Divining functional social roles from ranks

I believe formal systems of rank contain a wealth of knowledge about the secret inner workings of informal social status, if we can discern them. In particular, I’ll be looking at US Army ranks. This is mostly just an exercise in intuition, comparable to using Army ranks like Tarot cards.

My premise is that rank is an ingenious social technology that creates a lawful population out of relatively lawless individual participants by redirecting simple social instincts. Compliance—to specific commands and general codes of behavior—is enforced primarily by threats of punishment from immediate supervisors, who are in turn held in compliance by their immediate supervisors, and so on. It is also possibly (but not necessarily) encouraged by hopes of promotion. As with other lawful systems, compulsion is ultimately accomplished by the threat of escalating force by the entire apparatus, so that individual defectors suffer disproportionate consequences but group defections can trigger a preference cascade (i.e. a revolution).

The most important idea is that of officers and enlisted men. In my blue pill days I was mystified at the idea of two entirely separate ranking systems, with one overwhelmingly superior to all ranks of the other. My red pill perspective is that most of humanity’s history is shaped by the institution of slavery, and therefore our social instincts are as well. So I believe that the institution of officer castes is a custom that is best explained as an artifact of imperial militaries, where soldiers from a conquering master race lead conscripts from conquered slave races. Nowadays it’s just “common sense” that 20-year veteran first sergeants have to follow lawful orders from college brats on their first day of work. I think the other explanations are bullshit rationalizations. And I think this maps easily to the civilian idea of upper vs. lower class. Even a child in the upper class is imbued with inherent superiority, whereas a slave only has utility as a sentient lever for doing work.

Speaking of upper and lower classes, I’d like to break these down a bit using specific military ranks as a guide. First, the lower class.

Paul Fussell divides proles (grunts) into out-of-sights, mid proles, and high proles. I believe these correspond simply to functionality within their specialized job functions. Out-of-sights can barely be trusted with a broom, mid proles can be trusted to show up most of the time and sober some of the time, and high proles can be trusted to show up every day and take pride in their work. They are distinguished from each other by ability and conscientiousness, and they are distinguished from the middle and upper classes in that they have no subordinates. In a healthy society, they constitute about 60% of the population. In SMV terms, they are Heartistean BETAs. In Vox’s SSMV terms, they are predominantly Deltas, Gammas, and Omegas. In Army ranks, they are meant to be the privates and corporals.

I believe that if we’re using a two-class system, the “middle” class falls under the umbrella of the lower class:

Upper class
Out-of-sight uppers
Upper middle (technocrats, demagogues, neurotics)

Lower class
High prole
Mid prole
Out-of-sight prole

The middle class is generally between 5 and 20 percent of the population, and more functionally diverse than the others. This is reflected by the split in enlisted ranks above corporal:

I think the middle class proper can be split into four broad categories: knowledge workers, strivers, management, and generalists. These correspond to the four sergeant-level paths pictured above (techs, specialists, ordinary sergeants, and first sergeants). The fact that these weird paths for ranks exist in the first place indicates to me that they were somehow necessary, likely because the underlying mechanics of human status competition demanded them. No doubt the central planners would have preferred a linear enlisted hierarchy, if the human element had allowed it (this follows from the idea of distributed enforcement in the second paragraph).

Knowledge workers are the semi-professional box where your typical nerds go: IT, mechanical engineers, those guys. They’re characterized by higher than average cognitive ability, OCD, and a complete inability to get along with anyone except other nerds (and the latter…not always). It’s best to remove them from the general work area for the sake of everyone’s sanity. Functionally, their technological expertise and innovations define what is logistically possible for the central planners.

Strivers are the go-getters who do sales, start businesses, and otherwise seek fame and glory via will-to-success. They’re characterized by narcissism and way too much energy. These are the guys who actually accomplish missions or make the company’s money. In the final analysis, the sales people are the only necessary element to any business. The ultimate goal of strivers is to become a one-man business, where their job is to sell nothing except the sale itself, i.e. public speaking or consulting. It’s very zen.

