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Intangible Hand v Invisible Hand [ v Iron Hand ? ]

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:06 am    Post subject: Intangible Hand v Invisible Hand [ v Iron Hand ? ] Reply with quote

Philip Pettit in his book " Republicaism " contrasts ' The Invisible Hand ' of Adam Smith with ' The Intangible Hand.' [ ' The Iron Hand ' is that of the coercion used by the state - prison maybe ]

' The Invisible Hand ' is what is used to justify the free market economics
that bases society upon the conflict between people's selfish desires, that asserts that the Res Publica as conceived by ( Liberal ) Democrats is the sum total of the private interests involved = ' zero ' from a Republican point of view.

' The Intangible Hand ' operates in much the same way as ' The Invisible Hand ' does with material goods for social goods, and people want to acquire both for many diverse reasons : thus a series of continuous choices will lead to a self regulating market in an economy of esteem and rewarding social interactions. ( This is similar to the idea of getting ' strokes ' in Transactional Analysis.)

Adam Smith observed but did not nccessarily approve of what he described in the ' The Wealth of Nations ' - he was also a moralist and discussed an " aversion to offend " and a " desire to please " that can be identified with ' The Intangible Hand.'

In political situations we debate what we approve and disapprove of, what we will sanction and reward, and create the norms by which approval and condemnation will be judged : The Law ( personified in the republican god ' The Nomos ' ) is a moral - ethical authority to be cited as the agreed basis for judging others, especially those elected to public office. But Pettit argues that screening is necessary in the first place for elective representatives and officers, there should not merely be rewards and sanctions for those who can con people's votes out of them ( page 252.)

Thus I'd udge that in Phillip Pettit's view the Res Publica is the guiding principle of non-domination which is the good that the laws should be made to further, and he suggests civilizing society by creating institutions that foster ' The Intangible Hand ' of public esteem as a check on ' The Invisible Hand ' of private greed, juxtaposing the uniting public interest ( the Res Publica ) with those dividing private interests that harm civil society. We should ensure that everybody understands the justice of the laws that we live by and will need no external constraints to be constantly imposed by the state, that The Will of the People of Democracy is replaced by The General Will of Republicanism : that laws are not made on the basis of popularity but of rightiousness, that legality is decided upon the basis of what is demanded by the just not the powerful, whether the basis of that power is in sheer numbers ( democracy ), wealth ( aristocracy / plutocracy ) or violence ( monarchy ).

The state is in various versions of republicanism to be severely limited or got rid of e.g. anarchist republicanism views the state itself to be a danger to civilization because its purpose is to coerce people to conform and as such it is permanently waging war against society and can not be viewed as other than a community of people who hold or attempt to hold a monopoly on the use of violence to cultivate their own private interests which they proclaim to be the Res Publica. In other versions of republicanism the state is elevated to the point of deifying it e.g. about communist republicanism it is joked that where the public disagree with the republic then instead of replacing the state with something better then the republic will have to replace the people with something better. The various forms of Democratic Republicanism - Conservativism, Fascism, Libralism on the ' right ' and Anarchism, Socialism, Communism on the ' left ' - are all divisive of society because they pursue the private interests of their supporters over those of differing views, and as such they contend for control of the government in order to make laws suited to their private interests not the public interest - and therefore in order to impose their own laws they must use violence upon those who resist them and therefore the state will be coercive and unjust and be resisted by others.

Overcoming the divisiveness of the Democratic Republicanisms that are taken to be the norm in Western political systems is the business of Republican Democracy : repelling the barbarians at the gates and asserting the values of civilisation to be the norms of our society vested in the state and preventing the state from being captured by those who claim that the ' The Invisible Hand ' should be left to do its work i.e. that communities and individuals possessed of powerful interests should prevail over those who have interests but are powerless, and that they should prevail uncommented upon and unrestrained as if the business of government is not to govern but to commentate : as if the Res Publica consisted of no more than bandaging the wounded and burying the dead instead of confronting the varying degrees of warfare being conducted between the factions within society, where bullets could replace ballots at any given moment.

