The Rollins High School Theory of Social Dynamics
On Yarvin's Hobbit Theory
Curtis Yarvin’s Hobbit Theory of Social Dynamics has been getting a lot of press of late. If you’re unfamiliar, I’d start with his first post on the subject, You can only lose the culture war, then read his defense of Hobbit Theory, The Tolkien system of social roles.
I have a couple things to say regarding Hobbit Theory. First of all, Uncle Yarv lists Hobbits, Elves, Zombies, Humans, and Orcs as the species in his social cosmology (I’m not sure I remember zombies appearing in the movies, although he may be referring to the dead that Aragorn summons to end the battle. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them, and longer since I’ve read LOTR, so I could be wrong.). As his elves-who-are-sympathetic-to-hobbits species of aristocrat, he also includes Dark Elves, the Moriquendi, who do not feature heavily in the movie, but may appear in the book. (Again, I haven’t read it in a while.)
Conspicuous in their absence, however, are the Maiar. I have a few theories as to why that might be (the one I’m going with is that Uncle Yarv is a busy guy, and he can’t be expected to remember every species in Middle-Earth) but to recap for non-fantasy nerds, the immortal Maiar appear in LOTR as wizards of incredible power. Quite a few of them appear in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (which I have not read), but only three appear in the LOTR movies: Saruman, Sauron, and Gandalf. Saruman and Sauron are evil, and plot in secret using the magical Palantir to communicate, while Gandalf, who is good, rallies the forces of light against them.
It’s an awfully fun read. Yarvin is a fantastically wicked writer, and has written the most complete and fully fleshed-out theory of realpolitik since Machievelli’s The Prince, of which Hobbit Theory is but one small part.
Having said that, your old pal Rollins has a slightly different conceptualization of how social dynamics actually work. I do not claim to be Yarvin’s equal in the field, but I feel that my theory has a couple of advantages over his.
First of all, it does not require that one hypothesize a climactic battle between good and evil as one’s premise. Second, it takes place on a far more more familiar playground than Middle-Earth. Finally, while it is slightly more complicated than Uncle Yarv's theory, it has the advantage that you only need to know your own role in order to understand everyone else’s in relation to it.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the Rollins High School Theory of Social Dynamics.
Picture Anytown, USA. It could be in the Midwest, it could be in the South, it could be in New England.
Anytown has a number of high schools. There’s the prep school, the magnet school for arts/theater/dance, the vocational school, the reform school (I believe they’re called residentials now), the agriculturally focused school, and a number of others.
Each of those schools has a number of cliques and social groups. When I was a lad, there were goths and punks, as well as jocks, cheerleaders, kids who worked on the student paper, burners/stoners, super-religious kids, artsy kids, queer kids, and outsiders who fit in nowhere.
Within those groups (layers within layers within layers), the breakdown is to do with social position. I divide those positions up broadly into Cool Kids, Messy Kids, Get-along/Go-along kids, and Bullies.
That’s basically all you need to get started.
The last layer is the very broad personality types that exist within all high school social groups. The next one up is the way those kids group themselves according to interest. And finally, at the top, we’ve got the high school they go to—the way those kids are tracked in terms of social class. The degree to which and means by which each school is funded is how those kids are tracked in terms of economic class, which is distinct from social class.
There is a word for this: Intersectionality. The way it is used in political discourse is to exclude any category but race and gender, but wokies aren’t stupid, they’re just insane and malicious (and often drugged out of their minds). They’ve repurposed a set of incredibly useful economic tools from Marxism and insisted that they be the only ones who are allowed to determine how those tools are used.
Intersectionality is based on Class Analysis, which is just a set of intellectual tools for determining the individual’s relationship to the means of production. Wokies use those tools to determine the individual’s relationship to power structures, which are nebulous and largely based on a completely incoherent attempt to explain the nature of social dynamics that completely coincidentally serves to maintain their power and shits on everyone not a member of the faith.
What you have to realize is that most people never leave high school. In the overwhelming majority of cases, people just stay where they were, socially. They find a new clique that looks a lot like the old one, or in many cases, stay with the actual friends they made in high school. Growth is rare. It requires real motivation, because it is incredibly energy-intensive. It also requires method, and method is rarely taught.
As such, the first rule if you want to understand a person or group is: Treat social dynamics like a math problem. Start by reducing fractions. 12/9 is actually 4/3. A journalist presents himself or herself as a grown-up? Probably not. Most people never grow up. More likely, they’re a physically mature version of that same person on the student paper in high school, but with more money and their own place.
(Dogs are the same way. While an adult dog can be large and powerful, it remains as emotionally mature as a six-to-twelve-week-old wolf for the entirety of its life. The process of domestication, which is selective breeding for compatibility with human social structures, is the process of deliberately stunting an animal’s emotional growth. It is something we did to wolves in order to make them compliant and useful to us.)
The second rule is to figure out their social class, their economic class, and their social position. The order in which you do this depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If your priority is safety, start with social status with an emphasis on determining whether or not you’re dealing with a bully. If it’s selling someone something, you need economic class to figure out if they can buy, then social class in order to connect with them linguistically, but you don’t really need social position as much, because you’re not trying to make friends. If it’s making friends, start with social class for language, then social position to figure out who you’re talking to; economic class is mostly not important.
The third rule has to do with jumping between groups. You can transcend most of these with effort. If your social position was bully or mess, you can not be one (you can even learn to be cool!). If you were on the student paper and you want to be a skate punk, you can learn to skate. You can get a bump in economic class by working hard. A change in social class is accomplished is by learning the particular social etiquette of your desired class and a little luck. But all of them require a significant, significant amount of dedication to that goal. It is really, really hard, in all cases, to change your relationship to the kids in your high school, and the most reliable way I know of is to transfer schools.
That’s my take on it (and how I do it myself), at any rate.
So here's a question for you: Has adulthood always been like high school writ large, or have we accidentally gotten to the point where kids no longer grow up like they once did? (Conversely, we might have made high school a Kafkaesque nightmare version of adulthood, but I don't think that's so likely.)
Within the theory of the "high school" it is likely that (a) clique mobility is lower than expected (b) certain traits are not easy replicated and thus are "copes" rater than "copies" https://lamentsofavertebrate.home.blog/2019/10/23/high-school-hierarchy-a-brief-analogy/ https://today.uic.edu/uic-study-details-how-todays-high-school-cliques-compare-to-yesterdays/
Reapplying this as a counter to Yarvin and Collins would be that there are two tracts for not being a no-body: a useful idiot (preppie), or a "wise guy" (jock). Every preppie will either LARP as a jock, flaunt their smarts, or gather around the same tables. https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-or-the-office-according-to-the-office/ https://indiepf.com/michael-o-churchs-theory-of-3-class-ladders-in-america-archive/ https://alexdanco.com/2021/07/08/michael-dwight-and-andy-the-three-aesthetics-of-the-creative-class/
The jocks hate the preppies as they are less likely to be spineless at times, the preppies hate the crowd as if they are plebs, the crowd envy the jocks. Power flows in the opposing direction of resentment. https://archive.ph/eVhEF
This leads to the crowd either play the jock-ification story (hard and clique-specific) or the cliché "hero's journey" by becoming a preppie (making yourself rather than others more useful). The "grindset" may be real, but the model preppie is just that, a meme. Overpricing prestige and underpricing freedom. https://robkhenderson.substack.com/p/status-over-money-money-over-status
The best way to rebel is to always avoid being a preppie, and instead do the bare minimum to pass, and work hard outside of the system to be free. This is the "barbell strategy" to life.