P.163 Adaptive Structure and Its Disorders

ization among the levels of the world system would serve well the world system as a whole.

  Another class of maladaptations combines with those discussed so far. The basic form has elsewhere been called usurpation, escalation, and overspecification (Flannery 1972; Rappaport 1969, 1976a, 1977a). I speak here of special-purpose subsystems coming to dominate the larger, general-purpose systems of which they are parts. When particular individuals become identified with special-purpose systems they tend to identify the special purposes of those subsystems with their own general purposes; that is, with their own survival and betterment. Their own general purposes become highly specialized, and they attempt to promote these purposes to position of predominance in the larger systems of which they are parts. As they become increasingly powerful, they are increasingly able to succeed. Needless to say, power is not equally distributed among the various components of highly differentiated "developed" societies such as our own, but is, rather, concentrated in their industrial and financial sectors. These sectors are frequently able to dominate the agencies charged with regulating them, and the logical end is for the interests of groups of industrial firms, financial institutions, and related military establishments to come to dominate the societies of which they are merely specialized parts. This eventuality is nicely summed up in the phrase "What's good for General Motors is good for America." But no matter how public-spirited or benign General Motors might be, what is good for it cannot in the long run be good for America. For a society like the United States to commit itself to what may be good for one of its special-purpose subsystems, such as General Motors, or even the entire set of industries devoted to the manufacture, maintenance, and operation of automobiles, is for it to overspecify or narrow the range of conditions under which it can persist-- that is, it reduces its evolutionary flexibility.
  Loss of evolutionary flexibility is disguised by what seem to be the characteristics of progress, and is therefore difficult to discern. Other more obvious concomitants of the elevation of low-order goals and values to positions of predominance in higher-order systems may be related to loss of flexibility, but have other implications as well. First, as industrial subsystems become increasingly large and powerful, the quality or utility of their products, or both, are likely to deteriorate, for the subsystem's contribution to the society becomes less its product and more its mere operation, providing wages to some, profits to others, and a market for yet others. Arms, which are both expensive and immediately obsolete, and automobiles into which obsolescence is built, are ideal products, and there is nothing wrong with products that serve no useful purpose whatsoever.
The product tends to become a by- or even waste product

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of what might be called the "industrial metabolism" which is, ultimately, simply the operation of machines. Neither competition nor an independtly established demand serves to regulate or limit "industrial metabolism" effectively because large industries are usually not very competitive and they can exercise considerable control over the demand to which they are supposed to be subject.
  Second and more serious, with the escalation of low-order goals to dominating positions in society, it becomes increasingly possible for ancient and complex systems, particularly ecological systems, to be disrupted by ever smaller groups with ever more narrowly defined interests. For instance, there is some evidence to support the the contention that certain fluorocarbons used in propellants in spray cans dispensing shaving cream, deoderants, and the like are desroying atmospheric ozone that shields life from lethal intensities of ultraviolet radiation. Yet these aerosols are still manufacturecd and sold. That the putative effects ot these chemicals upon the atmosphere have not yet been "proven" hardly justifies their continued use, given the trivial nature of their advantages and the catastrophic nature of the risks their use may entail. We note in this and many other instances--the clear-cutting of forests in areas in which they are unlikely to regenerate, offshore oil drilling in unstable geological zones, the dumping of undegradable poisons into fresh waters-- the violation of orderly time relations, relations of contingency, and relations between the instrumental and the fundamental. Short-run, narrow, and instrumental interests have usurped the places of, or subordinated, long-run, general, and fundamental needs and values. These instances suggest that the the facilitaion of disruption for the sake of narrowly defined special interests is not the whole of the ecological or indeed human problem following from the promotion of the low order goals of industrialized subsystems to to predominant poisions in societies. The ultimate consequence is not merely that the short-run interests ofa few poweful men or institutins come to prevail, but that the "interests of machines--which even powerful men serve, become dominant. Needless to say, the interests of machines and organisms do not coincide. They do not have the same needs for pure air or water, and being blind and deaf, machines have no, need for quiet or for landscapes that refresh the eye. Whereas organisms have need of uncounted numbers of subtle compounds, the needs of machines are few, simple, and voracious. It is in accordance with the logic of a world dominated by machines to rip the tops off complex systems like West Virginia and Colorado to extract a single substance, coal.
Usurpation is, in formal terms, to be regarded as all anomaly in the structure of values. It is an error of logical typing: short-term instrumental goals of high specificity are elevated to the status of enduring

