Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Driftwood
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Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

Post by Driftwood »

I'm curious whether there are any modern political thinkers who believe that the current (or future) world should fragment into a system of independent city-states or, in the case of less urbanised areas, villages/tribes? In other words a world where society and independent government are highly localized to regional communities, rather than the current nation-state level. This doesn't have to imply the isolation/autarchy of these independent cities/villages/tribes, or a technological regression to some "primitive" or pre-industrial past. Rather, a world where society, government, and technology continues to strive for development, but at a much more localized/regional level.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

Post by Sy Borg »

Small groups are routinely overtaken by large groups. Seeing what happened in Ukraine, it seems that a group of over twenty million is not enough to discourage acquisitive states. Unprotected modern quasi-tribal groups today would be slurped down by a large society like a rock oyster.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 8:17 pm Small groups are routinely overtaken by large groups. Seeing what happened in Ukraine, it seems that a group of over twenty million is not enough to discourage acquisitive states. Unprotected modern quasi-tribal groups today would be slurped down by a large society like a rock oyster.
Such things happen when the small states have no allies to protect them against larger polities. However, if the aforementioned city-states are able to form solid alliances with other, similarly sized polities, then "strength in numbers" has the potential to win out. Look, for example, at the success of the allied Greek city states against the Persian empire.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

Post by Sy Borg »

Driftwood wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 8:56 pm
Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 8:17 pm Small groups are routinely overtaken by large groups. Seeing what happened in Ukraine, it seems that a group of over twenty million is not enough to discourage acquisitive states. Unprotected modern quasi-tribal groups today would be slurped down by a large society like a rock oyster.
Such things happen when the small states have no allies to protect them against larger polities. However, if the aforementioned city-states are able to form solid alliances with other, similarly sized polities, then "strength in numbers" has the potential to win out. Look, for example, at the success of the allied Greek city states against the Persian empire.
Technology is the issue here.

Consider the network needed to keep overtly acquisitive states like China and Russia at bay. Without the US, Europe and Japan/S Korea, those nations would sweep over all of their neighbours. Any smaller entity would be swamped.

There may come a time when future trillionaires build large compounds that are effectively high-tech city states, defended by state-of-the-art autonomous weaponry. That might be viable in the future, although any concentration of people and resources is vulnerable to nukes.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:06 pm Technology is the issue here.

Consider the network needed to keep overtly acquisitive states like China and Russia at bay. Without the US, Europe and Japan/S Korea, those nations would sweep over all of their neighbours. Any smaller entity would be swamped.
The assumption could be that China and Russia likewise would be fragmented into smaller polities. In other words, a world order where the entire current nation-state system is dismantled in favour of highly localized polities.
Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:06 pm There may come a time when future trillionaires build large compounds that are effectively high-tech city states, defended by state-of-the-art autonomous weaponry. That might be viable in the future, although any concentration of people and resources is vulnerable to nukes.
Are you aware of any authors who discuss such a future? I would be interested to hear their case for how this hypothetical would come about.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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It seems to go against the current trend of forming larger multi-country blocks.

For example, Sweden and Finland fear that Russia might bully them, and therefore want to seek protection with NATO, but that is exactly the reason why Russia has now started bullying them in all earnest.

One moral of the story is that in geopolitics you should never announce what you are going to do. Instead, just do it.

Do I believe in smaller city-states? No, because they are going to find themselves endlessly bullied and blockaded by larger entities. As a mafia, you need to have the minimum viable size or you will find yourself, kicking and screaming, absorbed by a larger mafia.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

Post by Sy Borg »

Driftwood wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:11 pm
Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:06 pm Technology is the issue here.

Consider the network needed to keep overtly acquisitive states like China and Russia at bay. Without the US, Europe and Japan/S Korea, those nations would sweep over all of their neighbours. Any smaller entity would be swamped.
The assumption could be that China and Russia likewise would be fragmented into smaller polities. In other words, a world order where the entire current nation-state system is dismantled in favour of highly localized polities.
It would take events of apocalyptic proportions for that to happen. Once broken up, some groups would join with other groups to invade the unaligned and the whole dance would begin again.
Driftwood wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:11 pm
Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:06 pm There may come a time when future trillionaires build large compounds that are effectively high-tech city states, defended by state-of-the-art autonomous weaponry. That might be viable in the future, although any concentration of people and resources is vulnerable to nukes.
Are you aware of any authors who discuss such a future? I would be interested to hear their case for how this hypothetical would come about.
Ray Kurzweil comes to mind.

