A man’s legitimacy in the eyes of others determines what he can and cannot do. And as legitimacy falls, it influences how that man reacts.
A few weeks ago, I posted about the concept of increasing complexity in the mating market. In it I talked about some ideas inspired by Joseph Tainter's Collapse.
Today I want to talk about one more idea the book inspired. That's legitimacy.
In Collapse, Tainter discusses a society's need to maintain its legitimacy. That the more a society struggles to prove its legitimacy to the people who live within that society, the more it has to direct resources into displays to uphold its legitimacy (like monumental architecture, or war with neighbors to inspire patriotism) or into efforts to coerce its population to go along with things and to stifle dissent.
In fact, not long before a society enters a collapse, its construction of monumental architecture often reaches its peak. Despite the fact that there are fewer and fewer resources available as societies slump toward collapse, the society throws more and more of its shrinking resources into larger and larger buildings and monuments. Likewise, as societies proceed toward collapse, coercion increases, social trust erodes, and everyone ends up looking over his shoulder for those who might imply he's guilty of doing/thinking the forbidden.
All this is fascinating when you apply it to civilizations.
But as I read Tainter, it occurred to me his work applies to men as well.
Because just like a civilization, a man must also labor to establish legitimacy.
And just like a civilization, as a man's legitimacy crumbles, he struggles, often futilely, to uphold it with increasingly grand, or increasingly draconian, ways.