Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spontaneous or Planned: A Sharp Dichotomy, or a Gradient?

This blog post is well worth a read, it helped inform my view of social orders and society as found in our book club book - Why Nations Fail.

The first thing of importance I have noted is Klein, at least in the opening chapter, seems to posit a sharp dichotomy between spontaneous orders and planned orders. He uses the example of roller skaters in a rink: either they are each skating purely as they wish, or their movements are entirely planned by a “wise” planner. (This may well be modified by Klein later, but even if so, I have seen others treat this topic as if this was a simple dichotomy, so my remarks are, I think, worth making anyway.)

But real social orders are rarely (ever?) of either extreme. The extremes are ideal types, and real orders more or less instantiate the types. Take musical groups, a social structure with which I have fair familiarity. Even in an orchestra, which is well towards the planned end of the range, the individual musicians still have room for individual creativity and expression. (Otherwise it is hard to imagine anyone spending their life playing in orchestras.) And even the most free-form, improvisational jazz group needs some planning: “OK, we’ll start at eight, and end at about eleven.” Spontaneous or Planned: A Sharp Dichotomy, or a Gradient?

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