Sunday, June 21, 2015

Status and identity wars

Dan Kahan, Paul Slovic and other researchers in the Cultural Cognition Project that I mentioned in my previous post emphasize that many disagreements come down to different cultural views, which are defended in status battles. People in these battles try to feed their identities and then use all kinds of argumentative tools to promote them. As we know from experience, it is very difficult to convince others who have different cultural view points. All this is intuitive and I agree with them. Some details do not seem to me as convincing in their arguments. They give a very specific idea of cultural world views. They would have two dimensions, one from individualism to communitarianism, another from hierarchical to egalitarian. But why two dimensions and not more? It seems that these world views would be exogenous and the result of social norms in fixed groups. However, the history of the last two centuries in Europe has seen many people changing their cultural world view, some even going from the support of democracy and solidarity to the support of fascism. I agree that what people do not seem to lose is their concern for their identities and their status. As a result of these ideas, these scholars propose that we should encourage consensus building and the acceptance of the fact that we have different cultural values instead of hiding them. That sounds good, but we should work on filling the details.

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