utopia of rules
book links to amazon (notes upon notes as i re/re/re/read)
(2015) by David Graeber
via (on David’s new book):
in this book, he takes on the topic of bureaucracy, arguing that what we think of as the root of our civilization — capitalism, technology, rules and regulations — may just be what’s keeping us in chains.
comes out feb 24 2015 – got it – see below
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He denies “the fiction that rules and regulations apply to everyone equally” and sees the various elements of bureaucracy as “instruments through which the human imagination is smashed and shattered.”
Utopia of Rules, then, sets about convincing readers that the world is quite different from how they normally see it, and that there’s an urgent need for change.
.. a book that discusses things like “the very grounds of political being” and the need for “general theory of interpretative labor.”
Hannah Arendt ness – the promise of politics
(he’s been credited with coining the phrase “we are the 99%”). That ideological stance underlies Utopia of Rules‘s political project: To wake the left from its slumber and remind it of its anti-bureaucratic origins, and to explore how (or if) people can upend governments without erecting more labyrinthine structures in their place.
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have on library request/recommend – gave up and bought it .. see below)
intro – from amazon site…
… while the less fortunate spent ever more hours of their day trying to jump through the increasingly elaborate hoops required to gain access to dwindling social services. (on the exponentiation of paperwork)
the vast majority of the paperwork we do exists in just this sort of in-between zone – ostensibly private, but in fact entirely shaped by a government that provides the legal framework, ..
in cases like this the language we employ- derived as it is from the right-wing critique – is completely inadequate. it tells us nothing about what is actually going on….. ie: deregulation…..pointing out that it was an orgy of this very deregulation that led to the banking crisis of 2008 – seems to imply a desire for more rules and regulations,
but this debate is based on false premises. … ie: there’s no such thing as an unregulated bank.
one result of all this debt is to render the government itself the main mechanism for the extraction of corporate profits. (just think, here, of what happens if one tries to default on one’s student loans: the entire legal apparatus leaps into action, threatening to seize assets, garnish wages, and apply thousands of dollars in additional penalties.)
what was being talked about in terms of free trade and the free market really entailed the self-conscious completion of the world’s first effective planetary-scale administrative bureaucratic system.
the bureaucratization of daily life means the imposition of impersonal rules and regulations; impersonal rules and regulations, in turn, can only operate if they are backed up by the threat of force.
what this suggests is that people, everywhere, are prone to two completely contradictory tendencies: on the one hand, a tendency to be playfully creative just for the sake of it; on the other, a tendency to agree with anyone who tells them that they really shouldn’t act that way. this latter is what makes the game-ification of institutional life possible. because if you take the later tendency to its logical conclusions, all freedom becomes arbitrariness, and all arbitrariness, a form of dangerous, subversive power. it is just one further step to argue that true freedom is to live in an utterly predictable world that is free from freedom of this sort.
couldn’t wait – bought it..
notes/quotes from kindle:
intro: the iron law of liberalism and the era of total B
bureaucracy has become the water in which we swim.
the social movements of the 60s were on the whole left win in inspiration,, but they were also rebellions against B.. the B mindset.. soul destroying conformity of the postwar welfare states.. 60s rebels stood for individual expression and spontaneous conviviality and against .. every form of social control
on thinking these are good policies.. because only policies anyone as left of center is allowed to set forth..
the right, at least has a critique of B.. not a very good one.. but left has none.. as a result.. when any on left do have anything neg to say about B.. usually forced to adopt watered down version of the right wing critique
ie: away from .. enlightened commercial self interest.. last gasps of old order.. which would end as states gave way to markets, religious faith to scientific understanding, and fixed orders and statuses .. to free contracts between individuals
bauwens contracts law et al
if Bs were just holdovers.. why more and more every year?.. stage two of argument.. that B reps an inherent flaw in the democratic project.. (ludwig von mises in 1944 book – B) argued that by defn systems of govt admin could never org info w anything like the efficiency of impersonal market pricing mechs
he von mises) felt they would ultimately end up destroying the political basis of democracy itself.. inevitable lead to facism..
the rise of B was the ultimate ie of good intentions run amok.. the problem wall this is that it bears very little relation to what actually happened
Historically, markets are generally either a side effect of government operations, especially military operations, or were directly created by government policy.
re mark et able ness
this has been true at least since ..the invention of coinage, which was first created and promulgated as a means of provisioning soldiers;
Modern central banking systems were likewise first created to finance wars.
(market to lessen govt).. never actually have that effect.. it turned out that maintaining free market econ required a 1000x more paperwork that a louis 9 style absolutist monarchy
this apparent paradox.. govt policies to reduce govt interference in econ end up producing more regs, more Bs, and more police.. can be observed so regularly i think we are justified in treating it as a gen sociological law.. i propose to call it the ‘iron law of liberalism’: ‘any market reform, any govt initiative intended to reduce red tape and promote market forces will have ultimate effect of increasing teh total # of regs/paperwork and Bs the govt employs
even von misel ends up admitting: markets don’t really reg selves, and .. an army of admins was indeed required to keep any market system going
there is assumed to be a kind of tacit alliance between what came to be seen as the parasitical poor and the equally parasitical self righteous officials whose existence depends on subsidizing the poor using other people’s money..
“Democracy” thus came to mean the market; “bureaucracy,” in turn, government interference with the market; and this is pretty much what the word continues to mean to this day.
neither the German or American regimes had ever been especially interested in free trade. The Americans in particular were much more concerned with creating structures of international administration.
the americans attempted to admin everything/one
the impression that the world ‘B’ should be treated as a synonym for ‘civil servant’ can be traced back to the new deal in the 30s .. which was also the moment when B structures/techniques first became dramatically visible in many ordinary people’s lives
as us shifted to war footing in 40s.. so did the gargantuan B of th eus military.. and of course.. the us has never really gone off war footing since.. still.. thru these means the word ‘B’ came to attach itself almost exclusively to civil servants: even if what they do all day is sit at desks, fill out forms and file reports.. neither middle managers nor military officers are ever quite considered Bs.. (neither for that matter are police, or employees of the nsa)
the american military for ie.. is famous for its revolving door – high ranking officers involved in procurement regularly end up on the boards of corps that operate on military contracts
pretty much anything from maintaining a certain number of steel plants, to doing the initial research to set up the internet , can be justified on grounds of military preparedness.. yet again, since this kind of planning operates via an alliance between military Bs and corp Bs, it’s never perceived as something B at all
the vast majority of paperwork we do exists in just this sort of in between zone – ostensibly private, but in fact entirely shaped by govt that provides the legal framework, underpins the rules w its courts and all of the elab mechs of enforcement that come w them, but crucially.. works closely w the private concerns to ensure that the results guarantee certain rate of private profit
opposing dereg.. even pointing out that it was an orgy of this very ‘dereg’ that led to the banking crisis of 2008.. seem to imply a desire for more rules/regs, and therefore, more gray men in suits sanding in the way of freedom and innovation and generally telling people what to do
18 (of 261)
so what are people actually referring to when they talk about ‘dereg’? in ordinary usage, the word seems to mean ‘changing the reg structure in a way that i like’.. in practice this can refer to almost anything
this is what makes the term so handy.. simply by labeling a new reg measure ‘dereg’ you can frame it in the public mind as a way to reduce B and set individual initiative free, even if the result is a 5x increase in the actual number of forms/reports/rules/regs for lawyers to interpret, an officious people in offices whose entire jobs seems to be to provide convoluted explanations for why you’re not allowed to do things
this process – the gradual fusion of public/private power into single entity, rife w rules/regs whose ultimate purpose is to etract wealth in form of profits – does not yet have a name.. that in itself is significant.. these thing scan happen largely because we lack a ay to talk about them
and/or because we’re saying there’s only one way to talk about anything.. ie: language as control/enclosure ness et al
but one can see its effects in every aspect of our lives.. it fills our days w paperwork
i’m going to call this the age of ‘total bureaucratization’ (all encompassing more than predatory)
the fundamental historical break that ushered in our current econ regime occurred in 1971, the date the us dollar went off the gold standard
what did financialization mean for the deeply bureaucratized society that was postwar america?
fascism simply too the idea that workers/managers had common interests, that orgs like corps/communities formed organic wholes, and that financiers were an alien, parasitical force, and drove them to their ultimate, murderous extreme.. but also ensure that the investor class was always seen as to some extent outsiders, against whom white/blue collar workers could be considered, at least to some degree, to be united in a common front
what began to happen in 70s.. was a kind of strategic pivot of upper echelons of us corp B.. away from workers, and towards shareholders, and eventually towards the financial structure as a whole.. paved way for today
as a result the investor class and the exec class became almost indistinguishable.. by 90s, lifetime employment, even for while collars had become thing of past.. when corps wished to win loyalty, the increasingly did it by paying their employees in stock options
ordinary tv news reports came to be accompanied by crawls at bottom of screen displaying latest sock quotes.. convincing the bulk of middle classes they had some kind of stake in finance driven capitalism was critical..
people who already tended to work in thoroughly B’d environs.. schools, hospitals.. corp law firms..
supposed to’s of school/work et al.. killing us softly w its song
this was not just a political realignment.. it was a cultural transformation.. set stage for process whereby B techniques (perform reviews, focus groups, time allocation surveys..) developed in fin and corp circles came to invade the rest of society – ed, science, govt – and eventually to pervade almost ever aspect of everyday life.. one can best tract the process, perhaps by following its language.. a peculiar idiom emerged in such circles, full of bright, empty terms like: vision, quality, stakeholder, leadership, excellence, innovation, strategic goals, or best practices.. (much traces back to ‘self actualization ‘ movements like lifespring, mind dynamics and est.. popular in corp boardrooms in 70s.. but quickly became a language unto itself)
we would be able to observe this new corp B culture spread.. finally engulfing any location where any number of people gather to discuss the allocation of resources of any kind at all
this alliance of govt and fin often produces results that bear a striking resemblance to the worst excesses of B in the form er soviet union of former colonial backwaters fo global south.. there is a rich anthropological, for instance, on the cult of certificates, licenses, and diplomas in the former colonial world.. since the 80s.. the real explosion of credentialism
As one anthropologist, Sarah Kendzior, puts it: “The United States has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world,” write James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield in their 2005 book Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money. “A BA is required for jobs that by no stretch of imagination need two years of full-time training, let alone four.
