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Old 02-25-2012   #1
TheCurmudgeon
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Default Legitmacy and Maslow's Hierarchy

Attached you will find a rough draft of a paper I have been working on dealing with the connection between political legitimacy and human needs. This may seem far afield from small wars but the point was to demonstrate where political legitimacy comes from and why it is not malleable. If the foundations are correct than you can no more change a target populations choice of legitimacy by bribing them with schools and hospitals than you can kill it out of them. Neither approach is going to 'win', although killing it out of them can force it underground for a long time.

It goes fairly deep into sociological and psychological ideas. There are no direct references to any current operations so it is dull reading. It is not for the faint at heart. Also my grammar sucks.

If anyone wants to peruse it and provide some feedback as to whether this is something than can be adopted for the field, might be handy for strategists to know, or could be shoved down the throat of an idealistic policy guru who is advocating intervention in a place we probably should not go, I would appreciate their your feedback.
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File Type: docx Needs and Legitimacy (Draft).docx (193.8 KB, 233 views)
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Old 02-25-2012   #2
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Thanks for sharing - will definitely read it. I think you have the right idea that you can't impose order by the top down, or create a social ecosystem by force of will. But there may be points of leverage - if the physical and cognitive situation is understood well enough - where you can apply gain some influence over emergent social patterns, even if you can't control them. I ask the same question often - is there a set of basic geographic, social, and economic prerequisites for groups and societies to achieve stability? Can we use this knowledge to better predict the feasibility and extent to which we can "nudge" a system we'll never completely control towards patterns of complimentary adaptation that we describe as desired political outcomes? If we don't have an answer to this, it's hard to say how killing people and breaking things (or even building roads and schools) will achieve a better peace in the long run.
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Old 02-25-2012   #3
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You've probably seen this, but a recent article by Steven Metz in the Journal looked at Maslow's Hierarchy and participation in insurgency, closely related...

http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...-in-insurgency
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Old 02-25-2012   #4
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I have. I liked his basic premise and the way he broke up the elements of the insurgency based on their own reasoning for being involved. Too many times we think there is only one group or one way people think. They are only motivated by a liberal belief in human rights. Not really the case. Also means that any solution has to be uniquely tailored to the environment.

I was listening to NPR today, it sounded like a replay of a BBC program where the question was asked about whether it was OK to question politicians on their religious convictions or interpretations of the scriptures. The reporter asked whether asking those questions was reasonable since the US was a secular nation and the response was that the US was not securlar, never was, and that the founding fathers made that clear in their consistent references to all rights and liberties being granted to us by God. Not sure that all Amercian's would agree with that but at least some here think our nation's legitimacy is built on religion, not liberalism. If a person assumes the whole country is like that they might come up with a bad plan.
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Old 02-26-2012   #5
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I'd say any time people in one country speculate on the bases of political legitimacy in another country they tread upon thin ice... and that action based on such speculation is likely to result in a plunge into cold water.

One of the odder quirks or recent American thinking on such matters is the idea that "hearts and minds" can be "won" by "providing services". People don't generally fight their government because they aren't getting services, especially in places where expectations of government are historically low. People fight their government because they fear it, they're angry at it, or both. Providing service isn't likely to dissipate fear or anger unless some effort is made to figure out why people are afraid and/or angry, and correct those conditions.
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Old 02-26-2012   #6
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This an area where Dayuhan and I share a similar perspective. It is not the services one receives or does not receive; nor is it whether one is rich or poor: It is how one feels about such things, and who one blames.

When the US jumps into the middle of another country to either overthrow, demand changes, or sustain some despot we put ourselves squarely on the proverbial "blame line" for any segment of the affected populace that is coming up short in that transaction.
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Old 02-27-2012   #7
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Default All the best intentions fall on deaf ears

As well intended as the soldiers on the ground are, and how carefully the call for support is thought out and planned, the govt has some other plans (that's what we thought).

In the early 70s in South America our team assessed the need for electrical power and more ammo. On an abandoned air strip the 130 came in low and dumped two pallets of 6 volt batteries and a sierra load of 7.62 blank cartridges. We had asked for two 60kw generators and 10,000 rounds of 5.56.

Later in 94 with over 4,000 refugees dying a day from heat exhaustion and cholera, we sent out the call for water and antibiotics. The 7th SOS complied and yet another 130 buzzed low over the banana fields dumping a pallet of dry biscuits, flour and a pallet of warm baby clothes.

