Coleman's bathtub

James Coleman's bathtub (or boat) is a useful illustrative framework for any theory about society, economics or finance that tries to connect the dots between the big picture, and the small picture.

The bathtub aims to illustrate how a macro situation (X) creates constraints on actors, which changes their micro-level behaviour (X), which leads to new micro-level behaviour (Y), resulting in an a new macro situation (Y). In sum, the bathtub shows us:

  1. How macro factor (X) creates constraints on actors
  2. How actors choose actions under these constraints
  3. How the actions accumulate to (Y) the macro level

Illustration of Coleman’s bathtub model for the relationship between economic context and revolution. Author’s own work. var. variable
Illustration of a Coleman's bathtub diagram showing the relationship between economic conditions and revolution. From Yoshimichi Sato's ISA blogpost, 2010.

In this example, the economic conditions (macro, X) leads to frustrations among individuals (micro/attitude, X), which leads to aggression (micro/behavior, Y), ultimately resulting in revolution (macro, Y).

Coleman, James S. (1990) Foundations of Social Theory. Harvard University Press.
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