1. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    one theory about the social polarization of the English-speaking world

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by friendly_meese, Aug 9, 2014.

    The latest issue of Macleans Magazine (the Canadian equivalent of Time Magazine) has an article on the increasing isolation of not only Americans, but Canadians and Britons as well. People increasingly live in communities where income levels, jobs, interests, and especially political views are nearly identical. In Washington, D.C., there are very clear Democrat neighborhoods and Republican neighborhoods where the only differences between the neighborhoods are political views and allegiances. The article says this trend actually began in the 1970s with the widening availability of automobiles and the ubiquity of telephones, and the internet has exacerbated the phenomenon instead of causing it. The polarization of American politics, the article says, is ultimately caused by people retreating to echo chambers where everyone agrees on everything. In the past, greater interaction with a wider variety of neighbors foced people to compromise and come to a consensus, but that has gone out the window, and the politicians have become strident and uncompromising to reflect the views of their constituents. What do you think?
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Over the last year or so, I've seen several references to this phenomenon. I do think it is at least partially true. But, in the states, there is one party and a whole bunch of people who support that party that are completely unwilling to compromise or learn new things, so that is ultimately what has made everything grind to a virtual halt.

    Another factor into this is the news media, and how that has changed. It used to be that almost everyone watched "the news," and even though it may not have been very in depth, everyone saw virtually the same thing -- there were only about 4 channels, and if you had the television on at certain times, you were nearly guaranteed to see at least a little bit of the news. Now, while people might be more informed about certain issues, it's very easy to not see any news that isn't interesting to you. People are in a news bubble as much as they are in a neighborhood bubble, and maybe even moreso. When your only sources of news are Fox News and far right talk radio, and far right websites, all of that is reinforced, similar to the neighborhood phenomenon.
     
  3. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this reflects extreme lack of political choice rather than alienation. When you have a two party system, as you do in all the countries you listed, where the two parties are essentially pursuing identical politics, people have a 50% chance to be supporting the same party. Considering the reality of precious little political choice, it's come to the point of whether you are an asshole who couldn't care less about the less fortunate, and would happily snatch the last dollar out of single mother's hand (right) or are you happy for some of your taxes to go toward helping the less fortunate (left). Everything else amounts to the same thing. So typically educated middle and working classes, lean towards the left or centre-left whereas business owners, social climbers and the rich gravitate towards right or centre right. They also tend to own properties in the range they can afford, they also tend to have incomes in similar brackets. However, if we had genuine democracy, where anyone could run for office, and true multiparty system where more than just two parties had a genuine shot at government, there would probably be greater diversification than what we are seeing now.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014
  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Um, which country do you live in?
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I live, work and own a business in the UK now. I also lived, studied and worked for twelve years in Australia. So I've experienced many different facets of what those systems have to offer, as someone in need of help as well as someone who hates seeing 40% of my hard earned money go to the government. I've been voting in three different countries for twenty years now. My comments reflect my attitudes as a taxpayer and someone with keen interest in politics. They refer to those two systems mainly, and what I understand of the US system through the media and my limited exposure to it, through travelling and family who lives there. What country do you live, vote and pay taxes in @daemon?
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014
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  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    As a fellow UKer, I remember reading in the papers recently that areas of our cities are divided between people of certain religions, and those of no religion at all. According to the BBC, most areas in Newcastle (the city closest to my arm-pit of a village) is practically dominated by 'Non-religious zones'.
     
  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The US. If the dichotomy you described had referred to the US left and right, then I would have said that it is no truer than its converse:

    "It has come to the point of whether you want an economy that efficiently produces goods and services that people want or need (right), or you punish people who contribute to the economy by making it harder for them to succeed and by stealing what they earn to give it to people who do not contribute (left)."

    Of course, both jabs at the two sides would fail to identify what US party politics is really about. Most voters on both sides have the same goal in mind -- a productive economy in which everyone can prosper if they choose -- and they differ in what they think is the role of government in pursuing that goal.

    Each side has some greedy people -- the right has people who exploit workers and the left has people who want money without doing anything for it (and politicians who tax people's income and use it for political rather than social purposes) -- and when one side attacks the other, it is almost always because they fixate on the worst people of the other side while remaining blind to the worst people on their own side.

