The unraveling of social cohesion has effects. Once social cohesion unwinds, the nation unwinds.
My current posts have concentrated on the systemic monetary threats created by Federal Reserve policies that have elevated ethical threat (risks can be taken without effect) and speculation to levels so severe that they threaten the stability of the entire monetary system.
These threats are well known, though mainly neglected in the current speculative frenzy.
However there is another systemic risk which few if any see: the collapse of social cohesion.
President Carter was prescient in his understanding that a nation’s biggest strength is its social cohesion, a cohesion that America’s unmatched wealth/ income/ power inequalities has actually weakened. Consider this excerpt from his 1981 Farewell Address:
“Our typical vision of a totally free and just society is our greatest source of cohesion in the house and strength abroad, greater even than the bounty of our product blessings.”
Simply put, a country’s strength streams not just from its material wealth but from its social cohesion— a term for something that is intangible however very real, something that does not lend itself to quantification or neat meanings.
Here is my meaning: Social cohesion is the glue binding the social order; it is the determination of the citizenry to compromise private gains for the common good.
Social cohesion is the outcome of the citizenry sharing a typical purpose and identity and working toward the common excellent even at personal expense. Social cohesion emerges from a national identity based on shared worths and sacrifices.
To keep social cohesion, opportunities to much better their circumstances must be open to all (the social agreement of social movement) and sacrifices must be shared by the entire citizenry. If the privileged elites evade their share of sacrifice, social cohesion is lost and the whole social order unwinds.
The glue binding the fortunate elites to shared sacrifice is civic virtue, a values that demands elites commit a greater share of their own resources to the public great in exchange for their political and financial power.
Though nobody dares admit this openly, America is now an ethical cesspool. As an outcome, the moral legitimacy of the nation’s management has been lost. Every nook and cranny of institutionalized America is controlled by self-interest, and much of the economy is controlled by profiteering monopolies and cartels which wield far more political power than the citizenry.
Civic virtue has actually been lost. What stays is elite self-interest masquerading as civic virtue.
In his Farewell Address, President Carter described that “The nationwide interest is not always the amount of all our single or unique interests. We are all Americans together, and we should not forget that the typical good is our common interest and our private duty.”
Social cohesion, civic virtue and moral legitimacy are the foundation of every society, but they are especially important in composite states.
America is a composite state, made up of people holding a large range of local, ethnic, religious and class-based identities. The national identity is only one active ingredient in a bubbling stew of regional, state and local identities, ethnic, cultural and spiritual identities, educational/alumni, expert and tradecraft identities, and elusive however consequential class-based identities.
Composite states are fundamentally harder to rule, as there is no ethnic or cultural identity that merges the people. Lacking a national identity that supersedes all other identities, composite states should tread thoroughly to prevent fracturing into completing regional, ethnic or cultural identities.
Composite states should develop a purpose-based identity that is comprehended to demand shared sacrifice, specifically in crisis. In the U.S., the national purpose has been redefined by the needs of the period, however never ever wandering off too far from these core unifying objectives: protecting the civil liberties of the citizenry from state interference, defending the nation from external aggressors, and serving the common good by limiting the power of special interests and privileged elites.
We have actually failed to limit the power of fortunate elites, stopped working to require higher sacrifices of the wealthy in exchange for power, and so the moral legitimacy of the regime has been lost. And with the ascendance of self-interest and the elite’s desertion of sacrifice, social cohesion has been lost.
This loss is reflected in the bitter partisanship, the increasingly Orwellian tries to control the mainstream and social media narratives, the debauchery of “proficiency” as dueling “experts” vie for control, the fraying of social discourse, the substitution of virtue-signaling for actual civic virtue, the institutionalization of white-collar crime (collusion, scams, embezzlement, etc.), the increasing dependence on Bread and Circuses (stimulus, Universal Basic Income) as genuine opportunity dissipates, and the unpleasant rise in shootings, criminal activity, random violence and plummeting marital relationship and birth rates.
The unraveling of social cohesion has repercussions. As soon as social cohesion unwinds, the nation unwinds.
What’s the service? At the national level, all that has been lost will have to be restored: civic virtue, ethical authenticity, the social agreement of chance, shared sacrifice that falls most greatly on the most affluent and most effective, and a renewed nationwide purpose fixated serving the typical good.
Is such a restoration of moral legitimacy and shared function even possible? No one understands. If history is any guide, such a renewal is only possible after the empire of widespread self-interest implodes.
So what do we carry out in the meantime? Support our own social cohesion by living actively and sharing sacrifices and bounties with those we trust and appreciate– those in the lifeboat we picked to sign up with.
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