' The Tangible Hand ' then is the business of creating and propogating moral and ethical norms through what can be taken to be both a religious and political public process, of creating institutions that investigate, deliberate, incorporate and actively promote the Res Publica - and in Republican Democracy this takes place throughout society through the shared process of reasoning upon issues and events towards a collective sense of opinion that decides upon what is proscibed in public life and permitted in private life and which debates the degrees in between. Then government legislates after the fact, the state is less coercive and the degree of conflict within society is reduced to conversations instead of crimes : the community that conducts the government of the state knows it limits, indeed the political geography of the state changes its boundaries in oder to only intervene to prevent coercion by sectarian factions seeking their personal interests at the expense of other communities.

It's a pity that Phillip Pettit has shied away from using the word ' religion ' - an obvious way of teaching people how to cultivate and defend their self esteem ( = spirituality ? ) and for the community to bestow its esteem or dis-esteem upon individuals ( = religion ? )

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


JSTOR - paper by Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit " HANDS INVISIBLE AND INTANGBLE " describing the idea of The Invisible Hand v The Intangible Hand in Synthese Vol. 94, No. 2 (Feb., 1993), pp. 191-225

The same again - sideways, without needing to log in apparently - page 215 I thought interesting, since I sit on various committees :


( This mentions that Adam Smith got the idea of the Invisible Hand from Bernard Mandeville's 18c satire on Republicanism ' The Fable of the Bees ' - the beehive was / is a vision / symbol of a republican society ; ordered, effective and defended by collective effort of self sacrificing vlunteers - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fable_of_the_Bees )


This is the Book Review : Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit, The Economy of Esteem. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, 352 pp., £15.99 (pbk), ISBN 0 19928 981 6 - Journal of European Social Policy August 2007 vol. 17 no. 3 287-288

This compares " The Iron Hand of the State " with the " The Invisible Hand of the Market " with Brennan and Pettit's " third control mechanism " - " The Intangible Hand of Social Esteem " : the idea of there being an economy of esteem with both supply and demand aspects to it. Thus people can be encouraged to behave for the benefit of society by designing a political programme addressing people's esteem ? Apparently Pettit and Brennan have not considered in detail how this could work - but I would say just look at TV and films, and before that newspapers and theatre, and before that pulpits and ceremonials : the monarchy know exactly how it works and are perhaps past masters at it, handing out gongs. The Gorsedd of the Bards was founded for this purpose, as was the egg and spoon race ... Rouseau imagined institutions like this to build nations with, to embody the idea of the Republic.


- The Intangible hand is listed in the index to be mentioned on pages 226, 227, 329 - 336, 338 of The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics by Philip Pettit

( sorry, can not provide a link to Google Books page )

ON GOOGLE BOOKS - Philosophical Perspectives 23, Ethics 2009 - ( editor ?) John Hawthorne mentions it on page 289 - essay begins page 273 - ESTEEM IN THE MORAL ECONOMY OF OPPRESSION by Rae Langton M I T ( how do people find the time to write this stuff ... ? )


This discusses ' The Intangible Hand ' on page 7 - an essay : " Epistemological modesty within contemporary political thought: A link between Hayek’s neoliberalism and Pettit’s republicanism." by Edwige Kacenelenbogen, Centre Raymond Aron, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, (EHESS), Paris. ( Draft 09/07 - not for citation ... )


This doesn't even mention Pettit I think but harps on about Hayek and Adam Smith's Invisible Hand - actually Smith mentioned it only once in the whole of The Wealth of Nations, and he was concerned with the immorality of the market that he was describing which is why he wrote his other books.


clipped from Oxford Scholarship Online - register to read :

The Economy of Esteem by Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246489

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2004


The Intangible Hand in Profile

The economics of esteem can have a normative as well as a positive aspect, directing us to lessons in institutional design and policy-making. The case for this view is set out in these final chapters fairly abstractly, since the empirical groundwork for a more detailed program in institutional design is just not available. The economy of esteem, when it works for good, is an intangible hand that operates in parallel to the invisible hand of the market and the iron hand of the state. Intangible-hand regulation promises to be a particularly attractive and effective way for society to arrange its affairs. In particular, it promises to be more attractive and more effective in a number of respects than the more familiar alternatives.


