Thursday, August 4, 2016

People’s space-time-action orientations: How they’ve been studied. How they should be studied.

Note to readers interested in STA:C : I regard this post as one of my most important efforts to explain and elaborate STA:C — this time by casting a net over all my reviews these past few years about writings by Henri Lefebvre (on space), Peter Zimbardo & John Boyd (on time), and Albert Bandura (on agency). I hope the post helps…

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Slide 1: This briefing-style post offers a way to depict a prospective theoretical framework (currently acronymed STA:C) about people’s space-time-action orientations and their roles in cognition and culture. The post shows how several renowned experts have already gone about analyzing people’s space, time, and/or action orientations. It then claims that STA:C could do better.

Hopefully, my depiction can serve as an evolving visual aid for conveying STA:C at a glance. The genesis of my depiction dates from a briefing I began drafting in 2009, but never finished. I offered a preliminary incomplete version of this post two years ago — “A sketchy depiction of space-time-action analysis (STA) in seven slides” (2014). Today’s post supersedes that earlier effort. [Click on a slide to enlarge the view.]

My slides and write-up presume a passing familiarity with the STA:C framework. Otherwise, read a background story (here) and a preliminary overview (here).

Slide 2: The idea that space, time, and action orientations — all three combined — are fundamental elements of cognition and culture struck me in 1966 or 1967, a time when there was plenty of literature about each orientation by itself, but not as a triplex. Since then, I’ve dithered at focusing on the idea. But what I’ve read over the years indicates that no one has yet approached people’s space, time, and/or action orientations as a triplex.

Many (most?) discussions I’ve seen are reflected in the diagram on the left, where space and time perceptions — or just one or the other alone — are discussed for their effects on people’s activities, or action, broadly defined to cover all sorts of thinking and doing. However, though not entirely wrong, that kind of approach is self-limited and ultimately misleads, for it makes action (or agency) too much of a dependent variable.

Occasionally I’d come across a different approach, not depicted on this slide, that focuses on people’s beliefs about action or agency — their sense of having an ability to change matters around them through their own efforts. Ages ago, people were sure that supernatural forces determined one’s fate. The idea did not really develop until the Middle Ages (or later?) that one could control one’s destiny through one’s own capacity for action. Histories of the idea of “progress” were where I’d usually (but not always) come across approaches that treated action orientations as the key independent variable or cause.

Wherever I looked, with few exceptions, people’s space, time, or action perspectives were studied pretty much in singular fashion, with one or the other of the three emphasized in a study, and the others brought in almost tangentially, sometimes as additional independent variables, sometimes more as effects than causes. So I have remained resolute that my initial idea was/is still fairly original and worth pursuing.

The depiction on the right shows roughly what STA:C looks like to me. All three cognitive domains — space, time, and action — are treated as independent but interactive variables, roughly equal in importance, with overlaps. It’s basically a Venn diagram. It makes “thinking and doing” the dependent variable. I propose that it is a more accurate and productive way to depict and assess these cardinal elements of consciousness, cognition, and culture. This kind of diagram also offers a basis for comparative analyses, as in the subsequent slides.

Slide 3: I’ve been unable to do original research from scratch to verify and advance STA:C. As a partial substitute, it occurred to me that what I could do is review experts on each of the three cognitive elements — space, time, and action — in order to see, and show, whether they eventually had to recognize all three to some degree, as STA:C implies should be the case.

So I chose to read Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974), Philip Zimbardo & John Boyd’s The Paradox of Time (2008), and Albert Bandura’s Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control (1997). Each writing is renowned in its field. And I reviewed each in earlier posts here (but Bandura’s book was so long, I used his article “Toward a Psychology of Human Agency” (2006) instead).

My goal was to ascertain whether, and how much, these experts on individual STA:C elements ultimately attended to all three. STA:C argues that such experts should, indeed must attend to all three. But do they? To what extent? In what terms? And do such comparisons help validate STA:C?

This post conveys what I found. All diagrams are preliminary and impressionistic on my part. Your view may differ — in which case, draw your own version, and/or suggest that I redraw.

In my depictions, circle sizes — from large to small — represent the relative importance given to each STA:C element. Circle locations — overlaps, separations — indicate the degree of their interactions, according to the author(s). Circle line densities — from solid and thick, to dotted and thin — indicate my sense of the relative conceptual clarity of each STA:C element. (This approach to depiction improves, I hope, on my 2014 effort, which just used circle sizes and overlaps to represent each expert’s emphasis.)

Diagraming with these 2-D circles must suffice for now. But, for a future iteration, 3-D shapes might convey even better that the three STA:C elements work together rather like a molecular bundle. Perhaps “word clouds” could also be inserted to indicate content.

Slide 4: French philosopher/sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974 [translation, 1991]) remains a landmark text among postmodern, mostly Marxist theorists who are caught up in the “spatial turn” in sociology that began a few decades ago.

Lefebvre proposed that space is a cardinal mental and social concept that merits far more attention from theorists and strategists. Accordingly, “the production of space” — all kinds of spaces, by all kinds of actors, even by isms — has become a paramount activity in advanced societies. Producing spaces is now a more defining activity of capitalism than producing commodities. Thus he not only advocates space as a grand analytical concept; he forecasts that societies are moving into an era when producing and controlling space is a key strategic purpose. (Source: three blog posts, beginning here)

While he does not offer a typology, he identifies innumerable categories and distinctions about physical, mental, and social spaces. Accordingly, “social space” first took form ages ago as a mostly “natural space”; then as modern forces took hold, it evolved into “absolute space” and “abstract space”. What’s important analytically is to figure out how to “decode” space and identify “spatial codes” that powerful actors use. In particular, he observes, “The ideologically dominant tendency divides space up into parts and parcels” — it works to separate all sorts of spaces from each other (e.g., public and private) and treat each as a “passive receptacle”.

While Lefebvre focuses on space, he devotes great attention to time as well. Indeed, he views time as a co-equal concept in terms of nature, physics, and philosophy. But much as he would like for space and time to operate in “unity” in the social world, he finds that one or the other has tended to prevail in different historical periods. In the current period, he argues, time has been “confined” and “murdered” by the modern state and capitalism — hence the growing significance of space, especially “abstract space”.

Lefebvre doesn’t write explicitly about the action element, but his treatment of “strategy” is somewhat cognate. In places, his treatment seems to be about people having an independent capacity for agency; but in other places, his treatment seems to treat strategy as a dependent implication of his space-time analysis. His forecast that societies are moving into an era when producing and controlling space is a key strategic purpose presumes, I would say, an action perspective, as does his view that the powers-that-be operate to split spaces up into parts and pieces they can dominate. But he also pushes two strategy points that read like dependent implications about what people should do: reunite disassociated spaces and generate bottom-up pluralism, including to create local self-managed autonomous zones outside the control of the state and its attendant networks

Hence, in my depiction of Lefebvre, the largest circle is about space. Time merits a large circle too. And the space and time circles deserve a strong overlap. His treatment of action in terms of “strategy” figures less in comparison, and less clearly — so I’ve rendered it with a small circle, sketchy line density, and little overlap.

Slide 5: This slide depicts what I conclude from reading psychologists Philip Zimbardo & John Boyd’s The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life (2008) — a significant psychological study in the guise of a self-help therapy book.

The largest circle by far goes to time, for, in their view, “time perspective” is “one of the most powerful influences on human thought, feeling, and action”. At the core of their study is a typology that identifies “six time perspectives: two past, two present, and two future” that are “the six most common time perspectives in the Western world”. These six are: past-negative; past-positive, present-fatalistic, present-hedonistic, future, and transcendental-future — lately modified to distinguish between future-positive and future-negative. This typology organizes their analysis about the significance of people’s time perspectives for their individual lives and for societies as a whole. (Source: four posts, beginning here)

As for action, Zimbardo & Boyd recognize the importance of “control” and “efficacy”. But their discussion tends to suborn and embed “control” within their treatment of time. Thus, in my depiction, action merits a medium-size circle, with a sketchy line density, that ends up almost entirely engulfed within the time circle.

There is no discussion of space as a distinct perceptual domain — only scattered disparate references to various spatial elements (e.g., one’s perceptions about self-worth, family, and government). Hence, I’ve drawn the space circle quite small, with the sketchiest line density, and placed it almost entirely outside (though maybe it too belongs inside) the time circle..

Their approach and its limitations is most evident when they try to explain why somebody may become a terrorist. The authors emphasize having “a “transcendental-future time perspective” as a condition. And they propose that U.S. policy and strategy should deal with this and other matters by focusing on changing people’s time perspectives. It’s a useful notion, but makes limited sense, for they play down crucial space and agency perceptions that are embedded in their write-up — reflecting the slide here.

Slide 6: For psychologist Alberto Bandura, agency — the ability “to influence intentionally one’s functioning and life circumstances” — is important because “malleability and agentic capability are the hallmark of human nature.” Developing an “agentic self” is one of life’s most meaningful endeavors, for it means a person “can generate a wider array of options”. Personal efficacy beliefs are the “foundation of human agency”.

His article “Toward a Psychology of Human Agency” (2006) analyzes psychological agency and efficacy in ways that match what I think action means in the STA:C framework. Thus, in my depiction, action receives the largest, boldest circle. Since he and other experts in his field prefer the terms agency and efficacy, maybe I should do so too. But for now I am sticking with action as the A in STA:C. Readers who prefer agency to action should just go ahead and do so. (Source: two posts, beginning here — they explain why I used his 2006 article instead of his renowned book Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control (1997))

Bandura does not name time as a factor that affects or otherwise accompanies agency and efficacy. But his analysis does identify the importance of “forethought” and other aspects of people’s future orientations — e.g., anticipation, expectation, optimism, pessimism. So my depiction renders time as a medium-sized circle, not so clearly defined, but having a strong interaction with the action element. To my puzzlement, he views forethought as “the temporal extension of agency” — thus suborning time to action, rather than treating time as a separate cognitive domain.

Bandura affords space no explicit theoretical attention. But spatial qualities do appear, at least implicitly, in what he writes about the formation of individual identities and the perception of other actors in one’s environment. Indeed, spatial cognitions lie behind the “three modes of agency” he identifies: personal, proxy, and collective agency. From a STA:C standpoint, these modes are more spatial than agentic in nature, for they presume that one’s environment — or space — contains other actors who can connect to each other. So, space receives the smallest, vaguest circle in my depiction.

Finally, like Lefebvre and Zimbardo & Boyd, Bandura draws some implications for policy and strategy. As a result of the information revolution, other technological advances, and economic globalization, he sees that agency is being amplified in all sorts of ways, for beneficial as well as hazardous purposes around the world. And he warns that “Through collective practices driven by a foreshortened perspective, humans may be well on the road to outsmarting themselves into irreversible ecological crises”.

Note that this quote contains both time and action elements. I’d say that’s another plus for STA:C. I’d also note that while Bandura emphasizes the many ways whereby people’s agency is being amplified nowadays, it is also evident — just look at recent shifts in popular opinion in the United States and Europe regarding one newsworthy matter or another — that many people today also feel that globalization has deprived them of agency.

Slide 7: My three reviews here are less about the writings themselves than about a purpose that serves STA:C: to show that each expert writing, besides dwelling on its singular focus — space, time, or action — eventually turns to use and say something about all three. Indeed, there is no way for major writings to avoid doing so. The unrecognized reason for this is that these specialists are actually studying a systematic mental and cultural triplex that consist of all three orientations — but they’re doing it narrowly and unknowingly from their singular angle.

