Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Wed May 23 09:35:30 PDT 2001

At 03:53 PM 5/23/01 +0100, daniel d. wrote:

>It strikes me that if Barkley Rosser were subscribed at this precise
moment, he
>would probably have some very smart mathematical things to say about herding
>behaviour, and I'm not sure that he'd agree that anything beyond a
tendency to
>follow the flock is needed to explain the spontaneous emergence of flocks.

Au contraire - flocks do not emerge spontaneously. Flocking is a highly institutionalized behaviour - shaped by norms, expectations, routines and precednets (aka "sunk cost"), power relations etc.

I think Carrol confuses the macro/micro thing. On the micro-level, behavioral models can be individualist/mentalist (i.e. assuming that people act out ideas, preferencesd or desires residing in their mind or psyche, cf. the dreaded rat-choice model, or the Freudian model), or institutionalist i.e. assuming that people do what others expect them to (i.e. a flocking behaviour by another name). However, micro-level explanations are usually proximate causation i.e. expalantion by intervening factors, e.g. Why did X win the war? Because they had superior weapons. That might be true, but it does not explain why X had superior weapons. The latter requires ultimate causes, i.e. causes that do not need any further explanation. , which usuallu requires a macro-level discourse.

Macro-level explanations might be an extension of the micro-level model (cf. pareto optimum is the dreaded rat-choice model applied to a society) which, in turn, is based on the principle of additivity (i.e. whole=sum total of the component parts) favoured by economists. The psychological appeal of such explanations is that they are K-mart versions of ultimate causality - they provide an illusion of linking social phenomena to its ultimate origins ("human nature") without the usually expensive historical-institutional analysis. Such historical- institutional analyses can unveil long-range historical or even envrionmental causes of the emergence and properties of various flocks.

However, the search for ultimate causation can be a slippery slope - seeking the explanation of SUC buying behaviour in the origins of the capitalist system in the 14th century Europe looks like obvious overkill.

So the bottom line is that the three factors cited in this thread:

1. The psychological appeal of a large truck-like vehicle to the petite nouveu riche US clientele with redneck roots (supported by the counterfactual that the SUC phenomenon seems to be for the most part absent from Europe);

2. advertisement push appealing to the sense of individual security and shielding from "hostile" environmemt; and

3. Flocking behaviour (the "keeping up with the Joneses"),

seem to be suffiecient to provide an intellectually satisfactory explantion of the SUC (sport utlity car) buying phenomenon.


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