Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why Hirschman in Social Systems Theory?

After Prof. Iba lectured on structural coupling in Social Systems by Nilkas Luhmann, he shifted the topic to “Voice and Exit.” Its concept was proposed by Albert O. Hirschman, an influential economist, in Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in 1970.

Voice and Exit are two options to change a complained situation. Hirschman explains, “Management then finds out about its failings via two alternative route.”

Prof. Iba continued teaching the detailed concepts with familiar examples.
Exit is an option to leave without saying anything; therefore, people need to think about reasons why the person left. For instance, a member in the lab left without say any reason or complain, it means that he or she takes exit option.

Hirschman uses another example to encourage us to understand it.
“Some customers stop buying the firm’s products or some members: this is the exit option. As a result, revenues drop, membership declines, and management is impelled to search for ways means to correct whatever faults have led to exit.”

On the other hand, Voice is the other option to express their dissatisfaction directly. Prof. Iba used the example that a member in the lab says his or her concerns or motivation, and leaves. In this case, he or she chooses voice option.

Compared to Exit, Voice likely leads direct and immediate solutions. Moreover, he emphasized that voice has more clear intentions or objectives to change the situation.
In the meantime, he also expressed that we need to understand both of voice and exit in the interdisciplinary fields even thought most cases are dominant over one of them.

As usual, students had an opportunity to deepen their understands on contents through dialogues with other students. In the class, they discussed what the concepts of Voice and Exit are with their familiar topics.

Prof. Iba kept introducing another idea, Loyalty, with quotes from Hirschman.
“As a rule, then, loyalty holds exit at bay and activates voice.”
“As a rule of loyalty, these potentially most influential customers and members will stay longer than they would ordinarily, reasoned expectation that improvement or reform can be achieved “from within.” ”

Students’ faces looked puzzled because they have no idea how those ideas are related to Social Systems Theory.

At the end, Hirschman emphasized that those “actions” leads to change organizations and the society. However, Prof. Iba believes that “communication” is the key to change society, therefore, he brought the point that we redefine Hirschman’s theory as “communication” theory. For instance, we can ask ourselves how it is possible to cause the chain of Voice communication, even though Voice communication is hardly generated consecutively.

- Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Harvard University Press, 1970

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