Development of society

   The complex ‘looking’ societal system

Lots of people call the societal system, as we know it today, very intricate. A long distance has indeed been covered from the stage of the first agricultural societies with a flat structure and little difference between the entities that belonged together, to the highly technological societies in which we live today with lots of structures of which it is not clear for most people in what relation they stand to each other.

On the layer scheme the multitude of flows has already been somewhat separated one from another, but we have not yet got a three-dimensional representation of society. By explaining and making clear the relation between the different groups of entities, present in that representation, we get the necessary keen clearness needed to get transparency and the accompanying insight.

    Searching higher certainty

During the phase of nomadic existence the group (of relatives) / the tribe, with which one was wandering about, was the individuals ‘home’. The high degree of dependence on nature, who caused a keen competition with other species and other nomadic groups for the available goods of the soil, fauna and flora, forged a strong solidarity between the members of the group, which made living and survival possible. Progress could only occur by striving for a higher certainty that the group would regularly get its sufficient part of what nature had to offer. The quantity of efforts, achieved to get those means, did not per se stand in a direct relation to the yield, for luck as well as chance, and trouble as well as set-back played an important role. The only way to get higher certainty was submitting nature to their will.

Two conditions were necessary to realize an agricultural society: on the one hand sufficient insight in the processes of nature that enable the generation and increasing of the yield, and on the other hand the strengthening and structuring of solidarity to defend the new sedentary way of life against species and groups, that did not know or respect (yet) the privilege of claiming part of the soil.

    The ‘proper’ patch of ground makes a big difference

The way of life based on agriculture meant not only sharing the yield of the collecting, hunting and fishing, but also the means and possibilities of ‘producing’. The notion ‘property’ set in and every little entity (family, household) could, by increasing the quantity of efforts, also increase the yield. Progress became measurable, because the possibility of comparing with similar entities arose.

Producing and consuming a quantity of vital goods, in addition to nature, concentrated within one family (household), and every such entity disposed of the power to decide about its progress, but also had the task of sharing within its own cell and realize solidarity in it.

The individual gradually felt more and more ‘at home’ in the house of the own family. The decisions resulting from the power within the smallest entity had to be reconcilable with the frame of solidarity offered by the settlement; in the same way as in the original own house the individual felt at home also in a larger covering ‘house’.

The choices and decisions on the level of the covering house concentrated gradually more and more on the efforts to maintain solidarity that surpassed the possibilities of the small (family)house, leaving the strive for progress more and more in the hands of those (family)entities.

Evidently, this division of power, as a consequence of the progressing development, has not always been as clear as desirable: from the smallest covering level onwards does arise the political task of dividing and assigning power. 

    Differentiation and being ‘home’ in ever more covering houses

The family, which originated at the beginning of the sedentary societies, constituted a cell in which three dimensions of life were united in an integrated way: biological and social life, the efforts made to secure the existence plus the strive for progress, and the care for (what we would now call the first line) solidarity and common interests of the members (that constitute an entity of different generations and individuals with varying capacities).

The family was indeed a cell with at the same time social, economic, and political tasks and authorities. From that stage on two important developments took place in the societal system: a ‘horizontal’ one that originated with the specialized entities, and a ‘vertical’ one: with ever higher covering political ‘houses’.


Of course specialization occurred in agriculture, where different natural circumstances automatically created differences in yield, and that trend continued, first of all in the different specialized handicrafts and later on in the development of larger specialized ‘production’ entities, those were no longer connected with a single family entity, but as an ‘unpopulated’ cell combined the efforts of individuals belonging to several or many family entities. For general products and services this happened fairly quickly, but for person-linked services like medical services, the nursing and attending of children and older people, this happened much later.

The power of making decisions concerning the progress came into the hands of a combination of families and economic-technical entities. In principle economic-technical entities have no social nor political (solidarity) tasks and responsibilities.

In order to realize these solidarity tasks the politicians in power originally have used directly the (part-time) commitment of capacities of family entities (especially in the case of defence). In the course of time solidarity tasks have grown strongly (defence, infrastructure, education, etc.), and consequently those needs were met by specific economic-technical entities (government institutions and services).

No matter how far these still ongoing developments of economic-technical entities go, family entities still are and stay the origin and the reason of existence and their aim. 


Because mineral wealth and possibilities offered by flora and fauna are not equally spread in nature, small solidary societies (= small political houses) have interest in grouping or uniting in a larger society. Uniting means forming a larger political house on account of the economies on an apparent larger scale with the same rules and laws. Grouping signifies that the political houses join but keep their different identities and form a larger covering house where specific covering solidarity tasks are executed.   Due to those evolutions the individual belongs to ever larger covering houses. In our present societies we can mention as successive larger and more covering houses: families, quarters, municipalities, provinces, regions, states, economic unions, and at the top the world as a whole.

Being at home on the lowest level is feeling at home as well as knowing to be at home, because on that level there is a possibility for regular and intensive contacts with the other members. But on  higher levels it becomes more and more only the knowledge to be at home because personal contacts are more difficult, if not to say impossible.

 A covering level is really experienced as a political house if it is characterized by a common set of rules and laws, observing of which can be extorted by explicitly accepted authorities, who dispose of the necessary executive structures. The higher the political house and the more levels there are, the more difficult it gets to divide and assign power. At the moment we see in Europe the European Union arise as a political house; the process is in full swing, the system of rules and laws is still incomplete on that level, and not in all matters the European house can impose its choices and dispositions. Many inhabitants of the Union know that they are Europeans but still do not feel that so strongly.

By the increase of the number of levels where people feel at home the care for solidarity is divided between the families and all higher houses. The larger the group, the more powerful the solidarity can be, but the more difficult it can be realized everywhere at the same time and be kept up because personal contact gets more difficult if not impossible, and the much diverging local circumstances in a large region are hard to value and to evaluate from a position where one is only acquainted with the local situation.

The individual knows of course that the power of his personal vote is limited in large political houses, and as a consequence he does not take his political responsibility seriously. That attitude however leads to dominant covering houses, which leave only a small margin for the underlying or local level; strong involvement on the lower level can however precisely lead to more balanced compromises and better nuances on the higher level(s).

     A new situation with shared power / control

The societal system in which every citizen functions and lives, can be described as a set of ever larger and more covering political ‘houses’, with the family as the smallest house and the world as the largest and everything covering political house. Not every house is strongly built and/or can be marked out precisely. Within each political house, from the level above a family, we find a collection of economic entities, which all stand on the same level regardless of their economic weight, because they are all subject to the same (system of) rules and laws.

A family (still) is at the same time a social cell, an economic entity, and a political house. The grip and the say the (head of the) family still has in the economic and political dimensions, has been strongly reduced in comparison with the situation at the beginning of the agricultural societies, because of the specialization that took place in the economic sphere and by the increase in the number of covering houses; even the social role was put under pressure by the developments in the economic sphere.

Every unpopulated economic entity is bound to disappear if it incurs losses in the economic perspective; but for a family this is not at all the case, for as a social cell and a political house it continues to exist.

Family households are the final aim and the reason of existence for all other economic entities; economic developments, as a consequence, can and must not threaten the survival of families without threatening their own reason of existence.

Every political house should by priority aim at a decent existence for the individuals in their family entities; every situation in which a political house lets itself to be de facto deprived of the power to keep the economic dimension under control is a gross failure.