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Communities

This weekend, I've been reading Raghuram Rajan's book from earlier this year, The Third Pillar, which explores the role communities play along with the State and the Market in socio-economics.

I've personally lived in various communities, spanning different countries and regions, and a lot of the theory on communities that he puts across in the book makes perfect sense as I've lived through many of the example scenarios that he talks about in the book.

As humans, we first evolved to live in communities because it was safer that way. It was easier to defend against threats (predators) when living in communities and it was easier to hunt in groups. So, the first order was communities and then came the State (governments, social hierarchies, etc) and the Market (trading both within and with other tribes).

However, in recent times, we have grown so vast in population and yet so intertwined that the State and the Market have taken on a much more dominant position as compared to the communities. And the book explores why that came about and what to do about it.

Economic policy aside, communities play a vital role in shaping who we are. At the core, we learn to value our own existence through the eyes of the communities we are part of. Stripped of all community, we are just a cog in the large Market machine stripped of all personality. Communities are what add perspective to our lives and help us make who we are.

Today, we are no longer restricted by geography in terms of what communities we want to belong to. For a long time, that hasn't been the case. This has given us such a wide variety of options to choose from that it has practically reduced the effectiveness of communities.

The essence of communities when we had little choice over what communities we belonged to was that we would always take a longer term perspective because we knew we would have to be a part of this community forever and taking shortcuts at the expense of someone in the community (like cheating or treating them badly) was detrimental.

However, with such a huge choice of communities to be part of, we often fall into the trap of thinking it is alright to take such shortcuts. Because, if we are ostracised from one community, there is always another that we can be a part of.

Tinder (and other apps) have done the same for relationships.

We have come to think that choice and variety are inherently good. But, as we can see with communities, that isn't always the case.

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