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Status Matters: Material Economy vs. Positional Economy

by ManfromMiddletown Mon Oct 29th, 2007 at 04:46:18 PM EST

This is going to be a short diary.  One of the things I appreciate about being a graduate student is those rare moments when my efforts to follow a footnote in an academic article leads me to an an epiphany.

During this past summmer, I ran across a reference to Social Limits to Growth and the concept of positional goods.

Positional goods are products and services whose value is mostly, if not exclusively, a function of their ranking in desirability in comparison to substitutes. The extent to which a good's value depends on such a ranking is referred to as its positionality.

Like land, positional goods often earn economic rents or quasi-rents. Examples of positional goods include high social status, exclusive real estate, a spot in the freshman class of a prestigious university, a reservation at the "hottest" new restaurant, and fame. The measure of satisfaction derived from a positional good depends on how much one has in relation to everyone else. A society that devotes more resources to positional goods is arguably wasting effort, since a gain for one must come at a loss for another.

Competitions for positional goods are zero-sum games because such goods are inherently scarce, at least in the short run. Attempts to acquire them can only benefit one player at the expense of others. By definition, not everyone can be the most popular, cool, or elite, and in the same sense not everyone can be a star athlete because all those terms imply a separation or superiority over other people.

Diary Rescue by Migeru


From Hirsch we identify a vital insight into the nature of economic output that has largely ignored by orthodox economists.  The willful ignorance of economists to the social component of economic production obscure the true nature of economic output, and creates the undue assumption that increases in the economic output of a society are by their nature largely Pareto optimal, i.e. they leave everyone better off.

In orthodox economics, distribution doesn't matter, because utility is derived internal to the individual.  That is to say that the daily bread of the poor man if it increases in quantity is not rendered less valuable by the insistence of the rich man that his bread be of higher quality. More revealing is the case of housing, where the material threshold of shelter is quite low, but the increasing wealth of soceity creates a sort of arms race where everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses.

Returning to Hirsch, we have the idea that the escape from scarcity found in the industrialization of Western Europe and its settler society offspring throughout the world while fulfilling the needs of the material economy through the satifaction of most basic survival neends represented in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

However, we learn from Hirsch that as the general level of wealth of a society increases and material wants represented by these survival needs is satisfied, the impact of increases in economic output in social well being is made ambigous as increasing portions of economic production are dedicated not to the satisfaction of material wants but instead to the differentiation of social status. Where the initial stages of economic development were destructive to the antecendent social order, as economic output is increasingly directed to the creation of positional goods granting social satifisfaction by creating social distinction.

In his often densely-worded prose, Bourdieu discussed how those in power define aesthetic concepts such as "taste". Using research, he shows how social class tends to determine a person's likes and interests, and how distinctions based on social class get reinforced in daily life. He observes that even when the subordinate classes may seem to have their own particular idea of 'good taste', "...[i]t must never be forgotten that the working-class 'aesthetic' is a dominated 'aesthetic' which is constantly obliged to define itself in terms of the dominant aesthetics..." (page 41)

Contrary to the fairytale told by neo-liberals of the Lexus and the Olive Tree where the Lexus is seen to represent the rationalization of society incurred by economic development and the development of a more equal socity, and the olive tree the reluctance to let go of those past social distinctions granting status antithetical to the democratic society, something rather different emerges.

Mr. Friedman, the Lexus is the olive tree, because it represents only a reconstruction of social status, the bases of ineqaulity, and their justification.  Not its destruction.

When the nature of economic output is differentiated, and an understanding of the positional quality of most of the goods in modern economies, we realize that it may well be that further economic output may reduce the welfare of a society through the redistribution of the status as wealth and income is dedicated to providing social distinction rather than satisfying material needs.

In previous thread that got me off onto this idea of economic consumption as status seeking, Jerome quoted Martin Wolff in his justification of the positional economy, and the dangers of redirecting the economy to the satifaction of material needs and the recognition when enough is enough (lagom).

