Tribalized Communities and the Megalopolis

Venice - Bioregions - Economic capitals
An industrial corporation gathers, in a community, an agglomeration of specializations. As a community it is devoted to producing an article of trade and the specializations interlock for that purpose. Most corporations have not improved on the feudal baron directing the efforts of his community. The manager directs the group's efforts. This model now has to share power with its workers and also gain power from national governments.
As workers gain autonomy through their specialized knowledge, a corporation becomes more like a village community with specialized trades. It has an image similar to a clock making village in Switzerland in the Middle Ages. An industrial community doesn't need to be gathered under a corporate roof. A community also doesn't have to be industrial.
Power must now devolve from national government to bio-regions or communities. Smaller groupings therefor, have to consider how they will govern themselves, politically, legally, morally, and economically. They are forming societies similar to Venice in the Middle Ages.
Venice was a city state that was the envy of its rivals. It built, over its six hundred years of existence, an organisation of government and trade that bestowed prosperity and culture on its citizens. It was also an island and difficult to invade unless the invaders had a powerful navy. Positioned at the head of the Adriatic Sea, it was a trans-shipment point for the interior of Europe. In the twelfth century it obtained the right to trade with the Levant and thereby the principal importer of spices, silk, and other goods that were eagerly sought by the upper classes of Europe.
In return for the sale of silk and spices the Venetians purchased wool from the countries of Northern Europe. The wool was then transported to the Venice area where it was dyed for its sale to the Middle East. It was Venetians who obtained the dye and thereby became the specialists in the dyeing process.
Venice built in accordance with Kenichi Ohmae's description of one of Japan's blueprints; "Select priority industries and build the entire supporting infrastructure over time encompassing both downstream and upstream operations". From the lagoon in Venice it established bases in the Adriatic, the Dalmatian and Greek coasts, Crete and Cyprus. It built the galleys, financed and captained the shipping, and maintained markets in Constantinople, Aleppo, Alexandria, and Beirut. When it realized that profits would be increased if it had open and free access to Central and North West Europe it obtained, and held, toll free routes and passes through the Alps.
Venice gained power and status through commerce alone. The Greeks, the Dalmatians, the residents of the city states of Northern Italy, the Swiss, and the Germans, if involved with the Venetian trade, were held by ties of commerce alone. Its power was not military or national; it was commerce.
Until Bonaparte put an end to the Republic in 1797 it was a large and complex industry. It was a `multi-national'; an organisation that became a trading colossus. It had established an economic hinterland of varying political allegiances. It was the trade and communication centre for specialized knowledge and of artisans of the highest calibre.
This `Venice' effect, the growth of an organisation around a particular trade still continues. In addition it forces the gathering of interconnected organisations in a particular area.
Los Angeles was far away from the New York copyright suits that frustrated the movie business in its early days. Companies started making movies there and found it profitable. As the movie business grew so did financing and distribution. Finally, Los Angeles became the city where specialized knowledge and equipment were available; the centre of a vast hinterland for people, whether they be Americans, Canadians, or Mexicans.
Los Angeles became the centre for spatially interconnected social groupings for several reasons. Actors, as a group, whether they be British, American, Canadian, or Australian, interconnect with a tribalised community of directors gathered in Los Angeles. There are cartoonists, distributors, financiers; all drawn to Los Angeles because of some aspect of movie making. It is a dense agglomeration of tribalised communities drawn together by interconnected commercial interests.
Dense agglomerations of tribalised communities usually gather in a high density consumption area called a megalopolis. Los Angeles is a perfect example. It is some fifty miles square and serves the consumption needs of ten million people. It, in turn, creates an economic hinterland. As Jane Jacobs pointed out in CITIES AND THE WEALTH OF NATIONS, the megalopolis becomes an importer of raw goods and an exporter of fabricated goods to and from the economic hinterland and the global market. The megalopolis is an economic capital; an area established for specialization and the distribution end point for many consumers.
The megalopolis is an outgrowth of the global market's need for specialization and the global allegiance to consumerism. It creates its own dynamic bringing people from the hinterland to the greater diversity of articles for sale at lower prices. It not only increases the number of people who shop, but also increases the number of people in sales.
The growth of the megalopolis, due to improvements in transportation, is spreading over to low density areas. Downtown centres are disappearing. There is an eddying out of communities from the area of most, to least, density. That growth, says Jane Jacobs, will continue.
In North America there are areas such as New York, Boston and Washington (Boswash) on the East Coast, Chicago and Detroit in the centre (the Great Lakes Basin), Los Angeles and San Francisco (Southern California) on the West Coast, Houston and Dallas in the South and Mexico City in Mexico. All the rest of North America is a rural or subsidiary hinterland.
The effect of a mass market and the specialized knowledge that it attracts can be seen in East Asia with thirty-five million people within one and a half hour commuting distance of Chiba in the Tokyo area. A similar estimation for the Kansai (Osaka) area is twenty million. Shanghai in China is also an amazing example of how labour, material and capital flow to the area of greatest population density where manufacturing and consumerism occurs.
The megalopolis, as a consumption centre, has a counteracting effect. It may come into being due to global specialization. However, where there is a large consumer market created, production will move to that area because it is the consumption centre. Los Angeles became a megalopolis because of motion picture specialization; it now loses part of that industry to the New York megalopolis. There is a self limiting factor. Production moves to consumption areas. Some part of the motion picture specialization will move to New York to produce, for example, Woody Allen movies, for the New York market.