Inspection of such writings helps confirm that people’s space-time-action orientations function as a bundle, like a module — a set of inter-laced cognitive-knowledge elements that no mind or culture can do without, and which shape the distinctive nature of that mind or culture. The more we learn about analyzing people’s space-time-action orientations, the more we shall realize that all three orientations are so thoroughly interlaced in our minds and cultures that they form an essential cognitive “module”. And if I’m right about that, then the unfolding of that realization will matter not only across academic disciplines, but also to real-world analysts and strategists of all stripes. Figure out people’s space-time-action orientations as a three-fold bundle and you can assess how people think and act better than ever before.

But, assuming I am right about all this, getting there won’t be easy. I gather that specialized academic fields tend to resist change. Besides, it would take a lot of effort to “prove” that space-time-action orientations exist and function in combination, as a triad, and that the three orientations should be studied as such rather than singularly — in other words, that something like STA:C is for-real.

BTW, I sometimes refer to space-time-action orientations as a “module” — that’s how I depict them here. But I don’t mean this literally. Patricia Churchland explains better than I can when she goes so far as to propose that the term “module” should be retired from neuroscience:
“The concept of ‘module’ in neuroscience (meaning sufficient for a function, given gas-in-the-tank background conditions) invariably causes more confusion than clarity. The problem is that any neuronal business of any significant complexity is underpinned by spatially distributed networks, and not just incidentally but essentially — and not just cortically, but between cortical and subcortical networks.” (source)
Until a better term comes along, I’m going to keep referring to a “module”. But I mean it more metaphorically than literally. There is no specific pop-in pop-out module for a mind’s (or a culture’s) space-time-action cognitions. But something distributed yet integrated is going on, and I wish I knew a good conceptual term for it. Maybe “nexus”?

Slide 8: This slide recapitulates my sense of what STA:C analysis looks like, ideally. All three cognitive domains — space, time, action — are clearly recognized and weighted equally, as are their overlaps (i.e., fusions, interactions). What may be a cogni-cultural “sweet spot” lies at the core. I’ve added a feedback arrow to indicate that reciprocal adjustments and adaptations are bound to occur as an actor applies his or her cognitions to real-world thinking and doing, presumably.

This depiction is about what an idealized STA:C analysis would look like, inquiring into all areas equally and comprehensively. The depiction represents what an actual mind (or culture) should look like, at its best: developed, balanced, knowledgeable, and attentive in all three cognitive domains.

Of course, in reality, many minds and cultures may not conform fully to this ideal. They may be more emphatic and defined in one area, less so in another. If so, the diagram would have to be adjusted to display that particular mind or culture. Moreover, the diagram implies that there is full of content, but the diagram itself is devoid of specific content. That would have to be identified, and a display methodology determined, for the kind of person or culture being studied. I doubt there is an ideal content for each cognitive domain; instead, what may be “ideal” is that it vary somewhat from individual to individual and from culture to culture (in accordance with Darwinian principles?). For example, as noted in other posts here, there is a large scholarly literature about differences between Western and Asian modes of perception, and much of it comes down to differences in space, time, and action perspectives. Which I’d say further confirms that STA:C offers a sound way to approach comparisons.

Slide 9: As a result of the above (plus other considerations not covered here), I’d hypothesize that space, time, and action (or agency) are people’s cardinal or prime social cognitions. They emerge and develop during childhood and are sine qua non for the rest of a life — as a triad. Related to this, each culture around the world develops its own distinctive nature in large part because of the dispositions it instills about social space, social time, and social action. STA:C — or whatever the framework for cognitive cultural theory — would benefit if this hypothesis were recognized and verified.

There is plenty of literature about the importance of each of the three cognitive domains. But from what I’ve seen so far, there is no literature that the three combined are as important, encompassing, and cardinal as I am hypothesizing. I cannot do much more than offer the hypothesis, but I’d also offer a little more insistence, as follows: Space, time, and action may be the cardinal cognitions, much as red, blue, and yellow are the primary colors, and space, time, and energy (or something akin) are the fundaments of physics. Isaac Newton posited that physics rested on observations about space, time, and momentum. Emmanuel Kant posited that the mind rests on conceptions of space, time, and causality. Sheldon Wolin argued that political metaphysics rest on ideas about space, time, and energy in the form of power. STA:C is an extension of all this.

Claims that space and time orientations are important as a pair is a common sight in the social sciences, partly borrowed from the physical sciences. Yet, consider this: without the addition of the action-orientation component to the cognitive module, the object or subject would just sit there — inert — and his or her space-time orientations would mean nothing for cause or consequence. It may be a leap from showing that experts studying any one of the three cognitive-cultural elements inevitably recognizes all three, to showing that the three combined are the primary or cardinal cognitions and should be conceived and studied as such. But I am suggesting that it can and will be shown, even if I am not the one to do it.

If space, time, and action are not sufficient as the prime cognitions, I keep wondering and looking for what else there may be that is prime — what I may be missing. So far, I don’t see what else. For example, some studies treat cognition of “the self” as a crucial cognition. But then the ensuing discussion is about the self as an entity that senses differentiation from and connection to others — which is a spatial orientation. Or that one’s sense of self is expressed through expectations and aspirations — a time orientation. Or that the self evolves as one learns to use tools and see cause-effect relations — an action or agency orientation. In other words, the ensuing discussion is about the self as some kind of bundle of space-time-action orientations. I take this to mean that “the self” is not a separate cognition — it fits fine under or into STA:C’s triad.

Of course, there are many other kinds of cognitions that don’t fit with STA:C — e.g., cognition of “beauty”. But I don’t see that as a problem that invalidates STA:C.

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I’m out of steam on this post. But at least I got this far. It’s a good-enough ending point for now, since what I’ve managed to finish above expresses most of my key points for this post. So I’m placing the remaining three slides in the Appendix below. They still lack text, but they are fairly self-explanatory anyway. I shall hope to add their texts someday. But right now I should move on to other matters.

(I have deleted my July 30 initial partial post and its incremental updates on this topic. This August 4 post replaces that one. My apologies to its few readers for my odd method, which seemed reasonable at the time.)

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Appendix:  Slides 10, 11, and 12

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Addendum: Scholarly quotes about the importance of people’s STA orientations

[My 2014 precursor post included this Addendum. I’m leaving it in this 2016 post, verbatim. At the time, the acronym was STA; now it's the more pronounceable STA:C.]

While I was refining the foregoing slides and text, I noticed various scholarly quotes I’d kept for old drafts about STA. These quotes might clutter the trim briefing-style post above. But they speak pointedly to the ideas behind STA. And they may help convey and clarify STA for some readers. So I’m providing a selection here, eleven in number. I’ve used a few in prior posts, but they’re worth repeating.

On space: These two quotes — the first from Michel Foucault, the next from Manuel Castells — speak to the importance of space orientations.
• “The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. … when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersections with its own skein.” (From Michel Foucault, “Of Other Space,” in Diacritics, Spring 1986, p. 24)
• “I shall then synthesize the observed tendencies under a new spatial logic that I label space of flows. I shall oppose to such logic the historically rooted spatial organization of our common experience: the space of places.” (From Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 1996, p. 378)

On time: Here are three quotes about the significance of time orientations — one each from Karl Mannheim, Florence Kluckhon, and Fred Polak. The statements by Kluckhon and Polak represent the kind of background that I’d wish Zimbardo & Boyd’s book had included.
• “[T]he innermost structure of the mentality of a group can never be as clearly grasped as when we attempt to understand its conception of time in the light of its hopes, yearning, and purposes. On the basis of these purposes and expectations, a given mentality orders not merely future events, but also the past.” (From Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, 1936, p. 209)
• “Obviously all societies at all times must cope with all three time problems; all must have their conceptions of the Past, the Present, and the Future. Where societies differ is in the rank-order emphasis they give to each, and a very great deal can be told about the particular society being studied, much about the direction of change within it can be predicted, if one knows what that rank order is. Spengler, greatly impressed by the significance of the time orientation, made this statement in his Decline of the West: ‘It is by the meaning that it intuitively attaches to time that one culture is differentiated from another.’” (From Florence Kluckhohn, “Some Reflections on the nature of cultural integration and change,” in Tiryakian, ed., 1963, p. 224)
• “[Man's] image of the future is his propelling power. … [T]he rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a society's image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive.” (From Fred Polak, The Image of the Future, [1955] 1973, p. 5, 19)

On action: That man has power to affect things, that progress is feasible, that social action can work — that human agency and efficacy matter — is a separate belief, not derived from space-time beliefs. This point shines in the following two quotes — one from Leonard Doob, the other from Alberto Bandura:
• “Basic to all such thinking …. must also be the belief that men themselves — not their ancestors, not fate, not nature, not other men — are able to control their own destinies. … for men everywhere are not likely to seek change unless they believe that change is possible.” (From Leonard Doob, Becoming More Civilized, 1960, p. ??)
• “This change in human self-conception and the view of life from supernatural control to personal control ushered in a major shift in causal thinking, and the new enlightenment rapidly expanded the exercise of human power over more and more domains.” (From Alberto Bandura, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, 1997, p. 1)

On space and time together: Of the three STA orientations, space and time are the two that usually get combined and discussed together. The following quotes — one from Lewis Mumford, the next from Daniel Boorstin — illustrate this:
• “[N]o two cultures live conceptually in the same kind of time and space. … [E]ach culture believes that every other kind of space and time is an approximation to or perversion of the real space and time in which it lives.” (Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 1932, p. 18)
• “[T]he compass provided a worldwide absolute for space comparable to that which the mechanical clock and the uniform hour provided for time. … When you moved any great distance from your home out into the uncharted great oceans, you could not know precisely where you were unless you had a way of finding precisely when you were.” (From Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983, pp. 219-220)

On space, time, and action as a set: Finally, as intimations of STA, here are revelatory quotes — one from Sheldon Wolin, the next from Bruno Latour — that urge treating space-time-action as a triad.
• “Every political theory that has aimed at a measure of comprehensiveness has adopted some implicit or explicit proposition about “time,” “space,” “reality,” or “energy.” Although most of these are the traditional categories of metaphysicians, the political theorist does not state his propositions or formulate his concepts in the same manner as a metaphysician. … Rather, the political theorist has used synonyms; instead of political space he may have written about the city, the state, or the nation; instead of time, he may have referred to history or tradition; instead of energy, he may have spoken about power. The complex of these categories we can call a political metaphysic.” (From Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision, 1960, pp. 15-16)
• “Fourth, to talk like the semioticians, there is always simultaneously at work in each account, a shift in space, a shift in time, and a shift in actor or actant, the last of these always forgotten in philosophical or psychological discussions. … We should not speak of time, space, and actant but rather of temporalization, spatialization, actantialization (the words are horrible) or, more elegantly of timing, spacing, acting.” (From Bruno Latour, “Trains of Thought: Piaget, Formalism, and The Fifth Dimension,” in Common Knowledge, Winter 1997, pp. 178–9)

Bruno Latour!? I normally find his writing incomprehensible. Evidently I must reconsider.