Happiness is fashionable these days. Yet should we accept the common view that the new "science" of happiness has cemented the superiority of Scandinavian social democracy over Anglo-Saxon liberalism? The answer is: No. The results are just as destructive to the pious certainties of "progressives" as to those of their opponents.

Richard Layard of the London School of Economics and the UK's House of Lords produced an elegant, brief and influential exposition of the new doctrine two years ago. That doctrine itself, as he explains, is a modern reincarnation of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism*.

(...)

Its most important negative conclusion is that, beyond a certain threshold, extra wealth does not make us any happier. In any society, richer people tend to be happier than poorer ones, but the proportion of people saying they are very happy does not seem to rise over time. The explanation for this is partly that relative position matters and partly that we become used to prosperity.

(...)

One answer to that is that effort is already taxed quite heavily in western societies. Another is that if monetary status is discouraged, people will seek status on other and often more damaging dimensions, power being a particularly dangerous example. Yet another answer is that it is far from obvious why differences in status become increasingly disturbing as income differentials increase. The fact that someone is one's boss or has a more prestigious position in society is a big enough difference on its own.

Let's be honest.  The neo-liberal project is at its heart anti-democratic, because it fails either fails to renognize that economic production is in our societies largely dedicated to the satisfaction of social wants rather than material needs.  And because the positional economy is zero-sum granting more to one party inevitably redistributes wealth, and in the case of the past 30 odd years this has involved stealing from the poor to make the rich feel more important. There is a point at which the material needs of a soceity have been met that further production serves to make societies poorer and less equal.

Display:
Keep you doped with religion and sex and tv
And you think youre so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be

There's room at the top they are telling you still,
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill,
A working class hero is something to be.



And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 12:11:52 PM EST
Great song.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 02:02:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for that one, MfM.

(A trip down Memory Lane: I was a grad student, it must have been towards the end of 1970. Some friends somewhat mysteriously had me sit in an armchair, handed me a joint and told me to take a good hit or two, then put headphones on me and played that track loud. Ooomphbadaboomkaboom! I play it loud often still, and it hasn't lost one iota of its meaning and power for me.)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 02:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The neo-liberal project is at its heart anti-democratic, because it fails to recognize that economic production is in our societies largely dedicated to the satisfaction of social wants rather than material needs.

You'd expect neo-liberal economists, being so in love with enterprise and business, would learn something from marketing and advertising. Because the marketing and ad people could tell them the truth.

But there's a strange attraction in angels on pinheads. Keeps you away from the sharp end of the pin, for one thing.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 02:29:18 PM EST
Exactly, in a material economy, advertising is less effective, because goods primarily satisfy material needs rather than social wants.

In a positional economy, the primary value of the product is the fulfillment of social wants rather than material needs.  See Naomi Klein's No logo the product that is being sold is not its physical manifestation, but the social construction created by the marketing folks.

When I previously worked in healthcare, I remember sitting through a presentation in which the wonders of medical marketing were extolled to us.  Think now about the pharma industry, and the impact that this phenonmenon we're discussing has on the provision of healthcare.

It diverts research and development away from the production lifesaving meds, and instead focuses on the creation of lifestyle drugs.  

Instead of curing cancer or AIDS, these unts are working on getting grandpa a hard on. The miracles of modern science.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 03:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to say I know a grandpa who wrote to me very recently about the joys of getting a hard on (and all that implies for a sixty-plus year old) via a pill, so I wouldn't run these as either/or--the key problem that I see with large for-profit pharmaceutical companies is that they block medicines (via patents?) to people who need them because that would cut into the "for profit" part of their mandate--and of course they expend vast sums convincing medical practitioners (with bribes) that "there is a pill for every ill."

wchurchill used to have lots to say about the benefits of commercial enterprises and the medical advances they offered, and it's not a field I have come into contact with except anecdotally.

btw, wasn't the hard-on effect a felicitous (for those who have problems maintaining or getting one) side-effect of a drug they were testing for quite another condition?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:15:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Angina and Hypertension

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:23:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently, they were researching heart disease.

