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Cultural Theory and Grid/Group Analysis “We are interested in how individuals confer meaning upon situations, events, objects, relationships--in short,

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Presentation on theme: "Cultural Theory and Grid/Group Analysis “We are interested in how individuals confer meaning upon situations, events, objects, relationships--in short,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Cultural Theory and Grid/Group Analysis “We are interested in how individuals confer meaning upon situations, events, objects, relationships--in short, their lives. How do people come to believe that physical nature is one way rather than another? How does one view of human nature come to seem more sensible than others?... [We explore] the different perceptual screens through which people interpret or make sense of their world and the social relations that make particular visions of reality seem more or less plausible.”

2 The Rationale for Grid/Group 1. The framework is based on the idea (from Durkheim) of constraint. The question is to what extent do different social forms constrain person’s in terms of group membership and patterns of social relations. 2. Group is the extent to which an individual is incorporated into bounded limits; "grid refer to the degree to which an individual's life is circumscribed by externally imposed prescriptions, the less of life that is open to individual negotiation." 3. Furthermore, patterns of constraint, in terms of grid and group, will match the ways that persons construe their world, their ideas about physical nature, human nature, economic resources, blame, scarcity and risk. These constructions constitute cultural biases.


4 Group Grid High Low High FatalistHierarchist Indivdualist Egalitarian Hermit Examples: The Elderly, Peasants, The Poor. Politics: Non-Voters Examples: The Military, The Corporate World, The Catholic Church, Sports Teams Politics: Conservative Examples: Wall Street Traders, Neoliberals, College Students Politics: Libertarian Examples: Communal Groups, Political Activists Politics: Liberal/Progressive

5 Heroes The Bureaucrat (Hierarchist) The Holy Man (Egalitarian) The Pioneer (Individualist)

6 The Hermit

7 The Individualist

8 The Egalitarian

9 The Hierarchist

10 The Fatalist

11 Hierarchist’s Reaction to “Helpless”

12 Individualist’s Reaction to Helpless

13 Egalitarian’s Reaction to Helpless

14 The world is terribly unforgiving, any jolt could destroy it The world is bountiful but accountable within limits. The world is forgiving, but extreme events could disrupt it. The world is wonderfully forgiving and little that humans do could affect it. The world is random, capricious, and erratic Hermit Nature is resilient


16 Cultural theory-based Interpretation of Climate Change: The Hierarchist’s Story (nature perverse/tolerant): International protocols and national commitments are needed to address the tragedy of the atmospheric commons and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Egalitarian’s Story (nature ephemeral): The underlying problem is consumption (resource throughput). Precaution, lifestyle simplicity and grass roots action are the most effective responses. The Individualist’s Story (nature benign): To address climate change, rely on laissez-faire markets to spur competition and innovation. The benefits of climate change may even balance out the costs. The Fatalist’s Story (nature capricious): Natural forces are beyond human understanding, much less human influence. The Hermit’s Story (nature resilient): transcends and includes each of the others.

17 Grid High Grid/Low GroupHigh Grid/High Group Low Grid/Low GroupLow Grid/High Group Group The Social Construction of Human Nature Fatalist Human nature is unpredictable; some people may be benevolent, but more are hostile Individualist For individualists human nature is stable; human beings regardless, are always the same, self- seeking Hierarchists Human beings are born sinful but can be redeemed by good institutions Egalitarians Human beings are born good, but are corrupted by evil institutions Hermit Believes in the goodness of human nature, but recognized evil by attributing it to ignorance

18 The Social Construction of Needs and Resources In terms of needs and resources, there are four possibilities: 1. You can manage neither your needs or your resources. 2. You can manage your needs but not your resources. 3. You can manage your resources but not your needs. 4. You can mange both your resources and your needs.

19 Grid High Grid/Low GroupHigh Grid/High Group Low Grid/Low GroupLow Grid/High Group Group Management of Resources Fatalist Manage neither needs nor resources. The strategy is to cope within an environment within which one has no control Egalitarian Resources are fixed, and so you reduce your needs. Nature is so precarious that inequality in the distribution of resources will bring calamity Hierarchist Needs are fixed and resources manageable. If you can't adjust your needs, increase your resources. This requires resource mobilization. Individualist Manages needs and resources. Nature is a cornucopia and is manageable by skill. Hermit Needs and resources are manageable

20 These five strategies for making ends meet are the only ones that contain views of economizing congruent with the models of nature that serve to justify the corresponding ways of life. Should egalitarians seek to expand resources they could not justify sharing out. Should hierarchists attempt to decrease needs, they could not maintain the differentials required to support graded statuses. And so it goes. Supporters of each way of life construct their ends to make their cultural biases meet up with their preferred pattern of social relations. Their strategies do what is important to them--uphold their way of life. (Thompson, Michael, Richard Ellis, and Aaron Wildavsky, 1990. Culture Theory p.48).

