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:


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A TIMN appraisal of the Chamber-of-Commons idea — awaiting the emergence of a +N sector (Part 3 continued)

This post — as a continuation of my prior post (here) — further elaborates the idea of creating Chambers of Commons, in order to foster a +N sector, and thus contribute to the transition from triform (T+I+M) to quadriform (T+I+M+N) societies — the next phase in social evolution.

To reiterate a bit: In 2012, while wondering about the revival of “the commons” as an idea (and reality) full of potential implications for social evolution, I was also fuming that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was increasingly trying to distort our market system on behalf of favored business interests. So I proposed (here) that Chambers of Commons, particularly a U.S. Chamber of Commons, be created and networked together in the decades ahead.

As I saw it, purposes might include illuminating commons issues, advancing the monitoring of commons matters, congregating interested actors, advising on policy issues, and helping to develop a commons sector (separate and distinct from our long-standing public and private sectors). This might help forge new ways of working on valuable ideas that have lost ground in recent eras: the public interest, the common good. My vision also hoped that someday we will see media events where a chamber of commerce and a chamber of commons are both asked their views about some crucial public-policy topic — i.e., a U.S. Chamber of Commons gains parity with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Fortunately, the idea was picked up by pro-commons P2P activists/theorists David Bollier and Michel Bauwens in 2013. And by 2015 a few prototype efforts were in planning stages, notably for a US Chamber of Commons and a Chicago Chamber of Commons (h/t Steve Ediger). Some interest also emerged in Europe — however, a parallel proposal by Bauwens for Assemblies of the Commons may be proving more attractive there (h/t Maia Dereva).

Thus I foresee Chambers of Commons becoming strategic wedge organizations plying wedge issues for the purpose of fostering a commons sector that contributes to building +N. Today I’d like to offer three thoughts about their future potential .
1. Creating Chambers of Commons is a good idea whose time is nigh — but better conceptual clarity and a bigger audience are needed.
2. It is advisable to emulate historical aspects of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), the better to counter-balance it.
3. It is important that the Chamber-of-Commons idea serve the creation of new network (+N) sectors — more than and apart from a reform of existing market (+M) sectors.
I deal with each one below. Most of what I say about the first and third points is assembled from what I’ve said before. The newest material in this post attends the second point.

Idea whose time is nigh — but better conceptual clarity and bigger audience needed

For generations, the concept of the commons has mostly meant natural commons — e.g., the clear air, clean water, and open land that even President Nixon once deemed a “birthright” of every American. Lately, because of the Internet and related digital technologies, the concept has expanded to include information and knowledge — the cyber commons. Whether and how to include other social matters — e.g., health, education, housing, public/civic infrastructure, insurance, law, the arts, etc. — is under discussion, along with ideas about whether to emphasize the contents of “the commons” or the practices of “commoning”. More debatable is whether to include social entrepreneurs (e.g., with “B Corps”) interested in marketing information-age products and services in post-capitalist ways; their activities may belong more in the market (+M) sector than a commons network-based (+N) sector.

Yet the concept’s revival has barely touched public awareness. U.S. political leaders and party platforms don’t mention it; nor do news and opinion shows on radio and TV — but for rare exceptions on rare occasions. For example, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, Thom Hartman’s The Big Picture, and The PBS News Hour often discuss commons-related issues, like those mentioned above, but I have yet to see them mention the revival of “the commons” idea or the prospects for a “commons sector”. Instead, pro-commons ideas are mostly advanced piece-meal by dispersed issue-specific civil-society NGOs (e.g., Sierra Club, Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Ferment around commons ideas is growing mainly on the Left (e.g., via The P2P Foundation) — but only parts of the Left. Awareness among Centrists is difficult to find, despite Elinor Ostrom’s winning the Nobel Prize, and Yochai Benkler’s writings about the advantages of “network-based peer production”. Interest on the Right is sorely lacking, held back by notions about “the tragedy of the commons” as well as by ingrained adherence to traditional public-private distinctions — though conservative concepts about stewardship, protection, and conservation could contribute to pro-commons ideas.