Sildenafil (compound UK-92,480) was synthesized by a group of pharmaceutical chemists working at Pfizer's Sandwich, Kent research facility in England. It was initially studied for use in hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a form of ischaemic cardiovascular disease). Phase I clinical trials under the direction of Ian Osterloh suggested that the drug had little effect on angina, but that it could induce marked penile erections.[1][2] Pfizer therefore decided to market it for erectile dysfunction, rather than for angina. The drug was patented in 1996, approved for use in erectile dysfunction by the Food and Drug Administration on March 27, 1998, becoming the first pill approved to treat erectile dysfunction in the United States, and offered for sale in the United States later that year.[3] It soon became a great success: annual sales of Viagra in the period 1999-2001 exceeded $1 billion.

Angina means heart disease........

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The diamond industry history is the best example of status advertisement.

The diamond invention--the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem--is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton [...]

The major investors in the diamond mines realized that they had no alternative but to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds. The instrument they created, in 1888, was called De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., incorporated in South Africa [...]

The diamond invention [is] a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. [Both] women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. [The] illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever -- "forever" in the sense that they should never be resold.

[In 1938, in Europe,] there seemed little possibility of restoring public confidence in diamonds. In Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain, the notion of giving a diamond ring to commemorate an engagement had never taken hold. [This] left the United States as the only real market for De Beers's diamonds. [But since 1919], the total amount of diamonds sold in America, measured in carats, had declined by 50 percent; at the same time, the quality of the diamonds, measured in dollar value, had declined by nearly 100 percent.

[Their advertising agency N. W. Ayer] suggested that through a well-orchestrated advertising and public-relations campaign it could have a significant impact on the "social attitudes of the public at large and thereby channel American spending toward larger and more expensive diamonds instead of "competitive luxuries." Specifically, the Ayer study stressed the need to strengthen the association in the public's mind of diamonds with romance. [The] advertising agency strongly suggested exploiting the relatively new medium of motion pictures.

[N. W. Ayer] proposed to apply to the diamond market Thorstein Veblen's idea, stated in The Theory of the Leisure Class, that Americans were motivated in their purchases not by utility but by "conspicuous consumption."

Toward the end of the 1950s, N. W. Ayer reported to De Beers that twenty years of advertisements and publicity had had a pronounced effect on the American psyche. [The] message had been so successfully impressed on the minds of this generation that those who could not afford to buy a diamond at the time of their marriage would "defer the purchase" rather than forgo it.

The campaign to internationalize the diamond invention began in earnest in the mid-1960s. The prime targets were Japan, Germany, and Brazil. [Within] ten years, De Beers succeeded beyond even its most optimistic expectations, creating a billion-dollar-a-year diamond market in Japan, where matrimonial custom had survived feudal revolutions, world wars, industrialization, and even the American occupation.

Quite a fascinating history. De Beers not only had to manage to keep the monopoly, but to prevent trade of the increasing sea of the diamonds in public's hands. (Did you ever try to resell a diamond? Don't assume that diamonds are a good "investment".) You may wonder how sustainable their business is.

by das monde on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 11:59:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But there's a strange attraction in angels on pinheads. Keeps you away from the sharp end of the pin, for one thing.

Please reuse this as the kicker in your next economics post!  ;)

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Oct 23rd, 2007 at 12:56:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm only functioning at about 60% right now, but are you proposing that we can somehow stop people striving for status?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 03:59:21 PM EST
Stop no.

Not going to happen, but create social sanctions that make this sort of behavior socially unacceptable?

Yes.

