thermidor of progressives

(2011) by kevin carson [40 pg pdf]


intro’d here:

Thermidor of the Progressives: Managerialist Liberalism’s Hostility to Decentralized Organization

Original Tweet:

C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson’s latest research study is now available. Download Thermidor of the Progressives: Managerialist Liberalism’s Hostility to Decentralized Organization[PDF].

notes/quotes [big font are also quotes.. new wordpress format won’t allow big font in quotes – as i added page by copying from original notes on kevin’s page when trying to clean it up.. in beginnings of site i would put book notes on person’s page] –

[and now.. couple years later from page add.. adding notes/quotes as i re read.. thinking i need to add all the words.. oh my]:


‘in every branch of econ, as firms merge and corps become dominant, free entrepreneurs become employees, and the *calcs of accountant, statistician, bookkeeper, and clerk in these corps replace the **free ‘movement of prices as the coordinating agent of the con system.. the rise of big/little Bs and the elab ***specialization of the system as a whole create the need for many men/women to ****plan, coordinate, and administer new routines for others.. in moving from smaller to larger and more elab units of econ activity, increased proportions of *****employees are drawn into coordinating and managing.. .. people to whom subordinates report.. and who in turn report to supervisors.. are ******links in chains of power and obedience, coordinating and supervising other occupational experience, functions and skills’


we need to let go of *of math and men et al.. any form of m\a\p..

**perhaps movement.. but not free..

***mumford non-specialized law

****telling people what to do ness

*****bullshit jobs – dg

******inspectors of inspectors

20th cent politics was dominated by the ideology of the professional and managerial classes that ran the new large orgs.. ascendant from the new deal to the great society.. the ideology of the new middle class.. as christopher lasch put it, it was the ideology of the ‘intellectual caste’.. in a future which ‘belonged to the manager, the technician, the B, the expert’.. t

oh my.. such resonation w what this man writes

intellect ness..

this re read is going to take a while

p 4

croly and roosevelt saw the giant corp as a natural institution.. the ‘concentrated leadership’ and ‘thorough org’ of the trusts.. ‘ croly argued ‘have certainly succeeded in reducing the amount of waste which was necessitated by the earlier condition of wholly unregulated competition.. competitive methods were effective only in a reduced area..

still/more waste .. fuller too much law

leader\ness.. hard won order.. competition.. all red flags

large corps able to reduce cost of production to a min.. all that remained was to bring them under progressive regulatory control so their increased efficiencies could be harnessed by rational planning for the general good. it was necessary, at the same time, to transfer political power from the jacksonian ‘plain people’ to the ‘administrative and legislative specialists.’

rakesh kurana: ‘amid sometimes violent clashes of interest attending the rise of the new industrial society.. science, the professions, and the uni presented themselves as disinterested communities possessing both expertise and commitment to the common good.. appeared to be ideal instruments to address pressing social needs..

yeah.. not.. science ness.. supposed to’s of school/work ness.. et al..

p 5

(this mindset of spread for large orgs) and from there.. extended to attempts at ‘social engineering’ on the level of society as a whole.. new modeling the entire society on rationalistic lines.. the meant, according to wiebe, public health authorities demanding ‘the renovation of an entire city,’ and social workers calling ‘quite literally.. for a new american society.’

rather.. just another version of sea world

yehouda shenhav’s: manufacturing rationality: the engineering foundations of the managerial revolution.. ‘ society itself treated as a tech system.. engineered as machines that are constantly being perfected.. hence.. management of orgs/society was seen to fall w/in the province of engineers.. ‘

it’s not coincidence, as shenhav points out, that progressivism was ‘also known as the golden age of professionalism’.. in the progressive vision of the new order *’only the professional admin, the dr, the social worker, the architect, the economist, could show the way’.. in turn professional control became more elab.. it involved **measurement and prediction.. t.. and the development of professional techniques for guiding events to predictable outcomes.. not just in large corps.. but in social movements, management of schools, roads, towns, and political system

