What is SCALE?
Mass society and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race
This post is about One Big Idea. SCALE is that idea. It has been expressed as a
SCALE reduces to the idea that changes in size of social organization have large effects on human behaviour, and that at the terminal stage the effects on behaviour become pathological and lead to deterioration of social health that can only be addressed by reversing the scale of social organization.
This theory was originally inspired by (but is not dependent on) experiments performed on mice and rats at the National Institute of Mental Health between 1958 and 1972, which showed behavioural changes strikingly similar to those seen in the modern world. These experiments, by JB Calhoun, showed that population concentrations reached an inflection point beyond which the population would rapidly destroy itself.
SCALE and human relations
SCALE necessitates a deeper treatment of human relations than those between rats and mice. The surface observation of behavioural change unfolds to an examination of the values and motivations of SCALEd human interaction. This gives us a simple division between:
‘Transactional interactions’ are those adjustments to behaviour made necessary by SCALE. Simply put, human interaction becomes more like a business transaction and thereby less human. The service economy, hyperconsumerism, identity crazes, tribal recognition through virtual portals, attachment to ‘Current Thing’ avatars, depersonalisation and attendant forms of psychopathology are all related to the displacement of healthy human interactions with transactions.
Dysfunctional behaviour is another way of describing ‘transactional’, which again becomes necessary in negotiating the structures of complex and large scale social organisation. This has replaced the relational model, which broadly speaking would be ‘human scale relations’. Relationships conducted face to face, shared experiences in the real world, a common experience of a consensus reality derived from real life.
The effect of SCALE on social behaviour
The mass mind popularised and propagandised through addictive digital media, news and popular entertainment leads to a loss of organic identity. In place of you, SCALE provides artificial identities created from mass ideology.
The extreme effects of this loss of identity on human behaviour lead to depression, isolation, depersonalisation and over-socialisation to a virtual and artificial distortion of human experience made necessary by its being contingent upon a vast abstraction.
Left alone, SCALE cannot correct itself and can provide no solutions to the increasing array of personality distortions it engenders in its attempts to promote an adjustment model to the teeming chaos presented as order.
SCALE and psychopathology
In conclusion, SCALE destabilises personalities through the creation of an inherently unstable mass society.
It radically alters social behaviour and, unchecked, leads to unsustainably high levels of pathology.
Low birth rates, high levels of addiction, population churn and the anhedonia of constant pleasure-seeking are features of the trap in which we find ourselves confined. We no longer belong to each other, to a place or people, but to SCALE and its seductive, if poisonous, consolations.
With the removal of moral, legal, cultural and traditional restraint typified by late stage hyperindividualism, there are no limits to the exhaustion of the self in this vast and impersonal machine. Small scale enterprise and human relations are casualties of scaling up. There is no solution within this system. The only escape to this Calhounian cycle is the regeneration of society on a human scale.
SCALE and managerialism
Burnham’s infamous book was the blueprint for an imagined future of bureaucratic efficiency. One factor of SCALE is the bureaucratisation of modern life, wherewith our once professional classes are now churning with fungible and credentialed managers. Moving with ease between care provision, uniformed service, public and private sector management, this elite class owes its loyalty to the bureaucratic machines which they direct, deracinating the administration of society from the people they nominally serve.
SCALE in this function further divides society, creating a tranche of degree-holding Brahmins whose attachment to civic and human scale values is marginal. The lesson of the Burnhamite model we inhabit is that bureaucracies ultimately develop an immune response to ordinary human interaction, perfecting the means of protecting themselves from the influence and needs of the public. They become quasi-autonomous, a process which mirrors the increasing alienation and disempowerment of the populations they manage.
Wider social effects of SCALE
A life under SCALE is typified by the remoteness of the individual from the processes which shape their experience of themselves, society, and of reality. How is this so?
SCALE presents itself through mass media, global corporatisation, a consumer uniculture and an attendant set of approved explanations of reality. At times indistinguishable from chaos, the maelstrom of society at SCALE is both confusing and destabilising, which accounts for the proliferation of apparently and actually paradoxical explanations - or alibis - for increasingly odd social groupings and corrosive behaviour.
SCALE provides false identities to replace the authentic human experience, whose contradictions whilst being insoluble tesselate with the inhuman and degenerative nature of a machine like monumental global order.
Mass immigration is a function of SCALE, producing accelerated social decay, weakening of cultural and social bonds, the development of a new and obfuscatory lexicon to render nonsense as sense. It serves mass scale corporations extremely well, providing an inexhaustible pit of cheap and replaceable labour to depress the wages, conditions and expectations of all other workers. SCALE drives the quality of life downwards as it accentuates individual consumption as a means of consolation for what SCALE has destroyed, fuelling an economy based on addictions.
In place of somewhere, SCALE makes an international nowhere - its architecture anonymising place as it reduces public interaction to sales and the promotion of unlimited and therefore unsatisfiable desire. It provides the pills to numb the pain it will cause, marketing legal agents of indifference as antidepressants whilst precipitating the type of social decline which leads to increasing illegal drug use, vandalism, theft and the malaise of anomie which arises from a necessarily normless monoculture.
SCALE replaces social bonds - meaningful human relationships - with media tropes, avatars and OnlyFans, collectible trash. Every human activity is commodified to the point where ‘therapy’ is seen as necessary and a social good. This is the obvious replacement of trusted family and friends, a priest, a wiser colleague - with a well remunerated stranger whose economic interest squares with your long term dependence upon themselves. It dissolves the organic self, who comes to rely on an inaccessible class of authorities for the terms to dishonestly describe their own experience.
The escape from SCALE
There is no escape from SCALE within the system. There is neither hope nor despair - simply the dedication to human scale relationships which must be regenerated to replace the dehumanising leviathan we once dreamed would make us happy, ordered, rich and free.
A SCALE reading list
The Managerial Revolution by James Burnham
The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul
The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter
Interaction Ritual Chains by Randall Collins (related to small scale social processes and their importance)
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb (examining in part the exponential effects of large organization)