At one time every town in North America had its own carriage maker. In the hey day of the national pyramidal production facility all carriage makers were centred around Detroit for automobile manufacture. With the rise of consumer centres the manufacture of automobiles now leaves the production centre for the consumption centre. An example is the General Motors and Toyota plant in Freemont, California, to serve the Southern California market.
Specialization occurs, not only in the megalopolis, but also in a particular geographical area that can be called a bioregion. Peter Borg, the director of Planet Drum Foundation, in his book REINHABITING A SEPARATE COUNTRY, defines a bioregion as a geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness. A bioregion is where a particular form of climate, land form, and cultural activity creates a particular kind of society.

It is the geographical terrain that directly affects the hinterland. Geographical terrains are bioregions of a particular area that may encompass a type of land such as a valley, a mountainous region, a delta, or a desert. An example would be the Okanagan Valley stretching down to Wenatchee in Washington State from Vernon, British Columbia. It is a high, dry area with abundant ground water, it is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. These are excellent conditions for the growth of apples and naturally the apple growers (a tribalised community and a terrain of consciousness) congregate in that area.
Less that a hundred years ago apples were to be found in every farm and most backyards. As a national market developed certain areas specialized in production such as the Great Plains for wheat. These areas now respond to global forces, not national forces.
The effect in Europe, with the introduction of the Common Market is dramatic. Pears were at one time produced in large quantities in the Bolzano area of Northern Italy. They are now being produced in the Po Valley to the South. The pears of Northern Italy could not compete with the (global) price of pears grown in Spain - the climate was too cold. Northern Italian pears therefore moved to a warmer bioregion.
The global market forces economic growth to occur at its most economically viable nexus. It doesn't recognise national boundaries. It forces specialized agricultural production into a particular bioregion. This specialization and growth within a bioregion will, over time, come to represent a particular social viewpoint and will seek, as did Venice, political and legal power. The politicians attempt to place business where they create employment for the politician's supporters may create short term economic gain but it is of doubtful overall benefit.
Economic countries
The megalopolis and its hinterland, which usually contain about fifty million people, is becoming a country in its own right. Most people can identify the nearest big city that has a natural attraction for their economy. In North America for the West Coast it is Los Angeles, for the East Coast it is New York. For South Africa it is Johannesburg. It is not really a big jump in human experience to consider that one belongs to a country with its capital as the nearest megalopolis. It is in these centres that consumerism and productive power resides and the tribalised community vision with its organic societal interdependency readily fits into the fabric of these economic capitals.
During 1991 the Ukraine, a particular geographic area with a population of fifty million people, devolved from the Soviet Union to become a separate republic. This is a grain growing area with its economic capital in Kiev and although consumerism is not the obvious cause of devolution it is an example of an economic country. Serbia, a particular geographic area of what was formerly Yugoslavia, historically inhabited by the Serbs, is seeking to be a separate republic. Serbia is an example of a bioregion due to historical and geographical causes. What these examples point out is that nationhood, be it of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, is no longer strong enough to hold diverse people or interests together. Mercantile countries without political and legal power will seek to devolve from national political power no matter whether it is communist or capitalist. The European Community, as it moves towards a common currency and trading area, aligns itself with tribalised communities, economic countries, and bioregions. There is a need for a realignment of political and legal power.
The granting of an effective voice is a historical and social pattern. The craftsmen who made clocks in Zurich banded together to make a craft guild within their community and then proceeded to gain political power. The gem cutters of Amsterdam build their community and then gained an effective voice in government. The difference now is that it is no longer one or two guilds but large segments of the population. Labour Unions, Bar Associations, farmer’s groups, actors guilds, computer manufacturers, bio-regions, distinct cultural groups, not only want governance within their society, they also seek an effective political voice.
This situation has not gone unnoticed. Tony Smith, author of THINKING LIKE A COMMUNIST: STATE AND LEGITIMACY IN THE SOVIET UNION, CHINA AND CUBA, in discussing economic reform in communist countries, noted that groups must be independent of state control to express themselves on public issues. Without independence, the power structure remains the same and economic reform fails. The Soviet Union is a case in point – the communists realized the authoritarian structure was failing and sought to break it down into smaller groups. However, they were loath to change the fundamental power structure and in the ensuing battle centralized political power lost to the smaller groups.
Smith gives examples of students demanding more autonomy in China, the continued existence of private property in Nicaragua, political clubs in Moscow taking stands on public matters, and environmental groups in Leningrad criticizing government policy and running their own candidates for municipal councils. These groups are all examples of where smaller groups seek independence and political power within an authoritarian system. Top-down has severe limitations.
Communists have been unwilling to accept global economic forces. It was unacceptable to give up power within a national system in favour of seeking power within a global economic system. They did not realize that a global economic system means a different political reality.
The new economic reality carries with it the concern to garner political and economic power - A power to protect and nurture their ‘own’. In a tribalized system a myriad of overlapping communities would be the political structure. An actors community would administer itself as expressed in its political power and at the same time be interconnected with directors community. In turn both these communities would be interconnected with a bio-region and its political power. What this means is that national political power has to be partitioned into smaller groups if it is to conform with global economic reality. Rather than a top-down political system the new reality would see a myriad of groups acting in tribal ways. The next question is how can political power remain democratized.