the promotion of college as a requirement for a middle class life.. has resulted in the exclusion of the non college educated from profession of public influence
Journalism is one of many fields of public influence—including politics—in which credentials function as de facto permission to speak, rendering those who lack them less likely to be employed and less able to afford to stay in their field. Ability is discounted without credentials, but the ability to purchase credentials rests, more often than not, on family wealth.
credentials. walls. permission to speak ness..
begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening
Almost every endeavor that used to be considered an art (best learned through doing) now requires formal professional training and a certificate of completion,
while these measures are touted – as are all B measures – as a way of creating fair, impersonal mechs in fields previously dominated by insider knowledge and social connections, the effect is often the opposite
it’s precisely the children of the professional-managerial classes, those whose family resources make them the least in need of financial support, who best know how to navigate the world of paperwork that enables them to get said support.
skill: how to navigate paperwork – graeber min\max law et al
For everyone else, the main result of one’s years of professional training is to ensure that one is saddled with such an enormous burden of student debt that a substantial chunk of any subsequent income one will get from pursuing that profession will henceforth be siphoned off, each month, by the financial sector.
in some cases.. these new *training reqs can only be destribed as outright scams..
from above *skill: how to navigate paperwork – graeber min\max law et al
by doing this, lenders are in effect legislating themselves a cut of most pharmacists’ subsequent incomes
Increasingly, corporate profits in America are not derived from commerce or industry at all, but from finance—which means, ultimately, from other people’s debts.
and debts are to a large degree engineered.. and by precisely this kind of fusion of public/private power.. ie: the corp of education – to ballooning of tuitions et al to pay for giant football stadiums et al;.. the increasing demands for degrees as certificates of entry into any job that promises access to anything like a middle class standard of living; resulting rising levels of indebtedness – all these form a single web.. one result of all this debt is render the govt itself the main mech for the extraction of corp profits.. if one tries to default on one’s student loans: the entire legal apparatus leaps into action, threatening to seize assets, garnish wages, and apply 1000s of dollars in addition penalties..
..while this system of extraction comes dressed up in a language of rules and regulations, in its actual mode of operation, it has almost nothing to do with the rule of law. Rather, the legal system has itself become the means for a system of increasingly arbitrary extractions.
as profits from banks and credit card co’s derive more/more from ‘fees and penalties’ levied on their customers – so much so that those living check to check can regularly expect to be charged 80 dollars for 5 dollar overdraft.. et al..
‘you can commit all the fraud you like, but if we catch you, you’re going to have to give us our cut’ .. B to bank bail out ness
the rich always play by a diff set of rules.. if children of bankers can regularly get off hook for carrying quantities of cocaine that would almost certainly have earned them decades in fed pen if they happened to be poor/black.. why should things be any diff when they grow up to become bankers themselves? .. but.. i think there is something deeper going on here and it turns on the very nature of B systems.. such institutions always create a culture of complicity
It’s not just that some people get to break the rules—it’s that loyalty to the organization is to some degree measured by one’s willingness to pretend this isn’t happening. And insofar as bureaucratic logic is extended to the society as a whole, all of us start playing along.
Ed. – supposed to’s of school/work et al
this point is worth expanding on.. what i am saying is that we are not just looking at a double standard, but a particular kind of double standard typical of B systems everywhere.. all Bs are to a certain degree utopian.. in sense that they propose an abstract ideal that real human being scan never live up to..
the first criterion of loyalty to the org becomes complicity. career advancement is not based on merit.. and not even based necessarily on being someone’s cousin; above all, it’s based on a willingness to play along w the fiction that career advancement is based on merit, even though everyone knows this not to be true
merit ness is killer as well.. so many red flags we can’t even see
many of us actually act as if we believe that the courts really are treating the fin estab as it should be treated.. that they are even dealing w them too harshly; and that ordinary citizens really do deserve to be penalized a 100x more harshly for an overdraft.. as whole societies have come to rep themselves as giant credentialized meritocracies, rather than systems of arbitrary extraction, everyone duly scurries about trying to curry favor by pretending the actually believe this is to be true
merit (meritocracy) ness
in political debates of the time in the mainstream media, all of this was discusses as such a self evident reality that anyone who objected to process could be treated as if they were objecting to basic laws of nature.. they were flat earthers, buffoons, left wing equivs of biblical fundamentalists who thought evolution was a hoax
what media was calling ‘globalization’ had almost nothing to do w the effacement of borders and the free movement of people, products, and ideas.. it was really about trapping increasingly large parts of world’s pop behind highly militarized national borders w/in which social protections could be systematically withdrawn, creating a pool of laborers so desperate that they would be willing to work for almost nothing.. against it.. they proposed a genuinely borderless world..
obviously these ideas’ exponents did not get to say any of this on tv or major newspapers – at least not in countries like america, whose media si strictly policed by its own internal corp Bs..
arguments were taboo.. but we discovered that there was something we could do that worked almost as well.. we could besiege the summits where the trade pacts were negotiated and annual mtgs of the institutions thru which the terms of globalization were concocted
until the movement came to n america w the siege of the world trade meeting in seattle in nov 1999, and subsequent blockages against the imf/world bank meetings in washington.. most americans simply had no idea that any of these orgs even existed..
battle in seattle et al
trial of the chicago 7 et al
we would magically whisk into existence thousands of heavily armed riot police ready to reveal just what those bureaucrats were willing to unleash against anyone—no matter how nonviolent—who tried to stand in their way.
the imagery worked because it showed everything people had been told about globalization to be a lie. this was not some natural process of peaceful trade made possible by new techs.. what was being talked about in terms of ‘free trade’ ad the ‘free market’ really entailed the self conscious completion of the worlds’ first effective planetary scale admin B system.. ngo’s included
At the time, we didn’t talk about things in quite these terms—that “free trade” and “the free market” actually meant the creation of global administrative structures mainly aimed at ensuring the extraction of profits for investors, that “globalization” really meant bureaucratization
schooling the world ness
in retrospect, i think this is exactly what we should have emphasized. even the emphasis on inventing new forms of democratic processes that was at the core of the movement – the assembles, the spokesouncils, and so on – was, more than anything else a way to show that people could indeed get on w one another – and even make important decision and carry out complex collective projects – w/o anyone ever having to fill out a form, appeal a judgment, or threaten to phone security or the police
global justice movement.. offers importan lessons for anyone trying to develop a similar critique.. three of them:
1\ don’t underestimate the importance of sheer physical violence
free market lib of the 19th cent corresponded the invention of the modern police and private detective agencies..
history reveals the political policies that favor ‘the market’ have always meant even more people in offices to admin things, but it also reveal they also means an increase of the range/density of social relations that are ultimately regulated by the threat of violence..
The bureaucratization of daily life means the imposition of impersonal rules and regulations; impersonal rules and regulations, in turn, can only operate if they are backed up by the threat of force.
cure violence.. the center of the disease
in this most recent phase of total B, we’ve even security cameras, police scooters, issuers of temp id cards, and men/women in variety of uniforms acting in either public/private capacities, trained in tactics of menacing, intimidating, and ultimately deploying physical violence, appear just about everywhere – even in places such as playgrounds, primary schools, college campuses, hospitals, libraries, parks, or beach resorts, where 50 yrs ago their presence would have been considered scandalous or simply weird.. ie: uni students being tasered for unauthorized library use
yeah .. i don’t know
kind of like trump.. just that now it’s visible..
in a way these (banks) are perfect symbols of our age: stores selling pure abstraction = immaculate boxes containing little but glass and steel dividers, computer screens, and armed security.. they define the perfect point of conjuncture between guns and info, since that’s really all that’s there.. and that conjuncture has come to provide the framework for almost every other aspect of our lives..
it’s as if we have finally achieved ability to make such vr materialize and in so ding.. to reduce our lives, too, to a kind of video game as we negotiated the various mazeways of the new Bs.. we really do spend our lives earning points an dodging people carrying weapons
2\ do not overestimate the importance of tech as a causative factor
the pervasive B of everyday life made possible by the computers is not, itself, the result of tech development.. tech will advance, and often in surprising and unexpected ways.. but overall direction it takes depends on social factors
this is easy to forget because our immediate experience of everyday B is entirely caught up in new info techs.. fb, venmo ness, amazon.. maps et al
first took place in 70s/80s, w alliance of fin and corp Bs, the new corp culture that emerged and it stability to invade ed, scientific and govt circles in such a way that public/private Bs finally merged in a mass of paperwork designed to facil the direct extraction of wealth..
some had the temerity to point out that in a country that defines itself as world’s greatest democracy, where elections are our very sacrament, we seem to just accept that voting machines will regularly miscount the vote, while every day 100s of millions of atm transaction take place w an overall 0% rate of error.. what does this say about what really matters to americans as a nation?
this is the world that all those endless documents about ‘vision, quality, leadership and innovation’.. have actually produced..
Rather than causing our current situation, the direction that technological change has taken is itself largely a function of the power of finance.