    Personally, I do not belong to a party and I do not vote. This is because of the partisan problem you describe. You are right, I do not really have a choice in politics, so I do not pretend that I do by participating in the game.

    However, I cannot see how that would contribute to the problem described by the OP: echo chambers. On reddit, this is called circlejerk. There is a subreddit for just about every interest group imaginable. Anyone could fill their time by participating in subreddits filled with people who are interested in the same things and believe the same things. Circlejerking is when people praise each other for agreeing with each other, and there is no one around to question the opinion being praised.

    I cannot see how two-party politics would cause this problem. In fact, it seems like it should prevent that problem. The analogy to reddit circlejerk would be if there were thousands of parties, each with equal clout, and everyone in a party agreed about everything. When there are only two parties, people are forced to cooperate with people who disagree on various issues. They are forced to compromise. (Which is a bad thing. Even though two-party politics would prevent a certain problem, it is still terrible overall. I would gladly welcome political echo chambers, and I would even vote, if it meant that the outcome of an election represented the true will of the people, rather than the lesser of two evils presented by political groups.)
     
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  8. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    While it goes without saying that people have political views, I'd ask everyone to avoid having this thread become a political ventfest. One reason for echo chambers is that political debates along standard left-right lines never get resolved and deteriorate to flaming. I started this thread to present one magazine writer's theory as to how politics became polarized. Jumping in to say "Hey, I'm at one of those poles and this is why I'm right!" makes no contribution to this thread at all.

    I'm not sure if the author of the article is entirely correct in claiming that people's decreased capacity for compromise arises from greater mobility and the ability to form both residential and interest groups with others who have the same demographics and views. It might be more of a chicken and egg issue. What I've noticed over the past 40 years in Canada is an increase in cynical self-interest and hidden agendas and a greater willingness to employ sophistries purely for the sake of winning arguments, without regard to the validity of the argument. People have rapidly lost the ability to reflect and evaluate their own views and increasingly worship their own perspectives. I have my own views as to who is responsible for that development, but choose to keep those views ot myself.
     
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  9. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think he is correct, although it has less to do with the ability to choose to live near people who agree with you and more to do with the ability to choose whom you communicate with, regardless of physical proximity.
    Why?
     
  10. Snoopingaround
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    Snoopingaround Banned

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    Most of the above posters are basically wrong in their analysis. The reason why things are getting so polarized is because there is greater and greater social anxiety and economic pressure faced by people in these societies. We are increasingly more self-centered, less empathetic, less community-oriented, and more money driven than ever before. We are all living in a powder keg that is going to blow up. Maybe it could be ten years down the line, it might even be as long as 50 years down the line, but we are on a freight train headed straight into a bottomless canyon loaded with explosives.
     
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  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with the first part of your post, Jazzabel.

    But it seems to me, left or right, its pretty much the same.
     
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  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which brings me to my next point. Political polarization- is it a result of technology, or is it a deliberate ploy to turn democracy into oligarchy?
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This thread needs to be in the debate room but I totally agree, there is no reason to change the topic to US politics. I'll make an effort to avoid that branch of discussion.


    I sooo should write a blog about this stuff. ;)

    This sounds like the article in question.
    http://www.macleans.ca/society/the-end-of-neighbours/

    My comment is, this is nothing new whatsoever. What changes is actually not so changed when you look more closely, it's always been the case that people self segregate.

    Everything in the first paragraph acts as if these statistics are new, or increasing, but we never see the graph that shows the change or uptick trend. The article's author read a couple books on the subject but we are getting the claims second hand.

    Finally, farther down the page we start to get some more relevant data, but not without problems of interpretation:
    But there are two other variables here that have to be considered. 1) Maybe no manufacturer made single serving cookware a generation ago. And 2) maybe there are just more widows surviving their spouses longer.

    OK, but recreational trends change. My parents played bridge and bowled. My son plays board games like Settlers of Catan and goes to movies, pubs and plays.

    As for not voting, that'll need a different thread.

    So is this an increase in socializing or a decrease in extended family living arrangements?