UPDATE — August 11, 2016: I edited text for Slide 7, in order to eliminate remarks that may seem snippy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The NRA in light of STA:C and TIMN (Part 1 of 2)

These past few months, as I worked episodically on STA:C and TIMN and meanwhile watched all sorts of news about all sorts of issues, I’ve ended up with two sideline speculations about the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its policy positions:
• My work on people’s space-time-action orientations and their import for cognition and culture (STA:C) indicates that conservatives think largely in terms of boundaries, far more so than progressives (they think more in terms of horizons). The NRA and its Republican cohorts claim to be highly conservative. But their views about guns are so lacking in boundaries as to mean they are not truly conservative — instead, they seem virtually libertine.
• My work on social evolution and how societies use four cardinal forms of organization — tribes + institutions + markets + networks (TIMN) — implies that phase transitions are accompanied by the growth of what Jane Jacobs called “monstrous moral hybrids”. The NRA looks like that kind of a hybrid, for it embodies a fusion of tribal, institutional, market, and network dynamics. As such a hybrid, it both heralds and hampers progress toward the next phase of social evolution — the +N phase — whose outcomes will determine whether America continues to be a preeminent society.
I have no particular interest in the NRA. I’m fine with the Second Amendment and with owning some guns. I’m not steeped in gun policy matters, pro or con. I have no policy recommendations to push. And I’d be wiser to stay focused on other matters about STA:C and TIMN. But once I got steamed up and started making notes about those two speculations, I figured I might as well do this blog post, now so lengthy that I’m breaking it into two parts

The NRA in light of STA:C — ideologically more libertine than conservative?

As explained elsewhere at this blog, STA:C is about the importance of people’s space-time-action orientations and their significance for cognition and culture. One matter I’ve wondered about is whether STA:C analysis can serve to illuminate differences between conservative and liberal / progressive ways of thinking. What I’ve tentatively concluded, as I wrote last year (here), is that sensitivities about boundaries — about identifying, respecting, and protecting boundaries — characterize conservative more than progressive thinking. Conservatism seems fundamentally concerned with boundaries, while liberalism and progressivism seem oriented more toward horizons. If a policy or principle is not based on some sense of boundaries, it is questionably conservative.

And this goes also for spatial concepts related to boundaries — e.g., bounds, borders, divides, separations, walls, fences, limits, lines, frontiers, barriers, bulwarks, etc. Conservatives keep referring to sensitivities in terms of such cognates, more than do liberals or progressives.

Thus it has long been a sign of traditional conservatism to tell someone they should not marry (nor even make friends) outside their clan, tribe, race, nationality, religion, or culture, not to mention gender. Today as well, conservatives often seem intent on marking the differences between sexes, races, religions, nations, etc. And these sensitivities extend to jurisdictional and sectoral differences — boundaries between church and state, government and market, public and private, foreign and domestic, legal and illegal. Other boundaries that often figure in conservative discourse include those between life and death, war and peace, winning and losing — and of course, boundaries between liberal and conservative. Conservatives often seem uncomfortable with whatever redefines, blurs, transgresses, or removes boundaries.

It’s easy to spot recent instances: Conservative Republicans criticizing President Obama for drawing a “red line” regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons, then not enforcing it. Social conservatives upset about same-sex marriage. Conservative politicians advocating a wall to halt immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. Exclusionary conservatives who want to limit who can vote in popular elections. Self-styled “warriors” who claim that conservatives are for individualism, progressives for collectivism — as though such a dichotomized difference really exists (it doesn’t). Plus, as always, conservatives who warn about government exceeding its boundaries. And there are surely myriad more examples.

There are only a few issue areas where Republican conservatives favor largely unbounded policies. Guns is one such area, perhaps the major one. Here, their alignment with the NRA’s policies and positions is said to express conservatism. Yet, from what I’ve seen, the NRA and its fans have little sense of boundaries regarding gun production, technology, marketing, and ownership. They evidently believe that the more guns and the fewer the boundaries, the better for themselves and for American society and culture.

Thus, if I look at the cognitive underpinnings from a STA:C perspective, the NRA’s positions are so unbounded that they contradict true conservatism.

The only boundaries I’ve spotted where the NRA has taken the initiative are the following two from some years ago: legislation to block government funding for research on gun violence; and measures to oppose “smart guns”. But these two putative “boundaries” seem more like counter-boundaries — for they seem designed to keep gun-matters unfettered for existing American gun manufacturers and owners, as well as to deter possible slippages toward gun controls.

Otherwise, I see nothing but opposition to proposals for placing limits on one gun concern or another. Along with a marvelous array of rhetorical and analytical devices for obstructing, deflecting, and delaying gun-control efforts. The following pithy sayings, culled from my own readings and from a new book by Dennis Henigan (here and here), speak to the NRA’s adeptness at avoiding boundaries:
• “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
• “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”
• “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”
• “An armed society is a polite society”
• “Gun control is a slippery slope to confiscation”
• “If they can ban one, they can ban them all”
• “We don't need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the ones we have”
Such notions are accompanied by claims that gun controls could undo the Second Amendment and “take away our freedoms”, whereas more guns in more hands would improve deterrence, allegedly through a variant of the MAD (mutual assured destruction) of Cold War strategy. Plus I see endless “devils in the details” points that may shift focus away from guns and onto some other matter (e.g., mental health, due process).

I lack expertise on such matters and their historical background; but this looks to me like a litany of improbabilities that are not only highly improbable but also neglect collateral-damage possibilities. More to the point for this post, I find no evidence of a propensity for conservative boundaries amid all these rhetorical and analytical devices.

Sometimes the NRA’s narratives even seem in line with what I once analyzed (here) as “the scoundrel’s script” — rhetoric phased initially to deny, then to diminish, and finally to displace responsibility. Moreover, while the NRA is evidently skilled at realpolitik behind the scenes (e.g., via political campaign contributions), its public strategy seems like a wily exercise of noöspolitik — an info-age soft-power approach for determining “whose story wins” (Arquilla & Ronfeldt, 1999; Ronfeldt & Arquilla, 2007).

Meanwhile, I gather some NRA proponents argue that the NRA is more a libertarian than a conservative actor. Some libertarians in particular seem to believe this. But the NRA has not embraced this view. Besides, a thorough libertarian would surely favor letting people acquire “smart guns” if that’s what they wanted, and wouldn’t necessarily oppose research on gun-related violence.

From all this, it seems reasonable to conclude, from a STA:C standpoint, that the NRA and its cohorts are not so conservative as they claim. Nor are they liberal in an old-fashioned pro-freedoms sense. And they’re not thoroughly libertarian either. Instead, when it comes to guns, their positions verge on being libertine — not quite in a dictionary-definition way, but close enough. For the NRA and its Republican cohorts espouse a kind of boundless “free love” for guns that seems a functional equivalent of the libertine “free love” for groins that Hippies used to tout in the 1960s. All self-servingly in the name of individualism, freedom, self-expression, and tribal identity — yet so lacking in boundaries as to contradict traditional conservatism.

Meanwhile, the NRA and its Republican cohorts have generated a significant boundary that is in keeping with today’s conservatism: a tribal boundary. The NRA and its cohorts seem to have evolved collectively much like a tribal identity movement built around “identity politics”, in ways that work to keep allies in line and outsiders at bay. The tribal boundary is the most important boundary I can find involving the NRA and its conservative Republican cohorts. (Tribalism has been evident among Republicans for years, as I once tried to lay out here.)

And how does this manifest itself? Extreme tribalists divide the world between “us” and “them”. They stress group identity, loyalty, and solidarity — kinships, brotherhoods, sisterhoods. They constantly talk about honor, pride, dignity, and respect. They flash totems and slogans. They claim tradition and purity for their side. They vilify and demonize opponents. They believe it’s morally okay — maybe not politically-correct, but tribally-correct for sure — to lie to and about outsiders. They readily turn combative and uncompromising. They force people to take sides, to become tribal. They shun moderates once on their side. They engage in magical and conspiratorial thinking about their prospects. Et cetera. And of course they accuse the other side — in this case, gun-control advocates — of tribalism.

This overall pattern of thought and action is common wherever people become susceptible to an excessive malignant tribalism. And it looks to me that the NRA has become bound up in it, partly as a way to advance its own institutional interests, but also as a way to claim a mantle of conservatism that, according to my understanding of STA:C, is questionable, if not in error.

Again, I am fine with the Second Amendment and with owning some guns. It is also my view that a healthy conservatism is good and necessary. But when presumably-conservative policy positions become so lacking in boundaries, and so taken over by tribalists who aim to tribalize, then STA:C and TIMN imply something is amiss at both cognitive and philosophical levels.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Albert Bandura’s “Toward a Psychology of Human Agency” (2nd of 2 or 3 posts) — its partial attention to space and time orientations confirms STA:C proposition

This post continues the analysis of Albert Bandura’s work on agency and efficacy that I began in Part 1 (here). See that post for background on why doing it should serve my effort to unfold a framework about people’s space-time-action orientations and their significance for cognition and culture — a nascent framework currently dubbed STA:C.

Part 1 explains why I use Bandura’s “Toward a Psychology of Human Agency” (2006), rather than one of his renowned writings. Briefly, because it provides a recent summary overview; can be accessed digitally; and contains many key points that appear in his famed Self-Efficacy (1997) book and other overviews. Where handy, I supplement my effort with a few gleanings from his more-quoted writings. (Quotations and page numbers below are all from this 2006 paper, unless otherwise indicated.)

Remember, my goal here is not to survey Bandura’s work thoroughly, but only to verify that, when he goes about analyzing people’s agency (STA:C’s action) orientations, he includes a lot about people’s space and time orientations as well. This is the same kind of goal that I applied in my earlier analyses of writings by experts on space (Lefebvre) and time (Zimbardo & Boyd).

My proposition is that an expert writing about any one of the three STA:C orientations — time, space, or action — must turn to include all three to some degree. Thus my review is meant to help confirm, for STA:C’s sake, that people’s space-time-action orientations exist as a bundle — a triplex of interrelated cognitive-knowledge elements that no mind or culture can do without. Expert analyses would improve if they recognized this, rather than sticking to their traditional focus on just one (or maybe two) of the three, while suborning or neglecting the other(s).

As for Bandura, my Part-1 post showed that his concept of agency closely matches STA:C’s action component. This Part-2 post inquires into how well he covers people’s space and time orientations. I find that his analysis attends explicitly to selected aspects of time, mostly the future (e.g., forethought, future expectations), but not to time per se. He attends somewhat to spatial matters (e.g., people’s sense of identity, presence of others), but does so in a way that makes space per se only implicitly significant. This continues to confirm my proposition that an expert on any one of the three orientations — in this instance, Bandura on the action (agency) orientation — cannot avoid explicitly or implicitly including the other two in his or her analysis, to some degree.

I still have not enjoyed doing this post. But it’s completion is essential for my next post: an updated depiction of STA:C that draws on my reviews of Lefebvre, Zimbardo & Boyd, and now at last, Bandura. Onward we go.

