Some Thoughts about Social Inertia

I am a proponent of the view that we can observe analogs to various physical phenomena within the realm of the social and human sciences.  After all, matter is merely a statistically treatable aggregation of atoms in association, and societies are statistically treatable aggregations of human beings in association.  Thus, it stands to reason that many of the phenomena we observe in the physical realm would find cognates in the social arena.  While this notion may sound rather fantastical to some, let us keep in mind that this approach has already proven fruitful for the advancement of human knowledge through the application, for instance, of principles from chaos-complexity theory (e.g. non-linearity and emergent behaviours) into social sciences such as economics, political science, and historical information science.  Likewise, there are many intersection points between discussions about “social thermodynamics” and many alt-Right and neoreactionary themes.  Below, I’d like to discuss some ideas I’ve been having about “social inertia” and how it can apply to our current social and political situations.

The principle of inertia is a well-known property of mass which was expressed in Newton’s First Law of Motion, and is often defined as “an object at rest tends to stay at rest or an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force.”  Inertia is an expression of the tendency of matter to remain in its current disposition with respect to motion – if it’s sitting still, it stays sitting still unless a force is applied to it.  If an object is in motion it will stay moving unless stopped (or sped up even more) by an outside force.

What’s important to keep in mind about inertia is that it is NOT describing any resistance of mass to velocity, in and of itself.  Inertia says nothing about mass “wanting to be at rest.”  What is being quantified when we discuss inertia is not velocity, but rather acceleration.  By “acceleration,” I mean the physics definition, which describes any change in the velocity of an object, whether to speed it up or to slow it down (i.e. what we colloquially think of as “deceleration” is acceleration in physical terms).  Likewise, we should understand that because velocity is a vector quantity (meaning it has both magnitude and direction), acceleration is also a vector quantity.  Acceleration can involve a change in an object’s speed, or a change in its direction, or both.

As noted above, inertia is an intrinsic property of mass.  Because of this, inertia ties into Newton’s Second Law, which essentially boils down to the well-known equation F=ma.  When a force is applied to a mass, the mass is accelerated.  This acceleration is directly proportional to and occurs in the direction of the force applied, and the amount of force which must be applied to achieve a certain acceleration depends on the mass of the object.  Because we can restate this equation as F/m = a, it follows that the larger the mass, the smaller the acceleration which occurs for any given force being applied.

Now, it is generally accepted that any physical object – a mass – can be viewed as an aggregation of material points (i.e. atoms) which act together as they are held together in aggregate (this includes gases and liquids as well as solids).  Each point mass is itself an inertial body – because it has mass, it also has inertia – and when inertial bodies are aggregated together, their inertial mass is aggregate as well.  Mass is a sum of parts, so inertia is expressed through that sum of parts.

Now enters the concept of “social inertia.”  This is often defined as the tendency of relationships within social groups or societies to be resistant to changes.  This definition can be useful from the standpoint of looking at the interactions between individual members within a society, especially if we look at a society as what Pierre Bourdieu called “the social topography” in which,

“…the social world can be represented as a space (with several dimensions) constructed on the basis of principles of differentiation or distribution constituted by the set of properties active within the social universe in question, i.e., capable of conferring strength, power within that universe, on their holder. Agents and groups of agents are thus defined by their relative positions within that space. Each of them is assigned to a position or a precise class of neighboring positions (i.e., a particular region in this space) and one cannot really even if one can in thought – occupy two opposite regions of the space. Inasmuch as the properties selected to construct this space are active properties, one can also describe it as a field of forces, i.e., as a set of objective power relations that impose themselves on all who enter the field and that are irreducible to the intentions of the individual agents or even to the direct interactions among the agent.”

Hence, society is a “field” of interactions between contiguous members which are made on a day to day basis.  Each of these members has a set of inputs – family, friends, religious affiliation, education, political parties, etc. – which gradually mold the outlook of the member and causes the member to more or less solidify into a mental framework in which (as Bourdieu said) he will “…accept the social world as it is, to take it for granted, rather than to rebel against it, to counterpose to it different, even antagonistic, possibles.”  Just as an object with mass is an aggregation of point masses interacting with each other through various means (covalent bonding, electrostatic forces, dipole-dipole interactions, etc.), so a society is an aggregation of individuals interacting with each other through various mediative structures existing within that society.  And like a point mass, each of these individuals will resist being accelerated by a force.

We can create a more macroscale definition of social inertia, however, which defines the way a society as a whole acts, without reference to the relationships of its constituents, or perhaps we can think of it as the inertia of society being the sum of the inertia of all the parts, the interactions and feedback we all have with our “social inputs” on a daily basis.  Social inertia can be thought of as “the tendency of a society to resist accelerative changes to its current trajectory.”  This definition assumes, of course, that no society is ever completely and entirely static, which I believe to be well-founded from a study of history.