    Again, I know my neighbors, but this is not my parent's neighborhood. When I grew up, everyone on the block was middle class, 2.2 kids and a car. The adults were mostly about the same age as were all the kids.

    I'm in a similar neighborhood, but many of my neighbors are retired and their kids grown while others are my age with kids now college age, and a new batch with little kids. We mostly socialize over the fence rather than in each other's kitchens because we have social groups that are not our neighbors who we have more in common with.

    The bottom line, yes, the social and cultural elements of a society evolve, but if one is going to support the claims in this puff piece, one needs a much more thorough look at the changes.

    No evidence, just nostalgia mythology that sells magazines.

    Where did the author grow up that people didn't commute by car to work? I had a stay-at-home mom, but my dad drove a car to work in the 50s.

    As for finding more people like us on the Net, how is that different from my parent's neighborhood where the commonality was young middle class families who bought new track houses in the same neighborhoods?

    The 150 close contacts limit comes up in the piece. That suggests we are no different now than we were.

    Unsubstantiated bullpucky. I doubt Ms Pinker bothered to visit a college campus when she imagined this scenario. I have. My son was in the dorms for 2 years not that long ago.

    Again, clearly societies evolve. I have some online friends while my parents had none. But these people who speculate about "kids these days" really need a good social history lesson. That same thing has been opined over for generations.

    Oh the irony.

    Now we get to the politics:
    Polarization has been amplified, but the city-urban political divide is not something new.

    So much correlation and pulled-from-the-ass conclusions, so little evidence of actual causation and almost no teasing out of any variables that might be worth some attention.


    OMG, I think I had to edit every other line.o_O ... And I'm still finding errors a day later.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
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  14. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not so sure there has been a "polarization" of the American electorate. A recent proposal by Matthew Levendusky (an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania) purports that the electorate in the US has not polarized but has instead been "sorted" through cues from political elites.

    Basically, he states that as a greater number of political elites have polarized, it has created a greater incentive for other elites to join them further away from the center to take advantage of a unified base. Then, voters get their cues from these elites that have polarized through campaigns, media dissemination, party activists, and interest groups, and they adopt the outlook of the elites. This hasn't resulted in a shift away from the center (polarization), but has resulted in the electorate being "better sorted" into each party.

    As a visual demonstration, here is what the electorate was before the sorting:

    Sorting Before.png
    And here it is after sorting. Although the electorate has realigned, the number of extreme voters and the median voters have not shifted further away from the center. Sorting After.png
     
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  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @daemon : I used hyperbole to describe a sentiment that makes a voter sway to the Right or central Right vs Left or Centre Left. I feel this is an important indicator. I also feel that not voting is the lazy choice, and if you don't vote, I'm not quite sure why you are interested in politics? Even going in to invalidate your vote, so that it can't go to either party, is better than sitting at home, doing nothing, and philosophising whilst failing to make your vote count in some way. I mean no offence, I know many people who don't vote, it seems to be a popular decision these days, but utterly useless. Just recently, in the UK, the middle class boycotted some election and racist UKIP got more seats than ever. That's the danger.

    'Money for nothing' is a value judgment made by the rich, about the underprivileged poor. The rich have the sick and disabled too, but they afford them all the care and help. They don't leave them to the mercy of public hospitals or whatever welfare system they just butchered, like they are happy to do for mine and your children. It is the social welfare state that is the sign of a stable and progressive society (such as Scandinavian countries and even Singapore today, both successful economies by capitalist standards). I sleep better at night knowing that the underprivileged aren't freezing cold at night, or living in squalid conditions. That every child has a chance at good education. I also sleep better because my own existential anxiety is reduced - if I ever fall on hard times, I will have the same help and support. So this 'sentiment' isn't just a secondary thing, it is fundamental to the voting process and psychology.

    @123456789 : I think the rich elite has been trying to drag us back to feudal times since they lost their feudal privileges. This is why complacency and not exercising our right to vote and protest are costing us all dearly. I think the two options are towing the same line on all essential matters, but the voter sentiment, as described above, is exploited in order to maintain the two-party system structure and subsequent illusion of choice.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Green party 2016 :O
     

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