*people telling other people what to do

**any form of m\a\p

progressivism was primarily a movement of ‘middle class, well-to-do intellectuals and professionals’ which ‘provided legitimization for the roles of professionals in the public sphere‘..t.. ‘progressive culture and big systems supported each other.. slouching toward than econ coherence that would replace the ambiguity of the robber barons’ capitalism thru B and rationalization

validation et al.. red flags

same language used (engineers and managers choice of value terms).. system, standardization, rationality, efficiency, predictability.. t

language as control/enclosure et al

p 6

a central theme of the new middle class’s managerialism was minimizing conflict, and transcending class and ideological division thru the application of disinterested expertise.. ‘social engineering on the part of disinterested experts who could see the problem whole and who could see it essentially as a problem of resources.. the proper application and conservation of which were the work of enlightened admin’

oi.. dang

‘american management theory was presented as a scientific technique admin’d for the good of society as a whole w/o relation to politics.. ‘ both progressives and industrial engineers ‘were horrified at the possibility of class warfare’.. and saw ‘efficiency’ as a means to ‘social harmony, making each workman’s interest the same as that of his employers..” – shenhav.. t

the tendency in all aspects of life was to treat policy as a matter or expertise rather than politics: to move as many questions as possible from the realm of public debate to the realm of administration by properly qualified authorities..t

so loaded.. so many red flags

‘social problems were thus allowed to enter the organizational realm only after being dressed in technical terms..’.. t

fdr proclaimed ‘the day of the politician is past; the day of the enlightened administrator has come.. jfk, in similar terms.. ‘most of problems now are technical/admin problems.. very sophisticated judgments.. they deal w/questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men..’



central to the progressive mindset was the concept of ‘disinterestedness’ by which the ‘professional’ was a sort of philosopher king qualified to decide all sorts of contentious issues on the basis of immaculate expertise.. christopher lasch’s the revolt of the elites: .. ‘ they forged links between govt and the uni so as to assure a steady supply of experts and expert knowledge.. ‘ t.. .. in short.. progressives’ managerial vision was of a world run by large B hierarchies staffed by properly qualified professionals..

ii. liberalism as a schumterian doctrine

to repeat .. progressive intellectuals were attached to the fortunes of the large B org.. t

sinclair perpetuation law et al

p 8

‘the monopoly enjoys a disproportionately higher financial standing.. used to innovate.. net result.. there must be some element of monopoly in an industry if it is to be progressive’

in short.. ideal firm something like a regulated monopoly

p 9

encourage bigness, guarantee profits to big guys, then regulate the hell out of them.. w regs themselves as a way of guaranteeing profit.. ‘thus.. the reg of the large corp is equiv to the perpetuation of its existing advantages..


you simply can’t have the america of gm and the uaw as they existed in the 50s w/o accepting planned obsolescence and ubiquitous mass advertising as part of he package deal..

when work that once required a publishing house or recording studio costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, can not be done w desktop computer costing two orders of magnitude less.. the entire rational of the wage system has been compromised..

so let’s try that (earn a living ness) as our planned obsolescence

let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accountingany form of m\a\p) as the planned obsolescence

w/ubi as temp placebo.. needs met w/o money.. till people forget about measuring


douglas rushkoff: ‘entrepreneurs who do accept such exorbitant funds do so knowing full well that they won’t get paid back.. the vc’s investment is the entrepreneur’s exist strategy’

? – sell out ness.. ?

douglas rushkoff

the only remaining function of the corp framework in most cases is to use artificial scarcity, artificial overhead and artificial entry barriers to retain control of human capital and extract rents from it.. t

gare enslavement law et al


intellectual property rights.. the main means by which corp hierarchies are able to maintain control over human capital..


tom coates: ‘the gap between what can be accomplished at home and in a work environ has narrowed dramatically over the last 10-15 yrs..

now if we could just grok what we legit need.. and org around that


on efficiencies being more than offset by the stocks of inventory awaiting orders that may never come.. container ships.. that amount to giant warehouses full of inventory.. the enormous costs o supply push marketing to get people to buy stuff that was produced to utilize production capacity rather than demand..

testart storage law et al


the superior quality of wages and benefits in the monopoly capital sector involves a significant amount of survivor bias..


james weinstein: ‘business men were able to harness to their own ends the desire of intellectuals and middle class reformers to bring together ‘thoughtful men of all classes’ in a ‘vanguard for the building of the good community’.. for stabilization and rationalization and continued expansion of the existing political econ’

p 21

roy childs: american liberal intellectual to be the ‘running dogs’ of big businessmen’

running dogs: Running dog is a pejorative term for an unprincipled person who helps or flatters those more powerful and often evil. It is a literal translation of the Chinese pejorative 走狗, meaning a yes-man or lackey, and is derived from the tendency of dogs to follow after humans in hopes of receiving food scraps

monopoly is a function of lack of competition, which is achieved by erecting barriers to entry – the main thing that states do

but that doesn’t mean we need competition to not have monopolies..

w/o global ‘intellectual property’ regime, it would be impossible for global corps like nike to maintain control of outsourced production and charge a 400% brand name markup.

p 22

it’s impossible to overstate just how central intellectual property is to corporate power.

