Thebastidge: In-goup preference
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    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    In-goup preference

    In light of the Modern Left's penchant for Transnational Progressivism, (Perhaps Transnational Pessismism would be a better term, nyet?) I wonder how much of that fear and loathing for patriotism and nationalistic pride can be attributed to misconception on the nature of racism and sterotyping as outlined in this article:
    Ethnocentrism theory suggests that anti-outgroup prejudice is a product of ingroup favoritism and that the view of outgroups will be monolithic -- i.e. only their "in-out" status will matter. The literature on stereotyping, however, shows that attitudes to outgroups are highly complex and differentiated -- particularly among prejudiced people -- and it also shows that attitude towards the ingroup is a poor predictor of attitude towards outgroups. Both major postulated aspects of ethnocentrism theory are thus undermined. It is further shown that there is considerable evidence for the view that stereotyping is adaptive and that stereotypes can have considerable truth value. Stereotyping is seen as a strategy of successive approximations towards valuable generalizations in an environment of restricted information. Stereotyping does not cause racism.

    "Stereotyping does not cause racism." That's a bold challenge to conventional thinking.
    For example: "Not only is ingroup favoritism in the laboratory situation not related to outgroup dislike, it also does not seem causally dependant on denigration of the outgroup" (Turner, 1978, p. 249). See also Brewer & Collins (1981, p. 350) and Brown, Condor, Matthews, Wade & Williams (1986). Public opinion polls using standard attitude scales also support this conclusion (e.g. Ray & Furnham, 1984; Heaven, Rajab & Ray, 1985 and Ray & Lovejoy, 1986). This is clearly an inauspicious start for ethnocentrism theory. Attitude to outgroups can be shown from many sources and research modalities not to be a mirror of attitude to the ingroup. There is, furthermore, a substantial body of thought which sees pro-ingroup sentiment as something like self-esteem --i.e. a positive influence and a basis for a healthy, adaptive and positive view of the world. It is hard to think well of outgroups if you do not think well of your own group.

    Also hard to treat others well when you don't respect yourself, to put it in individualistic terms. People with low self-esteem not only treat themselves badly, they treat others badly, and usually ascribe the worst of motives to every action, not a healthy scepticism, but a pathological paranoia. The culture of victimhood also finds itself with deep roots in poor self-image; and this culture of victimhood goes far beyond individual pathological behaviour and actually is quite widespread in broad demographics.

    This statement about respecting outgroups really strikes a chord in me when I think about the modern middle east, where well-educated young men from affluent families gird themselves 'round with explosives and go off to kill children, all in the name of institutionalized racism, paranoia, and national/ethnic inferiority complex.

    Speaking of inferiority versus equality:
    Miller (1985) found that older Australian schoolchildren (whites) who had large numbers of blacks (Australian Aborigines) in their classes resented black welfare programs most when they had positive stereotypes of blacks. Far from a positive stereotype of blacks implying that positive discrimination by the government in favour of blacks would be applauded, it meant that such interventions were resented. Conversely, the people who accepted affirmative action programs uncritically were those whites who thought very poorly of blacks (i.e. those whites who stereotyped blacks most unfavorably). It was "prejudiced" people who most accepted the need to help blacks overcome their handicaps! [...]

    This does tend to suggest that the characteristic American policy of stressing that blacks are basically equal to whites but still in need of special help from the government is in trouble. The two arms of policy may be pulling in opposed directions. It may be possible in the long run to gain public acceptance of only one of the policy arms -- not both at the same time. In other words, if you really wish to succeed in causing blacks to be perceived as basically equal to whites you may not be able to have affirmative action programs. Your insistence on the need for affirmative action programs, on the other hand, might tend to be seen as implying that you do not really at heart accept black equality. People do sometimes seem to have the habit of behaving in ways that do not suit theorists.

    Another indictment, however well-couched in non-adversarial terms, of elitism in academia.

    I've argued with people before about the usefulness of generalization, of working from a contiguous context where one searches for basic natural principles and forms judgements based upon those observed principles rather than upon individual instances which may be poorly interpreted in the heat of the moment. Especially my more liberal friends, to whom anything smacking of a 'label' is anathema. Sometimes a label fits just fine, and more often than not, it's at least marginally useful.

    The key is not to ban certain speech because 'labels dehumanize', the best practice is to expand our knowledge and improve our predictive capability.

    What do you believe that you can't prove?
    I believe that nature is understandable, that scientific inquiry is the sharpest tool and the noblest endeavor of the human mind, and that any “final answers” we ever get will come from it rather than from mysticism, religion, or any other competing account of the universe. I believe these things without being able to prove them despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that I am a mystic myself.