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fundamental principles. Their predominance becomes more encompassing than their specificity warrants and, as a consequence, regulation comes to maintain the trivial at the possible expense of the necessary. That is, under such circumstances it is likely that reference values-- the values around which the system equilibrates itself or, to, put it differently, the values the truth of which is cybernetically maintained--will be set outside of goal ranges, the ranges, of conditions under which the system remains viable.
  I have been emphasizing the material effects of this logical-moral-adaptive aberation, having discussed elsewhere (in slightly different terms) the dissolution of meaning and meaningfulness entailed by it (see "On Cognizcd Models"). Two points should be made here in this regard, however, First, to observe that as a consequence of this anomaly the trivial is maintained at the expense ofthe necessary or fundamental is not only to point to the preservation of spray cans at the expense of atmospheric ozone, but to the preservation of interests at the expense of principles. It is as much a statement about the processes of meaning as it is about the state of the biosphere.
  Finally, there is the degradation of sanctity itself. As the material goals of lower-order systems usurp the places properly belonging to values of greater generality, they may lay claim to their sanctity. What is highly sanctified is resistant to change, and to oversanctiiy the specifie and material is to reluce adaptive flexibility. It is of interest that the theoIogian Paul Tillich (1957: II , called the absolutizing of the relative and the relativizing of the absolute "idolatry" and took it to be an evil. I am proposing that it is maladaptive, but it may be that in this instance, at least, the two coincide. The social effect of what we, following Tillich, may call "idolatry" are, of course, not limited to the reduction of adaptive flexibility. At least as serious is the degradation of basic values, not usually through their explicit replacement by those of lower order, but by their confation with them. The pursuit of "happiness," a term which in the eighteenth century seems to have denoted felicity, becomes the pursuit of pleasure and the accumulation of gods. Liberty becomes little more than the right to serve oneself. Materialism and selfishness become honored as highest ideals. We hardly need dwell upon the unacceptable demands that the sanctification of these values makes upon undeveloped countries and upon ecosystems, for they are obvious.


Earlier I suggested that what we take to be substantive problems-ecological problems, problems of poverty, oppression, imperialism, and others that we might name--are social and material consequences of

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structural anomaly. It may now be suggested, however, that structural anomaly and material problems stand in relationships of mutual causation. Moreover, the brief account I have offered of maladaptive forms and some of the substantive difficulties associated with them implies that maladaptive trends are nourished by, or may even inhere in, cultural evolution itself. In the world of events cause is seldom simple, and I can do no more, at the end, than to discuss, brieily and tentatively, a few of the evolutionary advances that seem to have contributed both to the structural deformities I have called maladaptations and to the material problems associated with them.
  Some suggestions have already been made about increases in the amounts of energy captured. It is important to keep in mind, however, that energy capture has sometimes been taken to be the metric of cultural evolution. Over a quarter ofa century ago, Leslie White, following Ostwald, proclaiamed what he called "The Basic Law of Cultural Evolution" as follows:

Other factors remaining constant, culture evolves as the amount of energy harvested per capita per year is increased, or as the effciency of the instrumental means of putting energy to work is increased. [1949: 368-369]
   There can be no denying the first clause of this formulation. Large technologically developed states appearing late in history surely do harness more energy per capita per day or year than do the small "primitive" societies which appeared earlier. One recent estimate would place daily energy consumption in the contemporary United Stares at 230,000 kilocalories, and in hunting and gathering societies as 2,000 - 3,000 (Cook 1971).
  The contemporary United States has a population of 200,000,000 people; the bushman band seldom include more than a score or two of people; and increases in energy capture have made possible much larger and more sedentary social systems. But some, if not all, of the maladaptive trends I have suggested here are related to increased scale. Moreover, high-energy technology itself frees those operating in local ecosystems from the limits imposed upon them by the need to derive energy from the contemporary biological processes of those systems. Gasoline, pipelines, high-voltage electrical transmission permit virtually unlimited amounts of energy to be focused upon very small systems, and the ecological disruption of those systems can be tolerarated --at least for a time-- because of the increased specialization of other local systems. I have argued, however, that in the long run the increasing specialization of larger and larger regions --itself made possible by a technology that provides means for moving even bulky commodities