It was 40 degrees C. with 1,000% humidity

Later, much later, a C5 from California flew in fire trucks. At least we could now pump water (from a dead lake).

Seems it doesn't really matter that most of us "there" know what to do without even considering what Uncle Maslow would have thought
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Old 02-27-2012   #8
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Default Embrace the suck

Someday I am going to have to do look at why military people remember the miserable and chose to share it so often. I know of no other group that enjoys talking about all the things that go wrong as much as the military do (maybe the police).

BTW, I have visions of Solders trying to place two pallets of six volt batteries end to end to get the power they needed.
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Old 02-28-2012   #9
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Someday I am going to have to do look at why military people remember the miserable and chose to share it so often. I know of no other group that enjoys talking about all the things that go wrong as much as the military do (maybe the police).
Given your Avatar I'd assume you're a soldier or cop I'd have to say that NGOs and Rescue bitch far more and love "it" when it sucks ! Maslow would have us embracing mistakes in the hopes of being rewarded with some happiness myth - he obviously never served in the Army

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BTW, I have visions of Solders trying to place two pallets of six volt batteries end to end to get the power they needed.
Since we needed at least 110kw (parralleled 60s) of AC the batteries were no good and ended up on the black market. The ammo would have at least sounded threatening, but we didn't have a weapon for belt-fed ammunition
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Old 02-28-2012   #10
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I'd have to say that NGOs and Rescue bitch far more and love "it" when it sucks !
Must be the "service of others" mentality. We brag about how much we sacrificed for the betterment of others. Kind of a martyr thing.



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The ammo would have at least sounded threatening, but we didn't have a weapon for belt-fed ammunition
... bonfires and blanks go well together. Bonfires are not just for making HUGE cultural mistakes you know...
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Old 02-29-2012   #11
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Default Two Sources of Civil conflict

I have come to the conclusion that there are at least two potential sources of social unrest. The first is a mismatch of legitimacy. The second is a feeling of injustice. The mismatch of legitimacy is tied to Maslow's hierarchy but the feeling of injustice does not depend on the level of need being satisfied. It is a static motivation, like religion. It is not hierarchical that I can determine.
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Old 03-01-2012   #12
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I have come to the conclusion that there are at least two potential sources of social unrest. The first is a mismatch of legitimacy. The second is a feeling of injustice. The mismatch of legitimacy is tied to Maslow's hierarchy but the feeling of injustice does not depend on the level of need being satisfied. It is a static motivation, like religion. It is not hierarchical that I can determine.
My quick reponse to this bifurcation is that the relationship between the questioning of legitimacy and the questioning of justice is not one of co-equals. Illegitimacy is a special case of injustice. In other words, the class of unjust things includes the class of illegitimate things as a sub-class.

By this I mean that the perceiver's distinction is drawn based on the perceived source or cause of the injustice. If I go to the grocery story and think that my milk costs me too much, then this may spark a feeling of injustice but not necessarily a feeling of illegitimacy. I may just think that my grocer is ripping me off or that thestore's chain is making too much profit at my expense. However, if I further reflect on the issue and decide that the reason the milk costs too much is because the government has applied price controls to milk in order to ensure that dairy farmers in Alaska make a profit, I may start to feel that my government is illegitimate,( especially if the city of Cambridge just raised the cost of my vendor's license and I'm not getting some form of price support for the wicker baskets I sell from my pushcart near the Coop in Harvard Yard while the Pier One store in Porter Square is getting a tax break for renovating its building).

Based on the above, I would submit that, vis-a-vis the elements of Maslow's hierarchy, feelings of illegitimacy are more likely to be static than those of injustice. (By static I mean that it is not found at different levels of the hierarchy and is unlikely to vary in intensity; I'm unsure that this is the same meaning that The Curmudgeon uses.) I might well feel a sense of injustice at a failure to be satisfied at any level of the hierarchy. However, I think people need to be somewhat more satisfied in the lower level needs before they will push the analysis to the second order of causation that I have suggested is required to sense illegtimacy. The history of revolutionary movements seems to bear this out; such movements typically have arisen with members of the more satisfied classes of society--upper and upper-middle class students for example. Their basic needs have been satisifed, allowing them the time to reflect more deeply on the causes of injustice they see around them. I would further suggest that feelings of injustice are inversely proportioonal to where one finds them in the hierearchy. That is, the lower on the hierarchy they are found,the greater they are as motivating factor in social unrest. In other words, if I feel injustice at the level of physiological or safety need satisfaction, I am more likely to act to remedy that injustice than if I feel injustice at the esteem or self-actualization level. However, merely having the feeling of injustice is usually insufficient to cause one to act to remedy the injustice. Some spark or catalyst is still needed to cause one to act.