ownership – intellectual property et al


astra: ‘.. art still requires and artist.. a flesh and blood person who does the work and must be paid’.. the problem w free culture is that copyright is necessary to guarantee someone’s right to be paid.. of course in taylor’s fairy tale version it’s not the right of the ceos/shareholders.. so much as the good liberal foot soldiers who churn out all the actual content.. anyone who simultaneously complains of free culture as an enable fro ‘freeloader ceos’ and defends ‘intellectual property’ has a case of cognitive dissonance.. huge size.. [then onto the way it works for you]

to me.. wasting energy talking earn a living ness at all.. when we have the means to let go of it altogether

but for that we need to let go of any form of m\a\p


everything frank finds objectionable about the new econ corp globalization results, not from the network revolution itself.. but from the persistence of the corp framework..


on having to pay for cremation coffin (jessica mitford – the american way of death).. everyone works 40 hr week churning out stuff and earning enough to keep buying the stuff..


on amateurish works never professionally selected for publication.. depends on who you are asking.. from standpoint of someone who thing he has something to say and isn’t interested in getting permission from certified professional to say it.. from keen’s standpoint the answer apparently is ‘sit down and shut up’… come to think of it, wouldn’t the same critique apply to gutenberg’s printing press itself.. cost of printing and the importance of gatekeeping.. et al

language as control/enclosure et al

begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening


real value of web based journalism is not that it’s ‘unbiased’ or dispassionate’.. but that the overall process is adversarial and stigmergic.. anyone anywhere who dispute an account of the world can ruthlessly fisk it presenting hyperlinked evidence to challenge its accuracy.. in the old model of dead tree journalism. based on the he said she said rule.. ie: keen: ‘2004 attack on jon kerry’s boat record in nam.. orchestrated by 100s of bloggers.. who painted a patriotic american public servant as a patsy for vietcong propagandas’..

– para on sitmergic.. then first keen quote.. wastin stigmergic thinkn gon defense.. need c over dem

we’re wasting hello stigmergy ness on defense.. need curiosity over decision making


believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to find what your’e looking for.. if you know what you’re looking or.. and if you don’t know what your’e looking for, the internet is the least of your problems.. t

huge.. i think this is about (organizing around) curiosity over decision making

p 34

what the web has done is replace a consensus system managed by gatekeepers with an adversarial system.

we need to let go of any form of democratic admin

p 35

one of the most important conventions of online reporting and blogging, on the other hand, is the hyperlink. 

link ness

www ness.. io dance ness.. ps in the open ness..


he (lanier) is so obsessed w what james scott calls ‘legibility form above’ that he ignores the evolution of mechs for horizontal legibility.. lanier’s concern based on the avg person’s alleged incompetence, in the absence of ‘professional’ intermediators, is the basis for widely shared cult of professionalism.. t

what we need is a means to undo our hierarchical listening

jaron lanier


what he (laneir) describes is stigmergy which, far more than kelly’s hyperbole, is what web 2.0 is really about.. but he still only grazes the points: *theres’ a big diff between design by committee and stigmergic design by individuals designing modular accessories for a common platform.. [then in notes at bottom]: critique of ‘cyber collectivism’ and ‘digital maosim’ miss the point of stigmergic org.. stigmergy is a synthesis of individualism and collectivism in their highest forms.. the ultimate fulfillment of individualism in the sense that it is easier.. to create a collective product w/o acting collectively or taking directions from the admin apparatus of collective institutions.. there is no gatekeeper.. to deny individuals **permission to make whatever they like to their own individual taste..

see.. i think *there’s an even bigger/deeper diff between curiosity and ..decision making.. or voluntary compliance.. or defense.. and i think and we keeping missing **legit individual taste (ie: itch-in-the-soul) because we’re all living/breathing/intoxicating/perpetuating whalespeak.. so.. to me.. not legit stigmergy


rheingold: ‘collective action involves freely chosen self election (which is almost always coincident w *self interest) and distributed coord; collectivism involves coercion and centralized control

again.. i think we have not idea what our *legit interests are.. so to me.. it’s all about coercion/control/whalespeak

howard rheingold

p 40

what were seeing is a reversal of the process that led to the factory system in the first place: a shift from expensive machinery and the resulting system of wage employment in factories, to tools that are affordable for individuals and small groups.


eric husman of grimreader blog, summarized the conventional liberal position, as exemplified by plumer and klein this way: it’s not that they are against small business, it’s just that they are in favor of those things that characterize big business. returns to scale? check. market power? check. bureaucratic and unionized? check? okay, you are an acceptable small business.