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long distances inexpensively, and for transmitting information long distances instantaneously--is unstable.
   The increasing specialization of increasingly large geographical regions is simply one aspect of increasing internal differentiation of social systems. Progressive segregation and progressive centralization were, of course, encouraged by the emergence of plant and animal cultivation ten thousand or so years ago, for plant and animal cultivation provided significant opportunitics for full-time division of labor. By 4000 H.C., if not earlier, subsistence, craft, religious, and administrative specialitation was well developed. But the emergence of high-energy technology based upon fossil fuels has accelerated and exaggerated this trend and the maladaptations associated with it. These include not only oversegregatron and overcentralization, with their concomitants of ecological instability and hypercoherence; high-energy technology is differentially distributed among the subsystems of societies and it permits or encourages the promotion of the special purposes of the more powerful to positions of greater dominance in systems of higher order than their degree of specialization warrants.
   High-energy technology is, of course, not alone in impelling maladaptive trends. All-purpose money has also played a part. In addition to its obvious contribution to the concentration of real wealth and regulatory prerogative, it flows through virtually all barriers, increasing the coherence of the world system enormously. Its ability to penetrate whatever barriers may have protected previously autonomous systems against outside disruption rests upon its most peculiar and interesting property:   it annihilates distinctions. It tends to dissolve the differences between all things by providing a simple metric against which virtually all things can be assessed, and in terms of which decisions concerning them can be made. But the world upon which this metric is imposed is not as simple as this metric. Living systems--plants, animals, societies, ecosystems-- are very diverse and each requires a great variety of particular materials to remain healthy. Monetization, however, forces the great ranges of unique and distinct materials and processes that together sustain or even constitute life into an arbitrary and specious equivalence and decisions informed by these terms are likely to simplify, that is, to degredate and to disrupt, the ecological systems in which they are effective. Needless to say the application of large amounts of mindless energy under the guidance of the simplified or even simple-minded and often selfish considerations that all-purpose money makes virtually omnipotent and, when united with a capitalist ideology, even sacred, is in its nature stupid, brutal, and almost bound to be destructive.
   With increases in the amounts of energy harnessed, with increases in

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the internal differentiation of social systems, with the monetization of even larger portions of life, the contradiction between the direction of cultural evolution on the one hand and the maintenance of living processes, both meaningful and material, has become increasingly profound. We are led to ask whether civilization, the elaborate stage of culture with which are associated money and banking, high-energy technology, and social stratification and specialization, is not maladaptive. It is, after all, in civilized societies that we can observe most clearly oversegregation, overcentralization, oversanctification, hypercoherence, the domination of higher- by lower-order systems, and the destruction of ecosystems. Civilization has emerged only recently--in the past six thousand or so years--and it may yet prove to be an unsuccessful experiment.
   What are taken to be evolutionary advances institutionalize new contradictions and set new problems as they solve or resolve older problems or overcome earlier limitations, and social systems may eventually become paralyzed by accumulating structural anomalies at the same time that they are increasingly perturbed by mounting substantive difficulties. It may be recalled that both Bateson and Slobodkin have argued that it is good evolutionary strategy for evolving systems to change no more than persistence requires, but increasing systemic deformity may require radical correction. Revolution has historically been an ultimate corrective response of systems so affected by maladaptation as to be unable to respond homeostatically to events continually perturbing them. Flannery has argued that the radical correction of structural anomaly has been an important factor in the evolution of civilization (1972), and inquiry into the dynamic relationnship among structural anomaly, substantive problem, and profound corrective processes is, in other terms, central to the thought of Marx.
   Bateson (1972), however, has located the problem at a level that may be beyond the reach of revolutionary correction-- in the characteristics of human intelligence. He argues that purposefulness is the dominant characteristic of human reason, a plausible suggestion, for purposefulness, encompassing both foresight and concentration, must have been strongly selected for during man's two or three million years on earth (and even earlier among man's prehuman forebears and other animals). But, located in the conscious minds of individuals and serving in the first instance their separate survivals, purposefulness must incline toward self-interest or even selfishness. (Indeed the philosopher Bergson in in recognizing this problem took religion to be society's defense against the "dissolving power" of the human mind.)   That some human purposes are selfish cannot be gainsaid. But Bateson suggests that the problem of purposefulness is more profound. Purposefulness, he argues, has a linear structure. A man at point A with goal D

