minority of individuals who decide to pursue a career in art in the general sense, or simply with art, and that does not prevent a certain violence linked to "the originality of my creation against that from everyone else. "
However, a big question about art in the general sense, which we do not know how to answer, remains: do all individuals have significant artistic capacities in the general sense, which are just waiting to be developed, or is Is this only a donation that concerns only a minority?