I propose that neither the sense of illegitimacy nor the desire to act to remedy injustice usually arises spontanteously in most of us. It must be stimulated by someone else--the so-called outside agitator. The causal nexus for the apppearance of these agitators, when couched in terms of Maslow's hierarchy, is that such people have been unable to attain satisfaction of their love and belonging needs in what most people would considered a socially acceptable way. Therefore, as a method to achieve some sense of belonging, these people create a cause and convince others to join them in trying to realize the goals of the cause. The cause may be something relatively innocuous, like "Save the Whales." However, over time it may become much less innocuous as members of the group choose the means of achieving the cause's ends--mnoving from printing and distributing pamphlets to sinking whaling ships, for example.

What the mechanism is that leads to the degeneration of the means to the group's ends into actions with less and less social acceptablility is not clear to me. I suspect that it might have something to do with the fact that the love and belonging need is still felt to be unsatisfied by at least a subset of those who join the movement, which becomes yet another instance of a feeling of injustice and requires the holder of that feeling to "act out" even more vigorously.
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Old 03-01-2012   #13
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Thanks for your thoughtful reply. When trying to determine what makes an average person decide to risk his own life to effect political change it seems that they have to be tied to a strong emotional response like the kind you feel when you suffer an injustice.

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My quick reponse to this bifurcation is that the relationship between the questioning of legitimacy and the questioning of justice is not one of co-equals. Illegitimacy is a special case of injustice. In other words, the class of unjust things includes the class of illegitimate things as a sub-class.
I agree. The feeling of injustice results from a mismatch of personal values of how the world should be compared with how the world is. There are many ways to feel injustice, illegitimacy is just one of them.

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However, I think people need to be somewhat more satisfied in the lower level needs before they will push the analysis to the second order of causation that I have suggested is required to sense illegtimacy. The history of revolutionary movements seems to bear this out; such movements typically have arisen with members of the more satisfied classes of society--upper and upper-middle class students for example. Their basic needs have been satisifed, allowing them the time to reflect more deeply on the causes of injustice they see around them.
Agreed. If you track Maslow's hierarchy with Schwartz' universal values you will see that Maslow's self-actualization needs roughly translate to Schwartz self-transcendence values (Piurko, Y., S. H. Schwartz, and E. Davidov. "Basic Personal Values And The Meaning Of Left-Right Political Orientations In 20 Countries." Political Psychology 32.4 (2011): 537-561. British Library Document Supply Centre Inside Serials & Conference). Schwartz self-transcendence values include universalism and benevolence, both of which have an altruistic component. In essence, you have to have your own needs satisfied before you start to care about the inequities suffered by others. In addition, at this level you are willing to sacrifice your own security for others. What I call the hierarchy of concerns - first you only care about yourself, then your immediate family, then your in-group, then all others (then things like you like animals and other living things like trees).

This means that there are two types of injustices at work. The first is personal based on an injustice you suffer. These are tied directly to lower level Maslovian needs/Schwartz values. The second is injustice suffered by others which only affects those who have had their lower level needs satisfied and now feel the effect of higher level needs/values.

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I propose that neither the sense of illegitimacy nor the desire to act to remedy injustice usually arises spontanteously in most of us. It must be stimulated by someone else--the so-called outside agitator. The causal nexus for the apppearance of these agitators, when couched in terms of Maslow's hierarchy, is that such people have been unable to attain satisfaction of their love and belonging needs in what most people would considered a socially acceptable way. Therefore, as a method to achieve some sense of belonging, these people create a cause and convince others to join them in trying to realize the goals of the cause. The cause may be something relatively innocuous, like "Save the Whales." However, over time it may become much less innocuous as members of the group choose the means of achieving the cause's ends--mnoving from printing and distributing pamphlets to sinking whaling ships, for example.
I agree whole heatedly. My caveat is that this is both a personal and a cultural factor. Personally it is the individual who has a need to "fit in" and is a 'joiner'. Culturally it is associated with societies that are normally considered 'traditional' where tribe or religion (in-group) are still a strong influence on individual actions. Confusing the two can create a false impression of who might act based on belonginness (I prefer relatedness as used by Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination theory).

