Friday, August 7, 2020

487. Social and capitalist structure

Pierre Bourdieu (2018) made the distinction between two types of societal structure: A social one, which arises in less developed. countries, and a capitalist structure in developed countries.In the first, social positions of authority,prestige, leadership, delegation, public service are not institutionalised but have to be earned and constantly maintained with gifts, attention, favours.or intimidation and violence. Crucially, it is not so much a matter of quid pro.quo between individuals, but. social. acceptance and sanction.Sometimes these relations are romanticised. Underneath the apparently humane reciprocation of gifts and values of community there are more or less hypocritically hidden economic interests and dependencies  The power may appear soft.but it is there.

In developed capitalist societies by contrast, social position is documented and established once and for all, by legal ownership, legally or politically backed appointments, educational and professional diplomas and associations It all began with writing, settling issues without the ambiguities and impermanence and forgetfulness of the spoken word.

The development made for a great increase of efficiency, in not having to continually maintain, service the position, and achieving clarity and stabiliy of position and assignment of roles and. judgement.of validity. It is not a matter only off efficiency in the sense of lower costs, but also access to relations outside the clan or tribe, which greatly inceases the variety of contacts and sources of new.ideas, of novel combinations for innovation and learning.

However, it entails a loss of social contact and the intrinsic social value of relations, in ongoing give and take. It is a matter of transactions rather than relations.Also, contracts can never be complete, and unfamiliar situations can arise by surprise, and though giving stability. and continuity, institutional fixtures can be cicumvented and changed.

In particular, as I have argued in several places, also in this blog, especially relations of collaboration for innovation suffer from a paradox. On the one hand the uncertainty of innovation yields a desure for security, but on the other hand there needs to be room for exploration beyond the current order.

This requires reversion, to some extent, to social deliberation,to not purely economic relations of give and take, in ‘voice’, and the exercise of trust. There, the social is again at play, in the giving of gifts without guaranteed commensurate return, and the collective, in the operation of reputation next to bilateral agreements.and formal authority (Nooteboom, 2002). This is a difficult switch back to social skills, which many, especially economists, find difficult to accept and muster, due to the ‘inefficiency’ and ambiguity of social dynamics.

Bourdieu, Pierre (2018), Outline of a theory of practice, Cambridge University Press.
Nooteboon, Bart, (2002), Trust: forms, foundations, functions, failures and figures. Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar.

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