A Study of Culture, Belief, and Social Structure HTML version

i) Introduction
The purpose of this collection of essays is to create a framework for interdisciplinary analysis of social science.
This begins with philosophy, which we take to be considered examination of the most simple of issues and
definitions, though we construct a narrative of one social science, economics, and discuss the problems and
difficulties it faces in the strength of supposedly reasoned thinking within it. Principally we suggest that direct
observation and reasoning from these real observations is the principal route to truth used by science. We argue
that this is what interdisciplinary social science should observe. We propose that social science is concerned at its
macro level with layers of interrelated processes which have their origins in history, institutions and social forces.
A process is a sequence of connected events, which exists in the mind of the social scientist observer as an
abstraction and is mapped from reality. The repetition of processes in history and across the world allows us to
identify them, through seeing similar effects and similar structures we can deduce an abstract mechanism that is
identified with the process. In addition our research strategy involves thinking about structures in reality and
considering what the logic of these are, which allows us to do thought experiments aided by simulations in
spreadsheets to allow us to isolate these processes’ effects in asmuch as they are consistent phenomena. The
reality that processes will lead to consistent effects at times is due to the existence of pervasive structures in
society. The presence of a road will lead to a consistent flow of people going down it subject to certain
conditions of population size and need for travel down that road. But structures do not necessarily have to be
physical, a contract, such as a loan, with its concomitant features leads to various processes in society, indeed it
has been considered by Minsky that the concept of the loan leads to our boom-bust economic cycle. Changing the
structure of the loan in terms of who receives what and when would lead one to believe that different outcomes
are possible. We have therefore some idea of how basic structures can be useful, insofar as one would like to
eliminate recessions. One of our key points we find is that structures are often accepted, they are not dynamical
optimising in the sense that they do not tend towards the best solution to society’s problems necessarily. In the
case of loans this is because the concept loan is determined historically and only changes in line with the whims
and spirits of the banking industry, that is the complex that creates the loan. What should be noted is that a
complex is also created of people who have borrowed money which itself creates the effects of boom-recession.
We discuss later the idea of a complex, the core of the process, the structure that causes the process to occur.
When we look at the complexes later, we can get a handle on what is actually going on in the society and also
appreciate that different outcomes can occur often with the same basic structure. Thus we a lead away from
deterministic economic theory and into a realm whereby we can see risks to certain structures as well as
appropriate ways of altering these outcomes. Our essays take us from seeing the world as being one of flux to
rationalising why certain elements of society remain widely held and constant for long periods of time. An
additional aspect of our analysis makes use of the concept of the ‘scenario’ (academically this is called the
‘counterfactual’). This is taken from financial analysis used by industry practitioners in corporate finance in the
City of London. A scenario approach involves looking at how the outcome of processes varies according to
different events and environments, much as one might consider the variance of a population in addition to its
mean. This does not mean that we look entirely at all possible events, in fact we are often most interested in the
unlikely at any given time, yet possible and perhaps inevitable long term results of a process or system composed
of processes. The essence of identification of a process is abstraction of mechanism, that is the focus on the
observed driver of the dynamic in the object of enquiry. This is because we are looking for areas where the
policy maker can cause change to the system, so what we can loosely call causal links found from abstraction of
mechanism is important. This is not to side with the academic movement that seeks to find immutable, universal,
ahistorical laws, as is the case in economics. Our judgement that society is the sum and interaction of many
layers of processes within a context of free will, subject to tendencies yet not necessarily necessary ones.
We discuss a number of frameworks based on our methodology that springs from our criticisms of economic
theory; debate structure and projected narrative, idea maps, conversation dynamics (both in terms of interaction as
a game, e.g. through blocking strategies in conversation, and in terms of extensive form game theory as the
multiple interaction of discussion), non-reductionist memetic-network lifeworld theory.
We apply these frameworks to several issues which are not all linked directly to economics, the area from where
we started the discussion. These areas are the understanding of the tendency of poverty to lead to crime, the very