Report from Z Media Institute 98 (fwd)

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Wed Jun 24 10:42:54 PDT 1998

At 10:12 AM 6/24/98 -0400, Justin Schwartz wrote:
>Which they miserably fail to do. At each level, their system requires
>coordinators to integrate the data and formulate a plan optimizing the
>inputs. These individuals will have immense power in view of their ability
>to frame the alternatives from which people choose.

That is a very profound point indeed. Framing (or cognitive schemata) is an essential part of how humans (by contrasts to computers and economists) process information. It is essentially what 'framing" is in photography: focusing on selected elements and leaving everything outside the frame. It is bascially a way of dealing with too much information, focusing on what is deemed important and filetering out everything else.

Any human decision making is subject to framing, regardless of how the actual process is organized. Moreover, cognitive framing is always value-driven (it hinges on what is deemed 'important" or "relevant"), and as such, subject to substantial social influences. An it is because of that social influence on cognitive framing, the decisions resulting from it will be remarkably similar, regardless whether reached democratically or centrally.

To illustrate, if environmnetal pollution is generally viewed as a 'nonissue' is a particualr society (as it was in many Eastern European countries), the cost of environmental pollution will not be a part in economic decision making - regardless of whether those decisions were made by the central planning board, market players, or voters.

It might be even the case that a lone voice asking for considering the environmental cost has a better chance for being heard in a centralised decision-making environment, than in the one based on the multitude of voices (cf. deTocqueville's 'tyranny of the majority') which view the issue through the same cognitive frame.

>From that point of view, the market vs. planning controversy is not as
important as the influences on cognitive framing of economic decisions. A centralised corporation can be more 'democratic' if the key decision makers use broad frames that balance various interests ( short term profits, environment, community development, working conditions, long term sustainability etc.) than a formally 'democratic' process if all the participants frame the isssues in a narrow frame (e.g. focus on profits only).

That is BTW why corporate control of the media, advertising and PR propaganda became so important nowadays - it molds the cognitive frames through which economic-political issues are perceived while keeping the formal facade of democratic process intact - the 'many voices one chorus' illusion to paraphrase Michael Parenti.


Wojtek Sokolowski

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