The Swedes have it (lagom).  I know that it's a folk aphorism against the American Amish "All things in moderation." and the belief that one should be "plain" in the sense that they do not seek to distinguish themselves from others based upon their material possessions.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a recognition that the value of equality needs to has to prevail in the vast majority of social relations if democracy is going to work in the long term?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:08:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Following your chart above, maybe we could say that it would be better if society frowned on financial expenditure on materials (=products) once levels 1 and 2 (physiological and safety) had been attained, as the others are "psychological" and could be tied to status but it would be clear that if someone tried to buy their way to (e.g.) friendship, respect of others, and creativity by buying objects as opposed to buying education (e.g. individual lessons) or time (e.g. in a retreat or a walking expedition) etc...

...then they were "over consuming"--that once physiological well-being and safety had been attained...and then there could be a discussion about what minimum objects are needed (depending on location) in order to be both physiologically sound and safe (where "safe" would, I think, be the big issue, sorta like "how rich is 'rich'"...)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:21:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd argue far more that there's a difference in the nature of positional goods depending on the level of income and wealth inequality in a soceity.

In the 1960s in the US this took the form of one of the neighbors buying a riding lawnmower instead of a push lawnmower, or the outrageous Christmas light display.

Now it may mean gated communities, special hospitals, etc.

We can never make everyone equal, but we can create social norms that discourage the arms race mentality of consumer captitalism.  And encourage the formation of peer to peer social relationships rather than hierarchical ones.  That's the dirty little secret here.

Keep this shit up with the arms race mentality, and yuo just may wind up with a society in which most social relations involved extreme hierarchy with neither security nor autonomy for those on the bottom.  What then happens to democracy?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:30:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the 1960s in the US this took the form of one of the neighbors buying a riding lawnmower instead of a push lawnmower, or the outrageous Christmas light display.

That's my point: neither of these items comes under "physiological" or "safety" so the idea of "needing to mow one's lawn" should be questioned.

(I'm thinking of DeAnander's comment way back about a lawn being a desert in re: complex ecosystems.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 04:33:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the idea of "needing to mow one's lawn on a riding lawnmower" as opposed to a "walking lawnmower".

Though riding a lawnmower can be quite poetic (q.v. David Lynch's The Straight Story).

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 29th, 2007 at 04:45:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep this shit up wih the arms race mentality and you just may wind up with a society in which most social relations involve extreme hierarchy with neither security nor autonomy for those on the bottom.

Wrong tense, MfM.
The circumstances you fear are pretty much current events.
The last nuggets of security for many was their home equity . Boy, is that a thing of the past. Decent company pension plans or health care packages are an endangered species.
And the company (or school) you work for can and does tell you what to wear, where to live, what politics to profess, what car to drive--
At IBM, everyone wore a suit-- but dark grey suits were forbidden to the lower orders, as that was a "Management color".
You are right to fear the effect of a non-standard opinion on your academic career. At my last university, there were, in 1985, no PhD candidates in the psych department who were not behaviorists--Skinner was king.
When I questioned a faculty member on the issue of the ethical obligation for a social psychologist to hold the welfare of the individual as more important than the task to aid the company to more effectively manipulate the worker, I was told that such "anger-based" attitudes would "negatively influence my career".
Autonomy?  
And this sure was not the bottom.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 12:10:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Swedes have it (lagom).  I know that it's a folk aphorism against the American Amish "All things in moderation." and the belief that one should be "plain" in the sense that they do not seek to distinguish themselves from others based upon their material possessions.

i was exposed to various similar concepts while growing up, (in the uk) such as:

discretion is a mark of nobility.

to be modest and self-effacing is the mark of a gentleman.

flamboyance is vulgar.

etc.

i think it was known as 'having class' (whatever your provenance), 'being tasteful', 'appropriate', whatever.

taken all the way, this could be dull, but still perhaps better than the flagrant ostentation we see flashed before our eyes daily!

a little dull is ok, if it means we can keep our habitat habitable...


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 06:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that this idea is English.

