Voluntary Associations

Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit

in The Economy of Esteem

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199246489
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601460 | DOI:
Voluntary Associations

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Although esteem cannot readily be the object of direct exchange, something rather like exchange can be secured in the economy of esteem via associations. By being ‘associated’ with B, A can earn ‘borrowed glory’ from B–and vice versa. The associations that so form may be very loose: all that is required is for the individuals to be associated in some esteem relevant way. The set of all Nobel Laureates is an association in this sense. An important feature of the advantages of association here is the presence of ‘economies of scale’ in publicity. One such scale effect relates to the ‘teleological paradox’: blowing the trumpet of a group of which I am a member is much less disestimable than blowing one’s own trumpet! But stronger forms of association–what we call ‘groups’–can serve the additional function of creating superior audiences for members. If the esteem of those highly esteemed is worth more, then high esteem individuals will tend to coalesce in ‘mutual admiration societies’. We discuss the optimal size and composition of groups and associations–emphasizing the hierarchical tendencies of the structure, that is, the most esteemed will tend to band together; then the next most esteemed; and so on. We suggest reasons why esteem groups and associations may be especially good at solving natural free-rider problems.

Keywords: associations; audience quality; borrowed glory; esteem exchange; esteem hierarchies; free-riding

Chapter.  11273 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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