21 Grid High Grid/Low GroupHigh Grid/High Group Low Grid/Low GroupLow Grid/High Group Group The Social Construction of Blame Hierarchists Can't blame the system, that would be self-destructive. Instead, hierarchies are "blame-shedding machines. Investigations are quashed or forbidden; blame is shifted to deviants Individualists Blame bad luck or personal incompetence Fatalists Blame fate Egalitarians They reject authority; it is the system that is to blame Hermit Lay no blame since they are uninvolved in social struggles.

22 Response to Blame FatalistIndividualistHierarchistEgalitarian The fickle finger of fate; world does things to us. Faulty incentive structures. Competitive system remains blameless, attribute personal failure to bad luck and/or personal incompetence. Poor compliance with established procedures, lack of professional expertise. Cannot blame collective system, blame shifted to deviants who don’t know their place Abuse of power by top- level leaders, system corruption. Blame the collective or the system, solidarity by portraying external symbols as monstrous. Typical Credo ‘I’m not even supposed to be here today.’ ‘Every man for himself.’ ‘All for one and one for all.’ ‘A world in ourselves and in each other.’

23 Grid High Grid/Low GroupHigh Grid/High Group Low Grid/Low GroupLow Grid/High Group Group The Social Construction of Risk Fatalists Do not knowingly take risks. They would only get hurt and there is little prospect of reward Hierarchists Accepts risk as long as decisions are made by experts Individualists Risk is opportunity. With no risk, there would be no opportunity of personal reward Egalitarians By accentuating the risks of technological development and economic growth, egalitarians are able to shore up their way of life and discomfort rival ways. predictions of imminent catastrophic- helps convince themselves anew that it is safer inside than outside the egalitarian group. Hermit Eager acceptance of myopically perceived risk. They are attached to him and can’t be transferred

24 Each way of life needs each of its rivals either to make up for its deficiencies or to exploit or define itself against. Were egalitarians to eliminate hierarchists and individualists, for instance, their lack of a target to be against would remove justification foor their strong group boundaries and thus undermine their way of life. Or, to take another example, were indiidalists ever to rid the world of hierarchy, there would be no extra-market authority to enforce the laws of contract, thus producing the breakdown of the individualists' way of life. --Thompson et al 1990: 3-4)

25 A Typology of Surprises (Actor assumes the world is one way, acted in a world that was, in fact, another way.) /Actual World Stipulated World I Capricious II Ephemeral III Benign IV Perverse/Tolerant I Capricious (Fatalist’s Myth) Expected windfalls don’t happen Unexpected runs of good luck Unexpected runs of good and bad luck II Ephemeral Egalitarian’s Myth Caution does not work Others prosper III Benign Individualist’s Myth Skill is not rewarded Total collapsePartial collapse IV Perverse/Tolerant Hierarchist’s Myth UnpredictabilityTotal CollapseCompetition

26 The 12 Possible Changes Individualist Fatalist Big man to Rubbish Man Hierarchist Informal group of organization gets formal Egalitarian Becoming the charismatic leader of a sect, the CEO in retirement becomes prominent in activitst groups

27 The 12 Possible Changes Fatalist Individualist Typical rags to riches story Hierarchist No-hoper who joins the military and “finds himself.” Egalitarian Recruited by some tight group as someone they are seeking.

28 The 12 Possible Changes Hierarchist Fatalist Fall from grace, debarred or defrocked Individualist The civil servant who sets him/herself up as a consultant Egalitarian Loyalist to heretic, the whistleblower

29 The 12 Possible Changes Egalitarian Fatalist The person rudely expellled from the group who doesn’t land “on his feet.”. Hierarchist “routinization of charisma, co-opted rebel Individualist Someone expelled from the group who lands “on his feet.”

30 Exercises 1.Write a story or narratives that characterizes each way of life. 2. Match specific forms of music or specific songs to each way of life. 3. What are some of the characteristic metaphors or frames for each way of life?

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