Management are the boring Deltas who show up for 20 years, have no personality problems, and know their corner of the world inside and out. They are given an office on the factory floor in honor of their meager station, after which their entire life consists of reading and writing reports. It’s a thankless job, but at least it doesn’t matter. One perk of the job is they can vent their frustration on the proles, who can’t retaliate because they dream of someday having his job (which they envision as consisting entirely of resting one’s feet on the desk).

Generalists are probably the most interesting because they’re the “natural aristocrats” that the upper class believe themselves to be. (One generally observes that the strength of this belief is inversely proportional to its predictive power.) These represent, for instance, the melonhead polymaths who very, very occasionally pop up in African slave classes, to the great chagrine of their nordicist Aryan conquerors. They are often prized for their unusual abilities and social graces, and rise to the top of the slave ranks (the biblical Joseph and Daniel come to mind). But because the ethnic divide generally must be protected at all costs, they are often unable to rise into the ruling class as melon genetics are otherwise wont to do. I’m not really sure what motivates first sergeants to follow the enlisted path nowadays when there’s no barrier to the officer track…maybe they just enjoy working, or taking orders from 20-year-olds.

Entering into more speculative territory, podrag informs me that there’s an implicit caste divide between lt. colonels and “full-bird” colonels. In overwatch theory terms, I think Colonel is the rank where politics begin in earnest and become a person’s primary daily concern. Below this level one finds the neurotics, demagogues, and technocrats, and only politicians, alchemists, and other genetic outliers are found in the sparsely populated upper ranks. In edenic terms, the latter would be all the pure-bred melonheads and a few other genetic freaks, who constitute something like 0.5% of the general human population. The former would be the hybrid lovechildren of these melons and their slaves, who might not have “the right stuff” or be subject to strict upper class breeding laws, but they can at least hold down a sinecure and relay orders to sergeants.

I’m not familiar enough with military culture to avoid making embarrassing mistakes, so point these out in the comments. Please note that I’m not drawing strict correspondences like “tech sergeants are Army engineers”, that’s not my intention. What I’m trying to do here is observe functional social roles that arise in scaled human hierarchies due to general social dynamics.

About Aeoli Pera

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32 Responses to Divining functional social roles from ranks

  1. Mycroft Jones says:

    Feelz true.

  2. Mycroft Jones says:

    Also, Aeoli, made a new friend last month. Tonight, I noticed that he is like your doppelganger.

  3. everlastingphelps says:

    An E8 (1SG) makes $1000-2000 more per month than an 01E (2LT). He would have to be promoted twice to 03E (CPT) before he caught up to his original pay. That’s not insurmountable (and might not even take an E8 mustang that long) but it feels like starting over. Not many people want to take a pay cut for a “promotion.” If he was that kind of person, he would have gone to OCS back at E3 or E4.

  4. Aton says:

    Can’t quite tell if you didn’t make this connection or just thought it was too obvious to give serious articulation, but the purpose of the “social technology” of ranks is to create a stable society; it does this by giving people something to hope for and something to lose. In such a system, someone’s gonna be above you but at the same time someone’s probably gonna be below you, and that feels good. It is like a Conga Line of people massaging one another’s backs, and the people at the end who are simply massaging others without themselves getting massaged aren’t so numerous to create serious problems–besides, they can always hope to move up the ranks. Some degree of social mobility is thus necessary for maximum effect. A stable society is one in which the majority of men feel they have something to lose by upsetting the balance. Good post!

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >Can’t quite tell if you didn’t make this connection or just thought it was too obvious to give serious articulation, but the purpose of the “social technology” of ranks is to create a stable society;

      Yeah, that was in my original notes but they never made it to the keyboard. You don’t want people fighting and scraping for status when they’re building your golden utopia.