The Intangible Hand in Practice

The intangible hand is distinguished by the way in which it gives rise to social norms, where these are distinct from the laws that the polity coercively supports and the regularities that emerge spontaneously from the operation of the market. There is a well-known argument that norms are not going to be available when they are needed–in particular, when they are needed to help people escape collective predicaments–but this would apply only if the giving of esteem required intentional effort; it does not apply to esteem in the sense in which it may involve only the formation of an attitude. The chapter illustrates the many different ways in which norms may emerge and be sustained under the influence of esteem forces.


Mobilising the Intangible Hand

This final chapter illustrates ways in which the intangible hand might be made to work for good, nurturing socially desirable norms and weakening socially undesirable ones. It will work for good so far as people are predisposed to be influenced by the desire for esteem; so far as the options before them are presented in a way that bends the desire for esteem in desirable directions; and so far as the regime of publicity under which they operate makes it likely that the desire will be effectively mobilized. The chapter illustrates these themes by identifying a range of cases where existing arrangements may jeopardize the potential of the intangible hand on these three fronts.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

( Well Repwblic was never supposed to be spectacularly academic but conversational, and I introduced this subject of the Intangible Hand writing from my own framework of thought which is intended to be meta-ideological - the following newspaper article seems to explain the idea well and briefly - )


Sydney Morning Herald - 09 / 04 / 07

What materialists dropped from economics

Ross Gittins

... And that's surprising because the man credited as the father of economics, Adam Smith, was a great believer in the attraction people felt for esteem. Consider this quote:

"Nature, when she formed man for society, endowed him with an original desire to please and an original aversion to offend his brethren. She taught him to feel pleasure in their favourable, and pain in their unfavourable, regard.

"She rendered their approbation most flattering and most agreeable to him for its own sake; and their disapprobation most mortifying and most offensive."

His belief in the power of esteem led Smith even to argue that the reason we seek out wealth, the reason we want to have more and to spend on what he called baubles and trinkets is that, by achieving conspicuousness in such possessions, we win distinction and esteem.

"It is the vanity, not the ease or the pleasure, which interests us," he wrote.

But this view that it's an interest in esteem that fuels the desire for material goods and services largely disappeared with the development of mainstream economics. ...

... But now an economist, Professor Geoff Brennan of the Australian National University, and a professor of politics at Princeton, Philip Pettit, have tried to rectify this deficiency with their book, The Economy of Esteem, published by Oxford.

They propose the development of something they call "kudonomics" - the study of the laws governing the system of kudos or renown. "There is an economy in property, an economy in power and there is also, so we believe, an economy in esteem," they say. ...

... Esteem can't be given away or traded in the usual way because there's no way I can buy the good opinion of another or sell to others my good opinion of them. But esteem and "disesteem" are still goods that are allocated in society according to more or less systematic determinants. ...

... But why bother to study the economy of esteem? Two reasons - positive and normative. Because it's nice to understand how the world works (positive) but also to see how far the world can be made to work better to promote the common good (normative). ...

... It's common these days to think there are only two reliable controls available for ensuring people act in ways that are conducive to the common good: the invisible hand of the market and the iron hand of law and regulation. ...

... "We think of this discipline as an intangible hand that complements the invisible and iron hands that have monopolised the attention of regulators," they say.

"The forces of esteem are distinctively associated, not with the market, and not with the state, but with what is nowadays often described as civil society."

One of the most interesting projects in institutional design is to investigate the conditions under which the intangible hand can be expected to work well and work for the advancement of what is generally seen as the common good. ...

