I’d like to suggest you consider a subtle but important nuance in how
we think about emergence. Emergence in society is not like the
emergence that created organic molecules out of primal matter.
Emergence in society must take into account that society already
exists. And society is pyramidal, with a few elites living at the
So emergence does not happen on an empty landscape. It happens on a rich complex and hierarchical landscape.
Thus consider: Emergence is when the priorities of the bottom of
the social pyramid start to be expressed in the behavior of the top of
the pyramid. In the case of the presidential campaign, the people
at the bottom of the pyramid—the millions of people who care about
society—want their own social scene to be richer, warmer, more
vibrant. They want to enjoy more “social capital.”
When the Dean campaign contributes to the development of social
capital, it is rewarded with contributions and other forms of volunteer
support. When the campaign gets sucked into a battle of negative
campaigning, like it did against Gephardt in Iowa, the campaign gets
punished by the voters.
This suggests a path forward for Howard Dean: Continue to invest in
creating social capital. Continue to follow your dream of
facilitating citizen power. Citizens will lift you up and support
And to the extent that you need to let us all know you better, Howard, help us understand why this dream is so important to you.