  5. SirHamster says:

    OT: for the Alpha Game comment you left wondering where the Gamma post quote:


  6. Mycroft Jones says:

    Since the Gamma male is making off topic comments, I’ll make one too: The BBC and others are reporting the results of a study that women’s brains do in fact change during pregnancy. BBC reports: “Pregnancy reduces grey matter in specific parts of a woman’s brain, helping her bond with her baby and prepare for the demands of motherhood. Scans of 25 first-time mums showed these structural brain changes lasted for at least two years after giving birth. European researchers said the scale of brain changes during pregnancy were akin to those seen during adolescence. But they found no evidence of women’s memory deteriorating. This study, from researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Leiden University and published in Nature Neuroscience, looked at the brain scans of women before they became pregnant, soon after they gave birth, and two years later, to see how the brain changed. And they compared these women’s brains with those of 19 first-time fathers, 17 men without children and 20 women who had never given birth. The researchers found ‘substantial’ reductions in the volume of grey matter in the brains of first-time mothers. The grey matter changes occurred in areas of the brain involved in social interactions used for attributing thoughts and feelings to other people — known as ‘theory-of-mind’ tasks. The researchers thought this would give new mothers an advantage in various ways – help them recognize the needs of their child, be more aware of potential social threats and become more attached to their baby.” Thanks Mom! As for first-time fathers, the researchers found no changes in their grey matter.

    • Edenist Whackjob says:

      What’s the mechanism? Hormonal? Subconscious? If the latter, this means the soul/body/mind complex has a very powerful reprogramming tool hidden somewhere in the psychic UI.

      • Aeoli Pera says:

        At this point I don’t think we can say those are distinct. It may be possible to isolate the neurochemical processes that make this happen, but connecting that to functions of the mind is another thing entirely.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      This makes sense because they need to empathize with the baby, so removing most of their ability for social calculation (infantilizing them) is important. Babies are almost purely emotive and gray matter is a heatsink for emotions.

  7. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Learn Machine Learning and prove your hypothesis? Ie that officer ranks are phrenologically stratified.

  8. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Btw, have you ever heard of Stan Gooch? (see latest Tex Post)

    Pretty interesting, must read.

  9. Rime says:

    Great post.

    Colonel is indeed where the measure of your ability is the measure of your ability to politic, historically the Colonel was in charge of organizing and outfitting his regiment. This was back in the good old days when commanding a regiment gave you all sorts of wonderful privileges in high society so the very best tried their very best to make something of their military careers. Instead of what we have now, affirmative action for baby mamas and cross dressing fags.

  10. Heaviside says:

    Rank isn’t power.

    I might write a longer criticism of this post, but it will probably be on the forum, so I leave you with this fun anecdote:

  11. Aeoli Pera says:

    You have good taste, so no complaints here.

  12. Just Some Guy says:

    Rank gives you bureaucratic powers, this does not always translate to leadership, or the leaders ability to get the men to perform. It’s why a decent Officer of any rank will always seek advice from his senior non-commissioned Officer (SGT or WO). When the Grunts don’t perform they are punished, yet so to is the Officer who failed to inspire his men. Power works both ways, from above and below.

    Commissioned Officers are trained(brainwashed) into the politics of the day, so as to control the non-commissioned officers(grunts). Traditionally Officers would make the hard calls, that end up in more dead grunts, to meet the objective. If it was a grunt he would rather look after his immediate brothers and not meet the objective. It’s why a “Diggers” Officer usually doesn’t make it past the rank of Captain. So from this you can see a balancing act where the Officer strives to meet the objective, while the SGT/WO will always be the stop gap in looking after the men.

    The nick name of the SGT mess, is the Snake pit… So it seems Commissioned Officers and Non-commissioned Officers(SGT & Above) behave the same to advance themselves, which usually involves stabbing there competitors in the back. This has been a common occurrence since the invention of the rank system, which goes back to the Templar’s, Monarchs and Kings.

    Peel back the layers and you find corruption in any human system.

    I hypothesize that the military will be the easiest and first institution, that can be reaped back from the SJW’s. SJW’s can’t penetrate the point of the spear, it’s too hard for them. The logistics side of the military is full of them. To save money and improve functionality in the military, would be to stream line the logistics, hopefully cutting out the SJW’s…

  13. Pingback: How Frame becomes Game | Aeoli Pera

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