Monday, December 12, 2011

Coordination and Discoordination in Plays

Kirzner emphasizes coordination; Lachmann emphasizes discoordination. But both are present in the world.

Tragedies are exemplars of knowledge problems and discoordination: Romeo and Juliet die because their plans are discoordinated; Othello makes bad decisions based on bad information (bad information leads him to rationally reach a false conclusion -- similar to how ABCT works); MacBeth makes bad decisions because he misunderstands the information given him. Hamlet, on the other hand, has good information, but because he is uncertain about its trustworthiness, he delays acting. The delays result in the death of Polonius, leading to the insanity and suicide of Ophelia, and the tragic duel between Laertes and Hamlet, when Laertes seeks to avenge his father's death. Hamlet is thus a tragedy of regime uncertainty.

Comedies, on the other hand, are exemplars both of knowledge problems and of both discoordination and coordination. Love's Labor's Lost shows that even the most well-coordinated plans can, nevertheless, fail to come to fruition -- though in this case, in untragic fashion. The women are called away before the plans can be coordinated, by something having nothing at all to do with those plans. These things happen, of course. Most other comedies, though, follow the pattern of ending in coordination, in bonding, commitment, and promises kept.

Overall, though, plays demonstrate/enact the kind of communicative action/argumentation described by Habermas (Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, 2001) and Hayek (in his work on spontaneous orders), the aim of which is to coordinate action. In the larger social sphere, one is likely to see more patterns of coordination than discoordination (certainly if this is not the case, the society in question will collapse), but in particular cases, one can find a variety of patterns, from near-perfect coordination of plans to complete discoordination of plans. The former are unlikely to be found in plays or any sort of story, since conflict is a necessary element of plot. We are rather likely to find discoordination dominant in plays -- as the dominant, necessary element in tragedies, and as the necessary element before plan coordination finally wins the day in comedies, as noted above.

In novels, it is possible to get "inside" the characters -- but in plays, one has to judge the characters more by their actions, since it is impossible to get "in the heads" of the characters (the occasional "aside" aside). Thus, economists need to spend more time at the theater . . . but I plan to save most of those thoughts (aside from those just shared above) for a paper I'm working on: "Why Economists Ought to Go to the Theater." As we can see, Austrian insights coordinate well with the way stories themselves work. Which should hardly be surprising.

No comments:

Post a Comment