An advantage of the chamber-of-commons idea is that it looks ahead to the emergence of a sector of activity that will cut across all sorts of issue areas, political ideologies, and advocacy organizations. That the concept still lacks definitional clarity and public support is a problem — but it may also be an opportunity that well-designed chambers may help address and resolve.

Emulating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the better to counter-balance it

My inspiration in 2012 for the idea of a U.S. Chamber of Commons derived partly from my adverse reaction to what had become of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), at a time when I was already wondering about the rise of pro-commons thinking and what that might mean for the emergence of a new network-based (+N) sector alongside the existing public (+I) and private (+M) sectors. My long-term vision became that someday we’ll see issues covered by media where representatives of both a chamber of commerce and a chamber of commons are asked to present their views and answer questions about some hot topic — in other words, a U.S. Chamber of Commons will achieve public parity with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

While that inspiration and vision are about Chambers of Commons serving to counter-balance the USCC and its affiliates, there is much in the USCC’s history that looks worth emulating. It was created by assembling dispersed pro-business forces (e.g., existing local chambers and businesses) around a national center in 1912, at the behest of President Taft and with the approval of Congress. The goal was to improve the representation of business interests in Washington; but motivations also included counter-balancing the increasingly well-organized labor movement. This new Chamber was deemed a “social welfare” organization worthy of tax-exempt status. And it was said to be an advisory organization, particularly to advise the government about business matters — though it soon became an advocacy organization as well. All those points — assembling and networking dispersed forces, creating a high-profile national center, gaining recognition from Executive and Legislative leaders, serving significant advisory (and advocacy) roles — amount, I’d say, to a few historical “lessons” for developing a network of new Chambers of Commons.

A key development for the USCC’s history was the “Powell memo” (authored in 1971 by Lewis Powell, a prominent corporate lawyer, whom President Nixon placed on the U.S. Supreme Court a little later). In this memo, Powell argued that “the American economic system is under broad attack” by anti-business forces. So he laid out a sweeping strategy for defending and advancing American business interests. One consequence was the creation of influential new pro-business think-tanks, media, and advocacy networks According to two analyses,
“Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.” (source)
“Powell’s memo is widely credited with leading to an extraordinary transformation in public opinion about free-market economics, government regulation, and the efficacy of government. The transformation resulted from the creation of a loose network of business people and advocacy organizations that organized around the ideology of unfettered free market economics.” (source)
So, that may be another another historical experience worth emulation. If/as a U.S. Chamber of Commons takes hold, it may benefit from someone writing its own kind of “Powell memo” —a variant designed for pro-commons (and pro-social) rather than pro-commerce actors.

And indeed I have come across progressive calls for a new “Powell memo” — notably by an analyst who wrote several times about the USCC during 2015-2016: Anthony Biglan (co-author, The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World, 2015). Here’s what he concluded in two posts about social and cultural evolution:
“So let this be my Powell memo. If you don’t like where the evolution of capitalism has taken us in the past forty years, join with others who share your understanding of what humans need to thrive and build a super-coalition of individuals and organizations working to influence public understanding, public policy, and direct action.” (source)
“There is no shortage of organizations that can contribute to our evolving in this direction. What is needed, however is higher level selection of a super-coalition of organizations just like what Lewis Powell advocated for the business community.” (source
That fits well with TIMN. But notice that his call for a new “super-coalition of individuals and organizations” is focused on building a broad-based progressive movement to correct the adverse effects of capitalism. Moreover, by now I’ve seen many calls for creating progressive new organizations and coalitions, and most have similar emphases on countering capitalism. Some even note a need to counter the USCC specifically (e.g., Gar Alperowitz, as noted in an addendum to my 2012 post on the commons). In other words, all these progressive proposals are far more about reforming +M than building +N.

