The Behavioral Sink

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The Behavioral Sink [Cabinet Magazine]

“Population Density and Social Pathology” was, for an academic paper, a smash hit, being cited up to 150 times a year. Particularly effective was Calhoun’s name for the point past which the slide into breakdown becomes irretrievable: the “behavioral sink.” “The unhealthy connotations of the term are not accidental,” Calhoun noted drily. The “sink,” a para-pathology of shared hopelessness, drew in pathological behavior and exacerbated its effects. Once the event horizon of the behavioral sink was passed, the end was certain. Pathological behavior would escalate beyond any possibility of control.​

Since the time when [​IMG] jezebel873 and I started this community (April, 2005), I've noticed a distinct tendency for people on the political left to assume that as things get worse, people will get nicer (therefore, concerns about violence associated with economic or ecological collapse are unfounded). Similarly, libertarians (whose left or rightness is a matter of debate) tend to agree that people will get nicer because they believe in a link between evil and the specific institution of government, which is assumed to be on its way out. Meanwhile, I've noticed that Americans on the political right (including many libertarians) seem to be very actively getting ready to kill all the lefties.

I would propose that, using Calhoun's thinking, the politically right-wing individual is more sensitive to the stress of overpopulation, and the pull of the behavioral sink. As right wingers like to point out all the time, they're also the ones with all the guns (I think this probably applies outside of the US as well). However, it might be that they're just as sensitive as anyone else, and happen to be the individuals who react to it by attacking rather than cowering. In either case, the reasonable conclusion seems to be that people will not act the way they do now once the behavioral sink is reached, and that the way that they act will be bad .

While we are nowhere near the kind of physical population density that Calhoun encountered with his rats, I don't think that's really the factor that predicts the behavioral sink in humans. It's psychological overcrowding that matters, which is surely exacerbated by the quick flow of massive amounts of information in our modern world. Personally, I feel like I'm seeing a lot of these symptoms already.

[​IMG] badnewswade : I think Calhoun's ideas fit well with your thinking on the direction of the world; i.e., Todestrieb .