the ambivalent collective: is there anything good for freedom in the “collective”? ian hansen

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  • The Ambivalent Collective:Is there anything good for freedom in the collective?Ian Hansen

  • How social psychology came to hate the group in 3 stepsStep 1: Attempt to explain Nazism without prejudicial reference to German national character

    Why did we do it? Because mass murdering death camps are tidy and efficient, with a romantic flourish of schaudenfrade An obsolete explanation

  • How social psychology came to hate the group in 3 stepsStep 2: Do groundbreaking experiments on how social influence overwhelms rational, compassionate, industrious individuality

    Group=>GroupthinkDeindividuationSocial loafingPrejudiceDiffusion of responsibilityConformityObedience to authority


  • How social psychology came to hate the group in 3 stepsStep 3: Conclude that all social coordination and social influence is a psychological cousin of fascism

    =Labor union social coordinationNazi pilot social coordination

  • Implication:Chauvinist individualism: To be truly free, we must all be atomistic, unattached rugged individualists (a.k.a. Rational Economic Man)Screw the unions; screw the welfare state; do your own thing, man

  • Chauvinist individualism as contra ALL kinds of collectivity and interdependenceBoth collectiv-ISM (Asianness, religiousness, other focus vs. self focus, etc.)And collective ACTION (civic participation, high voter turnout, town halls, mass protests, labor unions, etc)But running a corporation might be okay, since corporations are individual persons, and being in the military is okay tooan army of one

  • Is chauvinist individualism self-cancelling?It is just like my country: leader selected who can dangle heaviest weight from his teste-sack. Leader just like Stalin, crushes the stupid peasants to make Kazakhstan greatest country!

  • Cultural Psychology as antidote to individualist chauvinism?Collectivists may not love freedom, but at least they respect community and divinity, and in some ways theyre not so rigid:Less FAELess narcissism, deceptive self-enhancement (Japanese)Believe in malleability of intelligence, personality, moral characterAttendant to the field, not just the objectPersistence after failure (Japanese)More dialectical, holistic

  • Collectivists may not love freedom but.??!!!Is this paradigm really an antidote to chauvinist individualism, or a patronizing moral consolation prize to non-Western cultures?

    So when Bush says, they hate our freedom is our response no they dont; they hate being bomded and occupied or well, yes they hate our freedom, but the value of freedom is culturally relative

  • A look at individualism and freedom (in 30 nations)

    Individualism (rated by cross-cultural psychology expert Harry Triandis)Freedom (civil and political liberty as rated by Freedom House) Individualism is indeed a robust predictor of freedom in a nation:

    r(30) = .71, p < .001

  • Individualism and quality of life in the U.S.Individualism (measured by Vandello & Cohen, 2000)Quality of Life (2004 Quinto Livability Index)

    Individualism is indeed a robust predictor of quality of lifer(50) = .46, p < .001

  • Score one for chauvinist individualismCrush the peasants and let freedom ring!

  • This suggests that individualism is of value to freedom, but in contrast to what?In contrast to collectiv-ISMOr contrast to collective ACTION?Or both?

    Triandis assessment and Vandello and Cohens both work with an individualism-vs-collectivism scale, but when measured as non-inverse constructs (e.g. Singelis interdepence/independence), they are often orthogonal or even positively correlated

  • What about collective actionCollective action as social contractIndividuals bind together to take action because of shared individual interestsGroup identity is tentative and subject to review, subordinate to individual values and goalsExamples of collective action that individualists can be drawn to: voting for a political party, a street protest, joining a labor union

  • Voting for a political party

  • Street protest

  • Joining a labor union

  • But is such collective action a psychological trap?

    And will it ultimately lead to collectiv-ISM and thus destroy individual freedom?With deindividuation, groupthink, conformity, social loafing, etc,

    Obey solidarity! Smash freedom!Curse you collective action!

