Another human-nature-ism: serotonin-based social materialism

December 2021 Forums Events and announcements Another human-nature-ism: serotonin-based social materialism

Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • Author
  • #176036

    Saying, among other things:

    1) ‘No socialism theory that presumes altruistic cooperation as its organizing principle can ever work. Non-hierarchical anarchism and its libertarian cousin are useful conceptual end-points that can never be sustainably achieved. The best we can do is to have a responsive and optimally (evolutionarily) beneficial dominance hierarchy that is actively prevented from exercising pathological excess.’


    2) ‘In this setting, I propose that the animal has two modes of being, which are binary end-points on an attitudinal, self-image and behavioural psychological-state-scape. I’m not saying that each individual is permanently in one or the other mode of being. Rather, I propose that the individual shifts and slides into one or the other mode depending on his immediate social circumstances and on his history (biological and metabolic memory) of being predominantly in one mode or the other.’

    Elsewhere, in an article commenting on Jordan Peterson, Rancourt (this writer) remarks:

    ‘For example, I don’t understand how an authentic intellectual could read the landmark works of Karl Marx and the critiques of the said work by the great anarchist theorist Kropotkin and not be thoroughly impressed by the genius of Marx, and the elements of his theory that are seminal and fundamental even if incorrectly extrapolated by Marx. I conclude that Jordan has not actually read this stuff or he is being irrational in his evaluation, for whatever reasons related to his [ie Peterson’s ] personal history.’
    Bijou Drains

    I think this is one of the most poorly argued research papers I have seen in many years. It draws huge conclusions from very small data sets. Of 12 references, 3 are to the authors own works and one is a reference to Larry Hagman’s view on the use of LSD!

    Hardly sound academic grounds on which to build an argument.

    It’s opening gambit is:

    I want to describe what I think is a fundamental truth about the individual bio-psychology of social animals, including humans.”

    So, on the basis of research carried out on the effectiveness of SRIs (fluoxitine or Prozac to the uninitiated) in increasing cooperativeness amongst humans and a study of primates which actually states as part of its conclusion:

    The literature reviewed raises the obvious question: Are these findings relevant to humans? Initially, they seem to be of minimal relevance. Humans are not hierarchical in the linear, uni dimensional manner of many species. For example, humans belong to multiple hierarchies and tend to value most the one in which they rank highest (for example, a low prestige employee who most values his role as a deacon in his church). Furthermore, the existence of internal standards makes humans less subject to the psychological consequences of rank.”

    Rancourt, however, based on this flimsy evidence, has developed a fundamental truth about all social animals!

    So, just to be clear, this theory covers all animals and that means humans, chimps, ants, bees, sea otters, starlings, meerkats, etc.

    From this weak evidence base he then jumps to the conclusion that

    This knowledge implies that the metabolic biochemistry of dominance locks us in. No socialism theory that presumes altruistic cooperation as its organizing principle can ever work. Non-hierarchical anarchism and its libertarian cousin are useful conceptual end-points that can never be sustainably achieved.

    Quite how this “knowledge” implies a biochemistry of dominance which “locks us in” is not explained. Why, even if such an implication could be drawn (which it can’t), this would mean that a theory of socialism which is based on altruistic cooperation can never work, is similarly lacking in explanation.  Not only that, the basis of socialism is not altruistic cooperation, but rather cooperation for the benefit of all, a very different concept.

    So if altruistic cooperation cannot be achieved, how does our hero explain the vast amount of altruistic cooperation which goes on every day as part of human society, even in the antagonistic world of capitalism. This behaviour ranges from giving up seats to older people on buses through to the organisation of food banks, volunteers running sports clubs for children, unpaid trades union reps, etc, etc. I recently took part in a Christmas day event for people who would be lonely and isolated on Christmas day, we had to close the book to volunteers in November, there were that many people who wanted to altruistically cooperate!

    As to the influence of serotonin, this article overstates the influence of one neurotransmitter, there is no mention for instance of oxtocin. Looking at this effect of this neurotransmitter in the following study seems to demonstrate the opposite of Rancourt’s “theory”:

    One of the interesting things about Oxytocin is the relationship between oxytocin and attachment experiences. Typically children who experience a warm nurturing cooperative care giver, during their early years, produce higher levels of oxytocin, which increases the growth and development of the brain. In contrast those who experience neglect and poor attachment tend to have smaller less well developed brains by the age of three years old:

    As attachment experience is a social experience and as social experiences are undoubtedly linked to the economic and social structure in which they are experienced, it is likely that children growing up in a socially cooperative society would be likely to experienced better attachments, that they would be more likely to raise children that experienced better attachments. i.e. Cooperation breeds cooperation and changes the physical structure of the brains with which we experience our social world. Given them above, Rancourt’s theory of a “fundamental truth about the individual bio-psychology of social animals, including humans” sounds highly preposterous.

    As for Rancourt’s paper D+ would probably be a very generous mark.


    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Bijou Drains.
    Major McPharter

    After a shift in the coal mine, in the Pit baths it was I will wash your Back and you can wash Mine.

Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.