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takes actions B and C, and with the achievement of D considers the process to be completed. Thus, the structure of purposeful action is linear: A - B - C -, D. But the world is not constructed in linear fashion. We have already discussed the circular structure of cybernetic, that is, self-correcting, systems, and it is well known that ecosystems are roughly circular in plan, with materials being cycled and recycled through the soil, the air, and organisms of many species. Moreover, the circularity of both cybernetic and ecosystemic structure blurs the distinction between cause and effect, or rather suggests to us that simple linear notions of causality, which lead us to think of actors, objects upon which they act, and the transformation of such obiects, are inadequate, for purposeful behavior seldom affects only a single object, here designated D, but usually many other objects as well, often in complex and ramifying ways. Among those being affected in unforseen and possibly unpleasant ways may be the actor himself.
   It may be suggested, however, that linear, purposeful thought is adequate to the needs of simple hunters and gatherers, and not very destructive to the ecological systems in which they live, because both the scope and power of their activities are limited. It is when linear thought comes to guide the operations of an increasingly powerful technology over domains of ever increasing scope that disruption may become inevitable.
   Bateson argues that the problem is not only to make men aware of the ramifying and circular structure of the universe, but to make the imperatives of this structure more compelling than their own linearly defined goals. He believes that this requires that more of their minds than their conscious reason be engaged. It is also necessary to engage the nondiscursive aspects of their processes of comprehension, and he suggests that this is achieved through art and religion. I would agree, and elsewhere in this volume ("Sanctity and Lies in Evolution") I discuss the place of religious experience in adaptive structure.
To argue that more than reason may be required to maintain adaptive structure in human social systems, or to restore adaptiveness to systems beset by maladaptations, is not to argue for the banishment of reason nor for its replacement by blind commitment or mystic insight. Conscious reason has entered into the evolutionary process, cannot be ignored, and should, obviously, be put to the task of rectifying adaptive difficulties. An apparent paradox may be that attempts to solve problems of adaptation are likely to cause further problems, perhaps because "problem solving" is in its nature linear. Moreover, the systems in which men participate are so complex that we cannot now, and probably never shall be able to, analyze them is sufficient detail to predict with precision the outcome of many of our own actions within them. We must, therefore,

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investigate the possibilities for developing theories of action that, although based upon incomplete knowledge, will permit us to participate in systems without destroying them and ourselves along with them. This task is not hopeless. To say that the complexity of living systems is so great as to confound prediction is nor to say that we cannot apprehend the salient characteristics of their structures.
   The account of adaptive structure and of maladaptation offered here is abbreviated, tentative, and, I am certain, erroneous in many respects. It does, however, represent an attempt to relate structure and process, the historical and the changeless, meaning and cause within an "ordre des ordres in a manner permitting the identitication of disorder as well as of order. I offer it for discussion, but it would be well to make explicit, although it is probably obvious, that it has not been my intention to develop a descriptive model the verisimilitude of which might be substantiated by even a single case. It has been, rather, to propose a normative model no instances of which exist, but in terms of which historical systems may be assessed and their difficulties comprehended (Rappaport 1977b)
   There has recently been much concern, and rightly so, about the relationship of anthropology to the peoples traditionally constituting its most immediate and obvious subject matter. Awareness of the servrces anthropology, or anthropologists, have rendered to colonialism is growing and so is sophistication concerning the dangers of applied anthropology. Less thought has been given to the relationship of anthropology to the society that has spawned it and may constitute its less apparent but ultimate subject matter. It may be suggested, however, that in its very existence anthropology constitutes a tacit critique of that society. Criticism implies correction, but our culture is without an adequate theory of correction. What is called "problem-solving" is problematic, making as many problems as it solves, and revolutions are destructive, often institutionalizing conventions as maladaptive as those they overthrow. The suggestions concerning adaptive structure offered here may, perhaps, make a contribution to a theory of correction, a theory, that is, for restoring adaptiveness to systems vexed by maladaptation. Whether or not these suggestions have such a value, anthropology I think, has much to offer to the development of such a theory and, possibly, to its applicaon to public affairs. If this seems presumptuous and dangerous we should keep in mind that social policy is at present, frequently informed by views of the world, its ills, and ways to cure its ills provided by other, narrower disciplines no better founded and considerably less human than our own.

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