Bandura’s attention to time orientations

Bandura offers no explicit systematic treatment of people’s time beliefs. But aspects receive constant attention, especially the future, showing up in points he makes about anticipations, aspirations, outcome expectations, optimism and pessimism — how people try to “achieve desired futures and avoid untoward ones”. The following two quotes speak to this:
“To make their way successfully through a complex world full of challenges and hazards, people have to make sound judgments about their capabilities, anticipate the probable effects of different events and courses of action, size up socio-structural opportunities and constraints, and regulate their behavior accordingly. These belief systems are a working model of the world that enables people to achieve desired futures and avoid untoward ones.” (168)
“Efficacy beliefs affect whether individuals think optimistically or pessimistically, in self-enhancing or self-debilitating ways. Such beliefs affect people’s goals and aspirations, how well they motivate themselves, and their perseverance in the face of difficulties and adversity. Efficacy beliefs also shape people’s outcome expectations — whether they expect their efforts to produce favorable outcomes or adverse ones. In addition, efficacy beliefs determine how opportunities and impediments are viewed. People of low efficacy are easily convinced of the futility of effort in the face of difficulties.” (170-171)
These valuable points trace back to passages in Bandura’s magisterial Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory (1986), if not also to his seminal paper, “Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change” (1977). As supporting material for the above quotes, then, here are a two oft-cited quotes from the 1986 book that I plucked from an impressive online archive (here). In the first, I especially appreciate his point that efficacious people may “produce their own future”. In the second, I regard “outcome beliefs” as having a time-orientation component.
“People who regard themselves as highly efficacious act, think, and feel differently from those who perceive themselves as inefficacious. They produce their own future, rather than simply foretell it.” (1986, p. 395)
“In any given instance, behavior can be predicted best by considering both self-efficacy and outcome beliefs ... different patterns of self-efficacy and outcome beliefs are likely to produce different psychological effects” (1986, p. 446).
Yet his points seem to be mainly about how agentic beliefs affect a person’s future outlook, more than vice-versa. I see few indications that Bandura regards time beliefs as a distinct cognitive domain that may be equal in coherence and significance to agentic beliefs.

The one time-oriented concept that receives systematic treatment is forethought. It shows up in Bandura’s list of the “four core properties of human agency”: i.e., intentionality, forethought, self-reactiveness, and self-reflectiveness. I detect time-orientation aspects in each, but forethought is particularly temporal in nature. And Bandura deems it crucial to people’s agency and efficacy orientations:
“The second property of human agency is forethought, which involves the temporal extension of agency. Forethought includes more than future-directed plans. People set themselves goals and anticipate likely outcomes of prospective actions to guide and motivate their efforts. A future cannot be a cause of current behavior because it has no material existence. But through cognitive representation, visualized futures are brought into the present as current guides and motivators of behavior. In this form of anticipatory self-guidance, behavior is governed by visualized goals and anticipated outcomes, rather than pulled by an unrealized future state. The ability to bring anticipated out-comes to bear on current activities promotes purposeful and foresightful behavior. (164)
Thus, there is enough about future orientations in Bandura’s analysis to confirm my STA:C proposition. But while selected aspects of time are significant, time per se does not receive systematic recognition as a distinct perceptual domain on a par with agency. Indeed, his key concept — forethought — is regarded as just “the temporal extension of agency”. Thus he suborns time to agency.

Bandura’s attention to space orientations

According to my reading of Bandura, space per se receives no explicit theoretical attention, not in the way STA:C means. But spatial qualities do appear, at least implicitly, in what he writes about the formation of individual selfhood, the perception of other actors in one’s environment, and the rise of the Internet and other advanced communications networks.

Indeed, the new global communications networks are the one regard where Bandura explicitly writes about space — though he says “place” rather than “space”:
“They transcend time, place, and distance, as they interact globally with the virtual environment of the cyberworld.” (173)
“People worldwide are becoming increasingly enmeshed in a cyberworld that transcends time, distance, place, and national borders.” (175)
“People can now transcend time, place, and national borders to make their voice heard on matters of personal interest and concern.” (177)
Thus he asserts (much like everybody else nowadays) that these new technologies expand people’s access to space and time and thereby increase people’s agency. Valid enough point. My point is simply that this is the only regard where he explicitly mentions space/place. But these passages about space do not seem crucial to his theory; they read more like commentary on current conditions. So I don’t regard them as providing much confirmation for my STA:C proposition that his theorizing about agency is bound to have spatial cognitions embedded in it.

The key place where spatial cognitions show up is in Bandura’s identification of “three modes of agency”: direct personal agency, proxy agency (exercised indirectly, often by somebody else), and collective agency (say, by a group) — with “everyday functioning” often requiring “an agentic blend of these three forms of agency” (165). As I noted in Part 1, this typology is sensible. Moreover, it reflects what Bandura calls “properties of the environments” (166), “in which people are each other’s environments” (165), subject to “triadic reciprocal causation” (see Part 1).

But from a STA:C standpoint, this typology’s underlying essence is not about agency. The three types are more spatial than agentic in nature, for they presume that one’s environment — one’s space — contains other actors, and that they may be able to connect to each other. Perhaps Bandura views that as yet another “extension of agency”. However, from a STA:C viewpoint, perceptions about the existence of one’s identity, the presence of other actors, their location and distribution, connections among them, etc., are mostly a structural spatial matter.

That, in my view, is the best confirmation I find for the space part of my STA:C proposition. In addition, spatial factors peek through, though less so, in his analysis of “the construction of selfhood” (170). Bandura rightly focuses on how childhood development concerns the creation of identity — self-identity, personal identity, social identity — and how this process involves “recognition of oneself as an agent” who “becomes differentiated from others” (169), resulting in “a distinct self capable of making things happen” (170). Then he elaborates as follows:
“As an agent, one creates identity connections over time … and construes oneself as a continuing person over different periods in one’s life. Through their goals, aspirations, social commitments, and action plans, people project themselves into the future and shape the courses their lives take. Personal identity is therefore rooted not only in phenomenological continuity, but also in agentic continuity.
“… Personal identity is partially constructed from one’s social identity as reflected in how one is treated by significant others. As the model of triadic reciprocal causation suggests, a sense of selfhood is the product of a complex interplay of personal construal processes and the social reality in which one lives.” (170)
Per STA:C, however, such passages about identity are loaded with spatial constructs — the words about individualism, selfhood, recognition, differentiation, connections, significant others. Not to mention the temporal references to aspirations, plans, and projection into the future. I’d say this further validates my STA:C proposition — space and time orientations are embedded in Bandura’s theorizing about agency, both explicitly and implicitly.

Closing comment

With that, I have accomplished my purpose for this post: I’ve shown that Bandura’s analysis of agency (i.e., STA:C’s action component) is bound up with explicit and implicit observations about space and time perspectives as well — as STA:C would expect. And I’ve elaborated on that so often throughout this post, that I shall hesitate to do so again here.

There is still lots of additional interesting material in Bandura’s 2006 paper, not to mention his other writings. Perhaps someday in a Part-3 post, or by adding an Addendum to this post, I can better show the fullness of his theorizing by relaying points I’ve set aside for the time being — points he makes about moral agency and personal responsibility, the value of self-directedness, the agentic management of fortuity, the ways agency is being amplified for beneficial as well as hazardous purposes around the world, the exercise of agency in cross-cultural contexts, the growing primacy of human agency in most spheres of life, and about organizations as expressions of collective agency. I could even use some his statements about such matters to further document the blending of space and time into his agency views — e.g., “Through collective practices driven by a foreshortened perspective, humans may be well on the road to outsmarting themselves into irreversible ecological crises” (174).

But I am too spent to persist with all that right now, though I want you to know it’s there in his writings. I’ve done enough to confirm my proposition on behalf of STA:C. Time to proceed to that briefing-like overview depiction next.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Reading with STA:C in mind: Albert Bandura’s “Toward a Psychology of Human Agency” (1st of 2 posts) — strong overlaps with STA:C’s action component

This post, overdue by a year, discusses a writing by Albert Bandura, the Stanford-based psychologist renowned for his work on the importance of human agency, particularly “self-efficacy”. The post pertains to the action part of my nascent framework about people’s space-time-action orientations and their effects on cognition and culture (STA:C).

This write-up has become longer, the more I have worked on it. So I’m breaking into two, maybe three parts.

Frankly, I have not enjoyed reading or writing for this post. But doing it is requisite for what’s next: an upcoming post to offer a revised updated briefing-style overview of STA:C.

Doing literature reviews to verify STA:C: Lefebvre, Zimbardo & Boyd, now Bandura

Years ago, after writing two background posts about STA:C (here & here), plus a post or two about applying it to terrorist mindsets (e.g., here), I decided in 2014 to do a series based on literature reviews as a way to make progress on STA:C. The first examined a classic about social space: Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space. The second focused on a recent book about time perspectives: Philip Zimbardo & John Boyd’s The Time Paradox. That meant a third was still needed about people’s action orientations — their sense of agency. This belated post meets that need.

This series is not about the writings individually, but about an over-arching purpose that serves STA:C — to show that each expert writing, besides dwelling on its avowed focus on space, or time, or action orientations, inevitably turns to say something about all three. My proposition is that a major expert writing cannot avoid doing so.

Thus my reviews are meant to help confirm, for STA:C’s sake, that people’s space-time-action orientations function as a bundle — as an interrelated set of cognitive-knowledge elements that no mind or culture can do without. This cognitive triplex underpins the distinctive nature of every mind and every culture.

In other words, the theorists reviewed in my series — Lefebvre, Zimbardo, and now Bandura — appear to be writing about their singular specialty: space, time, or action. But, from a STA:C perspective, these experts are studying only one part or another of a systematic mental and cultural complex that is truly comprised of all three orientations. They’re doing it narrowly and unknowingly by emphasizing their specialization in just one of the three orientations. Does it resemble the parable of the blind mean and the elephant?

While each of these three cognitive/cultural domains are usually analyzed separately, STA:C says to examine them together. The more we learn about analyzing people’s space-time-action orientations, the more we shall realize that all three are so thoroughly interlaced in our minds and cultures that they comprise a cognitive module. And if I’m right, the unfolding of that realization will matter not only across academic disciplines, but also to real-world analysts and strategists of all stripes. Figure out people’s space-time-action beliefs as a bundle and you can figure out better than ever why people think and behave the ways they do.

In that sense, my objective with this post isn’t simply to post about Bandura, but to do needed background work for revising a 2014 post (here) that depicted STA in six briefing-style slides. It left largely blank a slide about Bandura, because I’d not finished this post at the time. Now, I can reissue it next as an updated depiction of space-time-action cognition/culture analysis (now, STA:C).

Selecting a Bandura writing to focus on

When I went looking for a writing about people’s action orientations, I was initially drawn to Albert Bandura’s Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control (1997), for it discussed psychological efficacy in a manner that matched what I think action means in the STA:C framework. Other option were grand theories of social action — e.g., by sociologists Talcott Parsons, Anthony Giddens, or Manuel Castells. They engage space and time factors; but they also use broader definitions of action than I think is best for developing STA:C at this point. Another option was a history of the Western concept of “progress” and its dependence on innovations in thinking about space, time, and action (as discussed here). Or a writing, perhaps by an anthropologist, about differences between Western and Asian modes of thought. But for now, I’d rather look into a writing of a more theoretical and psychological bent — namely, Bandura’s book.

Bandura’s book is commendable. It is his masterwork on self-efficacy. And it lays out at length the ideas he first expressed in his seminal paper, “Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change” (1977), and builds on his magisterial Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory (1986). But I became daunted by the book’s unwieldy size, academic prose, and emphasis on matters of little interest to me (e.g., phobias, addictions). So I turned to another hard-copy book he edited: Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies (1995). His lead chapter summarizes his key ideas and observations. But then I dithered for a year, partly because of my increasing need for digital texts to ease copying and pasting quotes.

Now, still weary but ready to make a new effort, I have re-examined other overviews and come across an article — “Toward a Psychology of Human Agency” (2006) — that offers a recent summary and can be accessed digitally. It contains many key points — even identical passages — that appear in his Self-Efficacy book and other summaries/overviews. So I’ve opted to rely on that paper as the basis for this post. Yet, partly because that paper focuses on “agency” more than “self-efficacy”, I supplement my effort with a few gleanings from some of his other oft-quoted writings.

Unless otherwise indicated, then, all quotes in this post (and the next) are from this 2006 paper.

