|Originally published in the July 2010 Socionomist|
Two books discussing socionomics have just hit the scene. One offers a friendly and accessible presentation of the nascent science, the other a proposal to retool governments’ regulatory approach according to socionomic precepts.
Both authors, John Casti and Constantin Malik, are respected academics with business experience. They are also longtime friends of the Institute. We’re delighted to give Socionomist readers a look inside their works.
First, John Casti’s Mood Matters: From Rising Skirt Lengths to the Collapse of World Powers: The book is a thorough introduction to socionomics, yet Casti conveys the subject in an accessible, informal style.
Mood Matters addresses all of the questions central to socionomics: What is mood? How does social causality work? Why are stock markets such reliable sociometers? And so on.
The author also echoes many of Prechter’s and Kendall’s expositions of social mood’s connections to music, movies, sports and other cultural phenomena.
Casti delivers several amusing anecdotes and references. Here, for example, is his explanation of The New Yorker’s HW (Hot Waitress) Index:
When mood is positive and the birds are singing, extremely attractive young people of both sexes are in great demand for selling everything from exotic cars to premium brand toothpicks. This leaves the more mundane jobs like waiting tables to the genetically less well endowed. But once mood turns down [so does the economy and], all bets are off.
The book is also quite serious. The “Collapsing World Powers” in the title refers to the socionomic prediction of the fates likely to befall the European Union, the United States and others, should mood continue to trend toward the negative.
Tucked into Casti’s discussion of Millennium waves is this nugget:
Just as hurricanes come around in a predictable cycle, even though specific timing, landfall locations, and intensities of these storms are a matter of probabilities, not certainties, the social mood of a population also rises and falls in accordance with a pattern that is every bit as predictable—and unpredictable—as the vagaries of hurricanes. Both are law-like phenomena, one governed by the laws of nature, the other governed by the laws of human nature. And to complain about either or to imagine you can somehow escape these laws is about as useful as complaining about the sun rising in the east and setting in the west each day. Maybe one day the solar pattern will be reversed. And maybe one day basic human nature will change, too. But neither one is the way to bet.
As you can see, John Casti brings an engaging new voice to the topic. Bink’s Books (Vol. 21, Issue 1) notes:
Why should you read this book? For the excitement of seeing a new field born before your eyes. For the challenge explicitly posed by the detailed research agenda Casti proposes to further explore these ideas. … Mood Matters can and should change the world; for its readers, it will surely do so.
We recommend Casti’s book for any fan of socionomics. For newbies, we recommend it as a companion to Robert Prechter’s Socionomics book set.
Constantin Malik’s Ahead of Change: How Crowd Psychology and Cybernetics Transform the Way We Govern: Malik’s tome is shorter than Casti’s (Malik’s is well under 200 pages; Casti’s just over) but a more challenging read.
Ahead of Change is built on this premise: The laws that presently govern society are reactive; they trail social mood changes. Ideally, society should be able to anticipate these developments and craft legislation proactively. Malik does argue that for governments to do so is virtually impossible given contemporary legal structures and political systems, and we agree. Therefore, he suggests a fundamental revolution in the way society governs and makes laws.
The tools Malik advocates to accomplish his proposed revolution are (1) management cybernetics—the study of the effective organization and functioning of complex and dynamic systems—and (2) socionomics. Much of Malik’s slender volume is given first to a discussion of crowd phenomena and then to a well-rounded explanation of socionomics, fractals, Fibonacci numbers and Elliott wave theory.
Malik lists roadblocks to overturning the current legislative system, among them lobbying by special interest groups and leaders’ focus on satisfying constituents’ short-term demands. His potential solutions include finding a mechanism to allow legislatures to focus solely on revising existing laws and preparing new ones without remaining yoked to the whims of the herd, and creating a staff of socionomists to advise legislatures:
I believe representatives should have a basic understanding of socionomics. They should know what it is, how it works, what it can do and especially also what it cannot do. … Among the administrative lookout staff need to be experts in socionomics. They need to understand the crowd psychological mechanisms on which it is founded; they need to understand Fibonacci mathematics and fractal geometry. I believe this is indispensable for the right kind of information to be gathered and for it to be interpreted correctly.
Malik is savvy enough to realize that today’s societies have miles to go before they embrace socionomics and his recommendation for change.
The ideas … might be called “utopian” by some, but it is my conviction that they point in the direction that we must follow if progress is to be achieved.
As we have pointed out, governments are notorious laggers when it comes to social mood. They are, simply, the last to act. Bureaucratic bodies are as buffeted by mood as are other groups, but legislative decision-making processes are lengthy and complex, and then when ruling bodies finally do make a decision, marshalling resources takes yet more time. This is one reason wars are typically launched after lows instead of astraddle them, for example. We deeply admire Malik’s goals. Whether or not governmental change is possible, the book is a provocative read and we strongly recommend it for anyone interested in public policy.
♦ Ahead of Change ■
About the Authors:
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Most economists, historians and sociologists
presume that events determine society’s mood. But socionomics hypothesizes
the opposite: that social mood regulates the character of social events. The
events of history—such as investment booms and busts, political events,
macroeconomic trends and even peace and war—are the products of a naturally
occurring pattern of social-mood fluctuation. Such events, therefore, are not
randomly distributed, as is commonly believed, but are in fact probabilistically
predictable. Socionomics also posits that the stock market is the best available
meter of a society’s aggregate mood, that news is irrelevant to social
mood, and that financial and economic decision-making are fundamentally different
in that financial decisions are motivated by the herding impulse while economic
choices are guided by supply and demand. For more information about socionomic
theory, see (1) the text, The
Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior © 1999, by Robert Prechter;
(2) the introductory documentary History's
Hidden Engine; (3) the video Toward
a New Science of Social Prediction, Prechter’s 2004 speech before
the London School of Economics in which he presents evidence to support his
socionomic hypothesis; and (4) the Socionomics Institute’s website, www.socionomics.net.
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