Man is not a ‘herd animal’ but a ‘horde animal’

W. Brown writes in Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire:

Man is not a “herd animal” but a “horde animal,” Freud writes at the conclusion of his lengthy critical discussion of other theorists of group psychology. A herd animal has an instinctual affinity for closeness, primary gregariousness, while the horde animal is constituted by an external organizing principle that brokers a complex need for, rivalry with, endangerment by, and aggression toward others.

It is debatable whether it is appropriate to call humans by generalizing them as animals, as there are both people that fully appreciate the superiority and the dignity provided to us by the gift of consciousness with many other functions; and people that choose to live no different than an animal would. There is actually the third category as well, which is the type of people that live an inferior life compared to that of animals. Because even animals live with the virtue of compassion. Compassion towards their little ones… But the third category does not deserve much mentioning and is out of our scope for this writing.

Calling people “horde animals” is not wholly agreeable. Because, if we look at what leads the world today and what the source of power is, which is advancements in technology, it may seem like we do indeed collaborate for the sake of each other, just like “herd animals”, and invent devices and systems such as smartphones, robots, smart homes etc. which do provide benefit to society… right?

Now, ask this question: Will every engineer, scientist, manager etc. that is involved in the progress of technology that we call “advancement”, have the same will of contributing to society once we remove the external goods such as public honoring, payments and prizes that are attached to their work? Perhaps, the answer is not everyone. Reasonably, we still may have people that belong to the first human category that we described, people that purely shape themselves according to what the tradition of their work demands. And what is the ratio of such people to those that use their work as a mean to achieve the external good attached to it? Observation of one’s self and the environment is one way to find an answer.

Looking at the external goods mentioned before, public honoring, payments and prizes, it is deducible that each of these goods requires another agent. What is public honoring without the public? What are payments for when the market does not exist? What would prizes mean without anyone acknowledging it? Therefore, even if a person is considered a ‘horde animal’ who strives for selfish pleasures, he/she still requires the existence of a ‘herd’ that would serve a ground for practicing his/her ambitions. So I say, Man is not a ‘herd animal’ but a ‘horde animal’ living in herds.


2 thoughts on “Man is not a ‘herd animal’ but a ‘horde animal’

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  1. I think your post is interesting but personally I am reluctant to attribute any emotion such as compassion to animals because I cannot be certain that they experience such a thing. I am also not sure when it would appropriate to say that an action by animal could be considered equivalent to a human action. For instance, even bacteria can communicate through quorum sensing but I would not say that they are communicating in any way comparable to the way I am communicating to you now.

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    1. Thank you for your interest. That is an interesting perspective. It is true that human emotion and animal emotion cannot be regarded as equal. I perhaps needed to put more clarification in the claim. When we look at animals, unconscious creations, I feel like they are bound to some boundaries that they cannot cross. For instance, like the example given in the post, looking after your small one. An act of ‘compassion’ in human traits… But done unconsciously. It is in their nature and none goes against it. But then, I look at a mammal kind, humans, which should have the same trait as it should be in their nature and which sometimes chooses to consciously go against it. Therefore, disregarding the means, when we look at the ends of actions, it is perhaps true to say that some humans are inferior to animals. But when we regard the means as well, which is if an action is being done consciously or not, then it is debatable. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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