In War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empire (2005), author Peter Turchin proposes a theory of history, that the rise and fall of empire can be explained by a society’s capacity for cooperation. Social capital as a prerequisite for society is further explored in other books.
The interesting point is what basis a society may have for generating social capital and cooperation. Historically, Turchin argues, societies self-defined and self-unified along meta-ethnic frontiers. In an enlightened society, presumably the definition of self/other based on ethnicity and geography recedes over time in favor of ideology. The new ideologies could be much more personal and granular than the wide-reaching religions, economic systems, and political doctrines unifying disparate peoples today.
A shift to group-identification by personal principles could be liberating at the individual level but potentially destabilizing at the societal level. One issue is optimal societal size: defense and administration suggest larger societies, but personal ideologies suggest smaller groups. Another issue is greater implicit dynamism: there are fewer natural barriers to entering and leaving groups, and at-will association would seem to be the norm. A third issue is potential conflicts between multiple associations, as a system inspired by Snow Crash franchulates with nation-states articulating value propositions to potential customers could develop.
At-will society: airsteading with the extropians over Williamsburg Brooklyn today and the immortalists in zero-G tomorrow