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Concepts in Other People’s Struggles

30Oct2018

WHAT ARE CONJOINTNESS AND DISJOINTNESS?

Disjointness and conjointness are terms I use frequently in my book Other People’s Struggles.  They can be applied to relationships, motivations, social norms and the approaches used by social movements in their work.

If a relationship is disjoint, then A (an actor) does something to or for B (another actor) which B does not do for A.  If a relationship is conjoint, A does something to or for B which B does for A (e.g. in return).  There is also a a third possibility, which I call reflexive (or self-reliant), in which B does something to or for herself, without A‘s involvement.   These three basic possibilities are illustrated above.

Of course, it is also possible to imagine more complex arrangements in which, say, A does something to or for B, who in turn does something to or for C, who in turn does something to or for B, but not A.  These can be analysed using the three basic possibilities: A is in a disjoint relationship with B and B is in a conjoint relationship with C.

In Other People’s Struggles, I use these terms to contrast three types of work that people do in social movements:

(1) disjoint work (what we do to or for others),

(2) conjoint work (what we do to or for each other), and

(3) reflexive or self-reliant work (what we each do to or for ourselves)

These types of work operate in quite different ways.  People engaged in conjoint work – like, say, members of a disadvantaged group seeking advancement by working for each other – will operate very differently to people engaged in disjoint work, even if their objective – the advancement of the disadvantaged group – is the same.

Furthermore, if a social movement engages both in conjoint and disjoint work, then tensions may arise, especially if the work is also ambitious.

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01Oct2018

WHAT ARE APPROACHES?

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. The first three posts examined motivations, orientation and ambition.  They set up the basic problem of adherence.  Constituents and adherents, I argue, have different motivations.  The constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

Precisely what the constituents and adherents seek is a matter of the orientation of the movement: that is the work the movement is engaged in.  For example, if the movement is engaged in the pursuit of interests, the constituents are working to pursue their own interests (or the interests of others of whom they are part) and the adherents pursue the interests of others.

The degree to which this creates difficulties in the movement is a matter of the ambition of the movement’s work.  More ambitious work presumes equality among the participants.  Take, for example, a movement which is engaged in defining and pursuing a new, emergent interest.  If its work is ambitious it will require the participants to participate on equal terms. It will be intolerable if some claim to have a superior grasp of what the interest is and how it should be pursued.  Less ambitious work will find such claims less objectionable.  They do not presume equality.

There are different approaches that may be taken to these problems.  I distinguish three approaches.  In disjoint approaches, the relationships are asymmetric,  Some people do things for others, who do not do these things in return.  For example, the adherents might define what is in the constituents’ interests, without allowing that the constituents define theirs.  In conjoint approaches, the relationships are more symmetric.  For example, constituents and adherents might each help to define each other’s interests.    Sometimes, however, constituents may wish to go it alone, managing without adherents altogether.  These are self-reliant approaches.  These differences are set out in the table below:

ORIENTATION  —»OUTWARDEXPRESSIVEEMPOWERMENTSOLIDARITY
DISJOINT approaches ‘Championing’‘Validating’‘Instruction’‘Unlived politics’
CONJOINT approaches ‘Allying’ ‘Crossing over’ ‘Co-learning’ ‘Prefiguration’
SELF-RELIANT approaches‘Self-representation’ ‘Self-expression’‘Self-empowerment’ ‘Self-sufficiency’

One key argument of Other People’s Struggles is that ambitious movements cannot tolerate disjoint approaches.  They have either to seek conjointness, or be self-reliant and go it alone.

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30Sep2018

WHAT IS AMBITION?

This is the third in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. The first two posts examined motivations and orientation. Constituents and adherents, I argue, have different motivations. The constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

Precisely what the constituents and adherents seek is a matter of the orientation of the movement: that is the work the movement is engaged in. For example, if the movement is engaged in the pursuit of interests, the constituents are working to pursue their own interests (or the interests of others of whom they are part) and the adherents pursue the interests of others.

The degree to which this creates difficulties in the movement is a matter of the ambition of the movement’s work. More ambitious work presumes equality among the participants. Take, for example, a movement which is engaged in defining and pursuing a new, emergent interest. If its work is ambitious it will require the participants to participate on equal terms. It will be intolerable if some claim to have a superior grasp of what the interest is and how it should be pursued. Less ambitious work will find such claims less objectionable. They do not presume equality.