After all, my goal is not to survey Bandura’s work thoroughly, but rather just to verify that, when he goes about analyzing people’s action (agency, efficacy) orientations, this leading expert must and does say a lot about people’s space and time orientations as well.

Readers interested in Bandura’s work will find an enormous archive online at the University of Kentucky (here). It contains decades of Bandura’s writings (including what I review here), as well as numerous discussions and applications by other scholars. This curated resource also includes methodologies (questionnaires, indicators, indexes, scales) for measuring a person’s sense of efficacy.

What action means in the STA:C framework: a reminder

First, a reminder of what the action orientation means in my proposed framework about the space-time-action elements of consciousness, cognition, and culture. To reiterate what I wrote in an earlier post (here), action refers to the basic beliefs that people hold about whether and how they can affect and perhaps alter their environment, what instruments and alternatives they have for doing so, and what are deemed proper actions. Thus this orientation reflects people's notions about cause-effect and ends-means relationships.

Perhaps, in particular situations, people’s action orientations cannot be fully abstracted from their space and time orientations. Yet, this is a distinct realm of cognition about the abilities and prospects — the power, efficacy, will, capacity — that an actor thinks he or she has for affecting a situation, independently of one’s space and time orientations.

For example, the action orientation may get at differences between two actors who share similar hopes about the future and critiques of the present, but differ over whether and how a system can be changed and their hopes attained, perhaps because they differ as to what actions are legitimate, or because one feels a sense of power and the other does not.

STA:C’s social action element thus concerns a matter that often arises in analyses of history, philosophy, and anthropology, not to mention psychology: whether people can master and guide their destiny, or whether they are subject to an inevitable, even preordained place and fate about which they can do little to nothing — indeed, whether one's life is the stuff of lawful or random forces.

This view from STA:C seems mighty close to Bandura’s view of agency and efficacy, now that I have read some of his writings.

Bandura’s focus on agency and self-efficacy (STA:C’s action component)

Bandura’s paper focuses on the importance of agency, meaning the ability “to influence intentionally one’s functioning and life circumstances.” (164) Agency is important because “malleability and agentic capability are the hallmark of human nature.” (173) Indeed, developing an “agentic self” is one of life’s most meaningful endeavors. Agency is good to have because it means a person “can generate a wider array of options”:
“The cultivation of agentic capabilities adds concrete substance to abstract metaphysical discourses about freedom and determinism. People who develop their competencies, self-regulatory skills, and enabling beliefs in their efficacy can generate a wider array of options that expand their freedom of action, and are more successful in realizing desired futures, than those with less developed agentic resources.” (166)
Efficacy as the essence of agency: In saying so, Bandura clarifies that personal efficacy beliefs are the “foundation of human agency”:
“Among the mechanisms of human agency, none is more central or pervasive than belief of personal efficacy (Bandura, 1997). This core belief is the foundation of human agency. Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act, or to persevere in the face of difficulties. Whatever other factors serve as guides and motivators, they are rooted in the core belief that one has the power to effect changes by one’s actions.” (170)
He also clarifies that efficacy beliefs comprise a “key personal resource” that influences myriad key aspects of how people approach and go through life:
“Belief in one’s efficacy is a key personal resource in personal development and change (Bandura, 1997). It operates through its impact on cognitive, motivational, affective, and decisional processes. Efficacy beliefs affect whether individuals think optimistically or pessimistically, in self-enhancing or self-debilitating ways. Such beliefs affect people’s goals and aspirations, how well they motivate themselves, and their perseverance in the face of difficulties and adversity. Efficacy beliefs also shape people’s outcome expectations — whether they expect their efforts to produce favorable outcomes or adverse ones. In addition, efficacy beliefs determine how opportunities and impediments are viewed. People of low efficacy are easily convinced of the futility of effort in the face of difficulties.” (170-171)
Thus he goes on to conclude that “efficacy beliefs contribute significantly to level of motivation, emotional well-being, and performance accomplishments.” So much so, that “In short, we are an agentic species that can alter evolutionary heritages and shape the future.” (171, 173)

Other oft-quoted Bandura writings state similarly that self-efficacy means “belief in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations” (Bandura, 1995, p. 2). Self-efficacy corresponds to “people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (1986, p. 391?). He often refers to “control” as an aspect of agency or efficacy.

Ways of acquiring and exercising agency: A critic of determinism, Bandura pioneered theorizing in the field of psychology about how people both shape and are shaped by their environments — arguing that there is a constant interplay between agency and structure, and that “people are producers as well as products of social systems” (1999, p. 21). Bandura’s key contribution in this regard is his concept of “triadic reciprocal causation” among personal, environmental, and behavioral determinants (170). Accordingly,
“People do not operate as autonomous agents. Nor is their behavior wholly determined by situational influences. Rather, human functioning is a product of a reciprocal interplay of intrapersonal, behavioral, and environmental determinants.” (Bandura, 1986, p. 165)
This analytic concept reflects that people are not passive participants in life, but bear personal responsibility for their actions and the influence they have, a theme he further develops under a concept of “moral agency” (to be discussed in Part 2):
“In the triadic interplay of intrapersonal, behavioral, and environmental events, individuals insert personal influence into the cycle of causation by their choices and actions. Because they play a part in the course of events, they are at least partially accountable for their contribution to those happenings.” (172)
Then, as people think and act, what becomes crucial for their sense of agency are “mastery experiences”. His 2006 paper barely alludes to this, but other writings (esp. 1986) treat them as “the most influential source of self-efficacy information” (Pajares, 1997, p. 22). As Bandura notes in one handy listing of what to look for in measuring people’s sense of efficacy,
“And finally, powerful mastery experiences that provide striking testimony to one’s capacity to effect personal changes can produce a transformational restructuring of efficacy beliefs that is manifested across diverse realms of functioning. Extraordinary personal feats serve as transforming experiences.” (Bandura, 2006a, p. 308)
I’d be remiss if I did not mention Bandura’s ideas about “triadic reciprocal causality” and about “mastery experiences”. But I don’t see much bearing on STA:C right now.

Against this background, what I mainly want to mention for STA:C’s sake is his distinction among three ways of exercising of agency: direct personal agency, proxy agency (exercised indirectly, often by somebody else), and collective agency (say, by a group). As he says, the three ways often occur in mixes. Accordingly,
“Social cognitive theory distinguishes among three modes of agency: individual, proxy, and collective. Everyday functioning requires an agentic blend of these three forms of agency.” (165)
This appears to be a key typology in his work. But from a STA:C perspective, I have doubts about it. For its content appears to be more spatial than agentic in nature — as I elaborate in closing remarks below.

While his emphasis is on personal agency and how that affects a person’s life, he constantly returns to the importance of collective agency too: “People’s conjoint belief in their collective capability to achieve given attainments is a key ingredient of collective agency.” (165) Indeed, a people’s sense of collective agency — its presence, absence, other characteristics — often has profound effects on the performance capabilities of their social systems and cultures (to be discussed in my next post).

Historical and developmental origins of a sense of agency: A sense of agency does not spring from unidentifiable sources — it is learned. As many scholars have pointed out, it is rooted in turning points in mankind’s cultural and philosophical history. And once people believe in human agency, it is generated through early childhood cognitive development as well. Bandura refers to both origins.

In discussing agency’s historical background, Bandura is sketchy and selective, barely noting the many ways whereby human agency has arisen and evolved across the ages. For example, there’s no discussion about early tool making and tool use as inspirations for agency — a matter other scholars have emphasized. Nonetheless, Bandura keenly stresses that agency stemmed from people’s ancient development of language and symbol-processing capacities, followed later by overcoming early theological views that people’s lives were set by divine design. Thus, perhaps especially since the Enlightenment period, people have evolved into a “sentient agentic species … unique in their power to shape their life circumstances and the course of their lives” (164).

Throughout, Bandura decries doctrines of determinism and favors a kind of potentialism (my term, not his). Yet, he insists that, while the rise of “free will” ideas helped, agency involves more than that: “It is not a matter of ‘‘free will,’’ which is a throwback to medieval theology, but, in acting as an agent, an individual makes causal contributions to the course of events.” (165) Although he says little about past technologies, he dwells on modern information and communications technologies — the Internet in particular — as enablers of agency (to be discussed in Part 2).

Presumably because Bandura is far more the psychologist than an historian, he does better at discussing the origins of personal agency in early childhood. Thus infants construct an “agentic self” as they learn to perceive cause-effect relationships, to differentiate themselves from others as individuals and realize “they can make things happen … as agents of their actions”:
“The newborn arrives without any sense of selfhood and personal agency. The self must be socially constructed through transactional experiences with the environment. The developmental progression of a sense of personal agency moves from perceiving causal relations between environmental events, through understanding causation via action, and finally to recognizing oneself as the agent of the actions. … As infants begin to develop some behavioral capabilities, they not only observe but also directly experience that their actions make things happen. …
“Development of a sense of personal agency requires more than simply producing effects by actions. Infants acquire a sense of personal agency when they recognize that they can make things happen and they regard themselves as agents of their actions. This additional understanding extends the perception of agency from action causality to personal causality. The differentiation of oneself from others is the product of a more general process of the construction of an agentic self. … The self becomes differentiated from others through rudimentary dissimilar experiences.” (169)

Challenge of measuring people’s sense of agency and self-efficacy

I remain on the lookout for measurement methodologies — questionnaires, indexes, scales — that may serve to operationalize STA:C. Lefebvre’s book offered no such thing for space. And from what I’ve seen, nor do writings by today’s experts on space — indeed, they seem less inclined than experts on time and agency to design methodologies. In contrast, Zimbardo’s work has led to a widely used methodology for assessing people’s time perspectives (as I discuss here). Bandura’s work fits somewhere in between.

Bandura is definitely interested in seeing measurement methodologies designed — e.g., see his “Guide for Constructing Self-Efficacy Scales” (2006a). Many of his colleagues are likewise interested — e.g., see discussions by Frank Pajares in his “Current Directions in Self-efficacy Research” (1997), and by Brian Francis Redmond in his periodically updated write-up about “Self-Efficacy and Social Cognitive Theories” (2016). There’s also an attempt called “The General Self-Efficacy Scale” (GSE) that consists of 10 questions. But careful caveats and qualifications figure throughout.

Bandura’s views about “the centrality of efficacy beliefs in people’s lives” mean that “sound assessment of this factor is crucial to understanding and predicting human behavior” (2006a, p. 319). Yet he is very cautious about generalizing. What must be measured is the “perceived capability to produce given attainments” — i.e., confidence about what a person can and will do (2006a, p. 318). But as Bandura knows, most people’s sense of efficacy varies from one situation to another:
“Efficacy beliefs differ in generality, strength, and level. People may judge themselves efficacious across a wide range of activity domains or only in certain domains of functioning.” (2006a, p. 313).
As a result, he decries trying to concoct all-purpose measures, and advises coming up with scales that are tailored to particular domains and situations:
“There is no all-purpose measure of perceived self-efficacy. The “one measure fits all” approach usually has limited explanatory and predictive value because most of the items in an all-purpose test may have little or no relevance to the domain of functioning. Moreover, in an effort to serve all purposes, items in such a measure are usually cast in general terms divorced from the situational demands and circumstances. This leaves much ambiguity about exactly what is being measured or the level of task and situational demands that must be managed. Scales of perceived self-efficacy must be tailored to the particular domain of functioning that is the object of interest.” (2006a, pp. 307-308)
I suppose that’s right. But it does not augur well for eventually coming up with a methodology for STA:C.

