Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thresholds, Violence and Psychic capital

Both Violence and Memory have thresholds and triggers and can give rise to engulfment psychosis- is there any connection between the two from the perspective of what Kenneth Boulding called Psychic Capital?
A recent paper gives a cogent summary of this notion-
 A collective mental state will be influenced by memories, which can also be collective insofar as they are produced by common experiences. The store of good memories has been called psychic capital, but there will also be bad memories or negative psychic capital. A community can be aided in its survival by a sense of coherence. Psychic capital can be drawn upon in the task of maintaining a sense of coherence and therefore survival.
Put this way, Psychic Capital cashes out as the ex ante Incentive system obtaining at any given point in time. Economic theory suggests that coercion would rely on monetary exactions (fines) rather than physical violence except where agents have no wealth. But, if the proportion of zero wealth agents rises faster than the productivity of Violence,congestion and spatial polarization based multiple equilibria will exist though perhaps eventually converging to a a dominant firm/ competitive fringe type situation.

In this context, the Sociologist Randall Collins stresses the learned aspect of Violence- i.e. a 'know-how ' effect in Boulding's terminology- and we can add a Tardean mimetic hedonics of violence to motivate such learning.

Perhaps the greatest living theorist of Non Violence, Gene Sharpe, takes as his starting point the insight that Power is not monolithic, the People can withdraw their obedience and leave their Masters without Power. However, just as any existing Monopoly has to remain competitive or shore up barriers to entry against potential rivals, Governments too never have more than a notional monopoly of coercion which is in any case  hotly contested at the margin. In this context, 'withdrawal of obedience' imposes a monetary cost on those with wealth- because the State can reciprocally  withdraw protection from crime and delinquency in a discriminatory manner so as to maximize the rent on such Law and Order as remains. This shrinks the economy but it may kill off dissent faster than it enfeebles the State and in any case, by reducing the capitalized value of the returns on Power, turns everybody's focus to short term Machiavellian tactics rather that long term strategic thinking or mechanism design.

 Prof. Sharpe, who has been called the Machiavelli of Non-Violence, highlights what would otherwise seem an oddity in the trajectory of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha such that Civil disobedience did not cease to be non-violent while at the same time dramatically eroding its participants' inner (as opposed to tactical, or hypocritical) commitment to Ahimsa as a principle.

I suppose the take-away point here is that 'Violence' is only perceived as such  when it crosses a certain threshold- in the context of Power, it is the the boundary between delinquency and disobedience.  Similarly, Collective Memory only turns into Psychic Capital when a threshold is shifted- as happened with Ind's recovered memory of sexual abuse at the hands of Evil British people who wore Top Hats and were terribly well spoken and had a real plausible reason for suggesting that they'd lost their mobile phone, and were expecting a real important call, and it was probably hiding in one or other of your orifices and would you mind awfully if I took a look? and it turns out they hadn't lost their mobile phone at all- in fact phones hadn't been invented yet- and OMG having to live with the shame, the humiliation- I mean if that's not a good enough reason to burn your Jermyn St. shirts what is?

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