Highlights from TRIBES, INSTITUTIONS, MARKETS, NETWORKS:
By David F. Ronfeldt, Senior Social Scientist of Rand Corporation
Power and influence appear to be migrating to actors who are skilled
at developing multiorganizational networks, and at operating in
environments where networks are an appropriate, spreading form of
organization. In many realms of society, they are gaining strength
relative to other, especially hierarchical forms. Indeed, another key
proposition about the information revolution is that it erodes and
makes life difficult for traditional hierarchies.
This trend â€”
the rise of network forms of organization â€” is so strong that,
projected into the future, it augurs major transformations in how
societies are organized. What forms account for the organization of
societies? How have people organized their societies across the ages? The answer may be reduced to four basic forms of organization: 1. the kinship-based tribe, as denoted by the structure of extended families, clans, and other lineage systems. 2. the hierarchical institution, as exemplified by the army, the (Catholic) church, and ultimately the bureaucratic state. 3. competitive-exchange market, as symbolized by merchants and traders responding to forces of supply and demand. 4. and the collaborative network, as found today in the web-like ties among some NGOs devoted to social advocacy.
versions of all four forms were present in ancient times. But as
deliberate, formal organizational designs with philosophical portent,
each has gained strength at a different rate and matured in a different
historical epoch over the past 5000 years. Tribes developed
first,hierarchical institutions next, and competitive markets later.
Now collaborative networks appear to be on the rise as the next great
form of organization to achieve maturity.
The rise of each form is briefly discussed below, as prelude to assembling the four in a frameworkâ€”currently called the â€œTIMN frameworkâ€â€”about
the long-range evolution of societies. The persistent argument is that
these four formsâ€”and evidently only these â€”underlie the organization of
all societies, and that the historical evolution and increasing
complexity of societies has been a function of the ability to use and
combine these four forms of governance in what appears to be a natural
While the tribal form initially ruled the overall
organization of societies, over time it has come to define the cultural
realm in particular, while the state has become the key realm of
institutionist principles, and the economy of market principles. Civil
society appears to be the realm most affected and strengthened by the
rise of the network form, auguring a vast rebalancing of relations
among state, market, and civil-society actors around the world.
Before elaborating on this, some definitional issues should be noted. The termsâ€”tribes, institutions, markets, networks
â€”beg for clarification: