Q232. Durkheim lived in an age when the role and existence of “god” as ultimate source of right and rule and order was under question. Rather than choose between “the human” and “the divine” Durkheim stared religion in the face, so to speak, and showed how what we think of as divine/sacred is in fact human (social). How do the following passages convey Durkheim’s theory of the special power of social norms and his idea about society as god and the notion that the individual, with norms and values of society internalized, can be a source of social order?
Durkheim, “Collective Representations” from Elementary Forms
“An individual or collective subject is said to inspire respect when the representation that expresses it in consciousness has such power that it calls forth or inhibits conduct automatically, irrespective of any utilitarian calculation of helpful or harmful results” (50.8).
“The ways of acting to which society is strongly enough attached to impose them on its members are for that reason marked with a distinguishing sign that calls forth respect” (51.1).
“Because social pressure makes itself felt through mental channels, it was bound to give men the idea that outside him there are one or several powers, moral yet mighty, to which he was subject” (52.1).
“In the midst of an assembly that becomes worked up, we become capable of feelings and conduct of which we are incapable when left to our individual resources” (52.5).
Q233. Hobbes sees social order as impossible without hierarchy. Address both the question of coordination and cooperation (to see the cooperation here, we might think about Adam Smith’s notion of bartering as a means by which two actors can both get what they want) as you explain how Hobbes gets from his assumptions about human nature to the need for a “Leviathan” if human-kind is to achieve social order.
Hobbes, from "Leviathan"
“So that in the first place I put for a general inclination of all mankind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death. And the cause of this is not always that a man hopes for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to, or that he cannot be content with a moderate power; but because he cannot assure the power and means to live well which he hath present, without the acquisition of more” (89).
“Hereby it is manifest that, during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man” (93).
“In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (93-4).
“If a covenant be made wherein neither of the parties perform presently but trust one another, in the condition of mere nature, which is a condition of war of every man against every man, upon any reasonable suspicion, it is void; but, if there be a common power set over them both with right and force sufficient to compel performance, it is not void” (97).
Q234. Hayek is sometimes taken to be saying that the modern world throws up problems that are too complex to be handled by planning and policy making. Some things can be handled that way, but big and complex things cannot. What are the differences between the two types of order and the limitations and possibilities Hayek suggests each has and how does he get from there to social order?
Q237. In "The Emperor's Dilemma," Centola, Willer, and Macy talk about “the popular enforcement of unpopular norms.” What does that mean? Why is it a puzzle? What is (are) the mechanism(s) that they think explains it?
Centola, Willer, and Macy “The Emperor's Dilemma"
“Naked emperors are easy to find but hard to explain. It is easy to explain why people comply with unpopular norms—they fear social sanctions. And it is easy to explain why people pressure others to behave the way they want them to behave. But why pressure others to do the opposite? Why would people publicly enforce a norm that they secretly wish would go away? (278)
“One hypothesis is that very few would actually enforce the norm, but no one knows this. If people estimate the willingness to enforce based on the willingness to comply, and they comply based on the false belief that others will enforce, they become trapped in pluralistic ignorance—an equilibrium in which few people would actually enforce the norm but no one realizes this. However, this equilibrium can be extremely fragile. As in the Andersen story [The Emperor’s New Clothes], all that is needed is a single child to laugh at the emperor and the spell will be broken (278).
“A more robust explanation is that most people really will enforce the norm, and for the same reason that they comply—social pressure from others in the group, for whom mere compliance is not enough. To the true believer, it is not sufficient that others go to the right art galleries, display the right body jewelry, purchase the right sports car, or support the right wing. They must do it for the right reason. Zealots believe that it is better not to comply at all than to do so simply to affirm social status (Kuran 1995a, p. 62). Such compliance lasts only so long as behavior can be monitored and social pressure is sufficient to induce acquiescence (Hechter 1987). Thus, true believers reserve special contempt for imposters. Those who comply for the wrong reason must worry about being exposed as counterfeit (278-9).
“The hypothesized anxiety is supported by research on the ‘illusion of transparency’ (Gilovich, Savitsky, and Medvec 1998). This refers to a tendency to overestimate the ability of others to monitor our internal states… (279).
“Applied to the emperor’s dilemma, the ‘illusion of transparency’ suggests that those who admire the emperor out of a desire for social approval fear that their posturing will be apparent to others. They then look for some way to confirm their sincerity. Enforcing the norm provides a low cost way to fake sincerity, to signal that one complies—not as an opportunist seeking approval—but as a true believer” (279).
Fehr and Gintis describe experiments using a "public goods game." In the regular game, players tended to free-ride more and more as the game progresses. These results suggest that the sociological idea that people do the right thing because they are socialized to care about others is naive. Most people do not act in a “pro-social” manner. They free-ride.
When punishment is permitted, players punish free-riders even at a cost. Public goods increase as free-riding drops. Results like this defy the economic idea of people as selfish maximizers. They also suggest that hierarchy (surveillance/punishment) need not be centralized.
In the light of these results and the rest of the course, how do you think individual internalization of social values/norms, hierarchy, decentralized market interaction, and groups combine to create social order?