3\ always remember it’s all ultimately about value
(or: whenever you hear someone say their greatest value is rationality, they are just saying that because they don’t want to admit to what their greatest value really is
graeber values law et al
another social law – at least is seems to me that it should be – that, if one gives sufficient social power to a class of people holding even the most outlandish ideas, they will consciously or not, eventually contrive to produce world org’d in such a way that living in it will, in a 1000 subtle ways, reinforce the impression that those ideas are self evidently true
in n atlantic counties.. all this is the culmination of a very long effort to transform popular ideas about the origins
basic argument was that efficiency of giant firms could produce such a material bounty it would allow americans to realize themselves thru what they consume rather than what they produced..
one thing the global justice movement taught us is that politics is indeed, ultimately about value; but also that those creating vast B systems will almost never admit what their values really are.. like the robber barons of the turn of the last century – insist that they are acting in the name of efficiency, or ‘rationality’ but in fact this language always turns out to be intentionally vague, even non sensical
a ‘rational’ person is someone who is able to make basic logical connections and assess reality in a non delusional fashion.. in other words.. someone who isn’t crazy.. anyone who claims to base their politics on rationality – is claiming that anyone who disagrees w them might as well be insane.. which is about as arrogant a position as one could possibly take.. or else, they’re using ‘rationality’ as a synonym for ‘tech efficiency’ and thus focusing on how they are going about something because they do not wish to talk about what it is they are ultimately going about.. neoclassical econ is notorious for making this kind of move
there is absolutely no reason why one could not rationally calculate the best way to further one’s political ideals thru voting..
in other words, talking about rational efficiency becomes way of avoiding talking about what the efficiency is actually for; that is, the ultimately irrational aims that are assumed to be the ultimate ends of human behavior
both (Bs and markets) speak same language.. both claim to be acting largely in name of individual freedom/self-realization thru consumption
like hegel or goethe.. insisted that its authoritarian measures could be justified by the fact they allowed citizens to be absolutely secure in their property and therefore, free to do absolutely anything they pleased in their own homes
econ we need: 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
one could justify demanding workers abandon any control over (working) conditions if one could guarantee them a wider/cheaper range of products for them to use at home.. there way always assumed to be a synergy between impersonal, rule bound org – whether in the public sphere, or sphere of production – and absolute free self expression in the club, cafe, kitchen or family outing
the most profound legacy of the dominance of B forms of org over last 200 yrs is that it has made this intuitive division between rational, technical means and the ultimately irrational ends to which they are put seem like common sense..
in most times/places, way one goes about doing something is assumed to be ultimate expression of who one is.. but it also seems as if the moment one divides the world into two spheres in this way – into domain of sheer tech competence and a separate domain of ultimate values.. each sphere will inevitably begin trying to invade the other
but all such movements are premised on the very division they profess to overcome
in the big pic it hardly matters, then, whether one seeks to reorg the world around B efficiency or market rationality: all the fundamental assumption remain the same
the algos and mathh formulae by which world comes to be assessed become, ultimately, not just measure of value but the source of value itself.. much of what Bs do, after all, is eval things.. they are continually assessing.. auditing.. measuring.. weighing the relative merits of diff plans, proposals, applications, courses of actions, or candidates for promotion.. market reforms only reinforce this tendency..
It is felt most cruelly by the poor, who are constantly monitored by an intrusive army of moralistic box-tickers assessing their child-rearing skills, inspecting their food cabinets to see if they are really cohabiting with their partners, ..All rich countries now employ legions of functionaries whose primary function is to make poor people feel bad about themselves.
Matt Taibbi‘s the divide
what is the world of securitize derivatives, collat obligations, and other such exotic fin instruments but the apotheosis of the principe that value is ultimately a produce of paperwork
a critique of B fit for the times would have to show how all these threads: financialization; violence; tech, the fusion of public/private – knit together into a single, self sustaining web.. fin as rent as legalized extortion.. so in need of more rules/regs/enforcement.. so omni we no longer realize we’re being threatened.. since can’t imagine wha tit would be like not to be
this helps w.. continuous growth of apparently meaningless work – bs jobs – strategic vision coordinators.. hr consultants, legal analysts et al.. despite that even those in positions half time secretly convince they contribute nothing to the enterprise
the suits all had elab titles but was almost nothing for them to do.. spent a lot of time walking the catwalks strain at workers.. setting up metric to measure/eval them.. writing plans/reports.. because devising the plan created a retrospective excuse for their existence..
3 directions left win critique of B might take: 1\ violence; 2\ tech 3\ rationality and value
we are all faced w problem. B practice, habits, and sensibilities engulf us.. our lives have come to be org’d around the filling out of forms .. yet language to talk about it woefully inadequate.. even makes problem worse.. we need to find a way to talk about what it is we actually object to in this process to speak honestly about the violence it entails.. but at same time.. understand what is appealing about it.. what sustains it.. which are price to pay for living in any comes society .. which can/should be entirely eliminated.. if this book play even a modest role in sparking such a convo.. it will have made a genuine contribution to contempt political life
having convos is spot on.. bigger problem is we keep having the wrong ones.. and we can’t hear all the people:
what we need most: means to undo our hierarchical listening
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
1 – dead zones of the imagination – essay on structural stupidity
dead zones of imagination – (essay from 2012 w/parts of chapter)
story of mom
Bs are utopian forms of org. after all is this not what we always say of utopians: they have a naive faith in the perfectibility of human nature and refuse to deal w humans a s they actually are? which is, are we not also told, what leads them to set impossible standards and then blame the individuals for not living up to them.. but in fact all Bs do this
on a purely personal level, probably the most disturbing things was how dealing w thee forms somehow rendered me stupid too
the problem i realized, was not w the energy spent but w the fact that most of this energy was being sunk into attempts to try to understand and influence whoever .. at any moment.. seemed to have some kind of B power over me, when in fact, all that was required was the accurate interp of one or two latin words.. and correct performance of certain purely mechanical functions.. spending so much of my time worrying about how not to seem like i was rubbing the notary’s face in her incompetence, or imagining what might make me seem sympathetic to various bank officials, made me less inclined to notice when they told me to do something foolish
people telling other people what to do ness
we anthropologists ahve made somth of a speicalty out of dealing w th ritual surrounding birth, marriage, death and simlar rigts of passgae
we are particularly concerned w ritual gestures that are social efficacious: where the mere act of saying or doing something makes it socially true..
birth and death are never mere biological events.. normally takes a great deal of work to turn a newborn baby into a person.. someone w a name, social relationships, home, towards whom other have responsibilities, who can someday be expected to have responsibilities to them as well..
responsibility ness et al
my mother for ie.. wished to be cremated w/o ceremony; my main memory of the funeral home though was of the plump good natured clerk who walked me thru a 14 page doc he had to file in order to obtain a death cert.. written in ballpoint on carbon paper so it came out in triplicate.. ‘how many hrs a day do you spend filling out form like that’ i asked.. he sighed.. ‘it’s all i do’ .. he had to.. w/o those forms, neither my mother nor any other people created at his establishment would be legally – hence socially – dead
paper work is supposed to be boring..
anthropologist are drawn to areas of density.. the interp tools we have at our disposal are best suited to wend our way thru complex webs of meaning or signification.. we seek to understand intricate ritual symbolism, social dramas, poetic forms or kinship networks.. what all these have in common is that they tend to be both infinitely rich and at same time open ended..
and today.. all non legit.. ie: black science of people/whales law
paperwork in contrast is designed to be max simple and self contained.. even when forms are complex.. even bafflingly complex.. it’s by an endless accretion of very simple but apparently contradictory elements.. like a maze composed entirely of the endless juxtaposition of 2-3 very simple geometrical motifs.. And like a maze, paperwork doesn’t really open on anything outside itself. as a result there just ins’t very much to interpret
this is why almost all great lit on the subject (of B) takes the form of horror comedy.. kafka.. catch 22.. et al
david foster wallace’s unfinished ‘the pale king’ and imaginative meditation on the nature of boredom set in a midwestern office of the us irs.. just about all these works of fiction emphasize both comic senseless ness and violence
what’s more.. contemp stories explicitly about violence have a tendency to also become stories about B.. since after all most acts of extreme violence either take place in B environs ( armies, prisons, …) or else are almost immediately surrounded by B procedures (crime)
this (able to speak of absurdities) is in part because they (academics) are Bs – increasingly so.. ‘admin responsibilities’ going to committee mtgs, filling out forms, reading/writing letters of support, placating the whims of minor deans – all this takes up na ever expanding portion of the avg academic’s time.. but academics are also reluctant Bs
scholarly souls trapped in aBs body.. you might think that an academic’s reaction would be to research, analyze and interp this very phenom: how does it happen that we all end up spending more/more time on paperwork? what is meaning of paperwork.. what are social dynamics behind it? yet for some reason.. this never happens..
in those ever shrinking moments where they are allowed to think profound thoughts, this seems to be the last thing they’d wish to think about
but there is something even deeper going on here.. i suspect something that bears on the very nature of what unis are and why they exist..
ie: prominence in us social science in postwar: german sociologist max weber in the 50s-60s and french historian social philosopher michel foucault ever since.. their popularity had much to do w the ease w which each could be adopted a s a kind of anti marx .. arguing that power is not simply or primarily a matter of control of production but rather a pervasive multifaceted and unavoidable feature of any social life..
but i also think that a large part of the appeal was their attitude toward B.. it sometimes seems there were the only 2 intelligent humans in 20th cent who honestly believe that the power of B lies in its effectiveness..
that is that B really works.. weber saw B forms of org as the very embodiment of reason in human affairs.. so obviously superior to any al form of org.. foucault was more subversive bet he was subversive in a way that only endowed B power w more effectiveness, not less
for foucault all forms of knowledge became forms of power, shaping our minds and bodies thru largely admin means
It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Weber and Foucault’s popularity owed much to the fact that the American university system during this period had itself increasingly become an institution dedicated to producing functionaries for an imperial administrative apparatus, operating on a global scale.
margaret mead.. et al .. had no compunctions against cooperating closely w the military intelligence apparatus or even the cia.. all this changed w the war in vietnam.. during the course of campos mobilization against the war.. this kind of complicity was thrown under a spotlight .. came to be seen as the very embodiment of everything radicals sought to reject
uprising of may 1968 produced an efflorescence of extremely creative social theory.. i france it was just called ’68 thought’.. that was simultaneously radical in temperament and hostile to almost every traditional manifestation of leftist politics, from union organizing to insurrection..
ultimately.. might be better to speak here of the emergence of a kind of division of academic labor w/in the american higher ed system.. w optimist side of weber reinvented for actual training of Bs under the name of ‘rational choice theory’.. while his pessimistic side was relegated to the foucauldians.. foucault’s ascendancy in turn was precisely w/in those fields of former campus radicals.. with emphasis on the ‘power/knowledge’ nexus (forms of knowledge also – most important – forms of social power)
academics tend to think what’s interesting is also important.. also that places of density are places of power.. the power of B shows just how often exactly the oppose is in fact the case..
this essay is not just – or note even primarily – about B.. it is primarily about violence
structural violence, by which i mean forms of pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed up by the threat of physical harm..
