January 31, 2006 § Leave a comment
To reach an agreement of a platform we need some agreement on underlying symptoms and causes. My first cut goes something like
Issues that must be dealt with, as symptoms and underlying causes, and then what are sufficient interventions or changes to get to where we need to go.
Remuneration for work declining
Health costs and poor service
Too much War
Expanding government that s not helping social issues World market askew Others…
Expensive techno/corporate driven medicine Oil policy Increasingly complex forms of segregation (sex, race, class, geography, IQ, education, age.) Combative rather than cooperative international relations: leading by deals and bravado rather than by values and appeal to virtue Use of tech for profit rather than social benefit Business regulations that support big business, not small.
Then the question is, what are sufficient interventions to turn this around.
The answer turns out to be more change than anticipated. But then the republicans made a great deal of big issues: lower taxes, personal responsibility, smaller government, use of military and economic power for advantage not constrained by perceptions. So we need t go for big changes.
Healthy and educated population
Good neighbor relations to the world
Use tech for the good of all
It is democracy vs corporate/state alliances for the rich. If this is done right, it is what most people in both parties, leaders and led, really want.
January 23, 2006 § Leave a comment
Society (US and world wide) is being tsunamied by
1. Population increase
2. Communications tech (internet and its extensions such as data bases0
3. Concentration of capital
The result is a destabilization of the nation state, corporate institutions, cultures, individual psyche’s and abandoned essential infrastructure maintenance. Even the very meaning of capital and wealth is coming apart and reorganizing.
This shift from recognizable structures to chaos is a necessary consequence of the Internert (standing for all of communications). It is as powerful as the shifts from hunter gatherers to agriculture, and from agriculture to the factory system, What next? We do not know, hence the anxiety of those who have, those who are losing, and those who never got to participate but see their local environment deteriorating (India and China, doing “well”, are also marginalizing still further a large part of their populations. This “cost” some argue is to be bearable, if it led to a new vitalized normal economy, but it is more a symptom of a loss of control and a loss of the ability to distribute benefits, as all resources are pulled toward the few real centers of power.)
Right now the owners and mangers of capital and capital assets are doing all they can to extend their system, and reap wealth, but at the expense of the economic well being of most of the population and psychologically of everyone. We are too close to war and fear and economic and environmental tragedy.
The idea that capital is an instrument of the market has gotten mixed up with ownership as a right independent of society. Smart conservatives have always known that the well being of the population is key to their own success and comfort in the world. The promise of tech and economic growth as providing more for more has been perverted into a game of private gain done by arbitrage of the population the planet and its institutions. Tech is now seen as a means of exploitation rather than meeting needs, and the old idea of business health equals social health has broken down. We now realize that there are rules of the road, and they have consequences. Those with capital and political power have made what appear to be reasonable personal choices by aligning with a mainstream group consensus around markets, capital and democracy. But democracy here means populations controlled by controllable media, and the capital is being used to destroy the foundations. We are hollowing ourselves out in a new game of musical chairs.
We want a society that makes smart use of technology, prevents wars, creates healthy wealth, that understands that growth is not necessarily development and development can be less exploitative. We realize that the American invention was create a government that supported human betterment and prevented tyranny. All this has to be rethought under the post-modern conditions of complexity and the internet. The goals are the same, but the institutional base needs some solid work.
We realize that conservative value – respect, law, tradition, human worth, truth, education, and liberal values – generosity toward helping people who are marginalized so that as many as possible can contribute and benefit – and libertarian values of individual responsibility, and religious ideas: individual conscience and awe at the mysteries of life, are all important – and most people agree.
The tragedy of our time is that we have the resources and ideas to create a friendly successful world, and we are destroying it for lack of consensus around how, because the normal media, as an idea network, is clogged up with the messages of staying the course with old style institutions and ways of organizing wealth. The possibility of a rather simple sane solution requiring openness and experimentation eludes us. If people world wide felt that a ne social contract gave them realistic education and health , and that they were part of the human community of mutual compassion, and they could better their local environment free from fear of violence, starvation, or further marginalization, we can succeed.
We need some vision like this, and then hard work to realize what are the necessary conditions to undertake this reorientation for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Just as the founding fathers were smart about the history of republics, and worked hard learning that history, so they could invent the best republic possible, so we need to be able to explore history, anthropology, political science, legal history, and the full flow from the humanities of all its recent good, and unused, work. We need the capacity to reflect on and critique the overall process while embracing the urgency.
January 22, 2006 § Leave a comment
From my perspective, writen in 2000, resurrected from old files this morning..
We have reached a point where the combination of official
knowledge and public institutions is every bit as oppressive
in 2000 as the medieval and Aristotelian synthesis of 1500.
In 1600 Francis Bacon tried to break out of the grip
of conventionalized concepts by putting unusual stress
on the observation of individual facts. However individual
facts that are good at raising questions could not lead to theories
without some intervening mental scheme. And
the question was, where did they come from? Newton set
a model of using mathematics to derive what numbers aught
to do. From then on the conceptual system came before observation.
While there were squabbles about this, such as David
Hume’s raising the issue of the impossibility of induction
from facts to theories, the procedure was To develop concepts
that could fit facts. But of course the facts were selected
to fit the theories. We did not look at green frogs in
order to understand stars. Preconceptions guided the choice
of observations. From the beginning this model was tied
in to social policy and governance. The individual cases
were not interesting but cases that supported generalizations
were. Instead of a search for truth there was a search
for manageability. if there was one of one kind of person
and ten of another that and where the basis for concepts
and one was avoided. This is the very opposite of the method
proposed by bacon.
