Book Details

The Wheels of Society



Written with verve and a mordant wit, The Wheels of Society is a vivid, cogent, ground-breaking proposal for us to re-think ourselves in order to steer civilisation back to safety.

As a species we seem to cling on to the power and influence of ‘the old normal’. Forests and valleys are decimated so that businessmen can be in Manchester 30 minutes faster; thousands of airline seats are sold for the price of a free-range chicken so that hundreds of short-haul planes can devastate the atmosphere and enable drunken escapades in Barcelona rather than Soho; the rich get even richer and the poor get Covid 19. Bankers conspire in the fraudulent abuse of people’s savings, yet can keep their loot, saved by governments supposed to protect their citizens but who fail to hold a single perpetrator to account. Is this how we are supposed to be?

Our cooperating groups, which make up the hierarchy of society, are living things in their own right. This only becomes clear when we reject the daft and monstrous Platonic fallacy that man and the individual are the pinnacle – the whole purpose even – of creation. This hubris has effortlessly deceived us into a philosophy which asks: how do I look, am I popular, how can I make pots of money and be a ‘success’? But a society based on such egoism must eventually lose out to those in which individuals seek success for their group rather than for themselves.

The biology of society becomes visible when hubris is sidestepped. First, natural selfishness must be overcome before individuals can assemble altruistically into a working group – a rather wonderful achievement. Then, once assembled, the group must perform trial-and-error cycles to do life’s vital functions. Wilson’s ‘assembly-and-performance thinking’ combines these two mechanisms into a simple scientific theory of society which applies, with variations, to all cooperating creatures – not just to humans.

Tony Wilson was born in Dublin in 1931 and studied economics at Trinity College before qualifying as a chartered accountant. After six years in Paris with Price Waterhouse he went to England working as financial controller in the Avon Rubber Company, GKN, and British Oxygen. He lives near Bath where he paints, writes and makes beer. He has had five one-man exhibitions and has shown in the RA Summer Exhibition.

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