..—invariably tend to create the kinds of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures.
to put it crudely: it is not so much that B procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behavior that they themselves define as stupid – though they do do that – but rather, that they are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence.. and so.. why we don’t notice it
we are not used to thinking of nursing homes/banks/hmos.. as violent institutions.. except perhaps in the most abstract na metaphorical sense.. but the violence i’m referring to here is not abstract. i am not speaking of conceptual violence i am speaking of violence in the literal sense: the kind that involves, say, on person hitting another over the head w a wooden stick. all of these are institutions involved in the allocation of resources..
what we need before/instead of that.. a means for 8b people to know what they really want.. to know/grok what enough is
..w/in a system of property rights regulated and guaranteed by govt in a system that ultimately rests on the threat of force. force in turn is just a euphemistic way to refer to violence..
what makes it possible.. ie: spend days in .. libraries poring over Foucault-inspired .. about the declining importance of coercion as a factor in modern life without ever reflecting on that fact that, had they insisted on their right to enter the stacks without showing a properly stamped and validated ID, armed men would have been summoned to physically remove them, using whatever force might be required.
oh my. too resonating. in too many ways.
as if the more we allow everyday ness to fall under B regs.. more everyone concerned colludes to downplay the fact that.. all of it ultimately depends on the threat of physical harm.
the omegas internalize their disgrace and come to act as if they believe they really are guilty of something.. in a sen perhaps they do believe it.. but on a deeper level it doesn’t make a lot of sense to ask wether they do or not.. the whole arrangement is the fruit of violence and can only be maintained by continual threats of violence: the fact that the omegas are quite aware that if anyone directly challenged property arrangements or access to ed, swords would be drawn and people’s heads would almost certainly end up being lopped off
in a case like this, what we talk about in terms of ‘belief’ are simply the psychological techniques people develop to accommodate themselves to this realty..
We have no idea how they would act, or what they would think, if the Alphas’ command of the means of violence were to somehow disappear.
science of people in schools – (he was talking – belief as a psychological technique to accommodate self to structure of violence)
“structural violence”—structures that could only be created and maintained by the threat of violence, even if in their ordinary, day-to-day workings, no actual physical violence need take place.
it’s puzzling why anyone would make such an argument unless they were for some reason determined to insist that the physical violence isn’t the essence of the thing.. that this isn’t what really needs to be addressed. to pose the question of violence directly would, apparently, mean opening a series of doors that most academics seem to feel would really better be left shut..
most of these doors lead directly to the problem of what we call ‘the state’ and the B structure thru which it actually exercises power.. is the state’s claim to a monopoly of violence ultimately the problem, or is th estate an essential part of any possible solution?
is the very practice of laying down rules and then threatening physical harm against anyone who does not follow them itself objectionable, or is it just that the authorities are not deploying such threats in the right way?
to talk of racism, sexism, and the rest as a bunch of abstract structures floating about is the best way to dodge such questions entirely
nationality: human et al.. anything else a distraction/irrelevant et al
police just patrolled the highway and would not go into the countryside at all.. yet everyone would talk about the govt as if it actually existed, hoping outsiders wouldn’t notice (malagasy)
an important thing to remember about slavery is that it si never seen – by anyone really – as a moral relationship, but one of simple arbitrary power: the master can order the slave to do whatever he pleases, and there’s really nothing the slave can do about it
when the french overthrew the merina kingdom an took over madagascar in 1895.. they simultaneously abolished slavery and imposed a govt that similarly did not even pretend to be based on a social contract or the will of he governed, but was simply based on superior firepower.. unsurprisingly, most malagasy concluded that hey had all been effectively turned into slaves.. this had profound relations on how people came to deal w one another.. before long.. any relation of command.. that is any ongoing relationship; between adults where on renders the other a mere extension of his/her will – was considered morally objectionable, essentially just variations of slavery, or the state.. prop;er malagasy people didn’t act this way.. so eve though the malagsy govt was far away .. its shadow was everywhere
telling people what to do ness..
gare enslavement law et al
such associations came to for when people spoke of great salve holding families of the 19th cent, whose children wen t on to become the core of the colonial era admin, largely (it was always remarked) by dint of their devotion to ed and skill w paperwork, and whose descendant still mostly worked in fancy offices in the capital, far from the worries and responsibilities of rural life..
in other contexts, relations of command, particularly in B contexts, were linguistically coded: they were firmly id’d w french; malagsy, in contrast , was seen as the language appropriate to deliberation, explanation and consensus decision making. minor functionaries, when they wished to impose arbitrary dictates, would almost invariably switch to french
if he had switched to everyday language, he would not feel he could be nearly so abrupt
if he were speaking malagasy, he would at the very least have had to explain why the office had closed at such an unusual time..
in literary malagasy, the french language can actually be referred to as ny teny baiko ‘the language of command’
It was characteristic of contexts where explanations, deliberation, and, ultimately, consent, were not required, since such contexts were shaped by the presumption of unequal access to sheer physical force.
in this instance, the actual means to deploy such force was no longer present.. the official could not in fact call the police, and nor would he want to – he just wanted me to go away, which, after teasing him for a moment w my language games (faking he didn’t understand) .. i did. but he couldn’t even evoke the kind of attitude such power allows one to adopt w/o calling up the shadow of the colonial state..
in madagascar, B power was somewhat redeemed in most people’s minds by its connection to ed which was held in near universal esteem .. to enter into the world of govt, bureaus, and gendarme station was also to enter in the world of novels, world history, tech, and potential travel overseas.. it was not therefore irredeemably bad or intrinsically absurd
oi to ed.. supposed to’s of school/work et al
comparative anal suggest there is a direct relation however between the level of violence employed in a B system and the level of absurdity and ignorance it is seen to produce..
regimes of ‘power w/o knowledge’ typical of colonial s africa.. where coercion and paperwork largely sub’d for the need for understanding africa subjects.. the actual installation of apartheid that began in the 1950s for ie, was heralded by a new pass system that was designed to simplify earlier rules that obliged african workers to carry extensive docs of labor contracts, substituting a single id booklet, marked w their ‘names, locale, fingerprints, tax status, and their officially prescribed ‘right’ to live/work in the towns/cities’ and nothing else.. govt functionaries appreciated it for streamlining admin, police for relieving them of responsibility of having to actually talk to african workers.. workers referred to new doc ad the ‘dompas’ or ‘stupid pass’ for precisely that reason
there are traces of the link between coercion and absurdity even in the way we talk about B in english: note for ie, how most of the colloquial terms that specifically refer to B foolishness – snafu, catch 22, and the like – derive from military slang
political scientists have long observed a ‘neg correlation’ as david apter put it, between coercion and info: that is, while relatively democratic regimes tend to be awash in too much info, as everyone bombards political authorities w explanations and demands, the more authoritarian and repressive a regime, the less reason people have to tell it anything – which is why such regimes are forced to rely so heavily on spies, intelligence agencies, and secret police..
violence’s capacity to allow arbitrary decisions, an thus to avoid the kind of debate, clarification, and renegotiation typical of more egalitarian social relations, is obviously what allows its victims to see procedures created on the basis of violence as stupid or unreasonable..
much of the everyday business of social life, in fact, consists in trying to decipher others’ motives and perceptions. let us call this ‘interpretive labor’.. one might say, those relying on the fear of force are not obliged to engage in a lot of interp labor, and thus, generally speaking, they do not..
i know as anthropologist i’m treading on perilous ground here.. anyone suggesting otherwise (that acts of violence are meaningful/communicative) is likely to be instantly accused of a kind of philistinism: ‘are you honestly suggesting that violence is not symbolically powerful, that bullets/bobs are not meant to communicate something’.. so for the record: no, i’m not suggesting that.. but i am suggesting that this might not be the most important question. first of all, because it assumes that ‘violence’ refers primarily to acts of violence – actual shoving, punchings, stabbings, or explosions – rather than to the threat of violence .. and the kinds of social relations the pervasive threat of violence makes possible.. second of all.. they automatically assume that what is most interesting about violence is also what’s most important..
it strikes me that what is really important about violence is that it is perhaps the only form of human action that holds out even the possibility of having social effects w/o being communicative.. to be more precise: violence may well be the only way it is possible for one human being to do w something which will have relatively predictable effects on the actions of a person about whom they understand nothing.. hit them over the head hard enough, and all of this becomes irrelevant
most human relations – particularly ongoing ones, whether between longstanding friends/enemies.. are extremely complicated.. dense w history/meaning.. maintaining them requires a constant and often subtle work of imagination, of endlessly trying to see the world from other’s pov.. this is what i’ve already referred to as ‘interp labor’.. threatening others w physical harm allows the possibility of cutting thru all this.. makes relations more simple.. this is of course why violence is so often preferred weapon of the stupid..
the most characteristic effect of violence, its ability to obviate the need for ‘interp labor’ becomes most salient when the violence itself is least visible – in fact, where acts of spectacular physical violence are least likely to occur.. these are of course precisely wha ti have just defined as structural violence.. system ineq’s ultimately backed up by the threat of force.. for this reason.. situations of structural violence invariably produce extreme lopsided structure of imaginative id
women w no access to their own income or resources obviously had no choice but to spend a great deal of time/energy understanding what their menfolk thought was going on
a sense .. almost mystical wisdom (women’s intuition) unavailable to men.. and of course something like this happens in any relation of extreme ineq: peasant for ie are always rep’d as being both oafishly simple but somehow also mystically wise..
holmgren indigenous law et al
virginia woolf comes to mind – documenting the other side of such arrangements: the constant efforts women end up having to expend in managing, maintaining, and adjusting the egos of oblivious and self important men, involving the continual work of imaginative id, or interp labor..
men are almost never expected to do the same for women.. so deeply internalizes is this pattern of behavior that many men react to any suggestion that they might do otherwise as if it were itself an act of violence
if there is a limitation in the fem lit.. i would say, it’s that it can be if anything a tad too generous.. tending to emphasize the isights of the oppressed over the blindness of foolishness of their oppressors..
binary ness et al
could it be possible to develop a general theory of interp labor? 2 critical elements:
1\ process of imaginative id as a form of knowledge.. the fact that w/in relations of domination, it is generally the subordinates who are effectively relegated the work of understanding how the social relations in question really work
it’s those who do not have the power to hire/fire who are left w the work of figuring out what actually did go wrong so as to make sure it doesn’t happen again
2\ resultant patter of sympathetic id.. ‘compassion fatigue’.. human beings he (adam smith) proposed are normally inclined not only to imaginatively id w their fellows, but as a result…. to spontaneously feel one another’s joys/sorrows.. the poor, however, are so consistently miserable that otherwise sympathetic observers are simply overwhelmed, and are forced, w/o realizing it, to blot out their existence entirely..