we’ve already considered thomas frank’s tendency to substitute lazy juxtapositions for actual arguments: because corporate globalization is often package in the language of techno-utopianism, it follows (for frank) that anyone who celebrates the network revolution is a shill for neoliberalism. and because most celebrations of flexible manufacturing and critiques of taylorist bureaucracy are associate in the popular media w/corporate shills like tom peters, likewise, it follows than any positive talk about decentralized production (‘the superiority of nineties-style flexible production ot he regimented management techniques of the past’) is just camouflage for nike’s and wal-mart’s attempt to buy the world.

p 41

but from reading frank – again – you’d never guess that there’s a micromanufacturing movement whose aim is, in fact, eliminating rents on artificial scarcity and artificial property rights like patents as a source of concentrated wealth, and achieving widely distributed ownership of the means of production by ordinary people. for those people ‘decentralized production’ doesn’t mean outsourcing to a job shop in shenzhen, which produces goods on contract to a western tnc to be sent by container ship to a wal mart in peoria; it means a consumer in peoria selects a toaster or recliner from a range of freely available, open0source product designs, to be produced on demand by a garage factory full of sophisticated (and affordable) cnc machinery in his own neighborhood – free from the entire portion of price constituted by brand-name markup, embedded rents on ‘intellectual property’ mass marketing costs, and long-distance shipping in the price of goods at wal mart. these people don’t just want to outsource production w/in a corporate framework. they want to eliminate the corporate hq and the shareholders, and democratize control of production itself to a relocalized economy of self-employed craftspeople who can afford their own production machinery. they seek, in short, ‘a ore democratic distribution of wealth.’

p 42

using the web to communicate with chinese factories is an improvement.. over the fax machine. but the real revolution is that it only costs a few bucks to ship a part from shenzen to sunnyvale. you want to talk revolution? thank fedex. (joel johnson in reaction to chris anderson’s celebration of garage manufacturing… conflation of production in garage job shops w/outsourcing to china)

p 43

out source to china.. entirely accidental to essence of phenomenon… what matters.. is that general purpose machinery…. is cheapening exponentially…

what’s done in job shops in shenzhen can be done as well in networked local economies of garage factories in the u.s. and will be, when peak oil destroys the entire ‘warehouses on container ships’ industrial model.


as w large scale organization, the affinity seems to a considerable extent to be aesthetic: regulation and licensing – any regulation, any form of licensing, as such – is ‘progressive’ and any opposition to it is ‘right-wing.’

ie: as soon as matthew yglesias posts.. first commenter allusion to upton sinclair or taunt that ‘you wouldn’t let an unlicensed brain surgeon operate on you would you..

part of problem is predisposition to believe that anything called a regulation in fact does what it s official title suggests.

on licensed plumber.. and people who could do it but not licensed.

p 44

… effect of law is to ensure there’s a certain set of people who are perfectly qualified to performa range of plumbing related tasks but can’t legally perform those tasks w/o giving a licensed master plumber a piece of the action – yglesias…

… yglesias: the primary effect of the ‘supervision’ is that the ‘licensed professional’ or ‘master tradesman’ gets a piece of the action for allowing the person who actually does the work access to the market.

yglesias – if i needed to hire a plumber, i’d probably look for a recommendation. i don’t have any real confidence that these licensing schemes are tracking quality in any meaningful way.

p 45

on dr’s rarely deprived of licenses as a result of malpractice, because licensing boards are ll about minimizing political hassle. … hesitant to pull a license because of the financial consequences to the sanctioned dr. disciplinary actions, when they occur, rarely involve ‘improper or negligent care’ but instead focus on criminal issues like ‘inappropriate prescription of controlled substances’.. licensing bodies also attempt to reduce their workload and minimize the high cost of hearings by entering into voluntary settlements for lesser offenses that don’t require finding the physician guilty of negligent care, and that leave no public record of the actual nature of the investigation. potential malpractice liability and reputational mechanisms like patient word of mouth provide far stronger incentives that then toothless licensing system. the main effect of the licensing system, arguably is to create a misplace sense of confidence in the capabilities of a ‘board-licensed’ physician.

credentials ness.. and all the red flags


kropotkin describing networked free towns and villages of late medieval europe… primary pattern of social organization was horizontal (guilds, etc) w/quality certification and reputational functions aimed mainly at making individuals’ reliability transparent to one another. to the state such local formations were opaque.