But there's a distinction made in the US between the nouveau riche and old money.  Part of which is that old money (see the Kennedys, etc)understand that part of their social role is to provide charity for those who don't have.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 07:06:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, i wasn't raised in france, but it's interesting that what you describe was referred to as 'noblesse oblige' in england, perhaps revealing that there is no similar term in english.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 07:44:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know that it's that meaningful. for a long time the  english nobility were basically French, and the english language does grab terms from anywhere and adds them to the mix. Noblesse oblige is unusual, in that it isn't just assumed to be English and has kept its french identity.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 08:57:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Think "Potlatch"
North Western Indians when they found themselves posessed of a surfeit of wealth, had a dynamite party and gave it all away. Giving became a source of status, instead of getting.

Man, is that beautiful heresy.

 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 11:17:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Among the Kwaikutul of the American Northwest, there was a process of challenge, where one chief would destroy blankets, etc, and the other chief would be challenged to destroy an equivalent amount.  To do so showed the status of the chief, to fail broke the chiefs reputation.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 11:35:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your selection of the Kwaikutl iteration of the the potlatch- a thousands-year-old, cross-cultural custom--- is the traditional one, and is pretty narrow.
My point was that we are considering the relationship of possessions and status, and that it's sure gonna change.
The more typical potlatch concept has to do with giving away of "stuff" as an act that accrues status, instead of the eternal collection of stuff, and the position of having less is often more admirable than having more.

Interesting. N'est pas?

"Potlatches were social occasions given by a host to establish or uphold his status position in society. Often they were held to mark a significant event in his family, such as the birth of a child, a daughter's first menses, or a son's marriage. Potlatches are to be distinguished from feasts in that guests are invited to a potlatch to share food and receive gifts or payment. Potlatches held by commoners were mainly local, while elites often invited guests from many tribes. Potlatches were also the venue in which ownership to economic and ceremonial privileges was asserted, displayed, and formally transferred to heirs.
----
The significance and nature of gifting in Northwest Coast potlatches has varied through time and across cultures. It is commonly portrayed as extremely competitive, with hosts bankrupting themselves to outdo their rivals and aggressively destroying property. While this form of gifting characterized practices of northern groups such as the Kwakiutl, such competition would have been considered inappropriate during Nuu-chah-nulth or Salish potlatches on the southern coast.'

Buncha savages with quaint customs? Or several millenium of human experience that we choose not to look at?

http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/potlatch/page4.html

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 06:34:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what is it with the destruction, especially amped up with competition, that rings so familiar?

i know, watching the who smashing guitars, handcrafted with care, and desired by the screaming hordes...

i wonder if any indians slept too cold because the chief was showing off?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 06:38:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there's a lot in this, but it's only half the story.

The missing element is that economic theory is set up to account for positional transactions while hiding environmental and social costs.

This might seem obvious, but it's the reason why costs are hidden that defines what's really happening.

Let's say I buy a new MacBook Pro. I get instant kudos for its shininess, and my status rises - people will assume I am a person of taste and discernment because I'm not running Windows on a crappy old Dell, and this makes give me a sip of social nectar I wouldn't get otherwise. (Especially  if I couldn't even afford the Dell, and had to buy the even more crappy laptop on special offer in the local Woolworths.)

But I pay no penalty for the environmental and social costs involved in producing my shiny new toy.

Is this bad? No - it's good. I get the benefits in return for some token fiat symbol shuffling. Smeone else pays the real costs. And I get twice the positional boost.

Not only is my laptop shiny and refined and modern, yet also elegant and functional and expensive (by implication, just like me) but I've successfully offloaded the physical consequences of my choice to some other location, where I don't even have to think about them, never mind live with them.

So - the real basis of positional calculus isn't status defined by material goods, but status defined by freedom from consequences. The more my positional status increases, the more freedom I have to act like a self-absorbed narcissist.

The goods I own aren't a cause of that - they're the social signal which marks the extent of my irresponsibility.

This is usually called 'freedom' - and it's the Randian freedom to act like a teenager who doesn't want to deal with anything or anyone who says 'No, you can't do that.'

