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This book considers how small businesses stir up changes in social relationships and what these changes mean for wider society. From this emerges a challenging and provocative discussion on the problems facing both the developing and developed worlds. Development, it argues, is written into social relationships and growth follows attempts to avoid the market’s degenerative effects. What this discussion means for development practice, and for thought in the social sciences more generally, is also considered. If there is a watchword for development practice, then it is acceptance – acceptance of more social, less prescriptive, and far more experimental modes of working. As for the implications of these ideas for social science, these may be described well enough as an economy of ontology.



Chapter 1. Introduction

This book started with a question: why are different people in different places and at different times behaving in ways similar enough to allow the groups they form to be called organizations? The question arose from observations of families, friendships, associations, businesses, government, and bureaucracy in the Philippines and China. ‘To protect social relationships’ is the answer I came to. By this is meant that, to preserve their social quality, relationships are transformed psychologically into ‘the organization’.

Rupert Hodder

Creating Society


Chapter 2. Emotion, Organization, and Society

Observations of behavior in small businesses in the Philippines and China threw up the same two questions time after time. Why, even in very different contexts, do people unwittingly come together as organizations in remarkably similar ways? And why do they lean toward collective action? The reply to this last question might appear obvious: to concentrate and coordinate efforts to defend, to cultivate, to irrigate, to build, to govern, to administer, to barter, to eat and to drink, as well as to trade and to reduce costs, amongst many other reasons.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 3. Informality

One repercussion of the argument that the organization describes the protection of social relationships is to turn the informal-formal debate inside-out: it is not the social quality of the developing world but the apparently unsocial nature of the developed world that requires explanation and a solution. Another is to render patronage—the hall mark of informality—a central principle in the patterning of big societies.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 4. Puritanism

The answer to that last question is Puritanism—an affective state of mind that indurates through habit to become one in which rules, procedures, regulations and laws to relationships, emotion, beliefs, values, conventions and patterns of behavior are reified. Neither Puritan nor affective states are entirely absent from collections of organizations, the actors who populate them, and their dependents and neighbors who together make up what might be termed ‘emotional communities’ (Rosenwein 2002). Through the alienation it generates, Puritanism readies the ground for more affective states of mind—when relationships and emotion are treated very much as if important in their own right—just as the affective states prepare for the drift into Puritanism. As each community swings from one state to the next, an atmosphere that is more strongly affective or Puritanical might establish itself; and, occasionally, one community might synchronize itself with others, creating a tidal surge. It is not going too far to suggest that organizations and patterns (democratic or otherwise) treated as manifestations of puritanical absolutes (which it is asserted with great passion must be adopted) are likely to be short-lived creations.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 5. Emotional States

If ‘formality’—especially the rigid, Puritanical, or absolute kind that characterizes large swathes of the West today—is not what allows big societies to come into existence and hold together, then what does?

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 6. Firm, Market, and Organization

The case was made in the previous chapter that marketplaces and organizations pre-empt settlements as well as encourage their subsequent growth and expansion.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 7. Big Societies: China and the Philippines

The patterns into which relationships shape themselves as population increases reflect a gradual willingness to share resources and rotate power among competing groups, and to allow commerce to infiltrate the collective. Trade brings physical marketplaces and cash and encourages the creation of businesses and settlements. Over the long term, organizational life fosters more affective states of mind and may spark mechanization and industrialization. These features help to define any big society. Both China and the Philippines found ways to manage tensions amongst competing groups of patrons and clients. Both necessarily turned to commerce and industrialization. Both have seen large businesses—few in number but strong in influence, and often connected to political leaders—sitting atop layers of much smaller businesses. And both have seen the growth of backdoor markets and their associated risks. These traits are understood not as an explanatory context, but as a descriptive one in which the significance of small businesses and their everyday relationships is best appreciated.

Rupert Hodder

Working Relationships


Chapter 8. Happenstance

In Part I it was argued that relationships occupy an indeterminate state. They take on meaning only when set within a mental context, and yet those meanings are rooted in, depend on, and inform practice and events in the social and natural worlds outside. Relationships harbor their own logic which leads to their arrangement as organizations and as states and markets. This logic reflects their uncertain state and, for example, the qualities of emotion, an indispensable drive for interaction, a need for food and shelter and water, the restrictions imposed by environment, or the demands created by high population densities.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 9. Looking for Solace

The company is a coming together of relationships. The spark is utilitarian and, at another level, psychological. It describes the protection of relationships in the pursuit of utilitarian objectives. It is also the case, as noted in the last chapter, that a desire to salve, or even avoid, emotional ‘turmoil’ can play the greater part in initiating the organization. Sometimes, the defense of relationships is the first and foremost consideration. This chapter elaborates on that point.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 10. Being Direct

Mrs. Li might have come to realize the ambiguity of her relationship with her husband even if they had never run a business. The washing aunt might have been hurt just as much by her daughter-in-law’s comments, and yet just as diplomatic in her reaction, even if both had not been part of the same family in which each adult had to earn money. Cooperation and being in a group of any kind makes demands; relationships are used and adjusted whether society is commercialized or not. While actors initially find ways to deal with the ensuing alienation (a state that Mrs. Li explained by ‘life’ and ‘fate’), these are not enough.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 11. Opportunities and Obstacles

Relationships come together as a business often through a kind of happenstance, guided by little more than a wish to bring in a little money or create an emotional refuge. Sometimes, right from the start, there is an understanding of the need to distance relationships or to soften the Puritanism that has set in.

Rupert Hodder

Chapter 12. Conclusions

The transformation of largely agricultural societies outside Europe and America into industrial ones is a moment in the history of humanity as pivotal as the industrial revolution, or the rise of science, or the spread of the great mendicant religions, or the appearance of the first cities, or the shift to a sedentary life that took place some ten thousand years ago.

Rupert Hodder


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