  • In factUnion density is positively correlated with national freedom:

    r(30) = .39, p < .05

    Voter turnout is also positively correlated with national freedom:

    r(30) = .55, p < .01

    and both forms of collective action predict freedom when holding individualism statistically constant

  • Union density and voter turnout are closely linkedvoter turnoutunion densityr(30) = .62p< .001

  • In the U.S.Union density is not correlated with quality of lifeNor is it correlated with voter turnout

    But voter turnout IS correlated with quality of life: r(51) = .60, p < .001Again, this relationship is not mediated by individualism

  • U.S. union density in perspectiveVery low union density (13.6% in 2000)Low correlation because of restricted range?

    In 1964, union density was 29.3%In 1964 the correlation between voter turnout and union density was r(51) = .54, p < .001

    Also, state declines in voter turnout and union density from 1964-2000 are strongly correlated, r(51) = .51, p < .001

  • Recommended readingAll social capital appears to be in declinenot just voter turnout and union density. Reason? Perhaps precipitated by the explosion of solitary-oriented technology (TV, computers, gameboys, etc), which exploits and magnifies pre-existing cultural space for individual solitude

  • Collective action (and perhaps all social capital) rise and fall togetherThe popularity of one form of collective action rises and falls with the popularity of other forms of collective action, e.g. labor union participation and voter turnoutfallingfalling

  • Complex story for freedomCollective action (at least voter turnout) predicts freedom and quality of life independent of individualism

    +individualismCollective actionfreedomQuality of life

  • ImplicationsFreedom is most evident where there is a COMBINATION of collective action with individualism, rather than one without the other

  • A freedom recipe?Collective action without individualism may indeed be more vulnerable to groupthink, deindividuation, diffusion of responsibility, etc.

  • A freedom recipe?Individualism without collective action is likely to create a society of winners and losers, with winners largely uninterested in and unaccountable to the freedom or general welfare of losers.

  • A freedom recipe?Individualism with collective action helps ensure not only the security of individual conscience, but also the accountability of the powerful to those whose lives are affected by their economic and political decisions.

  • Is there psychological tension between individualism and collective action?Sociologically they both sit very well with freedom, but they may be difficult to hold together psychologically

    Too difficult to be an independent individual and effectively coordinate action with others at the same time?

  • Freedom-oriented people support collective action in the abstract but less so in its messy realityFreedom-oriented people: those who score low on Altemeyers (1996) authoritarianism and high on support for democratic valuesCollective action in the abstract: general support for labor unions in ones nationCollective action in messy reality: support for actual local labor unions whose actions affect your life

  • Sample: undergraduates affected by teaching assistant strikeThe freedom-oriented undergrads supported unions generally but were more ambivalent in their support for real-life teaching assistants and their allies

  • Coolness, anti-authoritarianism and narcissistic individualist chauvinismNarcissism scales are not related to authoritarianism scalesHowever coolnessboth friendly, creative, confident, sexy coolness and rebellious, ironic, rough & tough coolnessembodies anti-authoritarianism (and to some extent anti-traditionalism and anti-religiousity generally)

  • Coolness, anti-authoritarianism and narcissistic individualist chauvinismCoolness also potentially relates to psychological independence and culture of narcissismNarcissism, however, predicts some of the same things predicted by authoritarianism: notably aggression and intoleranceNarcissism is also easier for capitalism to sell to than modest humilityAs capitalism gets stronger, though, so do the winners who may come to depend on authoritarianism both to preserve order and to prevent populist anti-business policies

  • Coolness, anti-authoritarianism and narcissistic individualist chauvinismFrom cool anti-authoritarianism to cool narcissism to cool fascismo: from (a) anti-slavery resistanceto (b) rolling down the street smoking indo, sipping on gin and juice, with my mind on my money and my money on my mindto (c) Muslims are stupid backwards peasants: lets roll!

  • SoIts hard to be a cool detached individualist and a faithful sibling of solidarity too

    We want a contract!I want a cigarette

  • But the apparent dichotomy between individualism and collective action as a predictor of freedom is an illusionCollective action Individualism

    If all social coordination is a psychological cousin of Nazism, then the only way to permanently eradicate the potential for Nazism from the world is to make everyone into an atomistic individual without strong gro