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Posts tagged with behaviour

My friend and I were talking about hard bodies, which are normative in US culture.

Hardbodies Poster
Do you think it's feminine when a guy works out a lot to get a hot body?

She told me her theory that they are normative because US culture is pro-masculine in such a way that everyone has to perform masculinity in some way.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/12/We_Can_Do_It%21.jpg/464px-We_Can_Do_It%21.jpg

A feminine man, I was looking for a photo of a wimpy vegetarian in Birkenstocks shopping at an organic grocery store and being otherwise overly sensitive. But I was basically picturing Todd Louiso's character from High Fidelity. In this shot it looks like he's trying to appear more maculine. // The original conversation that led to this train-of-thought was about the Whitney Houston movie The Bodyguard, which I haven't seen but it came to mind as an example of perhaps a beautiful man being chased by a successful woman. But, still not having seen it, I speculate that there will be some point in the story where the man takes charge of the romantic pursuit, in order to maintain his attractiveness by recovering his masculinity.

I don’t know if I agree with that thesis or not, but it got me thinking about how a pro-masculine culture might be reflected in the economy, in the utility functions, and what an alternative on that dimension might look like.

 

So obviously, Estadounidenses work out; "Fitness is a $19 billion industry"; those who don’t are shamed.


http://boomstickcomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Jorge-Garcia.jpg

But hard-ness might be reflected in utility functions in other ways as well.

  • preference of work (“I worked my #rse off to get where I am today”), busy-ness, regimens, organised workspaces, getting things done, goal-setting, achievement
    Larry Wall is disarrayed, chaotic, relaxed, embraces stillness, but I think he comes off as perhaps a bit of a feminine hippie.
  • a preference for doing over not-doing (or maybe doing over being-done-to)
  • a preference for hard-force over soft-relaxedness soft causing
  • shaming of laziness, softness, sloth, people who are too relaxed or don’t work enough, people who aren’t busy, have no career, have no ambition
    http://voicesofglass.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/the-manatee-a-symbol-of-peace-tranquility-and-effeminate-wonder.jpg
  • a preference for my-own-space over shared-space
  • a preference for working hard, even if it’s to the point of overworking (overworking is actually kind of a compliment)
    "Work, work, and more work, and I expect it shall continue to be so." OK, obviously it's not _only_ US culture that preferes busy-ness to not-busy-ness.
  • a preference for individualism over communalism
  • a greater need for personal space (people stand relatively far apart from each other)
  • "I wish I could spend more time with my spouse and kids, but I’m too busy running this business empire!”
  • "I wish I could take a real vacation, or for longer”
  • Confidence, competence, winners, power over gentleness, flabbiness, passiveness, meekness, passivity, sensitivity.
  • creative destruction, building things, knocking them down, refurbishing, rebranding, striving for better, striving for more.
 

What about the alternative—what would a “soft” economy look like? Well, besides performing services and producing goods for each other, people can give utils to each other directly with

  • sex
  • hugs
  • touching
  • softness toward each other
  • compliments
  • massages
  • Tumblr Likes
  • conversation
  • listening to each other
  • playing games together (think “childrens’ games” — why are they for children?)
  • sitting next to each other
  • holding hands
  • communicating that “I accept you as you are” or “I care what you think” or “I think you’re awesome”

(and equally they can harm each other with innuendo, bickering, hurrying or harrying each other, glares, invocation of rank/status, backhanded compliments, body language, and other perhaps “feminine” moves).

Somehow I got to think about Odo from Star Trek.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/00/Odo.jpg
In at least one episode, the others of his shape-shifting race want him to return to live with them so they can all shape-shift into a goo and flow around in each other’s beings and experience each other. Which is one idea of Heaven. But Odo (a hero on a US TV show) wants to keep exploring, penetrating the cosmos to greater lengths. Maybe a “more feminine” economy, though, would look more like that. People touching each other, lazily hanging out,

I think there’s a reason that “California Buddhism”
http://img.ehowcdn.com/article-new/ehow/images/a08/35/h9/listen-buddhism-working-out-800x800.jpg
http://www.colourbox.com/preview/2703073-381234-a-woman-at-peace-and-tranquility-in-a-beautiful-landscape.jpg
looks like finding peace on a marathon instead of this:

http://sanaakosirickylee.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/happy-fat-buddha1.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-NnE1p0ttWgY/ToP6C9oWS4I/AAAAAAAACTY/NP2ZhEIhjOA/s1600/IMG_3854.JPG

Look at that fat guy! He’s just sitting there! So, but what do you do? I mean, what do you do, do?




The seeds of my dissent from economic orthodoxy were pretty much sown for me by my 1st professor on the 1st day of my 1st economics class.

This prof had gone to a great personal trouble to begin our exposure to the dismal science with a very down-to-earth and super-important lesson. She went so far as to spend her own cash on some things from the store, of varying cost, and gave us all at the beginning of the class random items. Some people got candy, some got socks, one or two got things of greater value.

This was a masterful teaching stroke, by someone who cared deeply about her subject and teaching it to newbies: she would have us all participate in voluntary trade within the classroom and end up than we started. Gains from trade—the fundamental point about economics—are really “the only thing we know about welfare”. Sure, some people start off with more—more wealth, more smarts, better looks, genes that will make them grow taller so they can reach the mayonnaise jars from the back—but hey, at least we can make all of them better off and not hurt anyone by allowing them to trade freely.

Right?

We each reported, on a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied we were with the Stuff we had been randomly given at the beginning of the class, and the prof wrote these scores down on the board. Then we were asked to stand up, walk about the room, and see if anyone would voluntarily exchange Stuff with us. Multiple transactions were allowed, even encouraged—and after a few minutes of cluelessly blitzing with each other, the trading day was closed and we resumed our seats.

The prof asked our scores again, fully expecting that ∀i in the class, utility before utility after.

But one girl reported a lower score.

Instead of taking this as evidence against her belief that transactions are always mutually beneficial—a cornerstone of normative economic theory—the prof instead scolded the girl. "Well, what’d ya do that for?!”

By the way, this was not a prof who prepended test questions with the phrase “According to the theory we learned in class,” which means I still dispute that I got that one about the lobstermongers right! (Since it asked about “What would happen” not “what the theory says would happen”.)

At the time I thought the outburst a bit rude and over the years to come I remembered the episode. (well, obviously) I still think of it as a microcosm of certain intellectual misdeeds by economists. The framework is too important to hold onto; if anyone undermines then you get angry and yell at them! It’s a plausibility war, after all.

Not too far off from real comments by economists: But if you took away the mutually-beneficial assumption, then you’d have no theory at all! (Regardless of whether nullset is the only true theory we have.)

The assumptions about what goes on in transactions are so appealing that even when you see them violated in front of your eyes, they’re still so implausible and—hey—what about all this stuff I learned about indifference curves? If I saw so many graphs with them not overlapping or going backwards, then that has to be the truth, because maths!

Nevermind that people don’t always know what they want, or maybe it’s contradictory or impossible, and even in well-defined classroom experiments they may just, um, do it wrong.

Happy Independence Day. Here’s to hoping you don’t use the independence to shoot yourself in the foot.