... Rather than the present approach of marketising education * or, where that's not possible, tightly managing and monitoring the service providers, it might make more sense for governments to look at how far education services can be disciplined * - and thus how far taxpayers can be assured of getting value for their money - by setting things up so that esteem goes with high performance and disesteem with low performance.

Does that sound far-fetched? Too touchy-feely? If so, you're probably a victim of one of conventional economics's failings: the often unconscious prejudice that only factors you can touch, measure, convert to a dollar value and incorporate into an equation are worth worrying about. ...

--- ( This is I feel a well written article, it swiftly explains the Intangible Hand in a positive way but not uncritically - worth reading in full )

* - an interesting comment I feel, I already think that education in Wales is heavily slanted towards turning out workers not citizens and most crimes are committed by teenagers, which we complain about yet we do not even teach the law in schools : borstal is a poor educational institution within which to teach citizenship, and it certainly does not give the kids incarcerated any esteem. And then kids with low self-esteem sign up for the army which promises them a false form of self esteem where collectively they take pride in themselves but also beat the crap out of these kids physically and emotionally so that their sense of self worth becomes detached from any personal responsibility for their actions. Knowing some of the people that I know, once they have left the armed forces and rejoined the normal economy of esteem they are haunted by nightmares of what they have done for years afterwards and can not re-adjust to normal society : they have sort of been hollowed out and are empty of personal self esteem and can only recapture a sense of esteem by attending military re-unions where they fit in again.

Lack of self esteem is of course a serious problem for the chronically unemployed and poverty stricken, and teenagers are particularly vulnerable in this respect having difficulty finding work because they have no past employment record and then being underpaid by government decree even when they do find work.

Self esteem and esteem for others is surely the foundation of society : if others make you feel bad about yourself then you will shun them - and in democracy of course political parties denigrate each other and divide society, whereas Republicanism insists upon consideration for others' interests and urges us to take an interest in each others' ideologies in order to collectively construct a transcending meta-ideology to reconcile them and re-unite society.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apparently Jeremy Rifkin is dealing in a similar usage of ideas but uses the term " Invisible Hand " instead of " Hidden Hand " or " Intangible Hand " etc in this entertaining animate about empathy published by the Royal Society of Arts -

http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-the-empathic-civilisation [ download it from - http://vimeo.com/13361673 ]

which also publishes this lecture by him - http://www.thersa.org/events/video/archive/jeremy-rifkin-the-empathic-civilisation

Personally when I make the old right-handed Republican greeting or salute of " The Open Hand / Y Llaw Agored " these are the kinds of sentmiments towards others which that gesture is intended to convey : " Love, Truth, Peace and Freedom " ( in the sense of non-attachment ) in which each of these are being counted off on my fingers leading up to the ultimate wish that I want to convey to others in my thumbs-up for " Life." ... And my bug bear and the opposite to this is conveyed by that other Republican salute, that left-handed greeting beloved by some of putting a fist to the side of their heads which as far as I am concerned refuses to extend those fingers and thereby signifies " Hate, Lies, War and Slavery " and leads to that famous gesture of pointing the thumb downwards towards others for " Death " - the sinister salute made famous by those fighting to defend the Spanish Republic in their murderous struggle against the Falangists 1936-39. ... And what salute did Franco use to differentiate his side and his style of Fascism from Mussolini's or Hitler's ? Claiming that he was coming to save the Spanish Republic etc he naturally stole " The Open Hand " saute - a lesson therefore for everybody in not their letting political movements be identified solely by symbols which can be easily hi-jacked and subverted : Republicans must conduct our politics by argument not by symbols - we should leave the moronic sectarian tribalism to Democrats : " Seyneores !!! We don't need no badges ! ! ! " ... And that's a great pity because I like both symbolism and Symbolism - because it is great fun inventing mystical symbols which excite everybody's imaginations and yet mean nothing at all !
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