The term “civil” refers to strategies and devices use to regulate the interface between individual interests and community interests. A civil society is characterized by a multilayered system of organizations that meet, discuss, vote and contribute to the well-being of the community. In an ideal civil society, individual and civil interests are congruent and there is no conflict.
The maintenance of civility requires the imposition of attitudes, expectations, beliefs, rules and the enforcement of codes of conduct. The main dynamic in a free society involves the defense of social civility by law and the defense of civil liberties by individuals and groups who champion personal freedom. Socialism refers to political movements based on the idea that citizens of a state should own and manage the means of production and distribution of life’s necessities.
In the best case, an ideal egalitarian society distributes resources equitably and provides safety and security for its citizens. The basic problem with social idealism is that human nature cannot be changed. Humans naturally compete and distribute resources through hierarchical networks. To change a more or less spontaneous order, a revolutionary group needs to arbitrarily reconstruct a political and economic system. There have been many versions of imposed socialism and many revolutions that failed. A reasonable historian can conclude that communism introduced by revolution in Russia and China failed and is being replaced by hybrid economies that combine “free enterprise” with state-owned enterprise.
What is remarkable about socialist ideas in the US is the paranoid resistance that arises from advocates of capitalism, a resistance organized by dominant humans who will fight to maintain control of resources and wealth. Ideological battles are disguises for old battles to defend and expand territory, wealth and dominance.
Large aggregations of humans grew beyond reasonable limits in the 20th century. The tendency for the largest coalitions of nations to break up into smaller units is probably adaptive and represents an old primate tendency. The tendency in business for large companies to merge and form international conglomerates is driven by rational goals and means, but goes beyond human cognitive abilities. These large organizations are not likely to endure. Large assemblies become unfriendly and inefficient and eventually fail unless they are re-organized into subgroups that are small enough to allow individuals to work effectively together.
From the viewpoint of a single person, only a small number of other humans can be recognized as individuals. Only individuals have thoughts, feelings, status and rights. All the rest turn into "the masses". As humans adapt to living in large groups, some peculiar attitudes emerge in an attempt to cope with a large number of other humans out there that you cannot know, cannot understand and cannot trust. While categories are inevitable, the human tendency is to rely on broad generalizations. A distinction has to be made between concepts, principles and axioms that reveal the essence of human tendencies and categories that lack cogent information.
Humans often lack a sense of appropriateness when they go beyond names and concepts that apply to a well-known, local community. Categories are improvised to collect faceless people of indeterminate numbers into imaginary groups. An American will tell about Europeans in a few sentences and a European will tell you about Americans. These broad categories have almost no informational value, but they do serve the cause of prejudice. Every human walks around with a collection of generalizations and categorical prejudices and generally feels comfortable with this "knowledge base."
The reader will be reassured to know that I have been on duty for many years, notebook in hand, studying the masses. One of my vantage points was a local café where I listened to conversations and studied human behavior as I read newspapers. One sunny afternoon on the café patio, a loud male speaker in his early 20's was holding forth about the "masses" and what the "masses want" and what the "masses don't know." There was a bit of conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure. This young man didn't score high on the impromptu coffee shop IQ test - he got 100- but his remarks epitomize an approach that is common "among the masses". Since identities blur as the distance increases, there is a tendency to use all inclusive, general and vague categories for everyone who does not belong to your inner circle. As you move further and further away from home, even these general categories blur.
The dangerous aspect of the young man's concern is the possibility that he, in all his wisdom, will figure out what the masses really need and, with a small band of trusted cronies, he will set out to save the world. Despots are people who know what the masses need and impose their will. As the distance from other humans increases, the other humans lose their humanity and may become victims of despots who treat them as tokens in the video game of life.