The inevitable result is the kind of monster we can see everywhere now - largely, but not exclusively, on the right. Because if the real social aim is that kind of 'freedom', their behaviour is rewarded, and they can't help but prosper.

Positional economics won't change until explicit, socially signalled irresponsibility stops being a core value.

Unfortunately we don't have any narratives for personal or collective responsibility that have real maturity or nuance. (Middle class guilt doesn't count, I think.)

So to make a change we'll need a new economic system which quantifies consequences, and a new social narrative which turns responsibility into a positional value.

This might sound impossible, but a good first step is better child rearing, with wide social mixing, and explicit lessons in the morality of consequences and responsibility.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 08:13:10 PM EST
beautifully said, tbg...

but a good first step is better child rearing

this brings up something i wanted to share here for a while...has anyone here seen a show on bbc called 'little angels'?

i cannot say enough good about this show, it is sheer brilliance, should be mandatory viewing for every parent, heck for every human being!

i watch it religiously, and find it never short of riveting.

the premise is that a camera team observes and records a dysfunctional family in full tilt disaster mode. budding little hitlers trashing families left and right...we've all seen this, i'm sure.

enter stage left...a child psychologist who sits down with the parents and watches the previous week's footage alongside them, in their own living room.

frequently this reduces them to tears as they watch their ignorance acted out, seeing the ugliness that has become their daily narrative.

then the psychologist, with indefatigably sensitive and diplomatic tact, analyses the dynamics, concisely and with profound accuracy, suggesting the necessary modulations in their methods to achieve their goals.

and then the fun begins...

what happens then upon the screen, time period elapsing over two weeks or so, foreshortened into the program format, is nothing short of what used to called exorcism!!

i was raised with no successful strategies on my parents' part, so this show resonates very deeply, leaving me always with my heart expanding and cheeks wet, as i see how intelligent the psychologists are, how low-key and perceptive they are, and most of all what incredibly valuable work they are doing, with little fanfare.

the immense ignorance of human - and especially children's - psychology is leaving so many wrecked people, who then go on to be easily inveigled into voting for mean, evil rabblerousers, or smooth talking idiots, because they are so messed up they don't know any better.

if these psychologists were diffused throughout any and every space where children are educated, we would have the world we dream of in very few generations.

if you watched any horror movies featuring exorcism scenes, these are the real thing, and the effect is like watching a long deep thorn being removed from the heart of the family, one that would otherwise have festered and gone on to who knows what devilry and social dismemberment?

ot...larry king is interviewing eric clapton about his new autobiography, pretty cool...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 09:10:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
melo, you describe it so well, I barely recognize it!  

There´s a Spanish copy of that show (and one for teenagers) and it drives me straight up the wall that adults become parents with such absolute ignorance about such life basics.  I know I hated the strict, rigid upbringing I had, but parents now have gone to the other extreme with no rules, no expectations and ´no thinking´.

You have a great concept there:  Let´s raise the ´market´ and social value of psychologists above brokers, lawyers, economists...  The world would improve a lot.  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 05:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yup ignorance is drilled in early and often, so the stagnant loop goes on.

so glad you liked that show too, it holds the keys to so much of the human race's problems and solutions.

You have a great concept there:  Let´s raise the ´market´ and social value of psychologists above brokers, lawyers, economists...  The world would improve a lot.

you sure got that right!  


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 07:44:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed.
Another good step is useful education in asking and answering good questions, as described by Neil Postman in his book, "Teaching as a Subversive Activity", or some similar iteration.
Parrotpeople are defenseless in the face of relentless pressures to adopt uncritically the idea of positional goods as a life's objective.

(One fruit fly to another)"Say, George (munch, munch)--aint it getting a little crowded in  here? (munch, munch)And, --could you please stop standing on my head? It's a big bottle--just move over a bit, dude.(munch, munch).

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 11:07:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG, that´s a 10.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 04:58:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, if you're not careful, you will wind-up a Substantivist and then there is no hope but to try and make it to the tree line before your major professor(s) find out.