Yet, if TIMN is valid, what will prove strategically wiser is for some innovations — Chambers of Commons in particular — to be focused primarily on building +N sectors, and tangentially on rectifying what’s gone wrong with capitalism and its +M sectors. As I stated in a comment at another of Biglan’s posts:
“My point, as I argue elsewhere, is that America is entering a phase of cultural evolution that will add the “network” level to the foregoing. A cutting-edge for this new phase appears to be clustering around new (and old) ideas about “the commons”. Thus an innovation that I would urge adding to your list is for a network of Chambers of Commons, including a U.S. Chamber of Commons. If viable, it could help generate the kind of new “super-coalition of organizations” you favor, in order to help propel the rise of a “network” sector and counter-balance actors like the Chamber of Commerce that reinforce aging “institutional” and “market” practices. I’d wish for a Powell-type memorandum on behalf of a Chamber of Commons.” (source)
While a U.S. Chamber of Commons might emulate the USCC in such regards, the purposes would be different, as would governance, sponsorship, membership, audience, and areas of interest. The two could become rivals on many issues — but commons chambers should not be designed simply as contrarian mirror-like opponents of commerce chambers. The commons chambers have a more distinctive long-range challenge on which to focus: the rise of +N.

(My sources on the USCC include: Wikipedia, the USCC itself, Verini, Grim, Katz, Powell, Biglan, Biglan, Biglan.)

Focusing on serving +N ideas and actors, more than on reforming +M

In my TIMN view, the Chamber-of-Commons idea should focus on the creation of new network (+N) sectors — more than and apart from a reform of existing market (+M) sectors. Other actors can/will attend to reforming +M as their primary goal. For a pro-commons chamber it should be an ancillary goal.

Creating Chambers of Commons seems a good idea whether it stems from P2P or TIMN, or if it gets associated later with some other forward-looking framework, such as Gar Alperowitz’s “next system”, Joe Brewer et al’s “cultural evolution”, Kojin Karatani’s “Mode D”, or John Keane’s “monitory democracy”. Yet, in my view, it would be best if the idea's implementation were guided by the nascent theoretical framework that inspired it: TIMN.

According to TIMN, people have evolved four cardinal forms of organization. Tribes (T) came first. Hierarchical institutions (I) were next. Then markets (M). Now information-age networks (N) are on the rise. Seen across the centuries, societies have progressed — or failed to do so — according to their abilities to use and combine these four forms, both their bright and dark sides, in properly bounded and balanced ways.

Today, America is in the early throes of evolving from a stalled distorted triformist (T+I+M) system toward a potentially innovative rebalanced quadriformist (T+I+M+N) system. Adding +N will mean letting +N actors give rise to a distinctive network-based sector. As noted in Part 1 in this series, earlier analysts have said this new sector will arise mostly around non-profit civil-society NGOs, and eventually grow into a “social”, a “third”, a “citizen”, a “plural”, or a “care” sector that is distinct and separate from the established public and private sectors. At present, I think “commons sector” best captures what’s emerging.

Whatever the +N sector ends up being called, TIMN means it will grow in part by taking over some functions and activities that the old sectors no longer perform well enough. At the same time, +N will work best if the older forms and their spaces are respected, even as they get altered in order to work better together. That is what happened in past TIMN progressions (see here), and that’s what’s at stake in the decades ahead.

This has implications for the Chamber-of-Commons idea. Since much of +N seems associated with the revival of the commons, the new Chambers could act as strategic harbingers. Yet, to best focus on figuring out +N, they may have to avoid getting too involved with +M actors and issues. According to TIMN, +M is here to stay; it is essential to advanced societies. There are lots of good reasons to criticize capitalism these days — but not to get rid of +M, the market system. Indeed, from a TIMN perspective, +N will work best only where the T (e.g., family), the +I (e.g., the state), and the +M (e.g., business) parts are also relatively strong, balanced, and working well together for society’s sake. Which may require lots of restructuring, from top to bottom.