26 October 2005

Extension transference

I’ve just started reading Beyond culture, by Edward T Hall, an anthropologist. The book is largely about ‘extension transference’; the process by which people misapply or are led by their ‘extensions’, which include language, tools and institutions. Bureaucracy, as I think Hall will point out later in the book, is another of these extensions. There are, I think, parallels between the way our minds not only use language, but are in important senses controlled by it; and the way our society is governed by institutions that no longer have objectives congruent with those of society. In both cases, the tool (or ‘extension’) has become overly influential, primarily concerned with its own survival, and dangerously controlling.

On a different note: my geocities mirror seems to be down, so to access the Social Policy Bonds site now and in the future, please change your bookmarks to http://SocialGoals.com.  


Anonymous said...


You are de man! I have also JUST started getting interested in ET Hall myself because after 7 years in France, two in Tokyo,I realise most of what is professed by my French bosses is context-specific-ie they talk a different language even if the vocab is the same. This applies to complex government and politics as well as to small repeated phrases -so when a Frenchman talks about `transparence' or `open market'or `level playing field'`market forces' he is really thinking about another thing! If you see what I mean! It's tricky but the French are laconic like the Japanese precisely because they are linked to a silent traditional cultural world of centralised control (I think)and shared meanings according to their own historical perspective. A simple example would be that they give warnings every five minutes in conversation `Attention!' `Il faut faire attention!' Prudence' all the time, I started to get sick of this -but I realise they are just linguistic gobbits although they denote a pessimism and fear they also show a desire to control. The French are control freaks and another thing you hear in conversation non-stop is `N'importa quoi!' (any old way) usually directed at the US and UK Anglo Saxon visitors in other words the have disdain written into their discourse. Very odd. Pascal Baudry is a French psychoanalyst along similar lines to ET.Hall, shows how non-explicit the French are because it suits them . Thus they are ambuguity bouyant in opinion.

But anyway the ultimate high context society according to Hall is Japan where words are almost not neccessary . On the Tokyo metro silence reigns partly in my opinion due to state control. All is obvious so no need to talk! (I may be simplifying here. They call it `Haregei' language of the stomach. France is very similar. We Anglo Saxons (Asses) have big mouths. But at least we have a tradition of thrashing out meanings which I like.

What I wanted to say with your social Bonds idea is that it's great the only problem is who decides when targets are met? After all a `drop in crime'
is actually a subjective thing. Perhaps a `DIC' means police are going mad locking up everyone on any old pretext or you double the policemen rather than show civil obedience and good behaviour. Likewise good health standards mean one thing to France with it's amazingly high consumption of drugs, hospital helicopters, fantastic facilities and hypochondriach mentality -but means someting totally different to the five-month waiting list patients in the UK.
To make the social goals standardised and agreed upon is difficult and politically contentious .
Still I think you are on fantastically right lines and have probably considered this problem.

KEEP IT UP !!!! Mark Lawrence

Ronnie Horesh said...

Many thanks for your feedback Mark; much appreciated. The differences between cultures are interesting, but from the policy point of view perhaps less critical than the similarities - but then 'policy' itself, as a separate discipline, is only a recent and not (yet) universal phenomenon. Globalisation and migration will eliminate some of the differences, but the distinction between policymaking (with its implied specialised caste of policymakers) and everyday life will widen and proliferate. And the danger that Hall points out is that we shall start to see the world through the eyes of our policymakers, who are necessarily detached from our everyday existence.

So this ties in neatly with your query: who shall decide when targeted goals are met? Well the answer is to pick broad, readily measurable goals, that are inextricably linked with increases in social welfare. This tends to mean helping the worst off people (where the correlation between income, wealth, nutrition etc and well-being is strong), but can also include global environmental problems, such as climate change. Now one advantage of Social Policy Bonds is that they will subordinate all policy to outcomes, and this makes it easier for the public to participate. It's much easier to understand, for example, broad measures of literacy, housing, poverty etc, than it is to understand the strange, arcane arguments about funding, institutional structures, etc that are features of the current regime.

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What I wanted to say with your social Bonds idea is that it's great the only problem is who decides when targets are met? After all a `drop in crime'is actually a subjective thing.

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But anyway the ultimate high context society according to Hall is Japan where words are almost not neccessary .

Ronnie Horesh said...

Thanks for your comments. The key, when it comes to picking targets, is to make them as objective as possible. Crime victim surveys could be more helpful than 'reported crimes'. Or insurance payouts. Indicators could include foot traffic on urban streets or objective statistics of (admittedly) subjective criteria (eg: 'do you feel safer now than you did give years ago?'.

On Japan, yes, I include a short section at the end of my book on how the Japanese currency of respect is more efficient than our large and increasing use of money to indicate status.