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What the mechanism is that leads to the degeneration of the means to the group's ends into actions with less and less social acceptablility is not clear to me. I suspect that it might have something to do with the fact that the love and belonging need is still felt to be unsatisfied by at least a subset of those who join the movement, which becomes yet another instance of a feeling of injustice and requires the holder of that feeling to "act out" even more vigorously.
I believe it varies across the population based on their own level of needs/values both individually and culturally. This complicates things, but at their core is the same value/reality mismatch or sense of injustice, either personal or altruistic, that can account for a substantial amount of why an average person decides to pick up a weapon and engage in an insurgency.

BTW, are you in Boston?
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Old 03-01-2012   #14
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This means that there are two types of injustices at work. The first is personal based on an injustice you suffer. These are tied directly to lower level Maslovian needs/Schwartz values. The second is injustice suffered by others which only affects those who have had their lower level needs satisfied and now feel the effect of higher level needs/values.
This statement is in error. Personal injustice can be tied to any level of need/value from basic needs like security to higher level needs like self-expression. But, it is only once you reach these higher level needs that altruism begins to take hold and you begin to be concerned with injustices suffered by others.

Also, what is an injustice is tied to need level. For example, in some societies inequity between the rich and the poor is associated with birth right. If I am born into a landed aristocratic family what is considered 'just' for me is significantly different from what is considered 'just' for a poor commoner. Those of us whose value system is based on individual achievement find this abhorrent. An example nepotism has been the standard for centuries, now it is considered passe.
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Old 03-02-2012   #15
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This means that there are two types of injustices at work. The first is personal based on an injustice you suffer. These are tied directly to lower level Maslovian needs/Schwartz values. The second is injustice suffered by others which only affects those who have had their lower level needs satisfied and now feel the effect of higher level needs/values.
You acknowledge that part of the above is in error in a subsequent post. I wanted to comment on the second sentence in the quotation. Its content seems to imply the notion that we can feel a sense of injustice from our observing the injustices of others. This seems like a very Humean position with regard to the origin of a possibility of altruism (phrase stolen from Tom Nagel's 1978 book of the same title). I'd like to understand the connection between the two forms of injustice as you see it, if any exists.

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I believe it varies across the population based on their own level of needs/values both individually and culturally. This complicates things, but at their core is the same value/reality mismatch or sense of injustice, either personal or altruistic, that can account for a substantial amount of why an average person decides to pick up a weapon and engage in an insurgency.
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Also, what is an injustice is tied to need level. For example, in some societies inequity between the rich and the poor is associated with birth right. If I am born into a landed aristocratic family what is considered 'just' for me is significantly different from what is considered 'just' for a poor commoner. Those of us whose value system is based on individual achievement find this abhorrent. An example nepotism has been the standard for centuries, now it is considered passe.
The force of these two quotations seems to push one towards acceptance of ethical relativism. Needs may well be relative; so may be the means by which oneseeks to instantiate one's values. However, I am unwilling to accept relativism of values themselves. To do so is to undercut the claim that we can be altruistic and concede the field to the Ayn Rands of the world.
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Old 03-02-2012   #16
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You acknowledge that part of the above is in error in a subsequent post. I wanted to comment on the second sentence in the quotation. Its content seems to imply the notion that we can feel a sense of injustice from our observing the injustices of others. This seems like a very Humean position with regard to the origin of a possibility of altruism (phrase stolen from Tom Nagel's 1978 book of the same title). I'd like to understand the connection between the two forms of injustice as you see it, if any exists.
Put simply, the connection is in the power of the feeling to motivate a person to act to correct the injustice. Either one feels they need to correct an injustice against themselves (or their cohort/in-group), or they feel that they have to correct an injustice against others (Save the Whales). Either way, what I am interested in is what it takes to activate that motivation and how it can be mitigated or eliminated.


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The force of these two quotations seems to push one towards acceptance of ethical relativism. Needs may well be relative; so may be the means by which oneseeks to instantiate one's values. However, I am unwilling to accept relativism of values themselves. To do so is to undercut the claim that we can be altruistic and concede the field to the Ayn Rands of the world.
Yes, I am a 'ethical' relativist, although I would not use that term. I believe that as a social group's needs change so do their values. As their values change so do what they see as ethical behavior. Ethics do not exist in nature, they are man made. I believe it has been an error to assume that certain values are universal and must be imposed on others, even by force, because that is what is 'right'. I am not a liberal evangelical.

I am certainly not an Ayn Rand fan, at least not of the "Virtue of Selfishness" stripe. I am more along the lines of Hume in that I base my ideas on observations of human nature (psychology and sociology).
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