Our modern world is founded on belief in things that exist only in our common imagination. Corporations, states, etc, are not really different than old spirits or ghosts. They exist only in common stories that we invent and tell one another. People do not really know how to create effective social cooperation in large numbers without basing it on stories, entities and legends that exist only in their minds. Primitive tribes cemented social order by believing in ghosts, spirits, gathering each full moon. Our own model institutions function on exactly the same basis.
People easily understand that primitive tribes in jungles thousands of years cemented social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, gathering each full moon to dance around campfire. Our own modern institutions like banks, nations, and so forth function on exactly rhe same basis. To see how this functions even today, let's focus on legend of Peugeot. Peugeot Company has a trademark that is a lion walking on two legs, very similar to the lion-man from the cave. Peugeot is one of the biggest, most important and oldest car manufacturers in Europe and in the world in general. Its trademark is the lion walking on two legs, similar to the lion man from the cave. the similarity is more than the trademark, it's how the entire organization functions. PEugeot is one of the biggest, most important and oldest car manufacturer in the world. It was a small family business in the small Valentini village in northeastern France. Today it employs about 200,000 people most of who are complete strangers. 200,000 strangers cooperate so effectively that Peugeot makes each year 1.5 million autos and billions and billions of euros. What exactly is Peugeot? This powerful corporation that employs 200,000 people and makes billions of euros each year. Is Peugeot the cars? No, the company is not the same as the cars. You can take all the Peugeot cars in the world and destroy them. If all Peugeot cars were destroyed, the company would continue to exist and simply manufacture new cars. Its certainly not the cars, motorcycles and lorries that it manufactures. Is Peugeot the factories, the shoals, the equipment of manufacturing? No. If all factories were destroyed the the company would still exist. In WWII there were cases of aerial bombing destroyed all machinery and factories of a particular company, but the company simply spent money from reserves and/or loans to simply buy new equipment and continue manufacturing. Is it the people? Secretaries, accounts, laborers, etc? What if all workers went on strike and were fired wholesale? Peugeot simply would hire new people and continue manufacturing cars. Are managers and stockholders Peugeot? If they were all fired and replaced and a company plane with all managers and they all died, then Peugeot would still exist. Same for stockholders. The stockholders could sell all their stock, all the holders would change, but Peugeot would still exist. Peugeot is not invulnerable. A judge could say that Peugeot broke a law, like a monopoly law, and the company would be dissolved. So what exactly is Peugeot? In what sense can we say it exists? It is a story, a fiction, that was invented, that exists only in our own imagination. It belongs to particular kinds of fictions called limited liability companies. it is much more difficult toexplain than what is a gost but we wil try. For much of history, property could only be owned by flesh and blood humans. In mideival France, a workshop belonged to the owner of the workshop and had unlimited liability for the workshop. if a wagon the workshop produced and it broke down a week later, you would sue the owner. Similarly, if the owner took a loan for financing the purchase of new materials, and could not repay the loan, the owner could be sued and all the property could be confiscated. If ths were not enough then the owner and owner's children could be sold into slavrey until the loan were repaid. This unlimited liability was a big obstacle for entrepeurship. People feared taking economic risks. If somebody thought about opening a new workshop, and needed a loan, failure to repay the loan could mean complete ruin. People were afraid of openig new businesses and taking new initiatives. To solve thisproblem, people began to collectively imagine the existence of LLCs. An LLC means: such companies were imagined of being legally independent of the people whoset them up, invested money and managed them. In the case of an LCC, if the company borrows money then it is only the company that has to return the debt. Not the founder, owner, nor manager. The owner nor even the owner's personal property could be sold to repay the debt: it was only the company that incurred the debt.
WHen a company cannot repay money,unless there was misbehavior or misappropriation, then only the company can be sued. Not woners, stockholders, managers, etc. If the company can repay you very well but if not then it's your problem. It's the rule. Such LLCs have become main players in the economic arena and we forget tht we invented them ourselves and they exist only in our imagination. GM, GOogle,Microsoft, etc are only fictions in our head. How do we create such a company? How was Peugeot created? Back i 1896, Almand Peugeot decided to go itno the automobile industry so he decided that he didn't want to risk his own money and possessions so het setup a company to try this new business. To do so he did roughly the same thing that shamans and priests and sorcerers have been doing for thousands of years to invent gods, demons and ghosts. What Almand Peugeot did was he told a story to convince everyone to believe inthe story.
To compare, consider the way in which catholic priests create the body of christ, god's own body, each sunday in church, the ceremony of mass, the most important ceremony in catholic liturgy. How do catholic priests create the flesh and blood of fod each sunday in churcH? According to catholic dogma, when a catholic priest is dressed in sacred garments, hat, everything and stands in church on sunday and carefully says the right words at the right moment, then ordinary bread and wine are miraculously converted into the flesh and blood of christ. The priest exclaims "Hoc est corpus meum" (this is my body in Latin) referring to the body of christ and hocus pocus the bread turns into god. This is the origin of the magical words Hocus pocus used to transform one thing into another thing or create new things. If you believe this story, believe catholic dogma, then you begin to believe that the bread has become the flesh of god. This is how Catholic priests create god.
In exactly the same way people creat stories called business law. If a certified lawyer dressed in certain clothes in an office and writes special rituals and places a signature then the moment hte lawyer finishes then hocus pocus a new company is incorporated. This is exactly what Almand Peugeot and his lawyer did in 1896, going through a complicated ceremony creating a new company and upon finishing the necessary rituals and announcing legal spells and legal oaths, then Hocus pocus a new company was created. If you believe business law then you start treating Peugeot as though it really exists. Almand Peugeot who created the company died in **** but Peugeot continues to exist, yet only in our common imagination.
the difficult thing is not to tell the story of Peugeot ro catholic dogma, but to convince people to believe them. Convince millions of people to believe the same stories about gods, or LLCs, or nations, or human rights. WHen it succeeds, it gives Sapiens immense power because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate towards common goals.Try to imaigne how difficult it would have been to have people only talk/discuss things that really exist. No states or churches or legal systems. Try to imagine how difficult it would be to only talk about reality, not imagined realities (social constructs)
Imagined realities (Social constructs)
They are not lies. A lie is saying something untrue. Chimps and monkeys can also lie. Schoalrs have documented cases where one green moneky sees another that sees a banana or fruit so says lion call even he knows though there is no lion around and the abana than found the special fruit runs away in fear, allowing the liar to thereby seize the food.
Almand Peueot must have really believed in Peugeot company,and the sculptor of the Lion-Person must have really believed in Lion-Man speirits. There are charlatan sorceries and priests, but most really believe in gods and demons. Most human rights activists really believe in humanrights. When the UN told Libya to obey human rights, nobody questioned it even though human rights exist only in our head. Ever since the cognitive revolution, Sapiens has thus lived in dual reality. THere is objective reality of land and rivers, and imagined reality of gods and corporations. We live in both. Imagined reality as centuries progressed became more powerful, so that now the survival of trees, rivers, land, depends on the grace of the imagined realities. Our ability to believe in things that don't exist allowed large numbers of strangers to cooperate flexibly, and had another very important advantage.