30 December 2012

My Debts to Albert O. Hirschman

In his office at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, where I met him in 1996-1997.

My numerous intellectual debts to Albert Hirschman (1915-December 2012) include the following:


At discussing collective action under dictatorial regimes, I elaborated that, for some people, “in spite of the drawbacks and privations of the activist life, action in itself may be subjectively experienced as gratifying if it involves personal independence, a certain scope for inventiveness and initiative, close fellowship with other people of similar tastes, and other qualities harder t find in more conformist and routine activity”.
In ‘Sisyphus and the Snowball’, chapter 3 in Colomer, Game Theory and the Transition to Democracy: The Spanish Model (1995). CLICK
All this chapter was a retrospective self-reflection based on participant-observation. It made sense thanks to Albert Hirschman’s “idea of participation as subjective gratifying in itself”, as presented in his book Shifting Involvements: Private Interest and Public Action (1982).


All my modeling of democratization negotiations was based on the definition of three strategies --named Nondemocracy, Intermediate reform, and Democracy-- which permit six preference orders defining six strategic actors in a process of political change. These form three blocs: the Rulers, either hardliners or softliners, and the opposition, each with fractions of radicals and moderates.
All this was strongly inspired in an Albert Hirschman’s “digression” about “models of reformmongering” regarding alternatives for economic change, which was included, with the telling title ‘Engineering Reform with the Help of the Perspective of Revolution’, in his Journeys Toward Progress (1963), pp. 276 ff.
See my acknowledgements in Colomer, Game Theory and the Transition to Democracy (1995), p. 25, and in Strategic Transitions: Game Theory and Democratization (2000), p. 37.


Inspired by Albert Hirschman’s comment:
"Latin American powerholders have long encouraged their potential enemies and potential critics to remove themselves from the scene through voluntary exile." (Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, 1970: 60).

I took his categories of 'exit, 'voice'. and 'loyalty,' which Hirschman had applied to the analysis of emigration and protests in East Germany, for the analysis of the case of Cuba. I proposed to enlarge Hirschman’s scheme with a new category, ‘hostility’.
“Two dimensions can be distinguished: 1) the actors' motives: relative satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the present state of things in light of a conceivable alternative; 2) the action target: the present state or the alternative. In the case of Cuba, the present state of things is represented by a dictatorial government and a socialist economy, while a conceivable alternative, according to the information available to Cuban citizens, is a democratic regime with a capitalist economy such as the one represented by the United States. According to this scheme, relative dissatisfaction with the existing state can induce two actions: ‘Voice’, which is an action against the existing state, and ‘exit’, which is an action in favor of the alternative. Similarly, relative satisfaction or at least acquiescence with the existing state can be associated with two actions: 'loyalty’, which is an action in favor of the existing state, as presented in Hirschman’s original scheme, and 'hostility’, a term that I introduce to define an action against the alternative (manifested in anti-American and anti-imperialist sentiments). In other words, there are two possible actions regarding the existing state (the Cuban regime in our analysis): voice (against) and loyalty (in favor), and two possible actions regarding the alternative (the United States): exit (in favor) and hostility (against).
These definitions can help to clarify some relations of rivalry, complementarity, substitution and exclusion between the different political actions…

“At moderate levels of relative satisfaction with the present regime, ‘loyalty’ and ‘hostility’  are rival actions, but they can become complementary actions for highly satisfied people --extremely proud patriots may also be aggressively hostile to strangers... Like ‘voice’ and ‘loyalty’, also 'exit' and 'hostility' can become substitutive actions. When would-be emigrants run up against some restrictive U.S. migration policy, their frustration and resentment may convert the desire for 'exit' into 'hostility' towards the alternative state.”

Colomer, ‘Exit, Voice, and Hostility in Cuba’, International Migration Review, 2000, 34, 2: 423-442.

Hirschman, A. O.
-    Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.
-    Rival Views of Market Society and Other Recent Essays. New York: Viking, 1986.
-    Essays in Trespassing: Economics to Politics and Beyond. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
-    ‘Exit, Voice, and the Fate of the German Democratic Republic’, World Politics, 1993, 45 (2): 173-202.
-    A Propensity to Self Subversion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.


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