see this iso often – helps explain (away anyway) how good people could seem to be missing it
structural ineq.. what i’ve been calling structural violence.. invariable creates highly lopsided structure of the imagination.. since i think smith was right to observe that imagination tends to bring w it sympathy, the result is that victims of structural violence tend to care about its beneficiaries far more than those beneficiaries care about them.. this might well be, after the violence itself, the single most powerful force preserving such relations
in contemp industrialized democracies, the legit admin of violence is turned over to what is euphemistically referred to as ‘criminal law enforcement’ – particularly.. to police officers..
i say euphemistically because ..generations of police sociologists have pointed out that only a very small proportion of what police actually do has anything to do with enforcing criminal law—.. Most of it has to do with regulations, ..threat of physical force, to aid in the resolution of administrative problems.
in other words they spend most of their time enforcing all those endless rules and regs about who can buy/smoke/sell/build/eat/drink what where.. so: police are Bs w weapons
this is really an ingenious trick.. when most of us think about police, we do not think of them as enforcing regs.. we think of them as fighting crime.. (the violent kind).. even though in fact.. what police mostly do is exactly the opposite: they bring the threat of force to bear on situations that would otherwise have nothing to do with it
this (police only likely to be called in if someone dies or go to hospital).. because the moment an ambulance is involved, there is also paperwork..
sicko – mm et al
so the only fights which police are sure to get involved in are those that generate some kind of paperwork.. the vast majority of muggings/burglaries aren’t reported either, unless there are ins forms to be filled out, or lost docs that need to be replaced, and which can only be replaced if one files a proper police report.. so most violent crime does not end up involving the police..
on the other hand, try driving down the street of any one of those cities in a care w/o license plates
the danger that modern society will become so well org’d by faceless technocrats that charismatic heroes, enchantment and romance will completely disappear.. – throws odd wrinkle into weber’s famous worries about – kafka’s iron cage
modern n atlantic societies are the very first to have created genres of lit where the heroes themselves are the Bs or operate entirely w/in B environs
now i must admit that over course of essay i have not been esp kind to academics .. some might be inclined to read what i’ve written as argument that social theory is largely pointless.. the self important fantasies of a cloistered elite who refuse to accept the simple realities of power.. but this is not what i’m arguing at all.. this essay is itself an exercise in social theory
comparison of B and theoretical knowledge.. B is about reducing everything to preconceived mechanical/statistical formulae.. simple pre existing templates to complex/ambiguous situations.. theoretical plucks one/two strands of complex.. to make generalizations.. reductions..
the great merit of structural analysis is that it provides a well nigh foolproof technique for doing what any good theory should do: simplifying/schematizing complex material in such a way to be able to say something unexpected.. a way of radically simplifying reality that leads to insight one would almost certainly never have achieved if one had simply attempted to take on the world in its full complexity
? but to what end?
makes no diff (actually makes harm) if wall us in by those defn/anal
as long as one remains w/in the domain of theory, then, i would argue that simplification is not necessarily a form of stupidity.. it can be a form of intelligence.. even of brilliance. the problems arise at the moment that violence is no longer metaphorical..
and i’d say the analysis is violence already.. ie: by making us not us
Jim Cooper, a former LAPD officer turned sociologist,68 has observed that the overwhelming majority of those who end up getting beaten or otherwise brutalized by police turn out to be innocent of any crime. “Cops don’t beat up burglars,” he writes. The reason, he explained, is simple: the one thing most guaranteed to provoke a violent reaction from police is a challenge to their right to, as he puts it, “define the situation.
it’s ‘talking back’ above all that inspires beat downs, and that means challenging whatever admin rubric has been app;lied by the officer’s discretionary judgment ie: dis/orderly crowd; im/properly registered vehicle
it only makes sense then that B violence should consist first/foremost of attacks on those who insist on alt schemas or interpretations..
…the powerless not only end up doing most of the actual, physical labor required to keep society running, they also do most of the interpretive labor as well.
this much seems to be the case wherever one encounters systematic ineq
B’s.. i’ve suggested, are not themselves forms of stupidity so much as they are way s of organizing stupidity – of managing relationships that .. exist because of structural violence.. this is why even if a B is created for entirely benevolent reasons.. it will still produce absurdities..
even the most benevolent Bs are really just taking the highly schematized, minimal, blinkered perspective typical of the powerful, turning them in to ways of limiting that power or ameliorating its most pernicious effects
surely B interventions along these lines have done an enormous amount of good in the world.. the european social welfare state, w its free ed and universal health care, can justly be considered as pierre bourdieu once remarked – one of the greatest achievement of human civilization
surely not.. rather.. part of the cancer..
jensen civilization law et al
but at same time in taking forms of willful blindness typical of the powerful and giving them the prestige of science – for ie, by adopting a whole series of assumption about the meaning of work/fam, neighborhood, knowledge, health, happiness, or success that had almost nothing to do w the way poor or working class people actually lived their lives.. let alone what they found meaningful in them.. it set itself up for a fall
not even anything so obvious as a fall.. rather.. a cancer..
and fall it did.. it was precisely the uneasiness this blindness created
how was this uneasiness expressed? largely by the feeling that B authority, by its very nature, rep’d a kind of war against the human imagination..
all (youth rebellions from china to mexico to ny that culminated in insurrection of may 68 in paris) saw B authority as fundamentally stifling of the human spirits, of creativity, conviviality, imagination..
‘all power to the imagination’.. seems to embody something fundamental, not just to the spirit of 60s rebellion, but to the very essence of what we have come to call ‘the left’
this is important.. actually it could not be more important..
if really go back to beginnings.. to idea that emerge around time of french revolution.. that the political spectrum can be divided into right and left wing in the first place.. it becomes clear that the left, in its essence, is a critique of B.. even if again and again been forced to accommodate itself in practice to he very B structure and mindset it originally arose to oppose
begs means to undo our hierarchical listening
w/o such a critique, radical thought loses its vital center.. it collapses into a fragmented scatter of protests and demands
yeah.. all that.. we need to get vital center back.. (a more vital center than we’ve been thinking) ie: maté basic needs
i think it will be necessary to reexamine some very basic assumptions: first and foremost, about what it means to say one is being ‘realistic’ to begin with
all data today is non legit.. ie: black science of people/whales law.. we have no idea/evidence of what legit free people are like
be realistic: demand the impossible (another 68 slogan)
so far i’ve been discussing how structural violence creates lopsided structures of the imagination and how B becomes a way of managing such situations.. and the forms off structural violence and stupidity they inevitably entail
Why do movements challenging such structures so often end up creating bureaucracies instead? Normally, they do so as a kind of compromise. One must be realistic and not demand too much.
when we say we are being ‘realistic’ exactly what reality is it we are referring to?
begs hari rat park law
ie: 2000-2002 – part of dan – ny direct action network.. technically dan was not a group at all but a decentralized network, operating on principles of direct democracy according to an elab, but quite *effective, form of consensus process.. it played a central role in ongoing efforts to create new org forms
all part of existing structure/org/cancer/unmooring ness
legally it is impossible for a decentralized network to won a car
ownership is what is impossible in legit alive network..
hardt/negri property law et al
legal jargon just distracts us from that (from legit freedom)
cannot be owned by networks.. unless we were willing to in corp ourselves as a non profit copr (which would have required a complete reorg and an abandonment of most of our egalitarian principles)
deeper than that.. to even be spending time/energy on this convo
we need a means to ‘live as if already free’.. sans fixing all the baggage first
but as a result .. weekly meetings were overwhelmed by reportbacks about his latest legal problems (guy who owned car for dan)
something profound to this story.. why is it that projects like dan’s.. projects aimed at democratizing society .. are so often perceived as idle dreams that melt away as soon as they encounter hard material reality
because democracy ness is not deep enough
not because thee objects are somehow intrinsically difficult to admin democratically
rather.. it’s the thinking in terms/realms of admin/democratic ness
.. history is full of communities that successfully engage in the democratic admin of common resources..
i don’t think we have any ie’s of that
and so we just keep perpetuating tragedy of the non common
all these regs are enforced by violence.. true.. in ordinary life.. police rarely come in swinging billy clubs to enforce building code regs.. but as anarchists often are often uniquely positioned to find out.. if one simply pretends the state and its regs don’t exist.. this will.. eventually happen
these regs – regs that almost always assume that normal relations between individuals are mediated by that market.. and that normal groups are org’d internally by relations of hierarchy and command
when one is asked to be ‘realistic’ then, the reality one is normally being asked to recognize is not one of natural, material facts, nor some supposed.. ugly truth about human nature
Being “realistic” usually means taking seriously the effects of the systematic threat of violence.
martin be bold law et al
from spanish real, meaning ‘royal’ .. ‘belonging to the king’.. all land win a sovereign territory ultimately belongs to the sovereign – legally this is still the case.. this is why the state had the right to impose its regs
giorgio agamben argued that from the perspective of sovereign power something is alive because you can kill it, so property is ‘real’ because the state has the right to impose its regs
what makes it seem ‘realistic’ to suggest it does is simply that those in control of nation states have the power to raise armies, launch invasions, and bomb cities, and can otherwise threaten the use of org’d violence in the name of what they describe as their ‘national interests’.. and foolish to ignore that possibility.. national interests are real because they can kill you
the critical term here if ‘force’ .. critical term here is ‘force’ as in ‘the state’s monopoly on the use of coercive force
scientists investigate the nature of physical laws so as to understand the forces that govern the universe..
police are experts n the scientific application of physical force in order to enforce the laws that govern society
this is to my mind the essence of rightwing thought: a political ontology that thru such subtle means allows violence to define the very parameters of social existence and common sense
this is why i say that the left had always been, anti B.. because it has always been founded on a diff set or assumptions about what is ultimately real..