There's a concept known as an arcology, which is a blend of architecture and ecology, a large self-contained structure that is theoretically considered more sustainable than more spread out models. However, high rise architecture is considered less efficient than medium rise. I understand that experts today see around ten storeys is as optimal as a compromise between concentration of people and resources and gravity.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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heracleitos wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 11:04 pm It seems to go against the current trend of forming larger multi-country blocks.

For example, Sweden and Finland fear that Russia might bully them, and therefore want to seek protection with NATO, but that is exactly the reason why Russia has now started bullying them in all earnest.

One moral of the story is that in geopolitics you should never announce what you are going to do. Instead, just do it.

Do I believe in smaller city-states? No, because they are going to find themselves endlessly bullied and blockaded by larger entities. As a mafia, you need to have the minimum viable size or you will find yourself, kicking and screaming, absorbed by a larger mafia.
A world of city-states does not preclude the existence of multi-national alliances and power blocs. They could still have the capacity to form alliances/blocks with one another, just as NATO is composed of an alliance of multiple sovereign entities. It would just mean that the physical size of the individual members in any alliance would be greatly reduced. Again, take my example of the ancient Greek city states, or the various leagues of medieval city states in Europe. All allied for mutual benefit, but still politically autonomous with highly localized governments.

If there are any authors who envision such a world for the future, I would be curious to read how they envision such a world coming about, and what that world might look like. I'm open to any recommendations for reading material on the subject.
Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 11:10 pm It would take events of apocalyptic proportions for that to happen. Once broken up, some groups would join with other groups to invade the unaligned and the whole dance would begin again.
Most likely yes, unless technology had progressed to the level where small city-states were able to thrive sufficiently to see no benefit in giving up their autonomy to larger entities. Many of the historical consolidations of small polities into larger entities came about because of a contest over resources, the need for those entities to acquire more land and natural resources in order to survive and grow. They did not possess sufficient technology to develop highly localized, self-contained economic/ecological systems. Perhaps in the future it would be easier for such systems to come about?

The article below briefly discusses this idea:

https://www.futuresplatform.com/blog/ci ... ave-future
Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 11:10 pm There's a concept known as an arcology, which is a blend of architecture and ecology, a large self-contained structure that is theoretically considered more sustainable than more spread out models. However, high rise architecture is considered less efficient than medium rise. I understand that experts today see around ten storeys is as optimal as a compromise between concentration of people and resources and gravity.
Thank you, I'll try to do some digging on that.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Driftwood wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 5:55 am I'm curious whether there are any modern political thinkers who believe that the current (or future) world should fragment into a system of independent city-states or, in the case of less urbanised areas, villages/tribes? In other words a world where society and independent government are highly localized to regional communities, rather than the current nation-state level. This doesn't have to imply the isolation/autarchy of these independent cities/villages/tribes, or a technological regression to some "primitive" or pre-industrial past. Rather, a world where society, government, and technology continues to strive for development, but at a much more localized/regional level.
Many humans see a need for certain things - not everything! 😉 - to be organised and implemented on a wide scale, sometimes even on a global scale. Your idea would mitigate against this, or at least, make it quite difficult.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Sy Borg wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 9:06 pm Consider the network needed to keep overtly acquisitive states like China and Russia at bay. Without the US, Europe and Japan/S Korea...
OK, but who will keep "the US, Europe and Japan" at bay? 😉
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Driftwood wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 5:55 am I'm curious whether there are any modern political thinkers who believe that the current (or future) world should fragment into a system of independent city-states or, in the case of less urbanised areas, villages/tribes? In other words a world where society and independent government are highly localized to regional communities, rather than the current nation-state level. This doesn't have to imply the isolation/autarchy of these independent cities/villages/tribes, or a technological regression to some "primitive" or pre-industrial past. Rather, a world where society, government, and technology continues to strive for development, but at a much more localized/regional level.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Driftwood wrote: May 22nd, 2022, 5:55 am Many humans see a need for certain things - not everything! 😉 - to be organised and implemented on a wide scale, sometimes even on a global scale. Your idea would mitigate against this, or at least, make it quite difficult.
It can also be argued that the smaller-scale the government, the more directly responsible it is to its people and thus, the more trust and support it will engender from its subjects. Its easier for a populace to feel connected to a leader that comes from the same locality as them and rules within the same community, rather than one who lives in a distant capital on the other side of the nation and who manages the affairs of regions not directly relevant to them.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Have you heard of subsidiarity ? The doctrine that decisions should be taken at the lowest level that is practically possible.

