↑ comment by atucker ·
2013-06-15T10:10:49.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Political instrumental rationality would be about figuring out and taking the political actions that would cause particular goals to happen. Most of this turns out to be telling people compelling things that you know that they don't happen to, and convincing different groups that their interests align (or can align in a particular interest) when it's not obvious that they do.
Political actions are based on appeals to identity, group membership, group bounding, group interests, individual interests, and different political ideas in order to get people to shift allegiances and take action toward a particular goal.
For any given individual, the relative importance of these factors will vary. For questions of identity and affiliation, they will weigh those factors based on meaning being reinforced, and memory-related stuff (i.e. clear memories of meaningful experiences count, but so do not-particularly meaningful but happens every day stuff). For actual action, it will be based on various psychological factors, as well as simply options being available and salient while they have the opportunity to act in a way that reinforces their affiliations/meaning/standing with others in the group/personal interests.
As a result, political instrumental rationality is going to be incredibly contingent on local circumstances -- who talks to who, who believes what how strongly, who's reliable, who controls what, who wants what, who hears about what, etc.
A more object level example takes place in The Wire, when a pastor is setting up various public service programs in an area where drug dealing is effectively legalized.
The pastor himself is able to appeal to his community on the basis of religious solidarity in order to get money, and so he can fund some stuff. He cares about public health and the fate of the now unemployed would-be drug runners who are no longer necessary for drug dealing because of Christian reasons (since drugs are legal, the gang members don't bother with various steps that ensure that none of them can be photographed handing someone drugs for money -- the dealer gets the money then the runner (typically a child) goes to the stash to give the buyer drugs). Further, he knows people from various community/political events in Baltimore.
So far, so good. He controls some resources (money), has a goal (public health, child development), and knows some people.
One of the first people he talks to is a doctor who has been trying to do STD prevention for a while, but hasn't had the funding or organizational capacity to do much of anything. The pastor points out to him that there are a lot of at-risk people who are now concentrated in a particular location so that the logistics of getting services to people is much simpler. In this case, the pastor simply had information (through his connections) that the doctor didn't, and got the doctor to cooperate by pointing out the opportunity to do something that the doctor had wanted.
He gets the support of the police district chief who decided to selectively enforce drug laws by appealing to the police chief's desire for improving the district under his command (he was initially trying to shift drug trafficking away from more populated areas, and decrease violence by decreasing competition over territory), and it more or less worked.
That being said, I have more or less no idea what kinds of large-scale political action ought to be possible/is desirable.
I totally have the intuition though that step one of any plan is to become personally acquainted with people who have some sort of influence over the areas that you're interested in, or to build influence by getting people who have some control over what you're interested in to pay more attention to you. Borderline, if you can't name names, and can't point at groups of people involved in the action, then you can't do anything particularly useful politically.