(LOL)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 08:58:43 PM EST
Too late.  

I ♥ Karl Polanyi.  

He's one of the honored elders with Bordieu, Mauss, Durkheim, and the rest.  The big issue for me is whether my major professors will be amused that I am prone to draw from the literature of economic sociology (I requested a journal article through interllibrary loan, and they had to get it from the British Library because no library in the US apparently had access.  Mind you this was in English.), or will see me as a waste of time and of no credit to the discipline of political science.

The difference between brilliance and idiocy would appear to be first impressions, and I'm more than a little concerned at the reception my research will receive.  Compound this that what I'm writing on has little literature background in political science, particularly of the American variety.)  

There are those days I seriously consider making the move, and applying to British schools and looking at PhD availability in Spain.  But then I think that I could try to arrange a Fulbright for funding instead and do research in Europe, or even seek out funding for a semester at one of the European schools more focused on this for a semester or two from European sources.  

For better or worse, this country is my home. And making the move means facing the possibility of leaving a mother with a limited lifespan (congenital heart failure) 3,000 miles away.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 10:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I sympathize with your dilemma. Our move to Paris was motivated by many things, among them my interest in and admiration for Pierre Bourdieu-- and then he went and died on me.
Great sadness.
For many years we spent a fortune on plane tickets to Ohio and Florida keeping our relationship with aging parents alive, and feeding the heart with the sweetness of their presence.
Time and the inevitable end has removed that problem.
That said, I revel in the freedom to cruise the Bibliotec Nationale and find so much that just aint on anyone's radar screen over there.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 11:33:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stepping outside the beaten, approved, and well-trod tracks by informing your research and papers with the findings of economic sociology and economic anthropology will either be greeted with praise or you will be tossed on the street.  Your chances of the first are greater if you can find a major professor who has some sympathy for your preferred modus operandi.  PolSci ain't my field so I haven't a clue, can't help.  What I do know - from a friend who was tossed, several who are ABT, Elaine got hers, and my father-in-law, a department chairman - is: a thesis is a royal pain which is raised to the n-th degree if you also have to fight your thesis committee.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 01:07:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Read your diary with pleasure, and the thread from June started by Jerome with equal interest. Sorry I missed contributing at the time- just my neighborhood.

Yes, Dorothy, it's over.
A society based on invented needs and massive waste of resources, human and otherwise- what we call a consumer society- is like a tree cut through, but balanced in the still air. A breeze will start the fall, and discussions like these two threads may be a start at finding the foundations for a workable system to follow that moment when the lumber meets the loam.

I loaned my copy of Maslow--bad mistake.  


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 10:48:19 PM EST
Wow -- I'm bumping into talks about different economic views / theories / systems / philosophies everywhere tonight.

Recently shared this comment with someone at dKos in the crosspost of my "Fueling the Fire/$100 oil" diary. Essentially, the comment reads:

That depends on your definition of

the word and its application.

Social Capitalism vs. Economic Capitalism are different creatures in different mixes throughout the world.

Check out the chart in this AARE paper for an idea of how (in that author's view) the "Taxonomy of International agencies: OECD, UNESCO and World Bank" shakes out.

You can also take a gander here, from the World Bank site PovertyNet.  Here's the introductory blurb:

There is increasing evidence that trade at the macro level is influenced by social capital --a common property resource whose value depends on the level of interaction between people. While most work on social capital is microeconomic, social capital has implications for the effect of trade and migration, economic reform, regional integration, new technologies which affect how people interact, security, and more.
There's a balance, and when political systems, social systems, economic systems (both macro and micro) and cultural systems all combine and mix with ecological factors, there's a tremendous range of potential for what systems can thrive and grow and what costs or impacts upon the others are.

Right now, Bush/Cheney and the Republican reprobates are propagating "none of the above" with their program of disaster capitalism. (Warning: Google search string.)



Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
   Downey wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.
by GreyHawk on Mon Oct 29th, 2007 at 11:51:56 PM EST


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