thread: 2013-06-12 : Status is Your Toy!

On 2013-06-20, Josh W wrote:

Two things to be cautious about.

Firstly, social status is constructed, it is, to a large extent a group fiction, and so treating it as having general laws is a pre-requisite to behaviours that depend on that.

For example, I've seen situations where two in-groups mutually considered themselves to be higher status than the other because the overall context allowed that status question to remain unanswered in a global sense.

I've also seen situations in which someone, primed with assumptions of interlocking status hierarchies, was trying to do social climbing, but failed because his attempts to create status relationships between groups were so obviously self serving as to be rejected by everyone.

I've also seen situations where people are very conscious of status questions, where the exact same behaviour does great. Because everyone already accepts the terrain they are trying to play off.

My conclusion? Theorising social status as something with intrinsic and ubiquitous properties usually works to create the very distinctions and relationships that encourage particular kinds of egoistic "status seeking" behaviour.

It's the same "gift" as creating witty teasing insults about a friend that you then end up accidentally sharing with spiteful people.

Secondly, social status is partially about getting things done, and hinges off of that.

Although social status can exist as a thing in itself, (something people perpetuate for it's own internal values, think about a group who take maintaining status heirachies as their main goal and value) it can also bounce off other natural things that relate to it.

But it's not just some bad thing layered on top of making pleasant working relationships, it is a part of the same social process.

Now I've got to be careful of breaking my own rules here, even while stating them, but a big bit of social status is this: We are doing something, some people are more central than others to this, and for different amounts of the time.

And sometimes things that people do depend on things that other people do.

This very quickly can turn into positive feedback, when ?things you need people to do? includes passing attention to your thing.

So as a first order reaction, you have "I hear I caused some kind of big bust up but I don't really care".

In a fuzzy causal graph, you are upstream of them, not just because you say you don't care, but because you've publicly (and presumably personally) committed yourself to not caring about what they say. If that commitment sticks, and it actually really doesn't matter, then not only do you have personal freedom, people watching you won't get a sneak preview of what you're going to do by watching other people.

That can be a form of status, except that when you look at it, that type of status can seem wrong. If everyone did that, gambling on ignoring people, we wouldn't get much conversation done. So doing it too much is something we shouldn't encourage.

So in other words status is importance, in terms of making a difference, plus all the corrective factors that we apply so as to intentionally make people less important if they are pushing for it.

That is where status games come in, they can be about trying to improve your own ends, or to create corrective factors in how we assign importance and desire to keep track of people, so as to keep our groups operating effectively. Usually both, as we have some investment in the group.

So a group both has some common investment in either competitions or cooperations (?) between all of them, and want to keep that running smoothly. If you're necessary to the group but don't throw your weight around, then great, you?re just common or garden important.

If you know you could throw your weight around and don't, you have high status, unless you brag about it all the time..., but you do it in a funny way so people know you don't really mean it..., except you do it a lot..., but you mainly do it when interrupting that other guy who doesn't know when to stop...

That'll probably stabilise after a bit!

Hopefully that hits both of my own self imposed rules, that some times you don't need to care about status, because the natural world just falls out that way, and everyone is important and valued and we can all hear and see each other, and we can come to nice consensual agreements about what we want we value, but status kicks in when that's not true.

It also kicks in by inheritance, when default strategies for having a working group or pushing/developing certain values transfer to a new one, even if they're not really needed. Or again, if people want status as a thing in itself.


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