but not enough.. or wouldn’t have ie: left and right
marx himself, for all his contempt for the utopian socialists of his day, never ceased to insist that what makes human beings diff from animals is that architects *first raise their structure in the imagination
*this is itch-in-the-soul talking.. start their first thing everyday
it was this process he referred to as ‘production’
norton productivity law et al
artists needed to become the avant garde or ‘vanguard’ as he put it, of a new social order.. providing the grand visions that industry now had the power to bring into being
if artistic avant gardes and social revolutionaries have felt a peculiar affinity for one another ever since, borrowing each other’s languages/ideas.. it appears to have been insofar as both have remained committed to the ideas that the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make, and could just as easily make differently
it (capitalism) only exists because every day we wake up and continue to produce it
if we woke up one morning and all collectively decided to produce something else.. then we wouldn’t have capitalism anymore..
yeah.. let’s do that.. everyday..
ie: cure ios city
This is the ultimate revolutionary question: what are the conditions that would have to exist to enable us to do this—to just wake up and imagine and produce something else?
a nother way – where there’s a mechanism in place to handle the initial chaos.. to shorten the lag time.. between intention and action.. so we don’t fall back into the “comfort/laziness” of bureaucracy/rules/supposed-to‘s. getting the sync of luxury for all.. to undo our hierarchical listening
what we now call ‘the imagination’ was not seen as opposed to reality per se, but as a kind of middle ground, a zone of passage connecting material reality and the rational soul
it’s only after descartes, really, that the word ‘imaginary’ came to mean, specifically, anything that is not real
the kind of imagination i have been developing in this essay is much closer to the old, immanent, conception.. (p 93: not seen as opposed to reality per se, but as a kind of middle ground, a zone of passage connecting material reality and the rational soul) critically, it is in no sense static and free floating, but entirely caught up in projects of action that aim to have real effects on the material world, and as such, always changing/adapting
for romantics, in particular, the imagination came to take the place once held by the soul 0 -rather than mediating between the rational soul and the material world.. it was the soul and the soul was that which was beyond any mere rationality
on the one hand, the imagination was seen as the source of art, and all creativity. on the other, it was the basis of human sympathy, and hence morality..
250 yrs later, we might do well to begin to sort these matters out.. because honestly, there’s a lot at stake here
marx insists that what makes us human is that rather than relying on unconscious instinct like spiders/bees, we first raise structure in our imagination and then try to bring those visions into being
the revolutionary should never proceed like the architect; he should never begin by drawing up a plan for an ideal society, then think about how to bring it into being.. that would be utopianism..
revolution – as instigating utopia everyday
… revolution is the actual immanent practice of the proletariat, which will ultimately bear fruit in ways that we cannot possibly imagine from our current vantage point.
and so .. we’re missing it. (this was from marx)
marx did understand at least on some intuitive level, that the imagination worked differently in the domain of material production than it did in social relations; but also that he lacked adequate theory as to why
in both domains one can speak of alienation. but in each alienation works in profoundly diff ways
.. structural inequalities always create what I’ve called “lopsided structures of imagination,” that is, divisions between one class of people who end up doing most of the imaginative labor, and others who do not.
like tim said of the web.. it doesn’t work unless the whole world is on it..
the sphere of factory production that marx concerned himself w is rather unusual in this respect.. it is one of the few contexts where it is the dominant class who end up doing more imaginative labor, not less
structures of ineq and domination – structural violence, if you will – tend to skew the imagination.. might create situations where laborers are relegated to mind numbing, boring, mech jobs, and only a small elite is allowed to indulge in imaginative labor, leading to the feeling, on the part of the workers, that they are alienated form own labor.. that their deeds belong to someone else..
work – as solving other people’s problems
might also create social situations where kings, politicians, celebrities, or ceos prance about oblivious to almost everything around them while their wives, servants, staff and handlers spend all their time engaged in the imaginative work of maintaining them in their fantasies..
the tradition of political econ.. w/in which marx was writing, tends to see work in modern societies as dividid between two sphere: wage labor (factories) and domestic labor (housework, childcare, mainly to women).. 1st seen as creating/maintaining physical objects.. 2nd as creating/maintaining people and social relations.. points to root of marx’s problem.. in industry.. generally those on top that relegate to themselves the more imaginative tasks (design/org production) whereas when ineq’s emerge in social production.. it si those on bottom who end up expected to do the major imaginative work.. notably.. the bulk of what i’ve called the ‘labor of interpretation’ that keeps life running..
.. bureaucratic procedures, which have an uncanny ability to make even the smartest people act like idiots, are not so much forms of stupidity in themselves, as they are ways of managing situations already stupid because of the effects of structural violence.
getting to the root matters.. otherwise.. we’re spinning our wheels.. good by cycle.
stupidity in the name of fairness and decency is still stupidity, and violence in the name of human liberation is still violence. it’s not coincidence the two so often seem to arrive together..
for much of the last century, the great revolutionary question has thus been: how does on affect fundament change in society w/o setting in train a process that will end w the creation of some new violent B? is utopianism the problem – the very idea of imagining a better world and then trying to bringing it into being? or is it something in the very nature of social theory? should w e thus abandon social theory? or is the notion of revolution itself fundamentally flawed?
not if legit revolution.. which we’ve not yet tried (ie: has to be everyone for the dance to dance)
since 60s one common solution has been to start by lowering one’s sights.. leading up to may 68 the situationists argues that it was possible to do this thru creative acts of subversion that undermined the logic of what they called ‘the spectacle’ which rendered us passive consumers.. thru these acts, we could at least momentarily recapture our imaginative powers. at the same time, they also felt that all such acts were small scale dress rehearsals for the great insurrectionary moment .. this is what’s largely gone today.. if the events of may 68 showed anything, it was that if one does not aim to seize state power.. there can be no fundamental onetime break.. as a result , among most contemp revolutionaries, that millenarian element has almost completely fallen away.. no one thinks the skies are about to open ant time soon.. there is a consolation though: that as a result, insofar as one actually can come to experienced genuine revolutionary freedom, one can begin to experience it immediately
but has to be all of us or it’s not legit free
on saying you’re free/fine (or even saying direct action as living as if already free): 1\ you don’t see/acknowledge chained ones – so blind/pretending and not fine/free 2\ you do see chained ones – so pain or addictive coping going on
begs a means to leap – which we have today
Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the inertia of habit, custom, law, or prejudice—and it is up to you to create these situations.
ie: cure ios city
change, revolutionary change, is going on constantly and everywhere – and everyone plays a part in it, consciously or not
well.. revolutionary .. as in getting at healing (roots of) isn’t happening.. we are all changing and working on things.. but to date.. all bandaid/surface/irrelevant s.. because not deep enough focus and so.. out of sync
what is this but an elegant statement of the logic of direct action:
.. the defiant insistence on acting *as if one is already free? The obvious question is how this **approach can contribute to an overall strategy—one that should lead, perhaps not to a single moment of revolutionary redemption, but to a cumulative movement towards a world without states and capitalism. on this point no one is completely sure.. most assume the process could only be one of ***endless improvisation
*as if already free ness.. direct action to date has been reaction (not action) and it has never been all of us.. words are good.. just need to change who (has to be all) and how (so how has to accessible to everyone) ..
in retrospect seems naive that single uprising or successful civil war could neutralize entire apparatus of structural violence.. but the truly puzzling thing is that, at certain moment of human history, that appeared to be exactly what was happening.. it seems to me that if we are to have any chance of grasping the new emerging conception of *revolution, we need to begin by thinking again about the **quality of these insurrectionary moments..
*revolution – as instigating utopia everyday – how to org for that..
**definitely.. begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening
or to return to may 68, how is it that the same public that seemed to support or at least feel strongly sympathetic toward the student/worker uprising could almost immediately afterwards *return to the polls and elect a right win govt? the most common historical explanations – that revolutionaries didn’t really rep public – seems inadequate
idea of public is an issue .. depends if you’re talking partial public or whole (earth) public..
reason not sticking is because none of the issues (that we keep focusing on) to date have been deep enough to resonate entire public.. we have to go that deep.. otherwise just spinning our wheels
and .. the cage we’re in (ie: *voting ness et al).. keeps on keeping us distracted.. sucking our energy.. so that we don’t time to even think about the possibility that there is something deeper..
in fact what we call ‘the public’ is created, produced thru specific institutions that allow specific forms of action – taking polls, watching tv, voting, signing petitions or writing letters to elected officials or attending public hearing – and not others
yeah.. like above.. huge.. ie: decision making is unmooring us law
these frames of action imply certain ways of talking, thinking, arguing, deliberating..
same public that may widely indulge in use of rec chemicals may also vote to make it illegal; same citizens likely to come to completely diff decisions if org’d in parliamentary system.. in fact the entire anarchist project of reinventing direct democracy is premised on assuming *this is the case
but *this is a case for decision making (how free to make it et al).. which is in itself one of those violent frames.. so ie: still in sea world’s cage
and certainly the ‘public’ does not go out into the streets. its role is as audience to pubic spectacle, and consumer of public services
ie: don’t see whole world unless on the streets..
all these entities are the product of Bs and institutional practices that, in turn define certain horizons of possibility
voting booths, tv screens, office cubicles, hospitals ,the ritual that surrounds them – one might say these are the very machinery of alienation
yeah.. that.. framings of sea world
they are the instruments thru which the human imagination is smashes and shattered
insurrectionary moments are moments when this B apparatus is neutralized
well.. not really.. because we all are so intoxicated and insurrectionary moments haven’t yet dealt with that (need for detox).. ie: even in virus.. still talking of ways to heal/solve by elements/cancers of B apparatus ie: who to elect.. how to do money/ed/health differently.. (rather than let go of them)
rebecca solnit has so beautifully observed, people often experience something *very similar during natural disasters
key.. *very similar.. we keep missing opps ie: to (virus) leap
normally uneq structures of imaginative id are disrupted; everyone is experimenting w trying to see the world from unfamiliar pov.. everyone feels not only the right, but usually the immediate practical need to re create and reimagine everything around them
but again.. so intoxicated.. and insurrections to date never deep enough to detox.. that we can’t imagine experimenting outside of sea world.. we keep holding onto to enough familiarity.. so as to not truly let ourselves be us
the question of course is.. how to ensure that those who go through this experience are not immediately reorganized under some new rubric—..that then gives way to the construction of a new set of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic institutions around it, which will inevitably come to be enforced by new categories of police.
