Albert O. Hirschman’s treatise Exit, Voice and Loyalty puts forward the argument that consumers in relation to an organization are left with two branches of behavior: exit and voice. Not limiting himself to the economic study of corporations and firms, Hirschman elaborates the concepts in relation to many other structures of human organization including nations (specifically migration), competitive political, niche business, families, terror groups and gangs.1
In simple terms Hirschman’s definition of “exit” and “voice” are as follows:
Exit – Customers or firm members leave.
Voice – Customers or firm members directly, or indirectly communicate their dissatisfaction.2
These phenomenon of human association are generally prompted by organizational “deterioration”:
“The deterioration in performance is reflected most typically and generally, that is, for both firms and other organizations, in absolute or comparative deterioration of the quality of the product or service provided.”3
The main existential threat posed to an organization is exit, if a human organization has no members it necessarily ceases to exist. However not all organizations cease to exist following some deterioration of output, some degree of ‘elasticity’ exists. The simple case being that the output of a firm has a deterioration of quality. Some members are more ‘alert’ and exit the association accordingly while others might remain, these remaining members might be inclined to use voice to signal their dissatisfaction to the control structure of the organization. The degrees of dynamism in the organization’s reaction in tandem with the elasticity of membership provide a control mechanism where the organization and members are in communication through both exit and voice channels so that decisions can be made within the central organization and distributed among members.
Using the concepts of exit and voice to try and understand the human dynamics of the intellectual spheres of the meta-question and the sub-questions.4 The Dogmatist is voice, holding convictions as precepts and then organising according to like-thinking consumers of intellectual product. This is not to say that the Dogmatist is limited to a single sub-question, convictions are of a multitude in the individual and their relations do not straddle intellectually in the same way.
A conviction in a sub-question is a drive to advance the investigation of the bounds and progress it’s elaboration upwards within it’s defined axioms. Just as a consumer has an interest in the product of a corporation the intellectual Dogmatist voices according to the internal production of the intellectual boundary while having an interest in the membership of their field of inquiry.
Meanwhile, the Iconoclast is exit. The Iconoclast in his anthropomorphic folly was once in the dogmatic mode within certain sub-questions. The Iconoclast is the ultimate expression of philosophy, venturing beyond the walls of the sub-question despite the warnings of intellectual danger and derision. This is also not to say that an individual mind is mutually exclusive to either the modes of thinking. One can embody the dogmatic urge in some topics but think according to an iconoclastic impulse in another.
Dogmatic Drive – Preference of the Sub-question
The bounded nature of the sub-question leads to it’s status as an intellectual shelter and a shared goal, for these reasons there is incentive to inhabit it. The metaphysical boundaries of Science delineate the outer-reaches of a knowledge, allowing for collaboration for the ever-approaching completion of scientific fact. However, much like the prisoner of Plato’s cave, the meta-question seems like an amusing illogical madness for the dogmatic denizen hence making exit an nonviable option for those wishing to remain coherent to the community.
The phenomenon results in an inability to even see beyond the sub-question, making exit unthinkable, confusion is often the only possible reaction for the scientifically-minded when they are reproached with metaphysical queries and statements.
Dogmatic Decline – Decay of the Sub-question
Like firms the cooperation of the sub-question tends to decay according to the natural entropy of time, growth and saturation of lower quality members along with the pressures of competition. Hirschman describes the natural entropy of decay human cooperation as “slack” taking a position of “radical pessimism” which asserts “slack has somehow come into the world” and is “continuously being generated as a result of some sort of entropy characteristic of human, surplus-producing societies”.5 Like the decline of a corporation the sub-question can struggle to adapt to changing conditions and membership. A once fashionable and robust intellectual position can become cringe and flimsy in it’s relation to the intellectual zeitgeist, this decay can either occur from within or without as further sub-questions are generated making the position seem outdated.
Proportional growth often results in low-intellectual-quality membership who excrete cringe by their very dogmatic myopic confidence. These members perform a very similar function of those afflicted by Dunning-Kruger syndrome in a firm or corporation and are an inescapable fact of dysgenic intellectual production: “There’s a slacker born every minute”.6
Split and Defection
As mentioned previously a total exit of members causes an organisation to cease to exist, this applies to all organisations. Hence for survival an organisation must have a certain ‘elasticity’ in its membership and demand if the signalling mechanisms of voice and exit are to be invoked. Therefore it is an organisational interest that elasticity of demand be neither too large or too small.7
Intellectually speaking this explains the existence of splits and defections regarding sub-questions: “[…] one important way of bringing influence to bear on an organization is to threaten exit to the rival organization”. However, this capacity is neutralised when monopoly is present: “But this threat cannot be made when there is no rival, so that voice is not only handicapped when exit is possible, but also, though in quite a different way”.8
Intellectually speaking, the infinite nature of the meta-question and the iterative elucidation of further sub-questions makes a technical monopoly impossible. This does, however, not doubt the existence of intellectual cults. Certainly a monopoly around a certain set of ideas or a thinker is possible and demonstrably present.
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Hirschman, A.O., 1970. Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Harvard University Press., p.4
Hirschman, A.O., 1970. Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Harvard University Press., pp.14-15