what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Slow Books

Those of us searching for some clarity about the current global mess of the world are inflicted with a great deal of noise. How do we filter out the loud and simplistic messages and verbiage with which we are battered every day - and find the voices which really help us as human beings get a handle on this mess?
In addition to turning the television to the wall; cancelling all newspapers (living in the Balkans helps!) and unhooking yourself from the drug of “best-sellers”, I would suggest you try to find the more humble voices who pay proper respect to others ("standing on the shoulders of others") - who have posed good questions; who have patiently sifted the appropriate books (of various disciplines) to find answers; summarised them and – best of all – classified them into typologies…….
One such typology is grid-group theory - otherwise (and rather clumsily) known as "cultural theory"
Grid-group theory claims that viable modes of social patterns can be traced in the grid (action) and group (identity) dimensions. The answers to the two crucial questions: ‘who am I?’ (group) and ‘what shall I do?’ (grid) have vast consequences for most of the major decisions people make. The basic structure of the theory used here is presented in Figure 1 here 
The model generates four main types of societies.  At the far end of the continuum lies the highly individualist "weak group, weak grid". A "strong group, weak grid" society, on the other hand, is one of "enclaves", strongly−bounded groups impermeable to outsiders, but characterised by informal, highly personalised relationships within. The weak group, strong grid constitutes the "isolate" social form. 
Matthew Taylor has summarised the 4 quadrants in the following way -
The egalitarian paradigm; This sees benign change as being driven bottom up through collective action by those who are united by shared values and status. The idealism of egalitarians (emphasising the possibility of equality and the power of shared values) tends to leads them to feel that nature (including human nature) is vulnerable and has been corrupted. Egalitarians see individualists as selfish and irresponsible and hierarchists as out of touch and overbearing.
 The hierarchist paradigm
This sees benign change relying on leadership, authority, expertise and rules. As long as these things are in place then the potentially dangerous cycles and vagaries of nature can be managed.
Hierarchists see the other paradigms as na├»ve and unbalanced, but may accept each has its place as long as the hierarchy allots and regulates those places. 

The individualist paradigm    
This sees benign change as the result of individual initiative and competition. The aggregate sum of individual actions is collective good.  It’s OK to take risks because nature is resilient to change.
While individualists recognise the need for some hierarchy (more in theory than practice), they see the other paradigms as self-serving; hierarchists and egalitarians are hiding their own interests behind their paternalism and collectivism, while fatalists are simply excusing their laziness or lack of talent.

 The fatalist paradigm        
This sees successful change as unlikely and, in as much as it is possible, random in its causes and consequences. The world is unpredictable and unmanageable.
Fatalists view the other paradigms with indifference or scepticism, although they will tolerate them for the sake of a quiet life, or to help justify their own inaction.  

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