Sometimes, in order to create a counter-narrative that can be effective in the here and now, one has to step outside of the broader theoretical project. I guess, for some, this would constitute a distraction from the real work, perhaps a violation of the true mission of that scholarly endeavor. For others, it might be a legitimate (even if imperfect) effort to apply what one has come to understand from the larger project. For others, still, perhaps simply a political activity undertaken with theoretical tools, but with little actual relation to the theoretical project.
Perhaps these are desperate measures that these desperate times call for.
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2014 10:29 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Working for the Few | Oxfam International
Well, that's the project I have been collaborating in since I was a teenager, David, but it has its challenges, too, you know.
First off, these observations about social psychology and well-being:
The point is to have a unit of analysis and one which is as valid for making observations about psychology as it is for social theory. And in general, this is lacking for what goes by the name of "social psychology." People do not of course govern their behaviour by evidence-based investigations of the likely results of their behaviour.
People don't set out to "grow a bigger economy" or "have more wealth than someone else". The thinking of an individual has to be understood (I would contend) within the contexts of the projects to which they are committed. That is the reason for the relativity in the enjoyment of wealth (which is itself of course relative). People make judgments according to the norms of the project in which they are participating, and that means semantic, theoretical and practical norms. Understanding the psychology of political economy is as of one task with that of building a project to overthrow the existing political economic arrangements and build sustainable arrangements. That requires a multitude of projects all willikng and able to collaborate with one another.
That's what I think.
David H Kirshner wrote:
I've been sketching out in my mind, but not yet had time to research and write, a paper tentatively titled:
The Psychology of Greed: Why the Ultra-wealthy are Despoiling the
Planet, Tanking the Economy, and Gutting our Culture In the Quest for
The premise is that the psychological metric of our sense of material well-being is not accumulation, relative to our own past wealth, but the comparative measure of our own wealth in relation to that of others. (I believe this is a well-established principle of social psychology.) So, for example, instead of trying to grow a bigger economy which requires a large and healthy middle-class (this is what would provide more actual wealth for the ultra-wealthy), they are eroding the middle-class as quickly as they can--a strategy that maximizes disparity.
The major thesis (in the U.S. context) is that the gradual shift in political control of the economy over the past 50 years by the ultra-wealthy has reached a kind of tipping point in which the gains in disparity are so dramatic as to overwhelm any sense of actual self-interest. Hence, we see increasingly irrational and self-destructive behavior by the ultra-wealthy (e.g., the fraudulent housing bubble that created what U.S. economists refer to as The Great Recession). The conclusion, of course, is a call to action to take back control of our political systems so we can set more rational policies for the economy.
I don't know if this thesis extends so easily beyond the U.S. situation to the world, but if this project appeals, I would welcome a collaborative effort--perhaps even one that somehow encompasses the whole XMCA listserv as co-authors.