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Title:Structure and struggle in egalitarian groups: Reframing the problems of time, emotion, and inequality as defining characteristics
Author(s):Glaser, Hollis E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Husband, Robert L.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Speech Communication
Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Abstract:This study is based on Mansbridge's (1973a) claim that time, emotion, and inequality are problems for the democratic organization; and other researchers (i.e., Bernstein, 1976; Rothschild & Whitte, 1986; Strauss, 1982) who isolated decision-making, conflict-resolution, feedback, and knowledge-sharing as necessary communicative elements of democratic organizing. The beginning research question was: Is time, emotion, and inequality problems in all four of the communication arenas?
Two groups were studied: one a theater troupe and the other a social action organization. This study found that these three constructs (time, emotion, and inequality) are not problems but are dealt with differently than they are in traditional hierarchies.
First, democracies see time as unbounded, uncontrollable, unshapen; it spreads out in unpredictable ways. Democratic groups need this boundlessness to process their communication tasks in an egalitarian manner. Yet they also have the power to reign in and limit the amount of time spent on their communication tasks.
Second, the high level of emotional involvement aids the group in maintaining their democracy. Both groups respected emotion as a valued force which allowed members to express their feelings, aided them in their decision-making process, and helped them to build stronger relationships. Furthermore, emotion is an integral part of the power dynamic of the egalitarian group. It is used to move the group, to help them make decisions; it is a resource that is equally and perpetually available to the group members; and its expression often serves to flatten unwanted emerging hierarchies.
Third, it is not that inequality is a problem for egalitarian groups: it is that making inequalities problematic is a central democratic process which defines egalitarianism. Inequality in the egalitarian group is emergent and in various degrees of definition and struggle. There are instances in the group's life where they have consciously defined their power relations. And these (either defined or undefined) power relations may be contested or accepted in the sense that group members have the opportunity and power to challenge emerging hierarchies. There are different states of inequality--undefined and contested, undefined and accepted, defined and contested, and defined and accepted.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Glaser, Hollis E.
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512372
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512372

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