Transitional wrap-up comments apropos STA:C

Before examining Bandura’s incorporation of space and time orientations, I have a few wrap-up comments regarding what’s above:

1. It’s clear that Bandura’s view of agency and efficacy overlaps closely with my view of STA:C’s action component. His writings thus help confirm that the STA:C framework is on the right track.

2. His typology about three kinds of agency — direct, proxy, and collective— is sensible. But something feels off, missing, incomplete. Yes, those are three ways people exercise agency. But from a STA:C standpoint, they look more spatial than agentic in nature, for they presume that one’s environment — one’s space — contains other actors. So this typology, which seems more central to his concept than any other typology I spot, does not capture the essence of agency. The typology captures who exercises agency, but not what it actually consists of. That essence, I presume, would be more about the material and immaterial substances of power, control, influence, and/or the like — e.g., about distinctions between hard and soft power, or between physical, emotional, and ideational agency, or maybe something else I can’t quite see yet in his work. As I recall, he makes such distinctions now and then in discussing one topic or another, but they don’t get surfaced and highlighted in a systematic typological way (unless I’ve not read enough of his work).

3. Notice that Bandura finds the cognitive and cultural roots of human agency in particular historical turning-points, and then in early childhood development. As I’ve noted in my other posts in this series, Lefebvre writing about space (here), as well as Zimbardo & Boyd writing about time (here), do much the same in discussing the roots of the cognitive orientations they examine. This may be worth more investigation than I can do, in order to help show that all three STA:C orientations have co-evolved, co-developed together. Writings about the concept of progress, such as Robert Nisbet’s History of the Idea of Progress (1994), cover some of this ground. So do studies about the formation of spatial, temporal, and to a lesser extent, agentic perspectives during childhood — e.g., long ago by Jean Piaget, and lately by Walter Mischel in his current best-seller The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success (2015), not to mention Bandura’s Stanford colleague Carol Dweck in her Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006) about adult development. But from a STA:C standpoint, much more could and should be done.

4. It might be useful to go through some scales that Bandura and his colleagues have used for measuring agency and efficacy. So that I can find out, for STA:C’s sake, whether and how many of the measures that are presumed to measure agency are actually measuring space or time orientations. Just as I found that many questions in Zimbardo’s time-perspective tests were more about space and action/agency orientations. But I presently lack eagerness to do so for this post, partly because, unlike the case with Zimbardo, Bandura and his colleagues have not generated a core questionnaire and scale, and also because the scales they have generated are domain-specific for topics of little interest to me (e.g., educational performance). What would motivate me is a methodology that might apply to assessing the agentic beliefs of people who become jihadi terrorists, or national-security strategists.


UPDATED — June 10, 2016: In addition to a few citation corrections, I added a quote up front (from Bandura, 2006, p. 164), expanded the paragraph about measurement methodologies, and slightly emended closing comment #2.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Organizational forms compared: my evolving TIMN table vs. other analysts’ tables — revised & expanded

This post provides an expanded iteration of my similarly-titled May 2009 post (here). Besides making a few edits to the text about my TIMN table, I have added numerous tables.

In addition to my TIMN table, this new inventory presents tables in rough chronological order from William Ouchi (1980), Walter Powell (1990), Jane Jacobs (1992), Allen Paige Fiske (1992, 2004), Max Boisot (1995, 2004), Jessica Lipnack & Jeffrey Stamps (2000), Grahame Thompson (2003), Bob Jessop (2003), Mark Considine & Jenny Lewis (2003), Gerard Fairtlough (2005), Federico Iannacci & Eve Mitleton–Kelly (2005), Paul Adler & Charles Heckscher (2005), Karen Stephenson (2009), Kim Cameron & Robert Quinn (2006), Harold Jarche (2012), Clay Spinuzzi (2013), Otto Scharmer (2013), and Kojin Karatani (2014).

As with my 2009 post, the purpose of this 2016 post is to present my TIMN table comparing the four TIMN forms, along with alternative tables by other analysts. My notion is that it should be instructive to have various tables available in one place for side-by-side comparison. It provides a way to highlight differences in underlying assumptions and dimensions. For me, it also helps substantiate the validity of my TIMN table.

* * *

My TIMN table comparing the four forms: tribes, institutions, markets, and networks (1996, 2009)

Table 1 summarizes many points I’ve made (plus some not yet made) about the four TIMN forms. Its details indicate their differing strengths and limitations. This version of the table is from my 2009 post here, as indicated above. The original version is in my first paper about TIMN (1996, p. 17).

As an overview, the table conveys that each form, once it is subscribed to by many actors, is more than a mere form — it develops into a realm, even a system of thought and action. Each form embodies a distinctive cluster of values, norms, and codes of conduct; and these must be learned and disseminated for a form to take root and for a realm or sector of activity to grow around it. Indeed, each form’s rise spells an ideational and structural revolution. Each is a generator of order, for each defines a set of interactions (or, if you prefer, transactions) that are attractive, powerful, and useful enough to create a distinct realm of activity, or at least its core. Each becomes the basis for a governance system that is self-regulating and ultimately self-limiting. And each tends to foster a different kind of worldview, for each orients people differently toward social space, social time, and social action. Indeed, what is rational — how a “rational actor” should behave — is different for each form; no single “utility function” suits all of them. Each attracts different kinds of personalities.

Thus each form becomes associated with high ideals as well as new capabilities. As each develops, it enables people to organize to do more than they could previously. Yet all the forms are ethically neutral — as neutral as technologies — in the sense that they have both bright and dark sides, and can be used for good or ill. The tribal form, which should foster community solidarity and mutual caring, may also breed a narrow, bitter clannishness that can justify anything from nepotism to murder in order to shield and strengthen a clan (or other tribal form) and its leaders. The hierarchical institutional form, which is supposed to lead to professional rule and regulation, may also be used to uphold corrupt, arbitrary dictators. The market form, which should bring free, fair, open exchanges, may also be distorted and rigged to allow unbridled speculation and profiteering. And the network form, which can empower civil society and its nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), may also serve to strengthen “uncivil society” — say, by enabling terrorist groups and crime syndicates to organize transnational networks. Thus, it is not just the bright sides of each form that foster new values and actors; their dark sides may do so as well. As Jane Jacobs (Systems of Survival, 1992, esp. p. 151) observed about what she calls the guardian (i.e., +I) and commercial (i.e., +M) syndromes, “monstrous moral hybrids” can take shape if they are mingled improperly.

Finally, note the last three rows. One points out that each form has a different architecture: Tribes, with their interlaced lineages and marriages, resemble circles and labyrinths (not to mention networks and webs). Hierarchical institutions are often depicted as pyramids or stovepipes, and markets as atomized billiard balls moving freely in space. Nowadays, information-age networks are said to resemble geodesic domes and “buckyballs” (after Buckminster Fuller). The next row observes that each form corresponds to a different aspect of anatomy: tribes to a body’s skin or look; hierarchical institutions to a musculo-skeletal system (as Thomas Hobbes implied); markets to a cardio-pulmonary circulatory system (as Karl Marx noted); and networks to a sensory nerve system (as Herbert Spencer thought, and many writers still suppose today). These are only analogies and metaphors, but they help impart the distinctive nature of each form.

The last row notes that each TIMN form is associated with a different information and communications technology revolution. In brief, the rise of the tribal form depended on a symbolic revolution: the emergence of language and early writing (runes, glyphs), enabling the storytelling that is central to tribal cultures. The rise of the hierarchical institutional form — as in the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the absolutist states, and their vast administrative structures — reflected a mechanical revolution: the development of formal writing and printing, first penned script and later the printing press. This was important not only for keeping records and issuing commands, but also for inscribing laws that chiefdoms and states could apply to growing populations who were not kinfolk and often not well-known to each other. Next, the rise of the market form and its far-flung business enterprises was sped by the electrical technologies of the 19th century: the telegraph, telephone, and radio. Today’s spread of the network form extends from the digital revolution and its technologies, notably the Internet, fax machines, and cellular telephones, which are especially empowering for civil-society associations around the world and across political spectrums.

I suppose I should get around to revising some lines in this May 2009 table. For example, the line about key products: as I discuss in a later May 2009 post (here), “club goods” could be added to “gifts” under Tribes, and “commons goods” could replace “collective goods” under Networks. Also, the line about key philosophers: because of a recent op-ed by David Brooks (here), I realize I could add “Durkheim” under Tribes.

I’ve also been meaning for years to add a line (or more). For example, about religious expressions: much paganism could fit under Tribes, the Catholic Papacy under Institutions, Protestantism under Markets, and by implication, whatever-comes-next (something more Buddhist?) as a result of the Network form taking hold. But right now, I am more intent on generating a survey of other analysts’ tables — a lot of work — so I shall leave such revisions to my table for a future effort.

Of course, readers should remember that this table and its write-up are lifted out of context. The context I’d like others to be aware of is provided mainly by two posts: an overview of TIMN (here) and a deeper look at TIMN system-dynamics (here). Readers should also notice that a key challenge for TIMN, still not fully resolved but discussed in many posts (e.g., here), is distinguishing between the Tribe and Network forms. My table speaks to this challenge, but it endures anyway.

* * *

Other analysts’ tables about organizational forms

My goal is to display and briefly discuss tables comparable to TIMN’s that identify key forms of organization, preferably tables that focus on cardinal forms of organization, are about society in general, and have an evolutionary orientation. A few tables meet these criteria exactly, but others only obliquely.

Thus, the following typologies are, like TIMN, mostly about hierarchies, markets, and networks. However, some refer to other forms, such as clans or heterarchies, or use other terms, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) instead of networks. Far as I know, my TIMN table is the only table that treats tribes as a distinct, separate organizational form. Also, many tables don’t really focus on forms of organization, but rather on something related — i.e., “ways of getting things done” or “modes of exchange”. Moreover, many tables focus on something less grand than society — usually business organizations. And they are not truly evolutionary — instead they typologize tendencies happening today. No matter: all are close enough to meeting my preferred criteria, and they are all interesting and instructive for TIMN.

For comparative and inspirational purposes, what follows are screen grabs (click to enlarge) and blurbs about the other tables I have come across. There are of course many write-ups that compare organizational forms, as I have discussed elsewhere, especially (here). But not every write-up is accompanied by a table (or figure, or chart — or it is, but I can’t do a screen grab). This constrains whose ideas get presented here. Indeed, some appealing discussions (e.g., Jung & Lake, 2011; Carson, 2016) are devoid of tables like those below. Moreover, I have not included any analysis, even if it includes a table, that discusses just two forms. Thus, myriad analyses about hierarchies vs. markets, or hierarchies vs. networks, are not represented here, even though I discuss them in other writings. My concern here is with analyses accompanied by tables that purport to identify a cosmology of at least three organizational or related kinds of forms, preferably with an evolutionary bent that overlaps well with TIMN. (See end note for further information.)