It is often said that “politics is downstream from culture.”  The reason for this is social inertia.  We need to understand that unlike with a physical system, when a force is applied to a social mass, the result is not instantaneous.  If you strike a billiard ball with a cue stick, the transfer of momentum is immediate, and the ball accelerates with a velocity (speed plus direction) defined by the force applied through the stick.  The ball does not sit there for a couple of seconds and then begin to move – the effect occurs instantly.  The same, however, cannot be said for societies and the social changes which occur as a result of the actions of “change agents” acting on those societies.

Forces which act to accelerate either the speed or the direction of a society’s evolution, while they may arise from within that society, always act on that society from a de facto outside position.  Again, a billiard ball does not begin to roll of its own accord due to some force arising from within it.  Force must be applied from outside, and in a social context, this force is applied by change agents as they set themselves outside of the conceptual space currently accepted within that society and begin to apply their force to the social body.

This leads to a certain deceptiveness which attaches itself to social inertia.  Because the results of the actions of change agents applying a force to the social mass are not instantaneous, many within a society may fool themselves into believing that the change agents are ineffective.  We have seen this occur many times in recent history.  Within American society, the failed presidential campaign of the the libertarian Republican Barry Goldwater was widely hailed at the time as a complete repudiation of Goldwater’s then-radical view of individualism and laissez-faire capitalism, in contradistinction to the New Deal’s extensive socialism and state control of production.  Yet, two decades later we saw the administration of Ronald Reagan, followed by the rise of the Gingrich Congress, both of which succeeded in implementing at least part of the economically libertarian agenda.  This happened because the intervening two decades saw a swing away from socialism and towards this sort of soft libertarianism on the part of those who were swayed by the change agents of the 1960s and 1970s who advocated for it.  It took time, but the force applied overcame enough of the social inertia in society so as to alter the trajectory of American culture into more libertarian directions.  What people in the early 1960s thought would never happen ended up becoming reality in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, during this period when libertarianism was in vogue, there were movements (political correctness, neo-liberalism, neo-conservative interventionism, queer theorisation, etc.) within academia, government, and popular culture which were already exerting a force on American society to move us in yet another direction, and which bore fruit partially during the administration of George W. Bush, with its wars for democracy in the Middle East, and then more fully during the present administration, and indeed has been increasing in velocity as more and more “transformative” force is applied.  Popularly people in the 1990s made fun of political correctness – jokes were made about fat people being “gravitationally challenged” and Afrocentrism was viewed as the harmless diversion of a handful of cranks.  Nobody back then even conceived that homosexuals would be allowed to “marry.”

And yet, here we are today.  Society changed because of change agents who were initially thought nugatory and unsuccessful, but yet who continued to apply their force to the social body and got it moving in the direction they wanted it to go.

A conclusion we should draw from this, however, is a positive one for the alt-Right.  As many on the alt-Right, such as Roosh, have observed, the real fault line in Western politics is not left versus right, but is globalism versus nationalism.  Yet, many in tradition and neoreaction seem to grow discouraged that so few people – whether left-wingers or cuckservatives – appear to get this point or to understand its significance.  There remains the very real possibility that Donald Trump – the current electoral standardbearer of alt-Right themes relating to globalism, nationalism, trade patriotism, and immigration – will not win the presidency in November.  If that occurs, the mass of the Cathedral’s priestly mouthpieces will be sure to declare the alt-Right dead and its concerns as now irrelevant.  Yet, the very fact that the alt-Right is even a factor – that it is challenging both the inertial lassitude of the “True Conservative” Right as well as the inertial alacrity of the SJW Left – shows that its change agents are beginning to have an effect on the velocity (both speed and direction) of our societies in the West.

Let us remember that acceleration occurs as a result of the sum of all the forces exerted on a body.  These forces do not all have to be acting in the same direction.  The final acceleration which occurs is the result of the cancellation of weaker forces and the application of the leftover force of the stronger.  There is an anger in the West over the current actions by the SJW Left – a reaction to the open borders destruction of our traditional societies, the physical harm done by Muslim “refugees” in their host countries, the increasing arrogance and oppression of the political correctness regime.  This anger can be channeled as a force to be used by alt-Right change agents to move society in the direction we want it to go – and we should not be ashamed of the fact that we’re riding on the anger of large parts of the social mass.  It may take some time – and unfortunately time may not be something we have much of before the social body collapses in on itself – but a consistent application of alt-Right force in ways which neutralise the rhetorical devices of the SJW Left and which expose the Left to criticisms and the open demonstration of its hypocrisies will overcome the force that the Left continues to apply, and will result in a movement in our preferred direction.  We should not be dismayed by the deceptiveness of the social inertia which exists right now.  Apply the force, be the change, and see the movement.

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4 thoughts on “Some Thoughts about Social Inertia

  1. The idea of delayed effects in the course of change is a very interesting one. I think you can see it in fields of endeavour other than politics as well, e.g. in music new sounds will initially emerge in obscure underground scenes and then suddenly explode into the mainstream a few years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Exactly DS. Because the inertia is social, it transcends mere politics and affects every area of social life and interaction.

    Like

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