    Science may be the noblest endeavor of the human mind, but I believe (though I cannot prove) that the most crippling and dangerous kind of ignorance in the modern West is ignorance of economics, the way markets work, and the ways non-market allocation mechanisms are doomed to fail. Such economic ignorance is toxic, because it leads to insane politics and the empowerment of those whose rhetoric is altruist but whose true agenda is coercive control.

    I believe that the most important moment in the history of philosophy was when Charles Sanders Peirce defined “truth” as “predictive power” and made it possible to talk about confirmation of hypotheses in a non-circular way.

    I believe the most important moment in the foreseeable future of philosophy will come when we realize that mad old Nazi bastard Heidegger had it right when he said that we are thrown into the world and must cope, and that theory-building consists of rearranging our toolkit for coping. I believe the biggest blind spot in analytical philosophy is its refusal to grapple with Heidegger’s one big insight, but that evolutionary biology coupled with Peirce offers us a way to stop being blind. I beleve that when the insights of what is now called “evolutionary psychology” are truly absorbed by philosophers, many of the supposedly intractable problems of philosophy will vanish.

    I believe, but don’t know how to prove, a much stronger version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis than is currently fashionable. That is, I believe the way humans think is shaped in important ways by the linguistic categories they have available; thinking outside those categories is possible but more difficult, has higher friction costs. Accordingly, I believe that some derivation of Alfred Korzybski’s discipline of General Semantics will eventually emerge as an essential tool of the first mature human civilizations.


    I believe that humanity's advances are made by individuals, and helped along by empowerment of that individual, and that most of this empowerment is in the sense of getting the hell out of their way- rogue individuals have consistently had to buck the system to get anything done, and statism (and its primitive cousin, tribalism) cripples us all.
    Emory professor of economics and law Paul Rubin usefully distinguishes between "productive" and "allocative" hierarchies. Productive hierarchies are those that organize cooperative efforts to achieve otherwise unattainable mutually advantageous gains. Business organizations are a prime example. Allocative hierarchies, on the other hand, exist mainly to transfer resources to the top. Aristocracies and dictatorships are extreme examples. Although the nation-state can perform productive functions, there is the constant risk that it becomes dominated by allocative hierarchies. Rubin warns that our natural wariness of zero-sum allocative hierarchies, which helps us to guard against the concentration of power in too few hands, is often directed at modern positive-sum productive hierarchies, like corporations, thereby threatening the viability of enterprises that tend to make everyone better off.


    There is no way to stop dominance-seeking behavior. We may hope only to channel it to non-harmful uses. A free society therefore requires that positions of dominance and status be widely available in a multitude of productive hierarchies, and that opportunities for greater status and dominance through predation are limited by the constant vigilance of "the people"—the ultimate reverse dominance hierarchy. A flourishing civil society permits almost everyone to be the leader of something, whether the local Star Trek fan club or the city council, thereby somewhat satisfying the human taste for hierarchical status, but to no one's serious detriment.
    (Thanks to Econlog.

    The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well
    Grant McCracken has argued in his book Plenitude that one of the defining characteristics of the last fifty years is an explosion of subcultural variety — people creating new lifestyles and new identities around occupations, sexual tastes, hobbies, genres of art and music, religions, and just about any other investment of time human beings have ever dreamed up.

    When McCracken proposes that there is now as much divergence among individual subcultures in the life of the modern West as we can find among preindustrial tribes in the annals of anthropology he is probably exaggerating. Nevertheless, it is clear that he is onto something when he observes that the old idea of a ‘mainstream’ culture with subcultures developing in anti-conformist reaction to it is falling apart.
    [S]ubcultures now come from the cultural system in place. The culture of commotion is, as I have labored to demonstrate, dedicated to the production of new and different subcultures.

    SF fans. Skatepunks. Polyamorists. Gangsta rappers. Goths. McCracken certainly has this much right; there are now lots of voluntary subcultures out there that have the kind of adhesiveness once only associated with religious or tribal groupings. Belonging to them is not just a predilection like being a baseball fan or liking Chinese food, but a statement of identity with a whole social network and a set of myths and dreams and heroes attached to it.


    The new tribalism has little in common with traditional versions of the same name; and it will be the saving of the human race, if anything will (note: I don't think the human race is exactly failing, as it is, but we could definitely be doing better). The new tribalism is typified by voluntary inclusion rather than an unalterable default. It allows for the exchange of ideas, adoption of new practices, more efficient disposal of traditions which have become dross. The identity of individuals who associate with these various subcultures is hardly less committed than previously, but the situtational, external barriers to changing identity have been lowered- at least in youth. One can make a choice of what kind of person one wants to be, as typified by association with a certain in-group and become a seamless part of that whole.

    But, as with all human processes, when looked at critically and honestly, it's messy. It doesn't have the clean lines of Marxist theory. There's a certain noise-to-signal ratio that will alarm some people. Microscopically, it lacks efficiency, though on the macroscopic scale it does quite well.

    But creative processes are rarely clean and neat.

    /ramble

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