A few generalizations appear to apply across the tables that I have included:
  • The treatment of hierarchies and markets (and their cognates) is generally clearer and more standardized than is the treatment of networks (not to mention tribes).
  • Where networks (and their cognates) are discussed, the tables and related text are often more about social than organizational networks — and the analyst may not be clear about the distinction between social and organizational networks.
  • “Trust” is often listed as an attribute of networks, but not of hierarchies or markets. This is a sign the analyst may be thinking more in terms of social than organizational networking — and it’s not a good sign. Some kind of trust is involved in each and every form — trust is not unique to networks.
  • Tribes (or cognates, like clans) rarely get identified as a distinct form. Instead, their attributes often show up listed under the network form, especially when the analyst is thinking in terms of social networks. Indeed, drawing clear distinctions between tribes and networks (or their cognates) remains a challenge (as noted earlier).
  • There is little consistency to the order in which the forms are listed. If the analyst is a sociologist or economist thinking in terms of the classic dichotomy between hierarchies and markets, then either markets or hierarchies usually get listed first, and networks later on the right side of a table. But I have seen tables where networks are given the middle position, especially if the analyst views it as an in-between or hybrid form. It depends on the analyst’s focus and rationale. In contrast, I have a specific, evolutionary order in mind: T+I+M+N.
After pondering all these alternative tables, I continue to believe that TIMN is preferable. I also notice that, the more time goes by, the more other analysts’ tables have evolved toward resembling TIMN. Indeed, the penultimate two — Jarche, then Spinuzzi —rely on TIMN. And the final two — Scharmer, then Karatani — overlap with TIMN so much that I am surprised and pleased, though neither seems to know about TIMN. Which reminds me of what I replied to an inquiry about resemblances between TIMN and Max Boisot’s “I-Space” work: “I've long figured that when it's time for a new idea to arise, it's likely to do so via various people at about the same time, all scattered around unknown to each other. Sort of a variation on William Gibson's famous remark about the future being already here, just poorly distributed” (email, October 4, 2012)

From William Ouchi’s article about clans as an alternative to bureaucracies and markets (1980 — walled but lately here):

Ouchi is a management professor and strategist. This table (p. 137) summarizes his proposal (p. 132) that: “Markets, bureaucracies, and clans are therefore three distinct mechanisms which may be present in differing degrees, in any real organization.” With this, the paper offers a rare early effort to add clans — a variant of TIMN’s tribes — to the established transaction-cost view that hierarchies and markets are the key alternatives. Accordingly, clans may, under some conditions, offer a better way to create efficiencies and avoid organizational failures from a transaction-cost perspective. The conditions Ouchi identifies are where harmony is essential — i.e., where teamwork and a strong sense of community are needed, and individualistic opportunism must be avoided — such that relying on hierarchies and markets is inadvisable. His concept of clans draws on Durkheim’s concept of organic solidarity, and he notes how common this was in preindustrial enterprises. But his focus is its rising significance in modern high-tech industries, notably in Japan.

From Walter Powell’s seminal paper on networks as neither hierarchies nor markets (1990):

This is a classic table, the first by an economic sociologist to add networks to the traditional dichotomy of hierarchies and markets as the paradigmatic options that business enterprises face. It’s also the table and write-up that most reassured me, early on, that TIMN was viable — that scholars would increasingly recognize networks as a cardinal form of organization. His particular focus was on craft and high-tech industries. What the table (p. 300) indicates is that, by comparison, network designs are (more?) relational, reputational, open-ended, and nimble. Among the points that the table misses but the text notes is that networks may also excel at gathering and processing information. I also like the point in the text (p. 303) that “In essence, the parties to a network agree to forego the right to pursue their own interests at the expense of others.” However, this kind of behavior is not unique to networks — it often crops up in other organizational settings as well.

From Jane Jacobs book Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992):

Jacobs lays out the “guardian moral syndrome” and the “commercial moral syndrome” as the two key “systems of survival” that lie behind successful social evolution. For each syndrome, she specifies fifteen precepts (see chart). Her view tracks with TIMN, for the syndromes correspond roughly to TIMN’s institutional (+I) and market (+M) forms. She refers to practices that correspond to TIMN’s tribal (T) form; but rather than separate them out, she embeds them mostly under the guardian syndrome — in my view a shortcoming that makes it more a tribal (T) than administrative (+I) syndrome in some of her applications. But I like very much her emphasis on keeping the syndromes separate and in balance. For additional discussion, see my post about her concept of “monstrous moral hybrids”.

About Alan Paige Fiske’s work on “four elementary forms of sociality” and Relational Model Theory (1992, 2004):

Fiske, a behavioral anthropologist, posits that all social relationships, minor and major, reduce to four forms of interaction: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. People develop their capacities for social interaction in mostly that order, from infancy onward. His own table about these forms is large and detailed; so I’m displaying a simplified table by a proponent. Fiske’s sharing, ranking, and pricing forms correspond to TIMN’s tribal, hierarchical, and market forms. But his equality-matching form, which is mainly about equal-status peer-group behavior, does not correspond to any single form — some attributes fit the network form, but other attributes (e.g., reciprocity, feuding, revenge) fit better under TIMN’s tribal or market form. So the overlap is limited. Fiske’s approach has greatly influenced P2P theory (here & here), resulting in a pertinent exchange between Michel Bauwens and myself (here — esp. comments section).

From Max Boisot on markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs in I-Space (1995, 2004):

In his influential book Information Space (1995) about the nature of the information environment in which agents operate, Boisot depicts “I-Space” as a three-dimensional cube with three axes: degree of codification, abstraction / concreteness, and diffusion / concentration. Then (whether in that or a later book I still don’t know for sure), he argues “that certain institutional structures thrive because they best adapt to specific conditions in a given I-Space” (source). The four structures he identifies are markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs — offering a typology he constructed on his own, “derived from the characteristics of the information environment that agents confront” (personal email, 05/10/2001). Accordingly, “Information and knowledge move through the space either through the cognitive efforts of individual agents or through a process of social exchange or transactions between agents. Both activities are either facilitated or hindered by the presence of institutional structures designed to lower data processing and transmission costs in a given region of the information environment captured by the I-Space. We identify four of these – markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs - in Figure 5 and briefly summarize some of the information and cultural characteristics of these transactional structures in Table 1.” (2004, p. 12) While not an evolutionary framework, it can be used as such — say, for tracking how technology changes may affect the nature and location of information in I-Space, and how information’s changing nature may interact with organizational changes. Boisot’s ideas have been quite influential in Singapore, and elsewhere on the Cynefin framework. It overlaps to a degree with TIMN.

From Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps’s book on the rise of virtual teams (2000):

In this Toffleresque table (p. 36), management strategists Lipnack and Stamps highlight what they regard as the four ages of organization, beginning millennia ago. The first age is about small groups, but in the text these are equated with nomads and tribes — terms I prefer. The authors explain their distinction between hierarchy and bureaucracy, but I question its significance. Moreover, why markets are not featured as a form of organization remains a mystery to me — but it has something to do, I suppose, with their emphasis on the internal workings of organizations. In any case, the table barely does justice to their ideas. They were early, articulate pioneers in spotting that an “age of networks” was dawning, and in analyzing the rise of “virtual teams.” And I like their point (p. 46) that “The postindustrial model is inclusive of old models, not a replacement for them.”

From Grahame Thompson on hierarchies, markets, and networks (2003):

After co-editing a fine early reader on Markets, Hierarchies and Networks (1991), Thompson, a British political economist, wrote his own book on Between Hierarchies and Markets: The Logic and Limits of Network Forms of Organization (2003). As this table shows (p. 48), he views network forms of order as distinct from hierarchical and market forms, yet as having variable attributes that mean they often fit somewhere in between. Indeed, networks “do not so much completely displace markets and hierarchical modes of governance as complement and support them in different ways … in a manner that often ‘re-moulds’ the operation of markets and hierarchies to such an extent that these themselves become ‘something different’ with enhanced performative effectiveness.” He clarifies (p. 28) that “networks as a third coordinating mechanism” arise in two versions: “an ‘organized’ variant and a ‘self-organizing’ variant.” And that hybrids may arise, e.g., of markets and networks (p. 146). While new kinds of “policy networks” can be helpful, they are often caught pincer-like between the “shadow of the hierarchy” and the “shadow of the market” (p. 187) Thus, “networks — any networks — cannot operate effectively without the support of a framework in which the state and the other authoritative or hierarchical government institutions … continues to play a leading role.” (p. 222) Uh-oh, there’s that word trust in the table — but he clarifies (p. 173) that “trust is a precondition for any form of social life.” (There’s a helpful Venn diagram about the three forms on p. 51 — I wish more analysts did likewise, for it illuminates the possibilities for hybrids.)

From Bob Jessop’s paper on governance and metagovernance (2003):

Jessop writes about governance (and what he calls metagovernance) for solving coordination problems, particularly in the European Union. In this chart about the major modalities of governance (p. 3), the terms he prefers — exchange, command, and dialogue — correspond, as two rows indicate, to markets, hierarchies, and networks respectively. I like that it has a row about spatial-temporal horizons — a rarity among these kinds of tables, but an interest of mine (the STA:C theme at this blog, along with TIMN). I also like that it has two rows about system failure, a focus of this particular paper.

From Mark Considine and Jenny Lewis’s paper about bureaucracy, network, and enterprise models (2003 — walled):

This paper and its chart (p. 133) are focused on alternatives ways of delivering services — the evolution from traditional bureaucratic, to new corporate, market, and network models of governance. A key finding is that “A new corporate-market hybrid (called ‘enterprise governance’) and a new network type have become significant models for the organization of frontline work in public programs” (p. 131), particularly in Europe and around the British Commonwealth. It’s a pertinent finding, but I don’t find the chart all that illuminating. Moreover, the write-up emphasizes trust and a shared organizational culture as being essential to network designs. This is not a wrong point, but as I’ve already indicated, it may well be that in the final analysis all organizational systems rest on trust and a shared acceptance of the culture most suited to the functioning of that form (even if it is a hierarchy).

From Gerard Fairtlough on hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy (2005):

In his book The Three Ways of Getting Things Done (2005), Fairtlough lays out his “triarchy theory” about three fundamental ways of getting things done in organizations: hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy. A key point is that organizations have become over-dependent on hierarchy, while two alternative ways often perform better: heterarchy, and responsible autonomy. Accordingly (p. 12), “These two ways of getting things done are similar in being non-hierarchical. But heterarchy involves continuous interactions between individuals and units as they decide what to do and how to work together. This takes time and effort — a possible disadvantage for heterarchy. Responsible autonomy, if set up properly, means sub-units are much more self-sufficient and interaction between them less intense.” Indeed, the autonomy he characterizes is more about groups than individuals. He also clarifies (p. 12) that “Every organization is a mixture of hierarchy, heterarchy and autonomy — in varying proportions.” For further background and discussion, I’d point here. [NOTE: I can’t locate the table I thought I had. Pending finding it, I’ve posted a screen grab from the book’s table of contents.]

Pro-commons P2P theorist Michel Bauwens has shown particular interest in Fairtlough’s theory and its overlaps with P2P theory. Consider a key distinction among centralized, decentralized, and distributed networks: Says Bauwens (here), “If hierarchy is the power system of centralized systems, then heterarchical power is the power system of decentralized systems, and Responsible Autonomy is the power system of distributed systems.” By extension, Bauwens has proposed a “new triarchy”: the state, enterprise, and the commons (2010), which line up with hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy respectively. This helps Bauwens argue that people should start thinking in terms of three sectors — public, private, and the commons —not just the standard first two.

From Federico Iannacci and Eve Mitleton–Kelly’s paper on heterarchies (networks?) as lying between hierarchies and markets (2005):

This table (online, unpaginated) is from two scholars at the London School of Economics interested in complexity theory, information technology, and open-source networks. It represents their effort to add heterarchies to the usual dichotomy about their being two major forms of organization. What’s unusual here is that they locate heterarchies in between hierarchies and markets. Moreover, they claim that many heterarchies consist of nested hierarchies bound together by loosely coupled networks. So, heterarchies are networks, but not simply so. Indeed, they suggest in a couple spots that “Networks might just be sets of social practices rather than meta– or new organizational forms.” In any case, the table makes the point that heterarchies offer coordination processes different from what’s offered by hierarchical firms or autonomous market actors. And they see this as a boon for developments like open-source software.