since 70s.. shift from millenarian dreams and onto much more immediate questions about how those ‘holes cut in the fabric of reality’ might actually be org’d in a non B fashion, so that at least some of that imaginative power can be sustained over the long term..
will only last if we start out deep enough – and with everyone – which today we can do
there were simultaneously direct actions, practical demos of how real democracy could be thrown in the face of power, and experiments in what a genuinely nonB social order, based on the power of practical imagination might look like..
none to date free enough.. still a response..
in most ways, most of the time, power is all about what you don’t have to worry about, don’t have to know about, and don’t have to do
Bs can democratize this sort of pwoer, at least to an extent, but they can’t get rid of it.. it becomes formso finstitutionalized laziness.. rev chagne may involve the exhilaration of throwing off imaginative shackles, of suddenly realizing that impossible things are not impossible at all.. but it also means most people will have to get over some of this deeply habituated laziness and start engaging interp (imaginative) labor for a *very long time to make those realities stick
*yeah.. i don’t think so.. i think we just need to let go of the chains.. and trust us.. we keep letting go of some of the chains and then saying.. see.. tragedy of commons et al
what i’ve been trying to do, then, is to put on one set of blinkers that allows us to see another.. that’s why i began essay w paperwork of mother.. i wanted to bing social theory to bear on those places that seem most hostile to it.. there are dead zones that riddle our lives, areas so devoid of any possibility of interp depth that they reel every attempt to give them value/meaning
one of the salient features of violence, and of situations it creates, is that it is very boring.. in american prison, which are extraordinary violent places, the most vicious form of punishment is simply to lock a person in an empty room for yrs w absolutely nothing to do.. this emptying of any possibility of communication or meaning is the real essence of what violence really is and does..
not about the nothing to do ness.. about the missing connections
this is huge..
focusing on violence is distracting to focusing on the things that are legit missing (for 8b people) in all the spaces today.. ie: missing pieces
let’s just focus on and org around those.. ie: as infra
after all, if we do not go on to explore what ‘unquestioning’ actually means – the master’s ability to remain completely unaware of the slave’s understanding of any situation.. the slave’s inability to say anything even when she becomes aware of some dire practical flaw in the master’s reasoning.. the forms of blindness of stupidity that result.. these oblige slave to devote even more energy to understand/anticipate master’s confused perceptions.. are we not, in however small a way, doing the same work as the whip? it’s not really about making its victims talk.. ultimately, it’s about participating in the process that shuts them up
huge.. for all of us.. begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening
ch 2 (of 3) – technology – on flying cars and declining rate of profit
i don’t really care about flying cars – esp because i don’t even drive
the word ‘simulate’ is key.. what tech progress we have seen since the 70s has largely been in info techs – that is techs of simulation
they are techs of what jean baudrillard and umberto eco used to call the ‘hyperreal’ .. the ability to make imitation more realistic that the original
yeah.. not that.. no one needs that.. we’re all already not us
the entire postmodern sensibility, the feeling that we had somehow broken into an unprecedented new historical periods where we understood that there was nothing new; that grand historical narratives of progress and lib were meaningless; that everything now was simulation, ironic repetition, fragmentation and pastiche:
mufleh humanity law et al
all this only makes sense in a tech environ where the only major breakthrus were ones making it easier to create, transfer and rearrange virtual projections of things that either already existed, or , we now came to realize never really would..
tv which articulate noting but rather implodes, carrying its flattened image surface w/in itself..
reduced to play of screens and images
humanity, ernest mandel argued, stood on the brink of transformation as profound as the agri or industrial revolutions had been: one is which computers, robots, new energy sources, and new info techs would effectively replace old fashioned industrial labor – the ‘end of work’ as it soon came to be called – reducing ay all to designers and computer techs coming up w the crazy visions that cybernetic factories would actually produce.. end of work arguments became increasingly popular in the late 70s and early 80s.. as radical thinkers pondered what would happen to traditional working class struggle once there was no longer a working class (the answer: it would turn into id politics)
agri/industrial as cancer.. need antibodies.. ie: ai as augmenting interconnectedness..
graeber job\less law et al
of course, as we all know, the se tech breakthrus did not actually happen.. what happen instead.. spread of info techs and new ways of organizing transport – the containerization of shipping, for ie: allowed those same industrial jobs to be outsourced to .. countries where cheap labor ..
same as colonization of ie: america.. replace indigenous ness w the unmorring ness of democracy ness
smokestack industries did increasingly disappear; jobs came to be divided between a lower stratum of service workers and upper sitting in antiseptic bubbles playing w computers.. but below it all lay an uneasy awareness that this whole new post work civ was basically a fraud.. our carefully engineered high tech sneakers were not really being produced by intelligent cyborgs or self replicating molecular nanotech.. they were being made on the equiv of old fashioned singer sewing machines by the daughter of mexican and inodnesian farmers who had.. as the result of wto or nafta sponsored trade deals.. been ousted from the ancestral lands.. it was this guilty awareness, it seems to me, that ultimately lay behind the postmodern sensibility, its celebration of the endless play of images/surfaces
was it not the same shared commitment to the myth of limitless, expansive future, of human colonization of vast empty spaces, that helped convince the leaders of both superpowers that had entered int a new ‘space age’ in which they were ultimately battling over control over the future itself?
there was something of a last spate of inventions in 50s: microwaves; the pill; lasers . all appeared in rapid succession.. but sine then, most apparent tech advances have largely taken form of either clever new ways of combining existing techs (space race) or new ways to put existing techs to consumer use (tv)
humans were not psychologically prepared for the pace of change
pace? or type? .. i think type
ie: who was in control of change et al
not only was everyting aournd us chianging, most of it – the sheer mass of human knowledge..
yeah.. but all non legit ie: from whales/rats in sea world cages
toffler insisted that the only solution was to begin to create some kind of democratic control over the process – institution that could assess emerging techs and the effects they were likely to have, ban those techs likely to be to socially disruptive and guide development in directions that would foster social harmony
ie: it was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of sci papers published in the world – a figure that had been doubling every 15 yrs since roughly 1685 – began leveling off.. the same is true of the number of books/patents..
seemed reasonable to assume that w/in a matter of decades humanity would be exploring other solar systems.. yet no further increase has occurred since 1970
the fact that toffler turned out to be wrong about almost everything had no deleterious effects on his own career.. charismatic prophets rarely suffer much when their prophecies fail to materialize.. toffler just kept retooling his anal and coming up w new spectacular pronouncement every decade or so.. always to great public recognition and applause
probably one of greatest real world achievement of future shock had been to inspired the govt to create an office of tech assessment (ota) in 1972.. more or less in line w toffler’s call for some sort of dem oversight over potentially disruptive techs
again, note of this seemed to faze toffler at all.. by that time he had long since given up tyring to influence policy by appealing ot he gen public.. or ever really trying to influence political debate; he was, instead, making a living largely by giving seminars to ceos and the denizens of corp think tanks.. this insights had, effectively, been privatized..
the argument of future shock is the very defn of conservatism.. progress was alway presented asa problem that needed to be solved.. thus his solution was ostensibly to create form of dem control, but in effect, ‘dem’ obviously meant ‘B’ the creation of panels of experts to determine which inventions would be approved and which put on the shelf
graeber min\max law et al
comte (early 19th cent), too felt that he was standing on the brink of a new age – in his case – the industrial age – driven by the inexorable progress of tech and that the social cataclysms of his times were really caused by the social system not having managed to adjust
comte concluded that we needed to develop a new sci, which he dubbed ‘sociology’ and that sociologists should play role of priests in a new religion of society that would inspire the masses w a love of order community, work discipline and patriarchal family values
what their success does show is that the issues these men raised – the concern that existing patterns of tech development would lead to social upheaval.. he needed to guide tech devel in direction that did not challenge existing structures of authority – found a recpetive ear in tech’s very highest corridors of power
so what happened? 3 parts.. i am going to consider a number of factors that i think contributed to ensuring the tech futures we all anticipated never happened.. these fall into two broad groups.. 1\ broadly political.. having to do w conscious shifts in allocation of research funding 2\ B, a change in the nature of the systems administering sci and tech research
thesis: There appears to have been a profound shift, beginning in the 1970s, from investment in technologies associated with the possibility of alternative futures to investment technologies that furthered labor discipline and social control.
‘there was a whole system of values that people were taught to postpone their pleasure, to put all their money in the bank .. to buy life ins.. a whole bunch of things that didn’t make any sense to our gen at all‘.. abbie hoffman.. from trial of chicago 7 (1970
left off here adding new notes
back in the 50s many us planners were laboring under the suspicion that the soviet system (after competing in space race) quite possibly worked much better than their own.. ie: econ growth.. quickly followed by production of vast tank aries that defeated hitler, and .. launching of sputnik in 57, followed by first manned spacecraft in 61.. many americans feared soviet living standards would surpass those of americans
often said apollo moon landing was greatest achievement of soviet communism.. us would never have contemplated feat had it not been for ambitions of the soviet politburo.. run by Bs but Bs who dared to dream astounding dreams .. though most turned out eco or socially distastrous
even golden age of sci fi occurred in us and ussr simultaneously.. consider star trek.. is not the fed of planets w its high minded idealism, strict military discipline and apparent lack of both class differences and any real evidence of multiparty democracy – really just an americanized vision of a kinder, gentler soviet union, and above all, one that actually worked
what i find remarkable about star trek in particular is that there is not only o real evidence of democracy but that almost no none seems to notice its absence
federation did eventually come up.. and when it did there was no real way anyone could say it was not a democracy.. so one or two later references to the federation as having an elected president and legislature were duly thrown in.. but this is meaningless.. signs of real democratic life are entirely absent in the show – no character ever makes even a passing ref to elections, political parties, divisive issues, opinion polls, slogans plebiscites, protest, or campaigns..
that’s good no?
gotta get rid of the infra.. that demands response over action
one might object: the characters themselves are.. in the military (star fleet).. but in real democratic societies, or even constitutional republics like the us, soldiers and sailors regularly express political opinions about all sorts of things..
again – in disagreement w assumption that democracy is good for human being
star trek characters complain about Bs all the time.. they never complain about politicians.. because political problems are always addressed solely thru admin means.. but this is of course exactly what one would expect under some for of state socialism.. we tend to forget that such regimes also invariably claimed to be democracies.. on paper the ussr under stalin boasted an exemplary constitution.. w far more democratic controls than european parliamentary system of the time.. it was just that, much as in the federation, none of this had any bearing on how life actually worked..
