Theory on framework issues

Monday, June 25, 2012

15.2. The practical basis for mass ideologies: Construal-level theory of ideologies meets habit theory of morality

3rd in ideology-types series

In A habit theory of civic morality, I explained political morality as an extension of particular adaptive principles of personal integrity, so because an ethic featuring frugality controls personal life, a passion for paying off the national debt inauspiciously arises during this world depression. (See, also, The puzzling persistence of resistance to Keynes by Professor Mike Dorf.) Here, I extend the explanation from civic morality to ideologies, which I claim are determined by nonmoral habits.

Occupations are like politics in offering common kinds of issues and multifarious means of resolving them, the issues and methods presenting at levels of abstraction typical for a class of occupation, inducing habitual mental sets conducing to the corresponding ideology types. The diagram below (click to expand) depicts the association between the four ideology types and occupations that foster the corresponding habits of thought.

The clearest example is in the Monomaniacalist quadrant, with computer programming the prototypical occupation. A programming task is Monomaniacalist because the programmer faces issues construed abstractly (e.g., create certain functionalities in a word processing program) but must find concrete solutions (strings of symbols in a programming language). For programmers currently, linkages to ideology are clearest: programmers are inclined to libertarianism, the leading Monomaniacalist ideology, at least in the United States.

Although programmers are the purest Monomaniacalists, “knowledge workgenerally inclines to this ideology type, as with teachers, who manipulate concrete prescribed lessons to achieve abstract educational goals. Science, in its ordinary practice, uses concepts largely reduced to concrete operational definitions to reach abstract goals of incremental knowledge. The expansion of the knowledge-worker occupational category may partly explain the 20th century influence of another Monomaniacalist current, Stalinism.

An occupation can influence ideology type in two ways: the work’s content or its form. In some occupations, the work grips the mind, in which case the content rather than the form is important, as in the occupations already discussed; in others, the work is a means to an external end. For an example of an occupation where its form is important, take the case where no real work is required: the occupation of capitalist as pure “coupon clipper,” who, like Bill Gates, remain the richest of the business class. Capitalists must concern themselves with the concrete issues of maximizing return on investment and the concrete method of manipulating the particulars of their stock portfolios. Combining a concrete orientation toward issues and method, capitalists incline to a Managerialist outlook.

The issue peasants face is the concrete one of realizing maximum revenue from production. The peasantry meets the concrete issues by sentimentalizing land ownership. The peasant becomes emotionally attached to land and seeks to own more, and from this abstract sentiment arises much of the motive to work the land and produce the most from it. An abstract means is harnessed to a concrete issue, fitting the Demagogist pattern. The small businessman displays a dampened version of the peasant’s ideological predilections and has a similar if less flagrant attachment pattern to property.

Although the unskilled manual worker is engaged in concrete thinking at work, this is repetitious and automatized, the details requiring minimal attention. The focus of attention controls. Workers must concern themselves with their entire conditions of life. Unlike the peasant, the worker cannot rely on a concrete measure based on amount earned, since workers have surrendered hours of their very lives to control by their bosses. Workers must enter in the balance even the psychological costs of submitting to an arrogant boss. Workers sell their time to their bosses, and this condition forces them to make the totality of their conditions the issue and to fashion or embrace matching concepts to persist at dreary work. In long historical perspective, the workers incline to Utopianism.

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SUPPLIER OF LEGAL THEORIES. Attorneys' ghostwriter of legal briefs and motion papers, serving all U.S. jurisdictions. Former Appellate/Law & Motion Attorney at large Los Angeles law firm; J.D. (University of Denver); American Jurisprudence Award in Contract Law; Ph.D. (Psychology); B.A. (The Johns Hopkins University). E-MAIL: Phone: 760.974.9279 Some other legal-brief writers research thoroughly and analyze penetratingly, but I bring another two merits. The first is succinctness. I spurn the unreadable verbosity and stupefying impertinence of ordinary briefs to perform feats of concision and uphold strict relevance to the issues. The second is high polish, achieved by allotting more time to each project than competitors afford. Succinct style and polished language — manifested in my legal-writing blog, Disputed Issues — reverse the common limitations besetting brief writers: lack of skill for concision and lack of time for perfection.