From Paul Adler’s and Charles Heckscher’s remarkable paper on collaborative community (2005):

This table (p. 16) distinguishes three approaches to coordination: hierarchy, market, and community. The authors focus is the corporate business realm. Their concern is that hierarchy and market ways of doing things have eroded community ways far more than is desirable, especially now that collaborative knowledge production is becoming paramount. What’s needed is a new kind of community principle to go along with the hierarchy and market principles. By “community” they mean much that other analysts mean by “network” and related terms — thus their trifold array is quite standard. But their key point is unusual: They advise against returning to the old (my T/tribal?) form of community, because it leads to drawing sharp distinctions between insiders and outsiders, protecting traditional values, and stifling individual autonomy and creativity. Instead, what’s needed is the development of a new, higher form — “collaborative community” — that would engage participants who have multiple identities, stimulate the collective creation of shared value, and place trust in peer dialogue, review, and accountability. Indeed, they say (p. 37), “without a rebuilding of communal institutions, the potential of a knowledge economy cannot be realized.” Their best examples presently lie in the scientific community and the open-software movement. (Of all the papers I have blurbed about here, I was especially taken with this one for a while — as expressed here. More on this in a future post.)

From Karen Stephenson’s article commending heterarchy over hierarchy and network (2009 — walled, but maybe here):

This paper strives to make a useful point under a concept of heterarchy: that performance may improve when hierarchical organizations are interconnected by collaborative networks. Yet, the table (p. 6) and some of the text is conceptually problematic, as several of the invited counter-point commenters indicate. The paper’s notion of a network is often more social than organizational — it’s even called a tribal form at one point. And the notion of heterarchy is more what others view as some kind of network — as an organizational network, as a hybrid of a hierarchy and network (a networked organization), or as a networked set of otherwise separate hierarchical organizations (“silos”). Other analysts would probably blend the network and heterarchy columns into one; or perhaps make a case that heterarchy is not so much a distinct major form as a hybrid or amalgam of other forms. It’s good to see the mention of collective goods in the heterarchy column. But it remains unclear to me why networks are associated with personal interests. And there’s that word “trust” again; I’ve already mentioned my view of that. Even so, the text makes a point I like that is not reflected in the table — that heterarchies, not to mention networks, can operate perversely in some contexts, and may have a dark as well as a bright side.

From Kim Cameron’s and Robert Quinn’s work on CVF — the “Competing Values Framework” (esp. 2006 — figure on p. 16):

While early versions (in the 1980s) of this framework about organizational culture do not align well with TIMN, the current version does — with its four quadrants about Clan, Hierarchy, Market, and Adhocracy, so long as adhocracies are viewed as networks.  One criticism: they equate Clan with collaboration and Adhocracy with creativity, but adhocracies are as much about collaboration as are clans, just in a different way.  Another qualm:  theirs is not quite an evolutionary framework about corporate culture, but their presentation makes it seem that Hierarchy evolved first, Market second, Clan third (à la modern Japanese business models), and Adhocracy fourth (because of the digital information revolution).  While their point about Japan is sensible, a longer TIMN-type time perspective implies that family/clan models preceded bureaucratic hierarchical ones.  Yet, much of CVF is in keeping with TIMN dynamics:  They observe that organizations may be constructed around a dominant form, yet may draw on the other forms to suit particular goals and contexts.  They observe that the four value systems embody opposed and competing principles; and that using them in effective combinations means dealing with the necessity of paradox, the need for congruence, and the ever-present challenges of tensions and trade-offs.  Here’s a quote (pp. 21-22):  “The two upper quadrants share in common an emphasis on flexibility and dynamism, whereas the two bottom quadrants share an emphasis on stability and control. The two left-hand quadrants focus on internal capability whereas the two right hand quadrants focus on external opportunity. What is important to remember is that the quadrants represent clusters of similar elements and similar orientations, but those elements and orientations are contradictory to those in the diagonal quadrant. The dimensions in the framework, in other words, separate opposite, competing, or paradoxical elements on the diagonal.” [Thanks to Clay Spinuzzi for spotting this framework. For more about comparing CVF and TIMN, see Spinuzzi's post and our discussion in the comments section here.]

From Harold Jarche’s comparison of Cynefin and TIMN (2012) — not to mention Tom Haskins’ comparison (2009):

Jarche, a business consultant “helping people and organizations master the emerging network era”, is interested in both the Cynefin framework about micro-level problem-solving situations and the TIMN framework about macro-level organizational evolution. Starting in 2009, inspired partly by fellow blogger Tom Haskins (beginning here), Jarche has configured tables like this one from 2014 (here, p.61) that relate the two frameworks. Much as I am pleased and intrigued, I continue to question (e.g., here & here) whether it would make more sense to rotate the relationships so as to equate Cynefin’s simple with TIMN’s tribal, and Cynefin’s chaotic with TIMN’s network situations. For more about Cynefin, see Cognitive Edge, especially originator David Snowden’s posts regarding complex systems and problem-solving situations (e.g., here), and about Cynefin’s roots in Boisot’s ideas. Also see Spinuzzi’s post (here) comparing Cynefin, TIMN, I-Space, and CVF ideas, while also appreciating and engaging Haskins for his synthesizing efforts.

From Clay Spinuzzi’s briefing on “Toward a Typology of Activities” (2013):

Spinuzzi, a professor of rhetoric and writing who is keenly interested in networks, has lately “been trying to characterize different sorts of activities and particularly how hybrids of those types lead to internal contradictions.” His preliminary typology looks at group activities according to whether an object of activity is defined internally or externally, and tacitly or explicitly. This leads to a two-by-two matrix — thus his typology — about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks, as presented in the adjoining graphic. He lists seven main sources for this typology, of which five are among those above, including TIMN. As his work develops, he intends to examine hybrids — activities that combine two or more of the four types — with an eye out for “interference patterns and internal contradictions”. While I refer above to his original 2013 blog post, Spinuzzi’s article, “Toward a typology of activities,” appeared a year later in the Journal of Business and Technical Communications, 2014, as specified here.

From Otto Scharmer on progressing from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0 (2013):

 As I noted in a 2014 blog post (here), MIT-based innovator Otto Scharmer outlines an evolutionary progression from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0 that is quite TIMN-like. According to one of his write-ups (here), there are essentially “four logics and paradigms of economic thought. They all respond to the basic coordination problem of our modern economies, but in a different way. • 1.0: Organizing around centralized power: state and central planning → giving rise to socialist and mercantilist economies (single sector) • 2.0: Organizing around decentralized power: markets and competition → giving rise to entrepreneurs and the private sector (two sectors: public, private) • 3.0: Organizing around special interest groups: negotiation and dialogue → giving rise to the NGO sector (three sectors, conflicting: public, private, civic) • 4.0: Organizing around shared awareness and cultivating our commons → giving rise to co-creative relationships among the three sectors (government, business, civil society) in order to innovate at the scale of the whole system. These four logics mirror four different stages of economic development. Each earlier stage is included in the later ones. As economies move from 1.0 to 2.0, 3.0, and now possibly to 4.0, the consciousness of the human economic actors also evolves from traditional (1.0), to ego-system awareness (2.0), to stakeholder awareness (3.0), and to an eco-system awareness (4.0) that we see beginning today.” In other write-ups, and presumably in a co-authored book (2013), he adds another earlier stage: • 0.0 : Organizing around place-based communities (pre-modern)”. This work continues at the Presencing Institute — notably its sections on social and especially economic evolution, from which I grabbed the chart here. Overall, his view maps imperfectly but surprisingly well onto TIMN — partticularly in his ideas about progressions, about sectors adding together, about the old persisting with the new, and about heading toward a revival of the commons.

From Kojin Karatani (2014) on four modes of exchange behind social evolution:

This impressive new book, The Structure of World History (2014), by Japanese Marxist philosopher Kojin Karatani, provides “an attempt to rethink the history of social formations from the perspective of modes of exchange” rather than the traditional modes of production (p. ix). As the tables depicts (p. 10), Karatani explains (preface) that, “There are four types of mode of exchange: • mode A, which consists of the reciprocity of the gift ; • mode B, which consists of ruling and protection; • mode C, which consists of commodity exchange; and • mode D, which transcends the other three. These four types coexist in all social formations. They differ only on which of the modes is dominant.” Mode A characterized the adoption of fixed-settlement agriculture; Mode B the emergence of the state; and Mode C the commodity exchanges behind capitalism. He argues that Mode D — “a future mode of exchange based on the return of gift exchange, albeit modified for the contemporary moment” through recursions to nomadism and the pooling of resources that characterized nomadic tribes before exchange became a dominant principle — will prevail in the future. Moreover, the outcome may have religious implications, because “this final stage — marking the overcoming of capital, nation, and state — is best understood in light of Kant's writings on eternal peace.” (source) I am astonished at how well this maps with TIMN — it’s four forms, some system dynamics, and the speculative future projection — thus providing a fitting ending for this post. [I just learned about Karatani a couple weeks ago (h/t Michel Bauwens, esp. here & here), and have still not read his book. So this blurb is preliminary; I expect to have to make revisions before long.]

* * *

End note: other pertinent studies

For additional details and citations to key scholars, see Chapter 2 “Rethinking Social Evolution”, esp. pp. 12-16, in my In Search Of How Societies Work: Tribes—The First and Forever Form (2006 — free download). Besides discussing studies that concern each TIMN form separately or in pairs, this chapter also identifies other studies that cover three or more forms. A few I discuss there merit mentioning here:
Wolfgang Streeck & Phillipe Schmitter (1985) posits that community, market, and state — characterized respectively by spontaneous solidarity, dispersed competition, and hierarchical control — have been the main models of social order and governance (Table 1, p. 122). Here they propose adding a fourth: association — an “associative order” characterized by “organizational concertation” (Table 2, p. 125). Their concept of community overlaps with TIMN’s tribe; and their market and state forms equate to +M and +I respectively. But their concept of associations has them so tightly tied together, in a corporatist manner, that it overlaps only somewhat with TIMN’s concept of networks.
Ulf Hannerz (1992, pp. 46–47) posits that “four organizational frameworks encompass most of the cultural process in the world today,” and his “form of life, market, state, and movement” frameworks correspond roughly to TIMN’s tribes, markets, hierarchies, and networks, respectively.
Mary Douglas (1996, 1996) seems to discern three major cultural contexts — enclaves, hierarchies, and markets — and her notion of “enclaves” corresponds roughly to clans, whose external boundaries are closed and whose internal norms are egalitarian. Her “grid-group” framework regarding “‘who am I?’ and ‘how should I behave?’” — leading to a matrix with quadrants for individualism, fatalism, hierarchy, and egalitarianism — aligns somewhat with TIMN.
Neo-Darwinian analyses by various anthropologists show the emergence of egalitarian sociability, hierarchical domination, and social exchange as mankind’s most basic ways of acting together (e.g., Tiger & Fox, 1971; Boehm, 1999) — further helping validate TIMN, in my view.
All very interesting — but I do not have screen grabs for including any of these studies here.

If I were to update those pages today, I would also include numerous more recent studies — so numerous that I quickly find that I must resist starting to list them here. Again, if I have overlooked an analysis that sports a pertinent table, please advise me.

Blog roll: a list of pertinent blogs:

I’ve gone looking for blogs where organizational forms get discussed — all the forms, not just networks. Here are the main ones I've found so far that are still functioning — a different list from that in my 2009 post: