utopia of rules
book links to amazon (notes upon notes as i re/re/re/read and re again)
(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.
it wasn’t always so. the rise of the modern corp late 19th, was largely seen at time as matter of applying modern, B techniques to private sector.. and these techniques were assumed to be required when operation on a large scale.. t
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
(setting standard for what admin functionaries were supposed to be like) .. 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 the us 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.. for military purposes..
fore fronted by rotc ness – 61
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.. t
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.. t official creds seen as a kind of material fetish.. conveying power in own right entirely apart from real knowledge/experience, training they’re supposed to rep.. t
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.. despite fact that most renowned journalists have never studied journalism
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.. t
in some cases.. these new *training reqs can only be described 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
not only is this world ultimately a product of fin..it’s really just a continuation of it.. since what is the world of securitize derivatives, collab obligations, and other such exotic fin instruments but the apotheosis of the principe that value is ultimately a produce of paperwork.. t
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 extraction.. as legalized extortion.. accompanied by ever increasing accumulation of rules/regs and sophisticated/omnipresent threats of physical force to enforce them.. indeed.. so omni we no longer realize we’re being threatened.. since can’t imagine what it would be like not to be..t
huge.. gare enslavement law
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..
a left critique of B sorely lacking.. this book is not an outline for such a critique.. neither an attempt to develop a gen theory/history/current of B.. it’s a collection of essays.. pointing to directions left wing critique of B might take
chapters don’t form a single argument.. could be said to circle around one.. but mainly.. an attempt to begin a convo.. one long overdue
3 directions left wing 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
is that what ordinary life (story of mom’s B) for most people is really like? running around feeling like an idiot all day. actually acting like an idiot..
Bs appear to be org’s to guarantee that a significant proportion of actors will not be able to perform their tasks as expected.. it’s in this sense that i’ve said one can fairly sat that.. 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.. and not because i wasn’t paying attention.. i had been investing a great deal of mental/emotional energy in the whole affair
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
obviously misplaced strategy since anyone (who) had power to bend rules were not people i was talking to.. and if i did encounter them.. they would inform me that if i did complain.. even about structural absurdity.. only result would be to get some junior functionary in trouble..
we anthropologists have made something of a specialty out of dealing w the ritual surrounding birth, marriage, death and similar rights of passage
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
in most existing societies.. rituals may/not be carried out.. but paperwork.. actually effects the change
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
why then not vast ethnographical tomes about rites of passage.. w long chapters about forms/paperwork? paperwork is boring..
one could go further.. paper work is supposed to be boring..
as if the creators of these docs were gradually trying to strip them of anything slightly profound or remotely symbolic.. all this might drive an anthro to despair..
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
thick description (concepts of human condition, society, hierarchy, nature, passions/dilemmas..).. this would not be possible to do w a mortgage app.. no matter how dense the doc itself.. even if someone did (write/anal it).. would be even harder to imagine anyone else actually reading it
one might object.. but of course great novelists have written compelling lit about B.. but b embracing very circularity/emptiness/idiocy.. and producing lit works that partake of something like the same mazelike, senseless form..
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)
great writes then know how to deal w a vacuum.. they embrace it.. social theory in contrast abhors a vacuum.. ie: approach to B.. stupidity and violence are precisely the elements it is least inclined to talk about.. lack of critical work esp odd because would think academics are personally positioned to speak of absurdities of B life..
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
they are scholars – people who research, analyze, and interpret things
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.. the ability to call up people dressed in uniforms, willing to threaten
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.
actually, the very use of the term ‘structural violence’ is an excellence case in point.. when i first began working on this essay, i simply took it for granted that the term referred to actual violence that operates in an indirect form.. (later took that actual to threat of)
the omegas internalize their disgrace and come to act as if they believe they really are guilty of something.. in a sense 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)
this is what i had in mind when i first began using the phrase.. “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.
for most part.. academics don’t use term this way.. current usage really harkens to 60s peace studies and used to refer to structures that.. have same effects as violence even though they may not involve physical acts of violence at all
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 the state 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 even 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..
ed as huge piece/glue to structural violence.. made/makes violence seem good/worthwhile/validated.. oi.. so huge..
*so too.. level of supposed intellect ness
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..
most of us are capable of getting a superficial sense of what others are thinking/feeling just by observing tone of voice or body language.. it’s usually not hard to get sense of people’s immediate intentions/motives.. but going beyond that superficial often takes a great deal of work
again.. supposed explanations/knowledge is same song to stupidity ness.. just a deeper.. more obscure superficiality
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.. because this seems one area where anthros/academics prone to fall victim to the *confusion of interpretive depth and social significance.. that is.. they automatically assume that what is most interesting about violence is also what’s most important..
*huge part of threat of violence: supposed to’s of school/work
us whales have no idea
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
these effects are most visible when the structures of ineq take th emost deeply internalized forms
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 .. this kind of rhetoric about the mysteries of..
this all showing.. it’s got to be deeper than gender ie: still comparing.. not to mention.. still comparing via income
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 pattern 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 so often – helps explain (away anyway) how good people could seem to be missing it
compassion fatigue (googled defn): indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.
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
from bs jobs:
on the social level duct taping has traditionally been women’s work.. throughout history, prominent men have wandered about oblivious to half of what’s going on around them, treading on a thousand toes; it was typically their wives, sisters, mothers, or daughters who were left w the responsibility of performing the emotional labor of soothing egos, calming nerves, and negotiating solutions to the problems they created
dang resonation from interpretive labor page:
wondering about introvert ness (rather crowd anxiety) coming form the overwhelming ness of having to interp labor for all the people.. often feel that too much ness .. perhaps extroverts (even though i don’t see intro and extro as legit binary) aren’t as anal about that interp labor element.. so easier to take it all in.. or.. rather.. to be w people and not take it all in
probably why the ‘do you even see the people right in front of you’ is so unsettling.. it’s like ‘yeah.. that’s the problem.. i see them too much’
back to utopia of rules..
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.. and if someone dies.. all sorts of forms .. up to and including municipal stats..
sicko – mm et al
and whole section on police as huge element of sv.. keeping people in line/statisfied.. rather than protecting
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.. we all know what’s going to happen..
so resonating w fear of anyone in authority/uniform.. not that you’ve done something morally wrong (harming others.. that’s why l ness) but B – ally wrong (dotting/capitalizing stats et al).. all about rules that don’t come from within.. needing sv/force/violence
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.. *if i didn’t think such exercises had the potential to throw important light on areas that would otherwise remain obscure.. i would not have written it.. the question is what kind and to what purpose
*to michel’s question.. following from theory of value page:
[so to *michel.. even value can’t be compared (graeber values law – values can’t be).. so measuring.. is just spinning our wheels/cancer.. toward what fuller calls inspectors of inspectors (So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors).. creating more bullshit jobs.. to earn/gain things we spend our lives measuring/comparing.. rather than living/being
*@monk51295 @davidgraeber how do you see graeber’s theory of value ? I read his whole book on the topic and concluded he thought there wasn’t any. Wrong interpretation ??
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/mbauwens/status/1358342291539202049
reply to michel: i see that as a major point he makes.. which leads to utopia of rules and bs jobs and debt and what b fuller calls inspectors of inspectors .. all our futile/wasted efforts/energies to define/theorize/control.. rather than to live
we need to let go of any form of m\a\p]
back to utopia of rules notes
comparison of B and theoretical knowledge.. B is about reducing everything to preconceived mechanical/statistical formulae.. simple pre existing templates to complex/ambiguous situations.. result often leaves those forced to deal w B admin w impression they are dealing w people who have for some arbitrary reason decided to put on a set of glasses that only allows them to see 2% of what’s in front of them.. same too.. for social theory,, ie: anthros like to describe what they do as ‘thick description’ but in fact.. captures at best 2% of what’s happening.. theoretical plucks one/two strands of complex.. to make generalizations.. reductions.. about ie: social conflict, performance, hierarchy.. i’m not trying to say anything wrong in this theoretical reduction.. to contrary.. i am convinced some such process is necessary if one wishes to say something dramatically new about the world..
yeah.. i don’t know if we can do that.. currently so intoxicated/blinded by blinders of whales ness
certainly insofar as structuralism claimed to be single, grandiose theory of the nature of thought, language and society, providing the key to unlocking all the mysteries of human culture.. it was indeed ridiculous and has been justifiably abandoned.. but structural anal wasn’t a theory, it was a technique, and to toss that too out the window.. as has largely been done.. robs us of one of our most ingenious tools..
? not sure.. as the data said tools are working on.. non legit.. and perhaps non legit ness created by those tools.. ?
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.. my point is just that even by making this initial move, one will almost invariable discover something one would not have thought of otherwise.. it’s 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
i don’t know..
? 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
the police truncheon is precisely the point where the states’ B imperative for imposing simple admin schema and its monopoly on coercive force come together
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.. any form of m\a\p
.. 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
this possibility even threads our language. why for ie is a building referred to as real property or real estate.. the real in this usage is not derived from latin res or thing: it’s 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
and even more so.. from 88* above – on assuming people are org’d by market, hierarchy, command.. any form of m\a\p
but sovereignty ultimately comes down to a monopoly on what is euphemistically referred to as ‘force’.. that is, violence..
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
this is ridiculous ness
.. critical term here is ‘force’ as in ‘the state’s monopoly on the use of coercive force.. whenever we hear this word invoked we find selves in presence of political ontology in which power to destroy, to cause others pain or to threaten to break, damage or mangel others’ bodies (or just lock them in tiny room fro rest of their lives) is treated as the social equiv of the very energy that drives the cosmos
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 they *don’t tend to give it the same foundational status.. instead i would argue that leftist thought is founded on what i will call a political ontology of the imagination’
*actually.. they.. we all.. do .. just not same visible status/manifestation.. this is what we have not yet seen (referring to my correction again .. on *88 above democratic admin ness).. so still spinning wheels in tragedy.. and calling left/right ness is big part of that not letting go ness.. aka: cancer, the death of us
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 the unique property of humans, for marx, that they first envision things and only then bring them into being.. it was this process he referred to as ‘production’
process (productivity/envisioning for productivity) kills the imagination.. just a gentler version of ie: graeber min\max law
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
what at the time might have seemed the fantasy of an eccentric pamphleteer soon became the charter for a sporadic, uncertain, but apparently permanent alliance that endures to this day..
rather.. charter from the get go.. huge.. because next para is g’s huge.. and by these claims/words/ie’s.. diff is just same song
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..t
in this sense, a phrase like ‘all power to the imagination’ expresses the very quintessence of the left
except.. not all.. so not legit imagination.. so not legit freedom
can’t be left/right.. et al.. has to be all of us or it won’t work
perhaps leftist sensibility expressed in purest form in words of marxist john holloway who wanted to title a book ‘stop making capitalism’.. capitalism he noted, is not something imposed on us by some outside force.. it 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.. (but again.. that’s something in all of us.. not just leftist thinking)
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?
huge huge huge
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
ie: cure ios city with 2 convers as infra
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.. by this defn, a ‘political ontology of the imagination’ could only be a contradiction in terms.. the imagination cannot be the basis of reality.. it is by defn that which we can think, but which has no reality.. as model.. novels.. or other works of fiction that create imaginary worlds that presumably remain the same no matter how many times one reads them. imaginary creatures.. elves or unicorns or tv cops.. are not affected by the real world.. they cannot be, since they do’t exist.. in contrast..
next para on g’s defn of imagination..
the kind of imagination i have been developing in this essay is much closer to the old, immanent (inherent), 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
to get to a sense of how much.. 68 – all power to imagination.. which imagination? 1\ transcendent.. attempt to impose prefab utopian vision.. effects are disastrous.. often meant creating vast B machine to impose utopian visions by violence.. 2\ revolutionary.. not giving full power to other .. immanent imagination – the practical common sense imagination of ordinary cooks, nurses, mechanics, and gardeners.. is likely to end up having same effects
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
but agree on not drawing up plan.. only plan to facil whatever ness.. ie: imagine if we
… 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.
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.. most situations of ineq i suspect combine elements of both
like graeber/wengrow back & forth law – ie: interp-labor/imagination by subords.. and.. freedom to imagine by dominants.. interp labor seeming more oppressive.. like forced imagination.. but so too is the freedom to imagine by dominants.. like voice ness and spinach or rock ness and moxie on democracy and f & b & dm same law.. not really free to imagine.. until we all are
the subjective experience of living inside such lopsided structures of imagination.. the warping/shattering of imagination that results.. is what we are referring to when we talk about alienation.. t
ai humanity needs: augmenting interconnectedness
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.. t ..it’s not coincidence the two so often seem to arrive together..
has to be a nother way.. to get there from here.. sans violence ie: imagine if we org’d around something every soul already craves..
*for much of the last century, the great revolutionary question has thus been: how does one affect fundamental change in society w/o setting in train a process that will end w the creation of some new violent B?..t 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)
*yes that.. let’s focus on that.. ie: cure ios city
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..t
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) ..
yeah ***that ie: cure ios city – in the city.. as the day.. everyday anew
huge huge huge
see my book the democracy project (2012) my own chosen title for it was, ironically, ‘as if we were already free’ but in the end, i wasn’t free to dictate my own title
insurrectionary moments will most likely be one element in a far more complex/multifaceted revolutionary process whose outlines could hardly .. *at this point.. be fully anticipated
*ever.. or we’re right back to B/death et al
in retrospect seems naive that single uprising or successful civil war could neutralize entire apparatus of structural violence.. at least w/in a particular national territory..t
huge.. key.. ‘at least w/in national territory’.. yeah.. has to be global.. as one.. or won’t work.. ie: everyone in sync law
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
one of most remarkable things about such insurrectionary upheavals.. is how they can seem to burst out of nowhere .. and the.. often.. dissolve away just as quickly.. t
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
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
need to go/listen deeper.. to common/constant ie: maté basic needs
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..t
yeah.. that.. framings of sea world.. democratic admin et al
they are the instruments thru which the human imagination is smashed and shattered..t
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.
let’s answer/find that how.. and org around it
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
these 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 have been free enough.. still a response.. democratic admin et al
if one resists the reality effect created by pervasive structural violence (B embedded/buried in large heavy objects.. making regs seem natural).. it is possible to give power to he imagination.. but it also requires an enormous amount of work..
people keep saying this (of late.. esp in m of care – feb 26 – debbie, simona et al).. but (to me) .. this is a huge red flag we’re doing it/life wrong.. thinking it’s hard work is part of the sv story/myth/perpetuation
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 power, at least to an extent, but they can’t get rid of it.. it becomes forms of institutionalized laziness.. rev change 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
on needing a mech to undo our hierarchical listening
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.. solitary.. consists largely of stifling out possibility of sending any further messages of any kind
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.. dead zones..t
huge.. for all of us.. if all about shutting people up.. 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, *these 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 ..
*instead – we got info tech and org of transport
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? and did not that battle ultimate produce, on both sides, completely unrealistic conceptions of what that future would actually be like..
data (info tech) and commodities (org of transport).. all about moving around non legit.. non living things.. need a means to get back/to ie: organism as fractal
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 everything around us changing, 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 to the 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
but (to me) democracy does mean B.. democratic admin ness.. et al
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 receptive ear in tech’s very highest corridors of power.. so what happened?
*kind of pointless/flapping.. if non legit to legit human nature.. ie: if looking w sea world glasses.. and not sure we can look back far enough to see legit/natural us
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..t
social control.. but way before 70s
‘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
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 disastrous
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?
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 – (i am) in disagreement w assumption that democracy is good for human being
when political problems do arise.. those sent in to deal w them are invariably Bs, diplomats, and officials.. 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.
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
the standard line of course it that this shift of priorities was simply the natural result of the triumph of the market.. ie: apollo as quintessential big govt project.. coord’d by equally vast govt B.. obviously wrong
1\ the amt of really innovative research being done in private sector has actually declined since heyday of bell labs and similar.. ie: using money that would otherwise be directed towards raises, hiring, or research budgets on stock buybacks, raising values of execs’ portfolios but doing nothing to further productivity.. tax cuts had exact opp effect of claims
at same time.. us govt never did abandon gigantic state controlled schemes of tech development.. it just shifted emphasis away from civilian projects like space program and in direction of military research.. an endless variety of weapons projects, research in communication and surveillance techs, and similar, ‘security related’ concerns
from innovations (of seeming free people) to social control
by 70s even much basic research came to be conducted following essentially military priorities.. reason we don’t have robot factories .. 95% of research funding channeled thru pentagon.. which is more interested in discoveries that might lead to development of unmanned drones.. these military projects did have their own civilian spin offs: the internet is one.. but they had the effect of guiding development in very specific directions
could make case that shift on techs/meds not so much via market-driven consumer imperatives.. but part of an all out effort to follow the tech humbling of soviet union w total victory in global class war: not only the imposition of absolute us military dominance overseas, but the utter rout of social movement back home..
techs that emerged were in almost every case the kind that proved most conducive to surveillance, work discipline and social control.. t
computers have opened up certain spaces of freedom.. but instead of leading to workless utopia abbie hoffman or guy debord imagined.. they have been employed to produce opp effect.. info tech has allowed a financialization of capital that has driven workers more desperately into debt.. destroyed traditional job security… increase working hours..
.. 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 seen have taken the form of drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin – .. t
tailor-made, one might say, to ensure that these new professional demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally, crazy..t
minimum max – josh ovalle – et al – shift from dreamers to social control via shift in meds..
crazywise (doc) et al
when historians write epitaph for neolib.. course of action that will make capitalism seem like the only possible econ system.. does destroying job security while increasing working hrs really create a more productive (let alone innovative, loyal workforce?.. same could be said of growth in armies, police, and private security services.. they’re utterly unproductive.. nothing but a resource sink.. the ultimate imperative of those running the world is choking off the possibility of any sense of inevitable, redemptive future that will be fundamentally diff than the world today..t must be a crucial part of the neolib project
so gotta have force or drugs (then force to take drugs) to squelch imagination et al
all we are really talking about here is a superfast and globally accessible combo of library, po, and mail order catalog. ’50 yrs and this is the best our scientists managed to come up with? we were expecting computer that could actually think
huge part of the problem.. what we need is ai as augmenting interconnectedness
all this is true, (no advance in tech), despite fact that overall levels of research funding have increased dramatically since the 70s
when funders do conduct basic research.. they tend to put all their eggs in one gigantic basket.. ie: human genome project.. 3 bn only to discover that human gene sequences are nearly identical to those of chimps
even basic research now seem to be driven by political, admin and marketing imperatives.. that make it increasingly unlikely that anything particularly revolutionary will result..
the mythic origins of sv and the internet have blinded us to what’s really going on.. has allowed us to imagine that research and development is driven by small teams of plucky entrepreneurs.. or the sort of decentralized coop that creates open source software.. it isn’t.. these are just the teams that produce results..
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: grant/book proposals/applications et al.. t
why seth is so popular.. salesman at heart?
unis now brands to be marketed to students/contributors.. pr and marketing come to engulf every aspect of uni life.. result is a sea of docs about the fostering of ‘imagination ‘ and ‘creativity’ set in an environ that might as well have been designed to strangle any actual manifestations of imagination and creativity in the cradle..t
already did that (maybe what he means by in the cradle).. ie: maté parenting law .. graeber parent/care law.. et al.. but yeah.. ongoing at uni (and why parents do it.. so kids will get in places et al).. what we need is graeber care/free law
there was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant and impractical.. no longer.. it is not eh domain of professional self marketers.. as for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical: it would seem society now has no place for *them at all
crazywise (doc) et al
the *them is all of us.. if we’re free enough .. it can’t not be.. .. it has to be.. or the dance won’t dance
on – one’s best ideas being stymied at every point:
‘you will spend your time writing proposal rather than does research.. worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort/talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the importan sci problems.. it is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for proposals because they have not been proved to work’
common sense dictates:
aka: graeber min\max law
publicly funded scholars treat findings as personal property.. less is published.. academic publisher ensure that findings that are published are more difficult to access, further enclosing the intellectual commons
yeah that.. paywall (doc) et al
but even deeper.. intellect ness is not the point of human being ness
all this is much noted. more subtle is the way the managerial ethos itself militate against the implementation of anything remotely adventurous or quirky, esp, if there is no prospect of immediate results..
i could go on but i assume the reader is getting the idea.. a timid, B spirit has come to suffuse every aspect of intellectual life.. more often than not it comes cloaked in a language of creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurialism.. but the language is meaningless.. the sort of thinkers most likely to come up w new conceptual breakthrus are the least likely to receive funding and if somehow breakthrus nonetheless occur, they will almost certainly never find anyone willing to follow upon the most daring implications
again.. not about intellect ness and problem solving ..
what we keep missing is how to get to 8b people living their fittingness – that’s the deeper (seemingly quirky/crazy) thing
.. as American power grew more and more secure, the country’s bureaucracy became less and less tolerant of its outliers.. t
ie: was .. people like feynman working for govt..
even deeper.. we’re totally missing the dance if we’re not hearing every voice.. everyday.. ie: imagine if we
the current age of stagnation seems to have begun after 1945.. precisely at the moment the us finally and definitively replace the uk as organizer of the world econ..
americans do not like to think of selves as a nation of Bs.. but obvious this is precisely what we have become.. the final victory over the soviet union did not really lead to the domination of the ‘the market’ .. more than anything, it simply cemented the dominance of fundamentally conservative managerial elites – corp Bs who use the pretext of short term, competitive, bottom line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind
‘all the labor saving machinery that has hitherto been invented has not lessened the toil of a single human being’ – john stuart mill
it is the premise of this book that we live in a deeply B society. if we do not notice it, it is largely because B practices/req’s have become so all pervasive that we can barely see them, or worse, cannot imagine doing things any other way..t
industrial automation in 18-19th cent had paradoxical effect of turning world’s pop into full time industrial workers.. so has all software designed to save us from admin responsibility in recent decades ultimately tuned us all into part/full time admins
the internet has unleashed all sorts of creative vision and collab ingenuity.. what it has really brought about is a kind of bizarre inversion of ends and means.. where creativity is marshaled to the service of admin rather than the other way around
b oversight turned armies of peasant farmers into the cogs of a vast machine.. even much later, after actual cogs had been invented, the design of complex machinery was always to some degree an elab of principles originally developed to org people.. t
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..t
org people via prozac and paperwork
ie of structural violence
let’s try this org:
this is what i mean by B techs: admin imperative have become not the means but the end of tech development
at this point, the one thing i think we can be fairly confident about it is that invention and true innovation will not happen w/in the framework of contemp corp capitalism.. or, morse likely, any form of capitalism at all
.. we’re going to have to figure out a different economic system entirely..t
ginormous point.. yes let’s do that
ie: 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
how to get there?
we’re going to have to make sure that whatever replaces capitalism is based on a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth/power
rather one that doesn’t even focus on egalitarian distribution and power
ie: cure ios city
only then will tech begin to be marshaled toward human needs..t
and this is the best reason to break free of the dead hand of the hedge fund managers/ceos.. to free our fantasies form the screen in which such men have imprisoned them.. to let our imaginations one again become a material force in human history
1 yr to be 5 ness
ch 3 (of 3) — why we really love bureaucracy after all – the utopia of rules
nobody seems to like B very much – yet somehow we always seem to end up w more of it
in unis, this is sometimes informally referred to as the ‘creating committees to deal w the problem of too many committees’ problem
weber is worth quoting at length on this subject: ‘every B seeks to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret. B admin alas tends to be an admin of ‘secret sessions’: in so far as it can, it hides its knowledge and action from criticism
the concept of the ‘official secret’ is the specific invention of B and nothing is so fanatically defended by the B as this attitude.. powerless opposite superior knowledge of B expert et al
one side effect, as weber also observes, is that once you do create a B, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it.. the only real way to rid oneself of an established B, according to weber, is to simply kill them all
now.. we can free (rather than kill) them all.. gershenfeld something else law et al
the simplest explanation for the appeal of B procedures lies in their impersonality. cold, impersonal, B relations are much like cash transactions and both offer similar advantages and disadvantages.. on the one hand they are soulless.. on the other, they are simple, predictable, and /win certain parameters, at least – treat everyone more or less the same
and anyway who really want to live in a world where everything is soul?
everyone.. right.. ? ie: imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch in 8b souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to connect/coord us.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for
B holds out at least the possibility of dealing w other human beings in ways that do not demand either party has to engage in all those complex and exhausting forms of interp labor.. surely this is part of the appeal.. even if do achieve some utopian communal society.. some impersonal (dare i say B?) institution would not still be necessary for just this reason..
in this essay.. i’d like to explore possibility that all this goes much deeper.. it’s not just that the impersonal relations Bs afford are convenient; to some degree, at least, our very ideas of rationality, justice and above all freedom, are founded on them
indeed.. so many red flags that we’re assuming some B .. we have no idea what legit free people are like
like money – bureaucracy can take out the soul/interpretive labor – the impersonal as convenient.
to explain why i believe this to be case.. ie: 2 moments in human history when new B forms actually did inspire not jus widespread passive acquiescence but giddy enthusiasm/infatuation and try to understand what it was about them that seemed to so many people .. so exiting 1\ po and 2\ rationalism as spirituality
1\ po: perhaps flagship institution.. pride/joy of german civil service was the post office.. late 19th cent – it’s efficiency so legendary.. it casts a kind of terrible shadow across 20th cent.. many of greatest achievements inspired by or built in direct imitation of.. the german post office.. and one could make case that many of the most terrible woes of that century can also be laid at its feet
to understand how this could be.. need to understand real origins of modern social welfare state.. which we now largely think of.. when we think of them at all.. as having been created by benevolent democratic elite.. nothing could be further from the truth
most of key institutions of what later became the welfare state – everything form social ins and pension to public libraries and public health clinics – were not originally created by govts at all, but by trade unions, neighborhood associations, coops, and working class parties/orgs.. many engage in self conscious revolutionary project of ‘building a new society in shell of old’.. gradually creating socialist institution from below.. marx’s communist party heirs abandoned idea os seizing control of govt by force.. no longer seemed necessary.. in a europe at peace and witnessing rapid tech progress.. they felt it should be possible to create a social revolution thru peaceful, electoral means
his (german chancellor) reaction was two fold 1\ ban socialist part et al 2\ create top down alts to free schools, workers’ assoc, libraries.. et al.. and the larger process of building socialism from below.. took form of ie: social ins, freed ed, pensions.. watered down versions of socialist platform.. but in every case.. carefully purged of any democratic, participatory elements..
again.. weren’t really participatory et al.. rather democratic admin ness.. so still violent
when left wing regimes did later take power.. template already established.. so.. top down approach.. for clinics, libraries, banking, et al.. into admin structure of the state
the po was essentially one of the first attempts to apply top down, military forms of org to the public good
big section on how germany had the top down. and how much came from that model. first from armies and empires… called an example of the socialist economic system.
historically, postal services first emerged from org of armies/empires.. to.. in germany.. one could make argument that nation was created more than anything else, by po.. sparkling efficiency of system became a point of national pride
org of soviet union was directly modeled on that of the german postal service.. even anarchists joined the chorus: though they were less interested in the national system than in relationship between them..
Kropotkin often cited the international “universal postal union” of 1878.. as a model for anarchism.. (end of long quote on how po was so democracy like): ‘the sent delegates ..not rulers’
us was also held out as a model for a new type of civilization and the efficiency of its own post service was considered prima facie evidence.. – 1830s tocqueville startled by size of postal system..
.. 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 – 165]
huge.. yet habit\us ness.. leaves us obsessed w getting it as comfort
po model came to be seen by populists and esp progressives as major viable alt.. forms of new, freer, more rational society seemed to be emerging w/in the very structures of oppression itself.. in us the term used was ‘postalization’ a unique american coinage for nationalization – (earlier – B capitalism) .. for majority of americans postal service was the fed govt.. by 1831 its staff far outnumbered that of all other branches of govt combined..
american progressive were arguing that even private business would be more efficient were it run like the po.. in retrospect.. all these fantasies of postal utopia seem rather quaint at best.. we now associate national postal systems mainly w the arrival of things we never wanted in the first place: bills, overdraft alerts, mail order catalogs, solicitations, sweepstakes, calls to jury duty, tax audits.. et al.. then becomes squalid.. result of intentional policy choices.. since 1980s defunding the po and encouraging private alts.. as ongoing campaign to convince americans that govt doesn’t really work.. as result.. postal service became defn of everything we were supposed to think was wrong w state Bs.. endless stories about strikes, .. employees going postal.. et al..
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
crazywise (doc) et al
*violence of prozac and paperwork et al
at same time that symbolic war was being waged on postal service.. as it was descending into place of madness, degradation and violence.. .. something remarkably similar to infatuation w postal service was happening again.. summary: 1\ new communications tech via military; 2\ spread rapidly.. radically reshaping everyday life; 3\ reputation for dazzling efficiency; 4\ since operates on non market.. quickly seized by radicals as non capitalist econ system developing w/in shell of old 5\ becomes medium for govt surveillance and dissemination of endless new forms of advertising and unwanted paperwork..
so how to get 1, 2 & 4 w/o 3 and 5 ..? by not creating out of military (1).. rather out of itch-in-8bn-souls.. same for internet..
internet.. a giant globe spanning electronic super efficient po
what does this tell us about appeal of B itself?
org’d violence, insofar as it is a form of communication, is one that radically strips down, simplifies and ultimately prevents communication
begs a means to undo our hierarchical listening
ultimate purpose is to prevent others from being able to act
and from earlier.. to shut people up
yet here we have a way of taking those very stripped down minimalistic forms of action and communication typical of military systems.. whether chains of command or binary code.. and turning them into the invisible base on which everything they are not can be constructed: dreams, projects, declaration of love/passion, artistic effusions, subversive manifestos, or pretty much anything else.. they allow for the creation and maintenance of social relations that *could never have existed otherwise
*in sea world.. huge
but could if we could let go enough to get back/to an oikos world: 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
B appeals to us.. that it seems at its most liberating – precisely when it disappears: when it becomes so rational and reliable that we are able to just take it for granted.. go to sleep on bed of numbers and wake up w all numbers still snugly in place.. in this sense.. B enchants..
so .. liberating via disappearing security of #’s.. or enchanting.. both whales-speak.. not legit free-people-speak
B enchants when it can be seen as a species of what i’ve called poetic tech, one where mechanical forms of org, usually military ish, can be marshaled to the realization of impossible visions: to create cities out of nothing, scale the heavens, make the desert bloom. for most of human history this kind of power was only available to the rulers of empires or commander of conquering armies, so we might even speak here of a democratization of despotism.. once the privileged of waving one’s hand and having a vast invisible army of cogs and wheels org selves in such a way as to bring your whims into being was available only to he very most privileged few; in the modern world, it can be subdivided into millions of tiny portions and made available to everyone abet to write a letter or to flick a switch.. all this implies a certain very peculiar notion of freedom. even more i think it marks a reversal of earlier ways of thinking about rationality whose significance could hardly be more profound..
sounds like jensen civilization law et al
perhaps.. even deeper .. and more profound.. than you’re thinking.. if we use tech to undo our hierarchical listening
let me explain what i mean by this.. western intellectual traditions have always tended to assume that humans’ powers of reason exist, first and foremost, as ways of restraining our baser instincts..
again.. that thinking that we need prozac and paperwork to calm out wild ness down.. when what we need is to let go of that hard won order
yes.. the argument went, we all have animalistic drives/passions, just as we have our powers of creativity/imagination, but these impulses are ultimately chaotic and antisocial
reason – whether in the individual or the political community – exists to keep our lower nature in check .. to repress, channel and contain potentially violent energies in such a way that they do not lead to chaos and mutual destruction.. it is a moral force (the argument went)..t
yeah.. again.. jensen civilization law
this is why the word polis.. the political community and place of rational order, is the same root that gives us both ‘politeness’ and ‘police’..t
yeah.. smiles ness et al
what we need is a means to let go of that hard won order ie: carhart-harris entropy law et al
the emergence of B populism .. corresponds to a complete reversal of this conception of rationality.. to a new ideal.. one most famously summed up by david hume: that ‘reason is and ought to only to be the slave of the passions’ .. rationality in this view has nothing to do w morality.. it is a purely technical affair – an instrument .. a machine.. reason cannot tell us what we should want.. it can only tell us how best to get it
(in one version) reason acted to facil them (passions, creativity, desire)
in order to do that we need a means to listen deeper (ie: mech needs a detox embed)
the whole idea that one can make a strict division between means/ends, facts/values, is a product of the B mind set, because B is the first and only social institution that treats the means of doing things as entirely separate from what it is that’s being done
our conception of rationality is strangely incoherent.. it’s entirely unclear what the word is supposed to mean.. ie: means/end; amoral/moral; method-to-solve/solution-to-all-problems
2\ rationalism as a form of spirituality.. at very core of our conception of B.. on one hand.. 1\ notion that B systems are neutral social techs.. ways for getting from a to b.. value free ethics.. role of Bs: public servants.. creates problems: how to figure out what public really wants them to do
on other hand 2\ rationality as moral order and therefore and end to self.. reps triumph of reason over chaos
ie: rationality is application of logic, pure thought untempered by emotions; this pure, objective thought is then seen as basis of sci inquiry.. this has attained a great deal of popular purchase, but there’s a fundamental problem: sci inquiry itself has proved it cannot possible be true..
cog psychologists have demo’d again and again that there is no such thing as pure thought divorced from emotions; a human being w/o w emotions would not be able to think at all
again.. spot on to what what tech could be (and what it can’t be – ie: emotions/judgment/embodiment)
we do call crazy people ‘irrational’ but if so, calling someone.. or an argument.. ‘rational’ is saying almost nothing.. it’s a very weak statement.. you’re just saying they are not obviously insane..
in our present society.. seeming rational really means closer to insane (meaning not-us)
similarly, to say one wishes to create a ‘rational’ social order implies that current social arrangements might as well have been designed by the inhabitants of a lunatic asylum
actually opp.. current arrangement most violently felt by those we’ve locked up more.. that’s why they’re locked up
you can’t really make an argument against rationality, because to be convincing.. would have to be framed in rational terms.. if one is *willing to argue w another person at all, one must accept ,at least on a tacit level, that arguments based in an *accurate assessment of reality are better than ones that are not.. arguments that follow logic are better than those that violate them
*maybe we stop that (focus on arguing et al).. gershenfeld something else law et al
**and who can do this? esp today?
if legit/tacit/grokking ness.. arguing becomes irrelevant
i simply wish to ask how we ever got to this point at all.. then goes into pythagoreans.. concluded that universe was composed of numbers.. simply participating in larger rational order, the cosmic ‘world soul’ that animated all
by first/second century of roman empire.. ideas adopted by pretty much all major philosophical schools..
pythagoreans.. often sought to reconstitute – the political life of the city – on rational grounds.. all political questions now settled.. a single and apparently eternal – legal and B order regulated public affairs
math as our death sentence.. lit & num as colonialism et al
god did not impose these laws.. he was those laws.. human reason, then, was simply the action of that divine principle w/in us
yes to w/in us.. no to it being enslaved by math/laws/equations et al
in may ways, all these assumption are very much still w us.. learn as children what sets humans apart from other animals is rationality.. if you think about ti, it also doesn’t make a lot of sense.. if rationality is ability to assess reality more/less as it is and to draw logical conclusions.. then most animals are extremely rational.. et al.. other faculties would make better candidates.. ie: imagination..
ie: edmund leach: ‘what sets human apart form animals is not that they possess an immortal soul, but rather , that they are capable of imagining that they have one
hard to think this way because of course we have by now come to id the soul not w reason but w everything that makes us unique, idiosyncratic or imaginative..
on the B of the anti B fantasy
we are used to speaking of ‘the state’ as a single entity but actually, i think, modern states are better seen as the confluence of 3 diff elements.. i will call these sovereignty, admin, and politics..
1\sovereign state – ruler claims monopoly over the legit use of violence w/in a given territory
2\admin state – often w/o any single center of power to enforce its decisions.. could also simply be referred to as B – not to manage scale – org of societies too big for f to f.. rather seems to be what encourage people to assemble in such large communities to begin with.. standardization, record keeping, accounting, .. all seem to have emerged in small towns.. 100 yrs before the ‘urban revolution’.. don’t know how/why or if were actual Bs but by time historical records do kick in there certainly are: we find vast temple and palace complexes w a hierarchy of trained scribes carefully registering and allocating resources of every sort
3\political state: politics as spectator sport: powerful figures engage in constant public contests w one another as way of rallying followers and gathering support.. we now think of his as an aspect of democratic systems of govt, but for most of human history, it was seen as more o fan aristocratic phenom.. such ‘heroic’ social orders, as they’ve been called, rep the quintessence of the political.. they recognize no principle of sovereignty, but create no system of admin either.. sometimes a king but usually limited power.. real power fluctuated continually as charismatic aristocrats assemble bands of followers..
(There is a reason why the U.S. Senate, for example, is inhabited entirely by millionaires.).. this is why for most of european history, elections were assumed to be not a democratic, but an aristocratic mode of selecting public officials..
again.. decision making is unmooring us law et al
“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,
(the democratic way of selecting officials.. fro greek times onwards was in contrast assumed to be sortition, whereby ordinary citizens were chosen for posts by random lottery
evidence showing heroic orders did not just emerge spontaneously alongside B societies; they emerged in a kind of symbiotic rivalry w them.. and they were remembered long after because they embodied a rejection of everything B was supposed to be about..
again .. i return to archeology, and particularly work of my friend david wengrow on ancient middle east.. the actual origins of what i’m calling ‘heroic societies’ seem to lie in the hills, mtns, deserts, or steppes of n the fringes of the great commercial- B societies of mesopotamia, egypt, and the indus valley, and then, later, empires like rome, persia or china
from quite early on.. both sides also came to define selves as everything the other one was not.. urbanites came to define civilization as not acting like a barbarian;
jensen civilization law et al
the barbarians in turn, ended up creating social orders that took the key values of commercial B civ and turned them on their heads.. where one created a treasure literary masterworks, the other rejected the use of writing, but celebrated bards who could extemporize works of epic verse afresh each time.. where one carefully stored/registered items of material value, the other sponsored vast potlatch like festival sin which priceless treasure were either distributed to followers or rivals as a gesture of contempt towards the pretension of material wealth, or eve abandoned, set of fire, or thrown into the sea.. where one developed a self effacing B that offered predictable stability, the other org’d public life around charismatic egomaniacs in a never ending struggle for supremacy..
we might well ask why this happened.. why did the very sorts of people ridiculed as ignorant barbarians by one civ of urbanites so often become reimagined as distant heroic ancestors of a later one? why were stories of their exploits told/retold in many cases.. for 1000s of years?
i think part of the answer is that heroic societies are, effectively, social orders designed to generate stories.. this takes us back to question about the very nature of politics..
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.
everyday politics – whether in a rural village or corp office – has everything to do w the manufacture of official narratives, rumors, and accounts.. everything was turned int a platform
This is why poets were so important. The whole point of life was to do things that other people might wish to sing about.
and of course, dramatic stories about violent barbarians became even more compelling in ages when actual violent barbarians were no longer much around..
barbarians always exist in a symbiotic relation to B civ..
again – jensen civilization law
heroic societies formed at the fringes of empire.. they would even sweep in and overwhelm those empires; in such cases, though they would usually quickly dissolve away into legend..
again – david & david on stupid savage
modern fantasy lit.. really takes recognizable form in the victorian age, around the same time as the height of popular enthusiasm for the postal service
fairy tales reflect a womens’ and childrens’ perspective on medieval and early modern society.. their heroes are more likely to be milkmaids and crafty cobblers’ sons than courtiers and princes; in what has come to be known as fantasy lit, in contrast, this ‘once upon a time’ has been transformed entirely by a massive infusion of heroic epic.. by ‘fantasy lit’ here, i am referring above all to what’s sometimes called the ‘sword and sorcery’ genre, whose origins lie in late victorian figures like .. lord dunsany.. and whose most shining avatars remain jrr tolkien, cs lewis, and ursual k le guin.. it’s w/in this tradition that the standard set of characters (warrior, cleric, mage) , types of spells, types of monstrous creature, etc, formed: a standard repertoire that recurs, in endless idiosyncratic variations in hundreds if not thousands of works of contemp fiction
these books are not just appealing because they create endless daydream material for the inhabitants of B societies.. above all, they appeal because they continue to provide a systematic negation of everything B stands for.. just as medieval clerics and magicians liked to fantasize about a radiant celestial admin system, so dow we, now, fantasize about the adventure of medieval clerics and mages, existing in a world in which every aspect of B existence has been carefully stripped away
why do we do so? well .. simplest explanation is that we are dealing w a form of ideological inoculation..
inoculation – treat w vaccine to produce immunity
black science of people/whales law – immunity to what?
historically, one of most effective ways for a system of authority to tout its virtues is not to speak of them directly, but to create a particularly vivid image of their absolute negation – of what it claims life would be like in the total absence of say, patriarchal authority or capitalism or the state
as an ideological ploy, the trick works best when the image is on some level, profoundly appealing.. one is first drawn in to the vision of the alt world, experiences a kind of vicarious thrill imagining it – only to ultimately recoil in horror at the implication of one’s own desires
ie: roman games.. until coming of empire, most mediterranean cities had had some form of self gov, w public assemblies debating matters of public concern
not self governing enough to get to the dance
in democracies, even legal cases were tried by public juries consisting of 100s of citizens.. under empire.. these were stripped of all authority, and eventually disappeared.. instead, the main occasion when large numbers of citizens assembled in public was at the coliseum or the circus, for chariot races or gladiatorial games, or to watch criminals be torn to pieces by wild animals.. insofar as those citizens had any experience of voting for anything, it was to put their thumbs up or down over the question of whether some defeated gladiator would be put to death
same song as supposed land of free..
as if to say, ‘democracy? now you know where that will lead’..
again .. perpetuating tragedy of the non common ness
this was so *effective that for the next 2000 yrs, warnings about the perils of democracy (and almost all educated 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.
*also effective because.. decision making is unmooring us law
i don’t want to leave reader w the impression that all such institutions are simply tricks set up by ruling classes to manipulate the masses.. wealthier no doubt saw carnival as way of warning masses of horrors if hierarchical orders of society dissolve.. but many common folk did not see it as quite so horrible.. (indeed, carnival often became the occasion for actual revolts)
no doubt fantasy lit too is contested ground.. its authors themselves were often unsure about the political implications.. tolkien for ie once remarked that politically, he was either anarchist or an ‘unconstitutional’ monarchist.. he could never make up his mind quite which.. both have in common that they are profoundly anti B .. this is true of almost all fantasy lit: only evil people maintain systems of admin..
one could see key features of fantasy list as precise negation of some aspect of B (disclaimer.. at end of this list.. he says B doesn’t really do all these things):
1\ evil negate B principle of value-free rule-bound neutrality.. good/evil alien to admin orders of any kind;
2\ existence of demi human species.. creates world where racism is true.. negates B principle of indifference.. that rules are same for everyone.. everyone treated equal;
3\ charisma rather than coercion
since the very possibility of real, vital, charismatic authority is always founded on war, this means legit authority is itself impossible w/o constant physical insecurity..
in other words.. the political ideal of modern ‘democratic’ republics, in which politicians constantly vie for followers, is maintained .. but entirely divorced both from principles of sovereignty and above all from the regularity and predictability of B procedures, and the routinization of force, which in a B order is seen as legit.. only insofar as it is used to uphold that principle of regularity.. in short, in fantasy worlds, truly legit figures of authority are usually violent, but they don’t employ violence to enforce the rules..
4\ as a corollary: in fantasy, as in heroic societies, political life is largely about creation of stories.. narrative embedded inside narratives;.. dramatic contrast w the mechanical nature of B operation..
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.
5\ protagonists (leading character) endlessly engaging w riddles in ancient languages, obscure myths, and prophecies, maps w runic puzzles and the like..
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.
(comparing this to pleasure found in obscurity of puzzles et al).. there is no officious person who will show up to lecture you on how this is all perfectly transparent and simple and there’s obviously something wrong w you for not having immediately figured it out
as the last ie makes clear.. when we discuss these constants, we are speaking of a certain abstract ideal of how B systems should work, not the way they actually do
in reality, Bs are rarely neutral; they are almost always dominated by or favor certain privilege groups over others; and they invariably end up giving admins enormous individual personal power by producing rules so complex and contradictory that they cannot possible be followed as they stand..
yet in the real world, all these departures from B principle are experienced as abuses.. in fantasy worlds, they are experiences as virtues
if i am right that .. whatever authors’ intention – such lit largely ends up operating in such a way as to cause readers to question the ultimate implications of their own suspicions of B existence.. this is precisely the point
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
and of course by time we get to harry potter, we have also traveled all the way form expressly heroic realms like .. to an anti B narrative that’s set w/in a classic B institution: a british boarding school
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.
in many ways it’s actually quite anarchistic, since unlike classic war games where on commands armies, we have what anarchists would call an ‘affinity group’ aa band o individuals cooperating w a common purpose
but like protests.. they’re reactions/responses.. not itch-in-the-soul ness..
so not deep enough.. rather.. energy sucking distractions
d&d reps the ultimate B of anti B fantasy.. there are catalogs for everything: ..
the books are distantly evocative of medieval bestiaries and grimoires.. but they are largely composed of stats.. all important qualities can be reduced to number.. ti’s also true that in actual play.. there are no rules; the books are just guidelines.. the dungeon maser can (and really ought to) play around w them, inventing new spells, monsters, and a 1000 variation on *existing ones.. every dungeon masters’ universe is diff.. the numbers are in a sense a platform for **crazy feats of the imagination, themselves a kind of poetic tech
so **not crazy enough
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..t
iv – the utopia of rules
Bs create games – they’re just games that are in no sense fun
what is the relationship between play and games
huge – free form vs rules
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.
another way to put this would be to say that games are pure rule governed action.. ti seems ot me this is important , because this precisely why games are fun
not to everybody.. i’d even say.. not to legit free people..
this is an ie of what bruce alexander found.. more like false sense of security via ie: rules
in almost any situation we find ourselves in, there are rules – even in casual convo, there are tacit rules of who can speak in what order pacing, tone, deference, appropriate, and inappropriate topics, when you can smile, what sort of humor is allowable..
games allow us our only real experience of situation where all this ambiguity is swept away.. everyone knows exactly what the rules are.. and not only that, people actually do follow them.. and by following them, it is even possible to win!
this along w the fact that unlike in real life, one has submitted oneself to the rules completely voluntarily – is the source of the pleasure
we have no idea what we would ‘voluntarily’ do if we were all (has to be all of us) legit free
games, then, are a kind of utopia of rules
but not legit utopia
huge.. and part of why we’re missing it.. ie: we keep thinking we like things – because we’ve not yet tried something w 100% of us legit free
this is also how we can understand the real diff between games and play. true, one can play a game; bu to speak of ‘play’ does no necessarily imply the existence of rules at all
no rules at all.. and/or freedom to quit
play can be purely improvisational.. in this sense, play in its pure form, as distinct from games, implies a pure expression of creative energy
again.. imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
play can be said to be present when the free expression of creative 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..? .. i think that’s whales talking.. being bored in sea world
studies of children’s play, for ie, inevitably discover that children playing imaginary games spend at least as much time arguing about the rules than the do actually playing them.. such arguments become a form of play in themselves
yeah.. i don’t know..
or are they modeling .. not a legit freedom.. because of training we’ve given them..
we have no idea what legit free kids/people are like
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.
unless we think of ‘only exists in imagination.. as legit.. and perhaps.. only way to keep things alive..’.. ie: once out of imagination.. have to start defining.. et al .. thinking of batra hide in public law et al
shiv visvanathan: ‘a game is a bounded, specific way of *problem solving.. play is more cosmic and open ended.. gods play.. but man unfortunately is a **gaming individual.. a game has a predictable resolution, play man not.. play allows for emergence, novelty, surprise..
*yeah.. and i think the essence of life.. isn’t about problem solving.. we’re obsessed w that and its killing us
**whales in sea world.. are gaming.. as a means of cope\ing with being in sea world
play (or whatever word).. is for legit free/alive people.. gams for whales/rats trapped in sea/cage world
this open ended creativity is also what allows it to be randomly destructive
perhaps not if we let go enough – ie: gershenfeld something else law et al
what ultimately lies behind the appeal of bureaucracy is fear of play..t
this is ginormous..
fear of letting go enough ness.. so haven’t yet gotten to.. haven’t yet seen.. legit freedom
none of us are free ness
play as a principle that generates rules, but is not itself bound by them
the reader will remember sovereignty was one of the 3 principles – along w admin and politics – that ultimately came together in our current notion of ‘the state’.. the term ‘sovereignty’ is mostly used in political theory nowadays as a synonym for ‘independence’ or ‘autonomy’ – the right of a govt to do what it likes w/in its own borders – but it originally emerged from very specific european debated about the power of kings.. basically, the question was: is it possible to say that the supreme ruler of a kingdom is in any sense bound by its laws?
sovereignty – to make rules up as you go along.. and violence (from p 181 – ruler claims monopoly over the legit use of violence)
in order to create a system, one must be prior to it; for this reason god himself cannot be bound by moral laws
defn of equity – everyone getting a go (do over, reset) everyday.. not bound
since the king could do (or take) absolutely anything he wanted, he also could not be bribed, so he really had no reason not to be impartial
here.. ie’s are bad ie: killing whoever for whatever.. but would be for good if ie: gershenfeld something else law
carl schmitt’s ‘political theology’ which argues that in modern states sovereign power is ultimately the power to set aside the laws..
sovereignty in this sense is ultimately identical to play as the generative principle that produces games; but if so, it is also play in its most terrifying, cosmic form..
again.. matters which direction it goes (for good/aliveness.. bad/suffocating ness) ..
we keep not letting go enough.. so we perpetuate/assume tragedy of the non common ness
where (ancient world) human beings were the playthings of destiny and fate; the exemplary human game..
rather.. whale/rat game/world/cage
in such a universe, freedom really is a zero sum game.. the freedom of gods or kings is the measure of human slavery
it shouldn’t be hard to see where all this is going.. modern states are based on a principle of popular sovereignty.. ultimately the divine power of kings is in the hands of an entity called ‘the people‘
max weber famously pointed out that a sovereign state’s institutional reps maintain a monopoly on the right of violence w/in the sate’s territory.. normally this violence can only be exercised by certain duly authorized *officials (soldiers, police, jailers), or those authorized by officials (airport security, private guards), and only in a manner explicitly designated by law
*add teachers, any form of people telling other people what to do
but ultimately, sovereign power really is, still, the right to brush such legalities aside, or to make them up as one goes along..
the us might call itself ‘a country of laws, not men’ but as we have learned in recent years, american presidents can order torture, assassinations, domestic surveillance programs, even set up extra legal zones like guantanamo where they can treat prisoners pretty much any way they choose to.. even on the lowest levels, those who enforce the law are not really subject to it
brian sutton smith argues that in the contemp world the older ‘top down’ view of play what some have called ‘dark play’ no longer really holds sway.. since the romanic era, it has been largely replaced by a whole host of more cheerful bottom up; rhetorics that see play variously as subversive, or educational , or imaginative.. no doubt all this is true.. but.. it seems to me that the older conception has not vanished entirely.. if nothing else, it is preserved on a political level, where every arbitrary act of power tends to reinforce a feeling that it’s not power, but arbitrariness – that is, freedom itself.. that is the problem.. t
huge.. as to why taleb antifragile law is huge
we’ve just made it the problem in sea world.. because we keep reinforcing it as the problem aka: tragedy of the non common
this is indeed, almost precisely what has happened wherever the *republican form of govt (now largely mislabeled ‘**democracy‘) has become the ***norm
*rather – any form of people telling other people what to do
**rather.. freedom.. mislabeled democracy
***the cage/chain.. none of us are free ness
the legal order, and hence the zones where state violence is the ultimate enforcer of the rules, has expanded to define and reg almost every possible aspect of human activity.. thus, as i’ve said earlier, we end up w regs prescribing everything from where one can serve or consume diff sorts of beverages, how one can work, when one can/can’t walk off from work, to the sized of ads visible form the street.. the threat of force invades practically every aspect of our existence.. in ways that would have simply been inconceivable under the rule of.. (list)
inspectors of inspectors et al
what i want to argue here is that this imperative ultimately derives form a tacit cosmology in which the play principle (and by extension creativity) is itself seen as frightening while game like behavior is celebrated as transparent and predictable, and where as a result, the advance of all these rules/regs is itself experiences as a kind of *freedom
*partial.. so not really
however, in practice, the fact that the reforms do not in any sense achieve their stated goals doesn’t have the effect of undermining their legitimacy.. instead, the effect is quite the opposite, since anyone who objects to such personalized power can only do so by demanding even more rules and even more ‘transparency’.. suddenly freedom and justice really do become a matter of reducing everything to a game..
the most obvious ie is language.. call it the grammar book effect..
people do not invent languages by writing grammars, they write grammars – at least, the first grammars to be written for any given language – by observing the tacit, largely unconscious rules the people seem to be applying when they speak.. yet once a book exists, and esp once it is employed in schoolrooms, people feel that the rules are not just descriptions of how people do talk, but prescriptions for how they should talk
it’s easy to observe this phenom in places where grammars were only written recently. in many places in world .. first grammars/dictionaries were created by christian missionaries in 19th/20th cent, intent on translating the bible and other sacred texts into what had been unwritten languages.. for ie: first grammar for malagasy, written in 1810s.. of course language is changing all the time.. so the malagasy spoken language.. even its grammar.. is in many ways quite diff that it as 200 yrs ago.. however, since everyone learns the grammar in school, if you point this out, people will auto say that speaker nowadays are simply making mistakes, not following rule correctly.. it never seems to occur to anyone that had the missionaries came and written their books 200 yrs later.. current usages would be considered the only correct ones.. and anyone speaking as they had 200 yrs ago would themselves be assume to be in error..
as my proficiency improved, i began noticing that they way they talked to each other was nothing like the way they were teaching me to speak.. only way i could really learn contemp spoken malagasy was to tape record convos.. try to transcribe them myself, and then ask friends to clarify every time i came across and unfamiliar usage/expression
as it should be.. keeps convo alive/free/safe/unassumed..
shaw communication law et al
in case of cambridge anthropology dept.. the rules were made explicit and were then frozen in place, ostensibly as a way of eliminate arbitrary, personal authority.
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.. t.. after all.. what is our first experience of formal, rule governed authority if not our grade school teachers
clearly the problem was that the entire pop had failed to memorize their lessons properly.. but what they were actually denying was the legitimacy of collective creativity, the free play of the system..
it’s worth thinking about language for a moment, because one thing it reveals, probably better than any other ie.. is that there is a basic *paradox in our very idea of freedom.. on one had.. rules are by their nature constraining..
*paradox in our whale/sea-world idea of freedom
at same time.. if there were no shared conventions of any kind.. no semantics, syntax, phonemics – we’d all just be babbling incoherently and wouldn’t be able to communicate w each other at all
wow.. i don’t know..
obviously in such circumstances none of us would be free to do much of anything..
rather.. that’s now.. right? with language (everything) keeping us from us.. we’re doing things but not doing/being fittingness things
so at some point along the way, rules as constraining pass over into rules as enabling.. even if it’s impossible to say exactly where..
yeah.. i don’t know.. i think we have no idea
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 – asking anew everyday .. what it is
there is no language w/o grammar
but thee is also no language in which everything including grammar, is not constantly changing all the time
aka: idiosyncratic jargon – let’s try/assume/work-with that
we don’t know of a single recorded ie of a language that, over the course of, say, a century, did not change both in sound/structure..
should be over course of a convo.. makes you really listen.. keep asking for clarification.. not assume it’s ever finished..
it happens even where elab institutional structure have been created – like grammar schools, or the academie fracaise – to ensure that it does not.. no doubt some of this is the result of sheer rebelliousness (young people trying to set themselves off from elders, for ie).. but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that ultimately, what we are really confronting here is the play principle in its purest form
freedom to quit ness
human beings.. whether they speak arapesh, hopi, or norwegian.. just find ti boring to say things the same way all the time
just boring? rather.. blinding/numbing/deadly – language as control/enclosure et al
what this suggests is that people everywhere are *prone to two completely contradictory tendencies: 1\ to be playfully creative just for sake of it 2\ to agree w anyone who tells them that they really shouldn’t ac that way
black science of people/whales law – not *prone/natural ness
this latter is what makes the gamification of institutional life possible.. because if you take the latter tendency to its logical conclusion.. all freedom becomes arbitrariness, and all arbitrariness, a form of dangerous, subversive power.. it is just one further step to argue that the true freedom is to live in an utterly predictable world that is free from freedom of this sort
over last 30-40 yrs anti authoritarians around the world have been working on creating new, and more effective, modes of direct democracy – ones that might operate w/o any need for B of violence to enforce them
what we need: w/o any form of democracy/dm.. et al (so all those people have been looking w/in the confines of the cancer)
part of the work of developing new forms of consensus process, for ie, is to create institutional forms that encourage, rather than inhibit, improvisation and creativity
then we need to let go of consensus ness
as activist sometime put it: in most circumstances, is you bring together a crowd of people, that crowd will, as a group, behave less intelligently/creatively, than any single member of the crowd is likely to do if on their own.. activist decision making process is, instead, designed to *make that crowd smarter and more imaginative than any individual participant
it will just make crowd more similar.. it will just make more people ‘fit in’ rather than be unleashed to fittingness
it is indeed possible to do this, but it *takes a lot of work.. and the larger the group the more formal mechanisms have to be put in place..t
the single most important essay in this whole activist tradition is called ‘the tyranny of structurelessness’.. written in 70s by jo freeman, about org crises that occurred in early fem consciousness raising circles when those groups began to attain a certain size..
not about size or formal ness.. about a mech being simple accessible/resonating enough for 8b people.. today
Jo Freeman ness
freeman observed that such groups always started out w w kind of rough and ready anarchism an assumption that there was no need for any formal parliamentary rules of order type mechs at all.. people would just sit down in a sisterly manner and work things out
we haven’t yet seen this.. because we’ve not yet tried a mech/infra accessible/resonating to all of us
and this was indeed what happened at first.. however, as soon as the groups grew to over, say twenty people.. informal cliques invariably began to emerge and small groups of friends or allies began controlling info, setting agenda, and wielding power in all sorts of subtle ways..
but.. this is not natural for legit free people w ie: gershenfeld something else law et al.. just what whales/rats in sea world/cage would do
freeman proposed a number of diff formal mechs that might be employed to counteract this effect, but for present purposed.. the specifics don’t really matter..
but specifics that ‘no mech to date has legit been for 8bn in sync’ matters ginormous.. that’s what’s diff today.. and we’re missing it..
suffice it to say that what is now referred to as ‘formal consensus process’ largely emerges form the crisis freeman described, and the debate her intervention set off
yes. mechanism. huge.
so what if we did have a mechanism.. that perpetuated self-organizing/regeneration.. a starting over ness (at minimum) everyday.. because decision making is unmooring us law and public consensus always oppresses someone(s)
what we need: a mechanism simple enough
tech as it could be..
what i do want to bring attention to is that almost everyone who is not emerging from an explicitly anti authoritarian position – and no insignificant number even of those who are –
completely misread freeman’s essay, and interpret it not as a plea for formal mechs to ensure equality, but as a plea for more transparent hierarchy.. t
freeman structure law (?) et al – more about needing formal mech than transparency
i can’t tell you how many arguments i’ve had about this. they always go exactly the same way.. first, freeman’s argument about the formation of cliques and invisible power structure is taken as an argument that any group of over 20 people will always have to have cliques, power structure and people in authority.. the next step is to insist that if you want to min the power of such cliques, or any deleterious effects those power structure might have, the only way tot do so is to institutionalize them: to take the de facto cabal and turn them into a central committee (or, since that term now has a bad history, usually they say a coordinating committee or a steering committee, or something of that sorts).. one needs to get power out of the shadows.. to formalize the process, make up rules, hold elections, specify exactly what the cabal is allowed to do and what it’s not.. in this way, at least, power will be made transparent and ‘accountable’.. (notice that word again.it comes from accountancy procedures).. it won’t in any sense be arbitrary
huge section (about doing it wrong)
from a practical, activist perspective, this prescription is obviously ridiculous.. it is far easier to limit the degree to which informal cliques can wield effective power by ranting them no formal status at all, and therefore no legitimacy; whatever ‘formal accountability structure’ it is imagine will contain the cliques-now-turned-committees can only be far less effective in this regard, not least because they end up legitimating and hence massively increasing the *differential access to info which allows some in otherwise egalitarian groups to have great power to begin with. as i pointed out in the first essay, structures of transparency inevitably, as i’ve described, begin to become structures of stupidity as soon as that takes place
again.. more about the formal (i’m reading as universal as in not part\ial as in has to be for all of us in sync) mechs.. than the transparency
maybe it’s true, he (norm finkelstien) admitted, that the best way to keep such cliques from attaining too much power is to maintain a principle that they should not exist.. but as long as such cliques re allowed to exist w/o being formally acknowledge and reg’d .. you’re maintaining a system that says it’s ok to be governed, even a tiny bit, from the shadows.. i just find the idea of being governed from the shadows, in any sense, distasteful..
actually being governed.. (any form of people telling other people what to do).. distasteful
in such arguments, we are witnessing a direct clash between two diff forms of materialized utopianism: 1\ an anti authoritarianism that, in its emphasis on creative synthesis and improvisation, sees freedom basically in terms of play and 2\ a tacit republicanism that sees freedom ultimately as the ability to reduce all forms of power to a set of clear and transparent rules
for the last *200 yrs.. in europe and n america – and increasingly, elsewhere – that latter ,B’d notion of freedom has tended to hold sway..
*actually – always.. ever since we started telling other people what to do
new institutional arrangements that operate by rules so strict and predicable they essentially disappear, so that one doesn’t’ even know what they are (such as the physical or electronic post offices w which i began) tend to be put forward as platform for human freedom that emerge from the very technical contingencies of running efficient structure of power.. these arrangement seem to preserve the positive elements of play while somehow circumventing its more disturbing potentials
but time and agin, we have seen the same result.. whether motivated by a faith in ‘rationality’ or a fear of arbitrary power, the end result of this B’d notion of freedom is to move toward the dream of a world where play has been limited entirely – or at best.. boxed away in some remote location far from any *serious, consequential human endeavor –
while every aspect of life is reduced to some kind of elab, rule bound game.. it’s not that such a vision lacks appeal.. who hasn’t dreamed of a world where everyone knows the rules, everyone plays by the rules, and even more – where people who play by the rules can actually still win?
i haven’t dreamt that.. i’m sure i’m not the only one.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s)
you’re talking about whales/rats dreaming not legit free people
the problem is that this is just as much a utopian fantasy as a world of absolute free play would be
disagree.. we just haven’t let go enough yet.. to see
it will always remain a glimmering illusion that dissolves away as soon as we touch it
so let’s not touch (define) it.. we have the means to facil that chaotic return to the dance.. today.. let’s do that
one could make claim that most of greatest human accomplishment were the result of such quixotic pursuits..
but in this particular case, and in this larger political econ context.. where B has been the primary means by which a tiny % of pop extracts wealth from rest of us.. they have created a situation where the pursuit of freedom from arbitrary power simply ends up producing more arbitrary power, and as a result, regs choke existence, armed guards and surveillance cameras appear everywhere, science and creativity are smothered, and all of us end up finding increasing %s of our day taken up in the filling out of forms.. t
original lab question – how we spend our days.. ie: school too as filling out forms.. abiding by rules/supposed to‘s
appendix – on batman and the problem of constituent power
my thoughts on sovereignty, were only minimally developed.. so i thought it might interest the reader to see some further reflections on the subject, written in the same broad discursive vein
oct 1 2011 – nypd arrested 700 occupy wall st activists as they were attempting to march across the brooklyn bridge.. bloomberg justified it on ground they were blocking traffic.. 5 wks later, same bloomberg closed nearby queensboro bridge for two days to allow for shooting of nolan’s last of batman trilogy.. the dark knight rises.. many remarked on the irony.. a few wks ago.. i went to see the film w some friends from occupy.. most of whom had themselves been arrested back on oct.. we all knew the movie was basically one long piece of anti occupy propaganda.. that didn’t bother us.. we went to have fun.. we expected movie to be hostile/offensive.. but none of us expected it to be bad
minor change of wording ..ie: ‘take control of’ to ‘occupy’
what i’d like to argue is that it’s precisely this desire for relevance, the fact that the filmmakers had the courage to take on the great issues of the day, which ruins the movie..
spiderman, too, broke left, just as batman broke right.. makes sense.. superheroes are a product of historical origins.. superman is a depression era displaced iowa farm boy; batman the billionaire playboy, is a scion of the military industrial complex that was created just as he was, at beginning of ww2.. peter parker, a product of 60s, is a smartass working class kid from queens who got something weird shot into his veins.. but again.. in the latest movie.. the subtext became surprisingly explicit (‘your’e not a vigilante’ says the police commander, ‘you’re an anarchist’)
umberto eco once remarked that comic books stories already operate a little bit like reams; the same basic plot is repeated, obsessive compulsively.. over an dover.. nothing changes, even as the backdrop for the stories shifts form great depression to ww2 to postwar prosperity.. the heroes – whether superman, wonder woman, green hornet, dr strange.. seem to remain in an eternal present, never aging, always fundamentally the same
so too w our (to date) revolutions
it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going here. the heroes are purely reactionary.. by this i mean ‘reactionary’ in the literal sense: they simply react to things; they have no projects of their own
superheroes seem almost utterly lacking in imagination.. bruce wayne.. w all the money in the world.. can’t seem to think of anything to do w it other than design more hightech weaponry and indulge in the occasional act of charity.. in same way never seems to occur to superman that he could easily end world hunger or carve free magic cities out of mtns.. almost never do superheroes make, create, or build anything.. the villains, in contrast, are relentlessly creative.. they are full of plans/projects/idea.s.. clearly, we are supposed to first, w/o consciously realizing it id w the villains.. after all .. they’re having all the fun.. then of course we feel guilty for it, re id w the hero, and have even more fund watching the superego pummel the errant Id back int submission
true.. on distractions: military tech; charity; focus on ‘villains’
if start arguing there’s any message in comic book.. likely to hear the usual objections: ‘but these are just cheap forms of entertainment.. they’re no more trying to teach us anything about human nature, politics, or society than say a ferris wheel’.. and of course to certain degree this is true.. pop culture does not exist in order to convince anyone of anything.. it exists for sake of pleasure.. still if you pay close attention.. one will also observe that most pop culture projects do also tend to make that very pleasure int a kind of argument
so yes to gems in ie: comics.. but if making argument.. not for own pleasure (of legit free people).. perhaps for pleasure/cope\ing for whales/rats in sea-world/cages)
the audience is first tacitly encourage to id w the monster (the camera literally takes the monster’s pov)
it’s all very christian and moralistic. the sins may be be minor and the punishment utterly disproportionate, but the ultimate message is: ‘of course they really deserve it; we all do; whatever our civilized exterior, we are all fundamentally corrupt and evil.. proof? well.. look at yourself.. you’re not evil? if you’re not evil.. then why are you getting off on watching this sadistic crap?.. this is what i mean when i say the pleasure is a form of argument..
if all a comic is doing is telling a bunch of adolescent boys that everyone has a certain desire for chaos and mayhem, but the ultimately such desires need to be controlled,the political implications would not seem to be particularly dire.. esp because the message still does carry a healthy dose of ambivalence, just as it does w all those contemp action movie heroes who seem to spend so much of time smashing up suburban shopping malls and suchlike.. most of us would like to smash a banks or shopping mall at least once in our lives.. and as bakunin put it.. ‘the urge for destruction is also a creative urge’..
still i think there is reason to believe that at least in the case of most comic book superheroes.. the mayhem does have very conservative political implications.. to understand why though i will have to enter into a brief digression on the question of constituent power
costumed superheores ultimately battle criminals in name of law.. even if they themselves often operate outside a strictly legal framework.. but in the modern state, the very status of law is a problem.. this is because of a basic logical paradox: *no system can generate itself.. any power capable of creating a system of laws cannot itself be bound by them.. so **law has to come form someplace else
*well.. not yet anyway.. but it could.. with ie: as infra
**or not at all.. ?
if not by god directly , the by the divinely ordain power of kings.. the english, american, and french revolutionaries changed all that when they created the notion of popular sovereignty.. declaring that the power once held by kinds is not held by an entity that they called *‘the people’.. this created an immediate logical problem.. because ‘the people’ are by defn a group of individuals united by the fact that they are , in fact, bound by a certain set of laws.. so in what sense can they have created those laws?
constituents.. the people.. bound by set of laws.. rather.. whales/rats in cages
ie: public consensus always oppresses someone(s)
answer seemed obvious: thru those revolutions themselves.. but this crate a further problem.. revolution are acts of law breaking.. it is completely illegal to rise up in arms, overthrow a govt and create a new political order.. in fact.. nothing could possible be more illegal
so laws emerge from illegal activity..
and/or they emerge from cancered society – ie: sea-worlded/caged people; tragedy of the non common; et al
begs hari rat park law et al
this creates a fundamental incoherence in the very idea of modern govt.. which assumes that the state has a monopoly of the legit use of violence (only police, prison guards, duly authorized private security, have legal right to beat you up).. it’s legit for the police to use violence because they are enforcing the law; the law is legit because it’s rooted in the constitution; the constitution is legit because it comes form the people; the people crate the constitution by acts of illegal violence.. the obvious question then: how does one tell the diff between ‘the people’ and a mere rampaging mob? .. there is not obvious answer..
oi.. constitution/laws ness et al.. bogus
the response by mainstream, respectable opinion is to try to push the problem as far away as possible. the usual line is: the age of revolutions is over (except perhaps in benighted spots like gabon, or maybe syria); we can now change the constitution, or legal standard, by legal means.. this of course means that the basic structures will never change.. t
ginormous.. ‘basic structures will never change’
.. if change by legal means – (saying revs are over so can now change laws by legal means)
we can witness the results in the us, which continues to maintain an architecture of state, w its electoral college and 2 party system.. that .. while quite progressive in 1789.. now makes us appear, in the eyes of the rest of world, the political equiv of the amish.. still driving around w horses and buggies
it also means we base the legitimacy of the whole system on the consent of the people despite the fact that the only people who were ever really *consulted on the matter lived over t200 yrs ago.. in america, at lest. ‘the people’ are all **long since dead
*who decided the matter? why are we just responding.. this all makes the **long since dead ness.. a comment on today’s people.. we’re all dead (aka: not alive) .. like whales in sea world
we’ve gone then from a situation where the power to crate a legal order derives from god, to one where it derives form armed revolution, to one where it is rooted in sheer tradition ‘these are the customs of our ancestors, who are we to doubt their wisdom?
laws from gods to revs to tradition (aka: ‘the people’ now dead)
no structure change
for the radical left and the authoritarian right.. the problem of constituent power is very much alive, bu teach takes a diametrically opposite approach to the fundament a question of violence. left: chastened by disaster of 20th cent has largely moved away form its older celebration of revolutionary violence, preferring nonviolent forms of resistance..
why are we always assuming resistance is only way
those who act in name of something higher than law can do so precisely because they don’t act like a rampaging mob.. for the right.. this has been true since the rise of fascism in the 20s. the very idea that there is something special about revolutionary violence, anything that makes it diff from mere criminal violence, is so much self righteous twaddle.. violence is violence.. but that doesn’t mean a rampaging mob can’t be ‘the people’ because violence is the real source of law and political order anyway.. any successful deployment of violence is, in its own way, a form of constituent power
walter benjamin: ‘we cannot help but admire the great criminal: because as so many movie posters over the years have put it he makes his own law’.. after all.. any criminal org does, inevitably, begin developing its own ..often quite elab – set of internal rules/regs.. they have to as a way of controlling what would otherwise be completely random violence.. but from the right win perspective, that’s all that law ever is.. it is a means of controlling the very violence that brings it into being, and thru which it is ultimately endorses..
this makes it easier to understand the often otherwise surprising affinity between criminals, criminal gangs, right wing political movements, and the armed reps of the state.. *ultimately they all speak the same language.. they create their own rules on the basis of force.. as a result, such people typically share the same broad political sensibilities
in fact, in this case it was clearly a political strategy: face w the prospect of popular uprisings against a right win govt, the police first withdrew protection from neighborhoods near the immigrant gangs, then started giving tacit support to the fascists (the result was the rapid rise of an overtly nazi party.. roughly half of greek police were reported to have voted for th nazis in the last election)
wow.. to recent (jan 2021) capital coup ness
but this is just how far right politics work.. for them, it is in that space where diff violent forces operating outside of the legal order (or in the case of the police, sometimes just barely inside it) inter act where *new forms of power, hence order, can emerge
*carhart-harris entropy law et al
so what does all this have to do w costumed superheroes? well, everything.. because this is exactly the space that superheroes, and super villains, also inhabit.. an inherently fascist space, inhabited only by gangsters, would be dictators, police and thugs .. w endlessly blurring lines between them.. sometimes the cops are legalistic, sometimes corrupt.. sometimes the police themselves slip into vigilantism.. sometimes they persecute the superhero, at others they look the other way or help.. villains and heroes occasionally team up.. the lines of force are always shifting.. if anything new were to emerge, it could only be thru such shifting forces.. there’s nothing else, since in the dc and marvel universes, god, or the people, simple doesn’t exist.. insofar as there is a potential for constituent power then, it can only come from purveyors of violence
superheroes resist this logic.. they do not wish to conquer the world – if only because they are not monomaniacal or insane.. as a result, they remain parasitical off the villains in the same way that police remain parasitical off criminals: w/o them, they would have no reason to exist.. they remain defenders of a legal and political order which itself seems to have com out of nowhere.. and must be defended.. because the only alt is so much words..
they aren’ fascists.. they are just ordinary, decent, super powerful people who in habit a world in which fascism is the only political possibility
it’s more that both fascism and superheroes were products of a similar historical predicament: what is the foundation of social order when one has exorcised the very idea of revolution? and above all, what happens to the political imagination?
one might begin here by considering who are the core audience for superhero comics.. mainly, adolescent or pre adolescent white boys.. that is, individuals who are at a point in their lives where they are likely to be both max imaginative and at least a little bit rebellious.. but who are also being groomed to eventually take on positions of authority and power in the world.. to be fathers, sheriffs, small business owners, middle managers, engineers..
and what do they learn form these endless repeated dramas? well.. first.. that imagination and rebellion lead to violence; second that.. like imagination an rebellion, violence is a lot of fun; third, that ultimately violence must be directed back against any overflow of imagination and rebellion lest everything go askew.. these things must be contained.. this si why insofar as superheroes alar allowed to be imaginative in any way, it could only be extended to the design of their clothes.. cars.. maybe their homes.. their various accessories
this is also what separates conservative from fascists.. both agree that the imagination unleashed can only lead to violence and destruction.. conservative wish to defend us against that possibility.. fascias wish to unleash it anyway
what would it actually take to make an otherwise *respectable member of society decide to dress up as a bat and prowl the streets in search of criminals?.. unsurprisingly, psychedelic drugs turn out to play an importan role here.. so do sever mental health issues and bizarre religious cults
crazywise (doc) et al
the hero is so obviously crazy, and the movie so obviously about his battle w his own craziness, that it’s not a problem that the villains are just series of egoappendages..
one trust fund kid who moved by some unfathomable sense of injustice, dons black clothing and mask, and takes to the streets to crate violence and mayhem.. though alway sin a way calculated never to actually kill anyone.. .. what restoring eden will actually entail..
nolan’s villains are always anarchists.. but they’re also always very peculiar anarchist.. of a sort that seem to exist only in the filmmaker’s imagination: anarchist who believe that human nature is fundamentally evil and corrupt.. ie: the joker
back to central theme.. why the imagination must always be carefully contained
(on redemption lying in turning violence back on self).. no doubt it must seem that way to extraordinarily wealthy hollywood film directors.. but between the shooting of the firs tan second movies, history intervened quite decisively to point out just how wrong this vision is.. the econ collapse.. not because of manipulations of some secret society of warrior monks.. but because a bunch of financial managers who, living in nolan’s bubble world, shared his assumptions about the endlessness of popular manipulability, turned out to be wrong.. there was mass popular response.. it did not take the form of a frenetic search for messianic saviors.. mixed w outbreaks of nihilist violence.. increasingly it took the form of a series of real popular movements, even revolutionary movements, toppling regimes in the middle each and occupying squares everywhere from cleveland to karachi, trying to create new forms of *democracy
cool.. but need *diff focus – decision making is unmooring us law et al
constituent power had reappeared, and in an imaginative, radical and remarkably non violent form.. this is precisely the kind of situation a superhero universe cannot address..
and unfortunately.. still not deep enough for legit global change
in nolan’s world, something like occupy could only have been the product of some tin y group of ingenious manipulators (you know people like me whoa re really pursing some secret agenda..
nolan really should have left such topics alone, but apparently he couldn’t help himself.. the result is almost completely incoherent..
conversely.. why does ban wish to lead the people in a social revolution if he’s just going to nuke them al lin a few weeks anyway? .. he says that before you destroy someone first you must give them hope..
what happens to the city can only possible make sense as a material echo of what’s always been most important: what’s happening in bruce wayne’s tortured brain..
is there supposed to be a message we an all take home form this? if there was, it would seem to be something along the lines of this: ‘true, the system is corrupt, but it’s all we have.. and anyway, figures of authority can be trusted if they have first been chastened and endured terrible suffering’ (normal police let children die on bridges. police who’ve been buried alive for few weeks can employ violence legitimately).. ‘charity is much better than addressing structural problems.. ‘
in nolan’s universe, any attempt to address structural problems, even thru nonviolent civl disobedience, really is a form of violence; because that’s all it could possible be.. imaginative politics are inherently violent, and therefore, there’s nothing inappropriate if police respond by smashing apparently peaceful protestors’ heads repeatedly against the concrete
as a response to occupy, this is nothing short of pathetic
when film came out in 2008.. there was much discussion over whether the whole thing was really a vast metaphor for the war on terror: how far is it ok for the good guys (that’s us) to go adapting the bad guy’s methods? .. but then, the war on terror actually was a battle of secret networks and manip spectacles. it began w a bomb and ended w an assassination.. one can almost think of it as an attempt on both sides, to actually enact a comic book version of he universe..
once real constituent power appeared on the scene, that universe shriveled into incoherence.. even came to seem ridiculous.. revolutions were sweeping the middle east, and the us were still spending hundreds of billions of dollars fighting a ragtag bunch of seminary students in afghanistan..
8\ word liberal no longer has same meaning in us as rest of world.. originally applied to free market enthusiasts.. and in much of world still does.. in us it was adopted by social democrats and as a result.. became anathema to the right and free market enthusiasts were forced to take term libertarian .. originally interchangeable w anarchist.. used in such terms as libertarian socialist or libertarian communist to mean the same thing
14\ in many ways us is a german country that.. owing to that same early 20th cent rivalry, refuses to recognize itself as such.. far more americans of german descent than english.. germany in contrast is a country quite proud of its efficiency in matters B, and russia, to complete the set, might be considered a country where people generally feel they really ought to be better at B, and are somewhat ashamed that they are not
17\ the phenom i am describing (on financialization) is planetary one, but it began in us and was us elites who made the most aggressive efforts to export it..
20\ economically according to lazonick, the most pernicious effect was the practice of stock buybacks.. back in 50s-60s a corp spending millions to purchase its own stock s as to raise that stock’s market value would have likely been considered illegal market manip.. since 80s, as execs have increasingly been paid in stock.. it has become standard practice.. and literally trillions of dollars in corp revenue that would in an earlier age have been sunk into expanding operations, hiring workers, or research, have instead been redirected to wall street
21\ a popular code word from the 80s onward was ‘lifestyle liberal, fiscal conservative’.. this referred to those who had internalized the social values of the 60s counterculture, but had come to view the econ w the eyes of investors
22\ the general trend is always towards greater credentialism in all fields.. never less
23\ cited text (from p 24 – kenzior quote) is in saving he in the age of money.. it continues, ‘why do american think this is a good req or at least a necessary one? because they think so.. we’ve left the realm of reason and entered that of faith and mass conformity
and.. from 22 above – people telling other people what to do
24\ this was certainly my own personal experience.. as one of few students of working class origins in my grad program.. i watched in dismay as profs first explained to me that they considered me the best student in my class – even, perhaps in dept.. and then threw up their hands claiming there was nothing that could be done as i languished w minimal support – or during many yrs none at all, working multiple jobs, as students whose parents were drs, lawyers, and profs seemed to auto mop up all the grants, fellowships and student funding..
graeber min\max law et al
26\ a friend gives me the ie of master’s degrees in library science, which are no req’d for all public library jobs, despite the fact that the yearlong course os study generally provides no essential info that couldn’t be obtained by a week or two of on the job training.. the main result is to ensure that for the first decade or two of a new librarian’s career, 20-30% of he/her income is redirected to repaying loans – in the case of my friend, $1000 a month about half of which goes to uni (principal) and half to loan provider (interest)
27\ this logic of complicity can extend to most unlikely orgs.. ie: premier left journals in america has.. as editor in chief, a billionaire who basically bought herself the position.. the first criterion for advancement in the org is of course willingness to pretend there is some reason, other than money, for her to have the job…
29\ the league of nations and the un up until the 70s were basically talking shops
they’re not still? (section was on talking rather than doing)
31\ i was reminded of this a few yrs ago by none other than julian assange.. when a number of occupy activists appeared on his tv show the world tomorrow.. aware that many of us were anarchists, he asked us what he considered a challenging question: say you have a camp and there are some people playing drums all night and keeping everyone awake.. what do you do? the implication is that police or something like them.. some impersonal force willing to threaten violence – were simply necessary in such conditions.. he was referring to a real incident.. .. but in fact.. the occupiers who didn’t like the music simply negotiated a compromise w them where they would only drum during certain hrs.. no threats of violent force were necessary.. this brings home fact that for the overwhelming majority of humans who have living human history, there has simply been nothing remotely like police to call under such circumstances.. yet they worked something out..
and that – even though it was still tragedy of the non common
it is possible that there could be market relations that might not work this way.. there have been periods where states and markets have drifted apart.. sharia courts allowed commercial contracts to be enforce w/o direct govt intervention.. but only thru merchants’ reputation.. (and hence creditworthiness)
any such market will in many key ways operate very diff from those we are used to:
ie: market activity was seen as much more about cooperation than competition.. christendom had a very diff tradition where commerce was always more entangled in war, and purely competitive behavior, esp in the absence of prior social ties, requires, pretty much of necessity, something like police to guarantee people keep to the rules
ch 1 – dead zones of imagination
46\ just to give a sense of the connection here.. ie: harvard and cia and mit – kluckhohn connected geertz to mit’s center for international studies, then directed by the form cia director of econ research..
50\ the ultimate problem w johan galtung’s approach.. is that it views ‘structure’ as abstract, free floating entities, when what we are really referring to here are material processes, in which violence and the threat of violence play a crucial constitutive role.. in fact one could argue it’s this very tendency towards abstraction that makes it possible for everyone involved to imagine that the violence upholding the system is somehow not responsible for its violent effects..
57\ as a result liberals tend to define violence as acts of nonconsensual harm, and conservatives, acts of nonconsensual harm that have not been approved by legit authorities – which of course makes it impossible for the state, or any state they approve of, anyway, to ever engage in ‘violence’.. also my own direct action: an ethnography
63\ i have often remarked that the real defn of being ‘middle class’ is whether, when one sees a policeman on the street, one feels more, that than less, safe
64\ i am aware this is not really what weber said. even the phrase ‘iron cage’ is apparently a mistranslation for a phrase that means something more like ‘shiny metal casing’ .. not a drab prison but a high tech wrapping superficially attractive in its own right.. nonetheless, this is how weber was understood for most of the 20th cent and in a way the popular understanding was more important.. and certainly more influential.. than the author’s actual meaning
67\ the rogue cop movie appeared at the moment the western disappeared and is largely a transposition of western plots into an urban B setting.. the wester plot is typically an effort to contrive a situation where it si justifiable for a basically decent person to do things that in any other situation would be absolutely unjustifiable.. transposing that onto an urban B environ has disturbing implications: indeed, one might well argue that jack bauer is the logical culmination of the genre
69\ but i don’t think that leftwing ideas always and necessarily create B in the same way.. indeed, insurrectionary moments usually begin be eliminating existing B structures *entirely.. .. and while these structures often creep back, they only do when the revolutionaries begin to operate thru govt: when they manage to maintain autonomous enclave like ,say, the zaptistas this doe snot take place
70\ technically, ontology is theory bout the nature of reality, as opposed to epistemology which is theory about what we can know about reality
71\ even the rich and powerful will ordinarily concede that the world is a miserable place for most of those who live in it, but still, insist that this is inevitable, or that any attempt to change it will make it worse – not that we actually live in an ideal social order
75\ hard for us to recognize interp labor for ie, or most of what we usually think of as women’s work – as labor at all.. to my mind it would probably be better to recognize ti as the primary form of labor.. insofar as a clear distinction can be made here.. it’s the care, energy, and labor directed at human beings that should be considered *fundamental.. one of the most alienating aspects of capitalism is the fact that it forces us to pretend that it is the other way around.. and that societies exist primarily to increase their output of things (rather than **fashioning people)
**interpretive labor et al
76\ see my book the democracy project.. my own chosen title for it was, ironically, ‘as if we were already free’ but in the end, i wasn’t free to dictate my own title
oh my.. read this.. lse book club via m of care – dec 5
ch 2 – of flying cars et al
79\ video telephones had first been debuted in the 1930s by the german post office under the nazis
90/ on political conflicts of early 70s.. set stage for emergence of the *midnight notes collective.. but they did reveal quite clary that in many assembly line industries, wildcat strikes did focus on demands for replacing drudgery w mechanization, and for employers, abandoning factories .. became a conscious strategy for sidestepping such demands..
crisis to commons via *midnight notes
91\ the us sometimes likes to maintain the fantasy that it does not engage in industrial planning, but as critics have long since pointed out, it does. much of the direct planning and hence r&d, is carried out thru the military
96\ this too resembles what happened in the ussr and under similar regimes, where a combo of a centralized redistributive system and an insistence on ideological conformity ensure that ethnic differences were the only ones that could find any open political expression – with ultimately disastrous political effects
97\ though all ethnic groups seem to be rep’d in the federation, i’ve alway s noticed on curious exception: jews.. all the more striking because both kirk and spock in original series were played by jewish actors.. the vulcan salute, famously, is actually an orthodox jewish blessing.. but.. as far as i’m aware.. not a single jewish character has ever appeared..
98\ all on has to do is google (star trek creator) ‘gene roddenberry’ and ‘communist’ together to et a taste of the kind of ire the issue stirred up in conservative circles
102\ and of course just counting uni staff is deceptive in itself, since it ignores the burgeoning numbers of admin employed by foundations, and other grant giving agencies
103\ similarly don braben, uni college london, made headlines in uk by pointing out that einstein would never have been able to get funding were he alive today. others have suggested most of his major works would never even have passed peer review..t
105\ even worse, as some friends in the industry point out, grant givers regularly insist it’s the scientists themselves who have to write the applications, progress reports, etc, rather than some subordinate, w the result that even the most successful scientists spend roughly 40% of time doing paperwork..t
graeber min\max law et al
106\ but these efforts always prove, on investigation to be largely publicity stunts.. in sv-style firms, innovation is largely outsourced to start ups.. at present the most promising research is generally conducted neither in corp nor directly govt funded environments but in the non profit sector (which includes most unis), but here too, the corporatization of institutional culture ensures more and more time is taken up w grantsmanship
107\ david harvie, ‘commons and communities in the uni: some notes and some ie’s.. the commoner no 8, autumn/winter 2004 – www.commoner.org.uk/o8harvie.pdf
108\ we cannot know, for instance, whether there really are alt fuel formulae that have been bought up and placed in safes by oil co’s, but it’s widely speculated that there are. a russian journalist i know told me about her friend, who invented design for an internet base station that could provide free wireless for an entire country. the patent was quickly purchased for several million, and suppressed by a major internet provider.. no such stories can by defn be verified, but it’s significant in itself that they exist.. that they have the complete aura of believability..
110\ punk rock in the 70s was about the lack of any redemptive future ‘no future’ was in fact one of its most famous mantras – and it strike me that the taste for victorian era sci fi futures is more than anything else a nostalgia for the last moment, before the carnage of ww1, when everyone could safely feel a redemptive future was possible..
113\ lewis mumford, the myth of the machine (to p 146 – B oversight turned armies of peasant farmers into cogs.. principles originally developed to org people.. et al)
114\ i note that peter theil, who agreed w much of the original argument of this essay, has recently come out as an antimarket promonopoly capitalist for precisely the reason that he feels this is the best way to further rapid tech change..
115\ for al long as i can remember, at least since i was in my 20s.. i’ve heard at least one person every year or so tell me that drug that will stop the agin process is approx 3 yrs away
ch 3 – utopia of rules
117\ on.. the welfare state largely created to pay off the working class for fear of their becoming revolutionaries..t.. tending to be met w skepticism, and demand for proof that this was the self conscious intention of the ruling class.. but here we have the very first such effort described by its founder (chancellor of germany – otto van bismarck – p 159) quite explicitly as such (on section about german po)
119\ it’s interesting that in imagined communities, benedict anderson barely mentions this phenom (po going from military to personal) focusing only on newspapers.. (p 160)
120\ this is still true: in the us right now, a third of govt employees are in the military, and a quarter are in the postal service, far and away more than any other branch
125\ central po, w its sweeping, block long marble steps and corinthian columns and the central branch of ny public library..
133\ there is a reason mr spock was a fictional character.. but of course spock wasn’t really supposed to be emotionless, he just pretended to be, so in a way he rep’d the ideal of rationality perfectly..t
136\ there is a story that such was the political importance of this doctrine (numbers are everything) that when one later pythagorian, hippasus, discovered the irrational number, his fellows drowned him in the sea..t actually, the legend was rather than hippasus drowned by accident, as punishment form the gods for his impiety in revealing such matters.. myself , i find more interesting the suggestion in some sources that hippasus held that god was an irrational number: that god, in other words, rep’d a transcendent principle beyond the immanent rationality of the cosmos.. if true, it would have been a major departure form the emerging logic of the ‘cosmic religion’ of antiquity and it might not be surprising is he thus aroused his comrades’ antipathy.. it is intriguing to consider how it relates to the reflections of sovereignty detailed below.. (links to p 174 – school rep’d selves as rationalists.. cosmos rational because it was ultimately an expression principle of number, pitch, and vibration.. when human mind exercises powers of reason, it was simply participating in large rational order.. the cosmic ‘world soul’)
141\ imagination was mediator between the divine intellect and the material world, just as the astral plane mediates heaven and earth; indeed, many at the time speculated our imaginative faculties were made of astral substance
145\ see also david wengrow, what makes a civilization?..t 2012
147\ my key text here is david wengrow’s ‘archival’ and ‘sacrificial’ economies in bronze age eurasia: an interactions approach to the hoarding of metals’
148\ indeed, i have (links to p 184 – on arguing that narratives/stories are used as/for political action even on 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.. as to what is what), in an earlier book lost people
151\ elsewhere i’ve referred to this as ‘the ugly mirror phenom’ see david graeber, ‘there never was a west: democracy emerges from the spaces in between’ in possibilities: notes on hierarchy, rebellion, and desire (2007)
read? – reading: possibilities
152\ the key diff here is no doubt that medieval carnivals were, in fact org’d largely bottom up, much unlike roman circuses..
from possibilities: p 36 – the 2nd subversive element of joking.. which i think is also by far the more profound.. in carnival.. not only was hierarchy temporarily suspended/reversed, but the whole world was reconstructed as land of cockaigne.. as the saying went.. a domain in which there was nothing but bodies happily partaking of the world and of each other.
153\ on tolkien’s letter to son: on his hatred for B and leaning toward anarch ism
157\ and if one is playing a game, the ‘play’ element is the unpredictable element, the degree to which one is not simply enacting rules, but applying skill or rolling the dice, or otherwise embracing uncertainty..t
158\ d&d and similar role playing games so enjoyable because they have achieved perfect mix of play and game principles
160\ carl schmitt, political theology: four chapters on the concept of sovereignty.. schmitt’s arguments were used by the nazis to provide legal justification for concentration camps.. t
concepts of sovereignty used for legal justification for concentration camps
164\ during protests against world bank in 2002, police in dc surrounded public park and arrested everyone inside it.. i remember calling out to commanding officer asking what we were being arrested for.. he answered, ‘we’ll thin of something later’
165\ it usually takes an assault that outrageous (sodomizing et al) for an officer to actually go to jail.. ie: during global justice movement and occupy.. there were repeated cases of police systemically breaking wrists and fingers of nonviolent protesters – often after announcing they would do so – but no police officer was ever so much as charged.. let alone convicted of assault
166\ creativity was seen as demonic because it was opposed to the divine or cosmic principle of reason.. here, creativity is seen as demonic because it partakes of the divine or cosmic principle of play
167\ ultimately since freedom means protection from arbitrary (non rule bound) power of others, and since power is everywhere, the logic provides a charter for the reduction of all aspects of human life into sets of transparent rules..
(notes on appendix on batman)
177\ if one want to understand the essence of a popular genre, one does not examine its most sophisticate high culture variants.. if one want to understand the essence of a popular genre, one looks at schlock (cheap, inferior)
end of 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