Journalist George Monbiot has characterised the climate change debate as being not between conservatives and liberals, but between ‘expanders’ and ‘restrainers’. These categories make sense and you probably already have a good idea of who’s in which camp. People often get annoyed with the climate change warning team because they seem to want to restrain everything. And they’re frustrated by the climate change denial cheerleaders because they seem to see no limits to anything at all.
If you have been reading the Fourcultures website at all you’ll know that it makes sense to think of four, not merely two, cultural biases. In other words there’s more than just expanders and restrainers. You’ll also quickly spot that the two biases Monbiot misses out are ‘managers’ and ‘shruggers’.
The managers see expansion and restraint as equally dangerous to the establishment and their aim is to manage resources so that the established order is maintained. As long as the status quo prevails, there’s room for both expansion and restraint. For managers it is crucial that there is control over who gets to expand and who gets restrained. Most global governance attempts, including the Copenhagen climate talks, are dominated by this worldview, with the others shouting loudly at the margins (demonstrating), or talking confidentially behind closed doors (lobbying).
The shruggers are those who think it’s a joke that we can control any of this. In the midst of the great moment advertised by Monbiot, ‘the moment at which we turn and face ourselves’, they (we) are more interested in which team will win at sport, or whether some star’s been having an affair.
Expanders – Individualist (low grid, low group)
Restrainers – Egalitarian (low grid, high group)
Managers – Hierarchical (high grid, high group)
Shruggers – Fatalist (high grid, low group)
5 thoughts on “Expanders, Restrainers, Managers and Shruggers”
Excellent characterization of the four world views in action, or should I say reaction. Maybe the word is resistance.
As a former manager of a very egalitarian human service organization that recruited and retained individualistic middle managers and practicioners, I always wondered why we couldn’t promote more involvement from the (fatalistic) line staff.
And I thought my only hubris was herding cats.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks Mort. Your comment about herding cats/fatalist workers reminded me of something… and now I’ve found it : an excellent anecdote about fatalism at work in a 2007 paper by Anthony Evans, entitled ‘Towards a Corporate Cultural Theory‘. I originally linked to it at the four cultures of administrative justice.
I don’t really like these schemas. For exampple, my friend once said, “You seem disengaged (fatalistic?) However you don’t seem to be the kind of person who watches Jerry Springer laughing out loud…” No, I’m not that kind of person. More and more I simply “live” (eat, sleep, etc) and do what I need to do. People say I’m quite cynical, confirming my own suspicions. Bassically I could be categorized as fatalistic but that category is also broad, similar to the category of “crazy.”
Thanks for your comments Tetsuya. I agree. It’s not so much that these are personality types. Rather they describe social environments or the organising biases of institutions. So for example when I sign a contract with my employer I become very much immersed in an Individualist bias; when I run to catch the train I’m implicated in a Hierarchical bias. When I go on a demonstration against green house gas emissions I’m in an Egalitarian environment and when I buy a raffle ticket for my kids’ school I’m involved in a Fatalist institution. So I think the key factor in all this is that we as humans are somewhat adaptable in negotiating these institutional biases in the course of each and every day.