These differences of ambition are set out in the table below:

ORIENTATION  —»OUTWARDEXPRESSIVEEMPOWERMENTSOLIDARITY
In work of LOW AMBITIONInterests are not defined by the persons whose interests they are, but by others.

Interests are already-formed (‘crystallized’).
Identity claim is based on similarity.

Claims are petitions from below. Tolerance and respect are sought for the new identity.
Activists learn already-existing capabilities they do not possess (and others do).

Activists acquire such capabilities through instruction (as pupils).
Activists keep politics and life apart until the goal is achieved.

Activists embrace only the same goal.
In work of HIGH AMBITIONInterests are defined by the persons whose interests they are.

Interests are emergent.
Identity claim is based on distinctness.

Claims are demands from equality. Recognition and esteem are sought for the new identity.
Activists discover, develop and assess capabilities they already possess.

Activists acquire such capabilities through interactive discussion between teachers and taught.
Activists live their politics now.

Activists seek to share everything with everyone (e.g. feeling the same way)

In the final post of this series, I will consider the approaches that may be taken to these problems.

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29Sep2018

WHAT IS ORIENTATION?

I use the concept of orientation in my book Other People’s Struggles.  It refers to the nature of the work that a social movement undertakes.  In (1) the outward orientation, external goals or interests are defined and pursued. But social movements also do other things besides pursue interests in the outside world beyond the movement.  I therefore propose three other orientations: (2) the expressive orientation, in which the work is the definition and expression of identities (experiences, needs and desires); (3) the empowerment orientation, in which the work is the production of empowered activists (persons with new or developed capabilities); and (4) the solidarity orientation, in which the work is the building a cohesive movement.

 [···]

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28Sep2018

WHAT ARE MOTIVATIONS?

This is the first in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. One of the first distinctions I make in the book concerns motivations. Existing theory, I think, muddles up goals and motivations.   It assumes that if two people share a goal, they also share the same motivation.  But that does not have to be so. 

To begin with goals.  Constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

The ‘something’ could, of course be the ‘same thing’ for both constituents and adherents.  For example, in Edwardian Britain, enfranchised men and unenfranchised women campaigned together to win the vote for women.

Men and women, in this example, shared the same goal (votes for women).  But that is not the whole of the story.  The goals, from another perspective, significantly differed.  The unenfranchised women sought something for themselves (and others of whom they were part), and the enfranchised men  sought something for others.   That difference makes it necessary to consider whether their motivations also differed.

In Other People’s Struggles I examine three types of motivation: rational self-interest, moral obligations and social norms.  In each case, I argue the typical motivations of constituents and adherents do indeed differ.

If motivated by rational self-interest, the constituents can be motivated by the collective benefit from which they will gain. But that motivation cannot apply to adherents, who will not gain from the collective benefit.  They may, however – or so some theorists suggest – gain from selective incentives: those incentives made available only to those who participate.  The so-called ‘warm glow’ you get when you help others is one example.

If motivated by moral obligations, the constituents are motivated by moral obligations owed to each other – I call these reciprocal obligations (I owe something to you, and you owe something to me)  – where adherents are motivated by non-reciprocal obligations (I owe something to you which you do not owe to me).

If motivated by social norms, constituents are typically motivated by conjoint norms of reciprocity  – norms like ‘help those who help you’ or ‘help your fellows’.  Adherents are typically motivated by disjoint norms of service: that is, norms that enjoin people to do things for others without expectation of return.

These differences of motivation are set out in the table below:

MOTIVATION  —»RATIONAL SELF-INTERESTMORAL OBLIGATIONSSOCIAL NORMS
CONSTITUENTSCollective benefits of goal accomplishment (and selective incentives).Reciprocal moral obligations to each other.Conjoint norms of reciprocity.
ADHERENTSSelective incentives.Non-reciprocal moral obligations to others.Disjoint norms of service.

In the next posts of this series, I will consider what effects these differences of motivation have on how social movements work.   The first stage is to think about how they affect the variety of work movements do, which I term differences of orientation.

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