A social psychologist explains how human groups or memes organize and operate, to the detriment and sometimes the benefit of civilization.
Minshall (The Jesus Book, 2012, etc.) describes memes as a “post personal force” that can aid society, but are often “the force behind all human tragedy.” The reason: once people join a meme, they yield their sense of morality to its amorality. Simply “Human Social Constructs,” memes form around a unifying idea or cause but then take on lives of their own. As with all living things, survival becomes paramount. More often destroyed from within rather than by external forces, memes may manufacture enemies to cement loyalty among followers. Minshall describes and dissects different types of memes, including nonprofit groups, government agencies, and corporations. The apparent leaders of memes, such as popes, presidents, and CEOs, seldom hold the real power. Bureaucrats, major stockholders, unions, or wealthy family dynasties typically call the shots. “The Cadre” or “enablers,” such as police and soldiers, enforce the social order, while “The Workers and Doers,” or producers, form the majority of members and accomplish most of the tasks. The lowest rungs include “Marginals,” such as youths and legal aliens, and “Outsiders,” including intruders, migrants, and illegal aliens, who are exploited as they try to gain a foothold. Although individuals may believe they can change the meme by rising to the top, it will either alter or expel them. Why not get rid of memes? Although they cause war and other havoc, memes also create the world’s positive things. Minshall has written a captivating book that can help anyone understand group behavior and why politicians promising change so seldom achieve it. His writing style is free-form and fluid, with touches of humor that sometimes fall flat with weak puns. The volume, littered with weird capitalization, superfluous exclamation points, and spelling mistakes of common as well as proper nouns, such as “Mark Zukerberg,” “Jack Welsh,” and “Julius Cesar,” cries out for a skillful editor and proofreader. It would also bolster Minshall’s case if he backed up his arguments with more footnotes. Like most critiques, this book is long on criticism but short on solutions, which seem in this case to boil down to hoping the United Nations will somehow get memes under control.
Despite its flaws, this book should help readers understand how organizations work, from the smallest nonprofit group to the largest political entity.