The Federation (in star trek) then, is Leninism brought to its full and absolute cosmic success – a society where secret police, reeducation camps, and show trials are not necessary because a happy conjuncture of material abundance and ideological conformity ensures the system can now run entirely by itself.
maybe the ideological conformity bit was off… 2 needs..
while no one seems to know or much care about the fed’s political composition, its econ system has, from the 80s onward, been subject to endless curiosity and debate.. star trek characters live under a regime of explicit communism.. social classes have been eliminated.. so too have division based on race, gender or ethnic origin.. the very existence of money, in earlier periods is considered a weird and somewhat amusing historical curiosity.. menial labor has been automated into nonexistence. floors clean themselves.. food, clothing, tools and weapons can be whisked into existence at will w a mere expenditure of energy, and even energy does not seem to be rationed in any significant way. all this did raise some hackles, and it would be interesting to write a political history of the debate over the economics of the future it sparked in the late 80s and early 90s
michale moore in debate w editors of the nation, pointing out that star trek showed that ordinary working class americans were more amenable to overt anticapitalist politics than the left
but suddenly, we learned that money had not entirely disappeared.. there was latinum.. those who traded in it, however, were an odious race who seemed to be almost exactly modeled on medieval christian stereotypes of jews.. except w oversized ears instead of noses..
on other had, the suggestion that the fed was promoting communism was undercut by the intro of the borg, a hostile civ so utterly communistic that individuality had been effaced completely, sucking any sentient life form it assimilated into one terrifying beehive mind
add page on star trek/wars?
by the time of the moon landing of 68, us planners no longer took their competition seriously.. the soviets had lost the space race, and as a result the actual direction of american research and development could shift away from anything that might lead to the creation of mars bases and robot factories.. let alone become the tech basis for a communist utopia
left off at 131
.. despite unprecedented investment in research on medicine and life sciences, as we still await cures for cancer or even of the common cold; instead, the most dramatic medical breakthroughs we have sen have taken the form of drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin – tailor-made, one might say, to ensure that these new professional demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally, crazy.
What these management techniques invariably end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell each other things:
.. as American power grew more and more secure, the country’s bureaucracy became less and less tolerant of its outliers.
Meanwhile, in the few areas in which free, imaginative creativity actually is fostered, such as in open-source Internet software development, it is ultimately marshaled in order to create even more, and even more effective, platforms for the filling out of forms.
.. we’re going to have to figure out a different economic system entirely.
ch 3 (of 3) — why we really love bureaucracy after all – the utopia of rules
like money – bureaucracy can take out the soul/interpretive labor – the impersonal as convenient.
The post office was, essentially, one of the first attempts to apply top-down, military forms of organization to the public good.
big section on how germany had the po down. and how much came from that model. first from armies and empires… called an example of the socialist economic system.
Kropotkin often cited the international “universal postal union” of 1878.. as a model for anarchism..
already in the 1830s, Tocquevile had been startled by the size of the u.s. po and the sheer volume of letters…
.. and, unlike the situation in great britain and other european nations, the mail was transmitted w/o govt surveillance or control.
in 1790… carried only 30000 letters, one for about every fifteen person in the country. by 1815 it transmitted nearly 7.5 million… about one every person…. and unlike … great britain and other european nations, … the mail was transmitted w/o govt surveillance or control…. to now (several pages later) where most of us get mail we don’t want, ie: bills.
and then defunded by govt.. so that quickly became the very defn of everything we were supposed to think was wrong with state bureaucracies
journalists treated such outbreaks as the result of either individual insanity, or inexplicable malice. In fact, to even suggest possible structural explanations—.. to point out that before the eighties reforms in corporate culture that destroyed earlier assurances of secure lifetime employment and protections for workers against arbitrary and humiliating treatment by superiors, there had not been a single workplace massacre in all American history (other than by slaves)—seemed somehow immoral, since it would imply such violence was in some way justified
there are only some social systems in which politics in this sense becomes a spectator sport in its own right: where powerful figures engage in constant public contests with one another as a way of rallying followers and gathering support. We now think of this as an aspect of democratic systems of government, but for most of human history, it was seen as more of an aristocratic phenomenon
(There is a reason why the U.S. Senate, for example, is inhabited entirely by millionaires.)
“Aristocracy” after all literally means “rule by the best,” and elections were seen as meaning that the only role of ordinary citizens was to decide which, among the “best” citizens, was to be considered best of all,
One might well argue that political action—and this is true even on the micro-level—is a matter of acting in a way that will influence other people at least partially by their hearing or finding out about it.
This is why poets were so important. The whole point of life was to do things that other people might wish to sing about.
Europeans for most of this period were staunchly opposed to democracy—insisted that “the people” in such a system would inevitably end up behaving like the mob at the Roman circus: .. And to this day, almost all educated people still feel that, even if they are willing to grudgingly accept a few democratic elements in some aspects of society, they need to be kept entirely separate from the administration of justice and the law.
Administrative procedures are very much not about the creation of stories; in a bureaucratic setting, stories appear when something goes wrong. When things run smoothly, there’s no narrative arc of any sort at all.
Bureaucratic procedures in contrast are based on a principle of transparency. The rules are supposed to be clear, uniformly expressed, and accessible to all. As we all know, this is rarely actually the case. But it is supposed to be true in principle. For most of us, administrative forms are at least as obscure as elvish riddles that only become visible at certain phases of the moon. But they are not supposed to be. In fact, one of the most infuriating bureaucratic tactics is to disguise information through a false pretense of transparency: for instance, to bury a key piece of information in a flurry of departmental emails—so many that no one could possibly read all of them.
Fantasy literature then, is largely an attempt to imagine a world utterly purged of bureaucracy, which readers enjoy both as a form of vicarious escapism and as reassurance that ultimately, a boring, administered world is probably preferable to any imaginable alternative.
anti bureaucratic seen as too crazy.. ie: in need of magic to keep it from – running amok
In the Harry Potter books, that’s exactly the joke: let’s take the most drab, stuffy, institutions responsible for the disenchantment of the world, and try to concoct the most wildly enchanted versions of them we can possibly imagine.
Computer games could turn fantasy into an almost entirely bureaucratic procedure: accumulation of points, the raising of levels, and so on.
introducing role-playing back into the computer games (Elfquest, World of Warcraft …), in a constant weaving back and forth of the imperatives of poetic and bureaucratic technology. But in doing so, these games ultimately reinforce the sense that we live in a universe where accounting procedures define the very fabric of reality, where even the most absolute negation of the administered world we’re currently trapped in can only end up being yet another version of the exact same thing.
We play games. So does that mean play and games are really the same thing? It’s certainly true that the English language is somewhat unusual for even making the distinction between the two—in most languages, the same word covers both. (This is true even of most European languages, as with the French jeu or German spiele.) But on another level they seem to be opposites, as one suggests free-form creativity; the other, rules.
play can be said to be present when the free expression of creativ energies becomes an end in itself. it is freedom for its own sake……..it inevitably does produce at least tacit ones (rules), since sheer random playing around soon becomes boring..
? – do we know that? or is that just the perception of a world from an indoctrination of productivity..?
freedom has to be in tension with something, or it’s just randomness..
? what if randomness is freedom. ie: whimsy. again.. perhaps we don’t know how to describe freedom – since we’ve never experienced it..
this suggests that the absolute pure form of play, one that really is absolutely untrammeled by rules of any sort (other than those it itself generates and can set aside at any instance) itself can exist only in our imagination, as an aspect of those divine powers that generate the cosmos.
ah. i don’t know. i don’t believe that to be true. and again – we don’t know – because it’s something we’ve not yet tried. perhaps.
what ultimately lies behind the appeal of bureaucracy is fear of play.
i buy that. as in – fear of uncertainty. but i believe we’ve trained ourselves into that. trained ourselves into a play is subversive mentality/legality.
sovereignty – to make rules up as you go along.
rules are safe. game-like behavior seen as transparent/predictable – so seen as freedom.
on language – grammar was invented after language.. but then we use it even as people’s languages morph (as they should) to say they are ie: speaking incorrectly.
nothing to do with a distaste for arbitrary authority, and everything to do with a distaste for arbitrariness itself – a distaste which leads to unthinking acceptance of authority.
freedom, then, really is the tension of the free play of human creativity against the rules it is constantly generating.
Yaacov‘s defn of demo ed
Jo Freeman ness
yes. mechanism. huge.
so what if we did have a mechanism.. that perpetuated self-organizing/regeneration.. a starting over ness (at minimum) everyday..
end book notes/quotes
Jim Rutt (@jim_rutt) tweeted at 4:05 AM on Mon, Aug 12, 2019:
This is an illuminating look at our world. Recommend Utopia of Rules by @davidgraeber https://t.co/vz4LTZ1snU
Walter Phippeny (@Igelritter) tweeted at 0:42 AM on Mon, Aug 12, 2019:
Started reading @davidgraeber ‘s book about Bureaucracy; 108 pages and several hours later I had to force myself to put it down. You know how it is when someone pulls back the curtain on a truth you feel, but have never been able to put into words? Well, it’s a like that. https://t.co/7TyaW1vYDx
Nicholas Bagley (@nicholas_bagley) tweeted at 6:06 AM – 28 Jan 2020 :
From @sangerkatz, this is an *essential* piece. Medicaid’s work requirements are a policy calamity because beneficiaries struggle to handle the paperwork.
If you think they’re lazy or that you’re different, take the quiz. They’re not, and you’re not. https://t.co/2bQSeJV2RR(http://twitter.com/nicholas_bagley/status/1222144026750738433?s=17)
title of piece: are you good enough at paper work to manage as a poor american
paywalled nyt piece
earlier tweet on have 10 days since initiation of first contact et al
i always come back to this excerpt from David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules when someone asks what will we do to stop crime if we abolish the police. here’s the thing, police don’t stop crime. https://t.co/XHVm6DO53a
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/mistakeswrmade_/status/1297784514924748800