© Roger M Tagg 2009 revised 2010
Welcome to FROLIO – a new attempt to merge philosophy and the "semantic web" . This website is under continuing development.
The book is: Handbook for Analyzing the Social Strategies of Everyday Life, by Bernard Guerin, published in 2004 by Context Press, ISBN 1-878978-50-0 or 978-1878978-50-9
The author is a lecturer at the University of South Australia, where I worked between 2000 and 2009.
The fundamental equation in our everyday life is to balance these two things. Resources are what we want or need, while populations are ourselves and the groups – large and small – to which we belong.
A closed population is where there are no joiners or leavers to those who are competing for the resources. At the other extreme a population can be open, but it is usually somewhere in between: A static population can’t escape to find the resources elsewhere, unlike a mobile population.
Guerin gives an interesting list of examples of types of resource for which we compete:
What he expressly does not include is “fictitious points values as in game theory examples”.
This covers how we get, give away or exchange the resources for which we are competing. Clearly not all the processes will work with all the resources.
Examples of processes are:
Processes do not operate in an unconstrained way; rather they are controlled by such devices as:
There is often a question about the quality of the means of acquiring resources. The ends do not necessarily justify them. What is a good process when one is starving is not necessarily good when one simply wants more of something one already has plenty of.
Bargaining is a fairly natural process. Successful bargaining depends on one’s bargaining position. One typically does not reveal one’s true bargaining position to the other party one is bargaining with. Threats may be introduced as part of the bargaining process, but one has to be able to convince the other party that the threat will definitely be carried out, otherwise it is just bluster.
Part of the process is also risk avoidance. This may lead to saving or hoarding of surplus resources, against the possibility of adverse conditions in the future. Information about the severity of future risks, and their probability, is needed to avoid exceesive hoarding or foolhardy risk taking. In some cultures, another consideration is the status that one may acquire by having a surplus.
Guerin introduces two special classes of resource, namely commons and public good.
With commons, a resource is available, but its value deteriorates if too many people use it. A common (in the sense of public grazing land), a beach - or the environment of planet Earth - are all examples
With public good, everyone must put something in so that everyone can get something back. Examples could include a club or society with subscriptions, a trade union, a public transport service – or even taxpayer-funded scientific research.
Motives are mixed because although we would like to have the valued resource, it might also pay us better to “free ride” – in other words get the benefit without restraint or contribution.
Associated issues mentioned by Guerin include: the problem of start up, individual efficiency, early versus late joiners, and people taking a “wait and see” approach
Guerin raises the issue that if one wants someone else to do something (i.e. the resource is their mental or physical effort) then monitoring them may do more harm than good.
In cases where a relationship already exists, monitoring reduces both trust and effort in performance.
Guerin characterizes trust as a process, not a resource. Maybe it’s a bit like bargaining. He says that in matters of trust, candid people are a prime target for exploitation. Blind trust, or faith, seem to involve some suspension of belief beyond normal carefulness.
The implication seems to be that just as in bargaining, one is better off not laying all one’s cards on the table, but keeping them close to one’s chest.
He says that it is best not to involve close family or friends in economic ventures – it might spoil a relationship that one needs to maintain over a long period.
Guerin highlights several problems with larger groups.
Such groups encourage manipulators to only communicate through small cells where they have a majority.
Guerin claims that mass hysteria action is caused by de-individualisation, and not by complex psychological mechanisms. He points out that authorities like to have an excuse for acting against crowds and mobs.
In one experiment in countering de-individualisation, the experimenter tried a self attention approach – he placed a mirror in front of the bowl of sweets (lollies, candies) left out for a group of trick-or-treaters. The idea was that if they saw themselves taking more than their fair share, it would remind them of their individuality.
Guerin’s view is that it’s not a matter of whether what one says is true or false, it’s the intended or actual effect on the recipient (and on the speaker too). The goal might include getting the recipient to do/say/think something, or just to maintain the social fabric. For the speaker, the goal might be to “get it off one’s chest”.
My (RT) comment is that in reality, we often fail to achieve our goal.
In everyday life, we use many strategies for modifying the consequences of what we say, e.g.:
People are often nervous about making requests for action, so it is common to use circumlocutions:
The art of trying to persuade other people has become very sophisticated, but if we think about it, most of the following are pretty feeble devices:
Of course advertising is very much related with this.
Guerin suggests a number of challenge tactics that one can use if someone is leaning on you language-wise.
Index to more of these diatribes
FROLIO home page
Some of these links may be under construction – or re-construction.
This version updated on 1st February 2010
If you have constructive suggestions or comments, please contact the author email@example.com .