Exclusion and community

Some people think that exclusion is ‘bad’. I was discussing the topic with someone the other day, and his point was that exclusive communities are founded on acts of (emotional, social, or physical) violence. Therefore such communities are bad in some relevant sense.

My response was fairly straightforward: if ‘violence’ is defined in a weak enough sense, then the initial point is granted. Exclusion requires some method to exclude, and ultimately this usually depends on some mechanism to compel others away.

Yet, it is an incomplete analysis: to determine whether such exclusion is good or bad also requires looking at what value the communities so established are creating.

For example, if you want to create a successful orchestra, you have to exclude certain people from being hired. Turning down applicants probably will involve some disappointed hopes, feelings of sadness, and so on. This especially will be true as the organization gains status and more and more people want to join it. Yet, if one were not to exclude anyone, in very short order the orchestra would be ruined by poor players, or people who couldn’t play at all.

General idea: exclusion is required for the creation of most kinds of value.

This applies to not only human communities – take a human body: the developing organism must exclude large numbers of things, and create barriers to protect itself from those things.

Corollary: if one has a valuable community, as soon as one loses the will to selectively exclude in a relevant sense, one will start to lose the respective value that is in one’s community.

This does not mean that all kinds of exclusion make sense. If the orchestra above were to exclude good oboe players, say, that might not be a good idea (depending on how many they already had, and other factors).

My basic point can be summed up as: If you want to create value, there has to be some cost somewhere. This applies for almost anything of value, beyond just communities.

(It is relevant to note that various forms of ‘inclusion’ are in fact forms of exclusion. In many cases the number of people in an organization is relatively fixed, or the number of applicants exceeds the number of places available. In these cases, then, debates about ‘inclusion’ are more properly understood as debates about the precise form of exclusion.)

One thought on “Exclusion and community

  1. bgc

    Most theories of complex systems endorse your point.

    Efficiency is (in general) a product of complex organization, when complexity is functional-specialization and coordination of these more specialized units (think Adam Smith’s pin factory argument).

    The imposition of inclusiveness is therefore a pressure towards de-differentiation – a totalitarian move – a refusal to allow systems to have autonomy from the ruling ideology, therefore inevitably reductive of the efficiency of social systems.

    This matters if you believe in liberal democracy, economic growth, and the expansion of scientific and technological capability.

    Inclusiveness is one of the ways in which modernity is destroying itself: in this instance by reducing functional specialization, reducing efficiency, stopping growth in productivity and capability.

    The trend has been building in strength for a few decades by now…

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