The EU pays lip service to it, whilst in practice passing EU-level "laws" about all sorts of things that could and should be decided at national or local government level.

This ideal would see boroughs within cities within nations within supra-national groupings, with all decisions being taken at the appropriate level. So whilst the nation and the city are likely to remain important, neither will be the sole level of government.
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

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Good_Egg wrote: May 24th, 2022, 2:34 am Have you heard of subsidiarity ? The doctrine that decisions should be taken at the lowest level that is practically possible.

The EU pays lip service to it, whilst in practice passing EU-level "laws" about all sorts of things that could and should be decided at national or local government level.

This ideal would see boroughs within cities within nations within supra-national groupings, with all decisions being taken at the appropriate level. So whilst the nation and the city are likely to remain important, neither will be the sole level of government.
I think the problem with your suggestion is that a practical human implementation would probably involve 75% of our population working for the 'government' at some level. 😉
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Re: Are there any modern thinkers who advocate a world of city-states / villages?

Post by Sy Borg »

I like small organisations. My father had a small business - a milk bar, which might bring back memories for other ancients here. I will focus here more on feasibility than the advantages of small government. The latter has already been covered.

It was an eye-opener when working for small government agencies, one with half a dozen people, the other with about fifteen. Most of the staff in those agencies disliked the intervention of the governing agency - their regular demand for seemingly pointless reports and being hamstrung by all manner of red tape better suited to large organisations. The reason these small agencies had been bundled up into large agencies were:

1. Reduction of duplication - general HR, accounting, purchasing and other functions being centralised meant each small agency did not repeat the same work and buy the same resources

2. Economies of scale - large organisations have an inherent advantage because they gain discounts and reduce handling costs by buying in bulk, and these are passed on to their subsidiaries

3. Resources to increase negotiation power when dealing with other agencies or the private sector.

4. General insurance coverage.

Such advantages of size are why organisations have become ever more monolithic. Like the dinosaurs, the strategy is to increase scale, and thus raw competitive power. The CCP used this strategy on a global stage to great advantage, and this has encouraged India to also start utilising its size.

However, size increases an organisation's dependencies, which brings fragility. Giant saurian dinosaurs that had similarly been engaged in a size-based arms race were wiped out by the Chicxulub asteroid impact, but small animals like avian dinosaurs and mammal scavengers survived to start a new lineage.

It's hard to read the current Zeitgeist. Humans have always lived on the brink, teetering on the edge of sustainability and disaster. Almost all ages and cultures have their own apocalypse myths - the time when the luck humanity has ridden finally runs out. Most generations figure that theirs will be the last before the Apocalypse/Great Reset.

Yet, time and again, as things crumble, societies work furiously to repair the damage (even if forethought would have prevented the harms), like a liver that keeps repairing the damage caused by regular drinking - until it can't.

Today, too, there are genuine existential threats abound - climate change, global warfare and the cycle of breakdown of fiat currencies, and these exacerbate existing problems caused by COVID, deforestation, desertification, homelessness, ecosystem loss, extinction of keystone species etc.

If the faeces really does hit the fan, then certain large players will break down. The greater the centralisation, the greater the damage as dependencies that rely heavily on the lead organisation will fail before dependencies or small enterprises that have operated with more independence.
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