I'm really looking to see if any work has been done on this area and where I could find it, or if my terminology is correct. Assuming a very abstract concept of human interaction, how does one measure equivalency.

For example, given the existence of a group of people, at what point is another group of people considered an equivalent group to interact with?

Are there broad measures or definitions of group equivalency? I appreciate that some readers may say this question is too broad but a central tenet of sociology and politics is how groups interact so how do sociologists make comparisons other than arbitrary ones. Clearly a parish choir group is not an equivalent negotiator with EMI for a record contract.

Or perhaps I am missing the point and equivalency is measured by the fact that an interaction happened or that there was an effect on the groups in the interaction.

So then to measure group equivalency should we be working backwards to measure the effects on the groups and given a certain effect we could say there was equivalency?

  • Historians have the concept of "high culture ", which apply to civilisations in contact relative to each other. – user5751924 Sep 12 '17 at 19:06
  • I'm not sure if this applies to politics since it is sociology, however there isn't a more appropriate stack exchange. Not suggesting its removal, just not sure it will get much attention. Maybe there should be a sociology stack exchange? – Braydon Sep 12 '17 at 20:55
  • I'd speculate that it's a matter of recognition as a member of a group (e.g. a "voter" in a democracy; a "state" in the US; or "nation" in the UN) and then presumed equality across members of the group (e.g. Rhode Island and California both get two US Senators) until there's enough friction to motivation otherwise (e.g. Rhode Island and California have very different representative counts for Presidential elections). It's not that anyone believes in equality, it's just the de facto system until there's enough motivation to develop something more robust. – Nat Sep 12 '17 at 21:35
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    What is your question about Governments, policy, process, and personalities? – James K Sep 13 '17 at 15:13

The way I'm understanding this the group equivalency is essentially their comparability, dictating if members of one group will interact with members of another group, and how much they will interact. A problem occurs here though, in that this equivalency may not be objectively measurable.

It seems people do not actually so much associate with similar people, as they do with people who are perceived as similar. Their own personal definition of equivalent or compatible is what will govern their decision, not an objective standard. Their view however will likely be tainted by non-objective biases.

For example there is no objective difference between blacks and whites, yet in America they were segregated for most of U.S. history. In the 1930s a white man would likely not associate with a black man who seems equivalent by objective standards. (Similar hobbies, religious views, etc.) Even though logically these white American and black American groups should have been likely to have interactions, the white group may be more likely to interact with a German or French group, despite less common ground. (Differing customs.)

It seems to me the only truly accurate measure of sociological equivalency would be found by measuring how much two groups of people interact, as you cannot necessarily predict human beliefs and behavior through rational methods.

  • Thanks @Braydon. Firstly yes there should be a sociology stack exchange. Secondly I agree that equivalency ends up being a historical measurement because it is an objective decision about the other party. It is also a function of the interaction subject. A king perhaps will feel equivalent to a stable boy teaching him about horse riding, on the subject of horses, but changes when talking about wars perhaps. – Sebastian Zeki Sep 14 '17 at 11:29
  • @SebastianZeki It appears to be on topic in Cognitive Sciences, I'll flag it for migration. Also its interesting to think of this as conditional on the subject of interaction, I think that is definitely relevant to whether or not two groups would be equivalent. – Braydon Sep 14 '17 at 23:11

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