… things like systematic adoption of family surnames… and 20th cent followup of citizen id numbers, the systematic mapping of urban addresses for postal service, etc, were all for the purpose of making society transparent to the state. to put it crudely, the state wants to keep track of where its stuff is, same as we do – and we’re its stuff.

before this transformation, for ie, surnames existed mainly for the convenience of people in local communities, so they could tell each other apart. .. rarely continued from one generation to the next…… by contrast,

everywhere there have been family surnames w/cross-generational continuity, they have been imposed by centralized states as a way of cataloging and tracking the population – making it legible to the state in scott’s terminology.

vinay’s identity ness

p 46

to accomplish a shift back to horizontal transparency, it will be necessary to overcome a powerful residual cultural habit, among the general public, of thinking of such things through the minds’ eye of the state. ig, if ‘we’ didn’t have some way of verifying compliance with this regulation or that, some business somewhere might e ‘allowed’ to do something or other. we must overcome 600 yrs or so of almost inbred habits of thought, by which the state is the all-seeing guardian of society protecting us from the possibility that someone, somewhere might do something wrong if ‘the authorities’ don’t prevent it.


inspectors of inspectors et al

in place of this habit of thought, we must think instead of ourselves creating mechanisms on a networked basis, to make us as transparent as possible to each other as providers of goods and services, to prevent businesses from getting away with poor behavior by informing each other to prevent each other from selling defective merchandise, to protect ourselves from fraud, etc. in fact, the creation of such mechanism – far from making us transparent to the regulatory state – may well require active measure to render us opaque to the state (eg encryption, darknets, etc) for protection against attempts to suppress such local economic self-organization against the interest of corporate actors.

or perhaps.. gershenfeld something else law… making last para irrelevent. (and again .. vinay’s identity insight/focus)

if everyone doing their art (the thing they can’t not give away) – who’d be checking for quality.. no?

in other words, we need to lose the centuries-long habit of thinking of ‘society as a hub and spoke mechanisms.. viewing world from perspective of hub.. lose habit of thought by which transparency from above ever even became perceived as an issue in the first place..

perhaps even deeper…  lose that validation or proof is purpose of identity … rather.. 100% trust.. ie: are you human.. ok then

imagine all the irrelevant s we would free ourselves from..

illich – his imagination is ‘schooled’ to accept service in place of value…. schools teach the student to view doctoring oneself as irresponsible. learning on one’s own as unreliable and community organization, when not paid for by those in authority, as a form of aggression or subversion.. reliance of institutional treatment renders independent accomplishment suspect.

supposed to’s of school/work.. the death of us

p 48

so in effect have two alt econ models: 1\ eliminate artificial scarcities and inflated overhead cost.. making it possible to meet needs w fewer work hours.. 2\ impose artificial overhead costs/scarcity rents.. so only privileged allowed to access means of production.. but they’e big/rich enough to afford to keep everyone employed fulltime..

there is a 3\ go deeper on #1 till we all grok enough ness.. in other words.. take #1 to limit of infinity – decrease waste to infinity by 8b people knowing what enough is.. then no one will need to earn a living

ie: ubi as temp placebo.. (people thinking they have money when really just getting whatever they need.. till forget about measuring)

oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space


the real question centers on the view we take of human nature.

science of people et al

human nature

are the majority of human beings too incompetent and responsible to achieve a social safety net or mechanisms for certifying the quality and safety of those they do business with by voluntary networked means even when there are no technical barriers to doing so? is a class of benevolent, professionally trained overseers necessary to overcome the carelessness and improvidence of the average person? *or can people be trusted to know their own best interests, and cooperate with others to achieve them?

*yeah.. that.. that’s theonly way it will work.. only way dance will dance.. but we have to legit trust us.. in sync.. no more part\ial ness..

establishment liberalism views the latter assumption as based on a naively optimistic view of human nature. but conventional liberalism is at least as vulnerable to the same criticism. *we anarchists believe in people’s knowledge of their own interests, and their ability to cooperate and otherwise behave rationally, as the main defense against opportunism and fraud. those who oppose us must trust not only in the ability of ‘properly qualified authorities’ to know our interests better than we do – they must also trust those authorities not to exploit their own authority opportunistically. they must believe, against the overwhelming weight of historical evidence, that ‘all of us together’ can act through large organization in our own interests, rather than being managed by them in the interests of those who actually run them it’s a classic example of the ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ problem: who will watch the watchers?

*let’s org around that.. ie: imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for.. what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

conventional liberalism’ achilles heel is its own belief, rooted in its history and class origins, that immaculate and political expertise are possible, and that ‘disinterested experts’ are somehow uniquely free from guile and opportunism.

for optimal energy\ness..

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake

a nother way