The mystery of mathematics Is a major part of the problem.
Mathematics is fascinating and that it can be a description
of some parts of reality is a deep and abiding problem .
But the jump from surveying and architecture to the idea
that mathematics describes everything — a step taken by
Plato — has had severe consequences, such as imaginative classical
painting of the renaissance where fascinating characters
are acting out their dramas surrounded by extraordinary
rational architecture . What science has done is to keep
the architecture and to avoid the drama and to call the
resulting picture, stripped of humans, the theory of the
My own theory, based on the work of people like Helmholtz
and Piaget, is that mathematics is deeply related to the
motion of the body in space, and not just the human body. The ability of a dog to seemingly calculate the parabola of
a thrown ball makes a very deep impression. Piaget’s view
is that a sounded symbol is attached to these actions of the bbody, muscles and bones in spce and their controlling nerves, and through internalized images and speech tie together
the internal representations of the movement of the body
and a group of these become the basis for mathematics and it’s transformations.
The problem is that the body has many more parts than just
movement in space. There is the entire emotional life inherited
from our mammalian ancestors, and just as mathematics represents
the movement of the body in space, poetry and the arts represent
the movement of the body in relationships. Reducing architecture
to drama is as ridiculous as reducing drama to architecture.
Either way is taking a part for the whole, and such selection
is motivated by human ambition and perceived opportunities.
The need to count land , crops, and soldiers for Successful
governance created a style, in anticipation, that numbers
were the stuff of governance, while the inner life of the
persons being counted did not count. Ten soldiers were
ten soldiers. It did not matter if some were in love and
some were not, some were parents and some are not, that several
might be artists and several might have farms that needed
attention. Ten soldiers were necessary to fight the war. England lost most of its younger artists in WW1, and the United States, much of its culture in the Civil War.
The mathematics and the machine are deeply entwined. The
preferences in what has been called science is to prefer
the mathematical and the mechanical to the dramatic. This
history is very complex and recent works such as Mirowski’s
book Machine Dreams: how economics became a cyborg science,
and Mary Poovey’s The History of the Modern Fact, subtitled
problems of knowledge in the sciences of wealth and society
, provide an extraordinary grounding for seeing how mathematics,
commerce, war, and bureaucracy form a tight fabric every
bit as oppressive and conventional as the stalled occasion
they resulted from the medieval synthesis.
Achievement, built on the medieval, were the result of highly
creative acts at a moment in a highly creative culture ,
but institutions and mental habits
got in the way of fresh observation and critical thinking.
In both cases the ideology supported power rather than
individual conscience or the quality of life for the community. The promise
of science offended power through new knowledge and those we call
scientists for the last few hundred years have narrowed the scope of questions.
The numbers folks , while claiming to be aligned with science,
are deeply unscientific. The brutal issues of population
increase , the spreading misery among the increasingly large
number of people who are marginalized , and the collapse
of much of the environment do not have a systemic effect because
the scientists and the managers are living in enclaves . If
they would allow more openness to their own experience nand live close to others and daily lives, broader theories cold be made to work and to feel the clean air of fresh thinking
and direct observation.
If we go back into the eighteenth century and even much
of the nineteenth we see that most people lived in a world
that was different from that of commerce and money . A biography
such as Fraser’s on Charlotte BrThe onte shows a conscious
world of religious concerns that permeated every moment
of daily life as much as market forces consciously do today.
Of course commerce has always been an important. Just as
mathematics could describe it important aspects of life.
But there were other aspects , and that is the point. and
I will not let pass the opportunity to suggest that science
as it is practiced , and the resulting worldview of technology
and reductionism is an absolutely as much a religion with
its rituals and it’s priests as the church never was .
Cigarette smoking is so addictive because it weaves together
the hand, the eye, the nose, the mouth, the lips, and the
social gesture, the smell of smoke, the flow of light through
the rising column and integrated into the biochemistry of
the nervous system. The market, money, technology, status
, and welfare are also of a complex interweaving and I think
the two bear some similarity as models of compulsive and
Money, as part of quantification, tends to give the illusion
that things are equal that are in fact not equal. 12,000
oranges=one horse , a fifth of a car , a tenth of Some people’s
annual salary the luges and is of a manageable equivalencees.While
the trick can be done, the cost is very high. When a person
is very anxious they tend towards compulsive activity. The
strategy is to deal with something small that can be mastered
while denying the existence of the large forces that threaten
the personality . . Money of course works, but to the extent
that it moves into the foreground and real differences are
lost it is a symptom and a strategy of the nation’s that,
because it closes off enquiry, is neither scientific more
pragmatic and is not a suitable basis for long-term effective
Elites want a system that pays off for them and they will
use with partial understandings anything they can get hold
of . It is not surprising because each person does this
in their own personal life . But this doesn’t preclude the
possibility of keen observation, critical thinking, and
creative design . But currently we are so trapped in our
mainstream thinking with its castles and of unreality that
there is no research program, no institution, and almost
no person who stands outside flow .
The situation is fascinating and full of opportunity to
to the strategy that began modern science , that of going
outside and looking to see what is there, and working our
thought from what we find rather than only looking to find
what we thought.
The background: my own path is somewhat idiosyncratic
it starts in my experience of New York City growing up as
a child going to a good school and living in poverty. This
took me to physics as a safe place and while it Caltech
I found relief in the Hallett Smith’s course on Yates, Thomas
Mann , Joyce, And Eliott. I also took a course from Alfred
Stern on the to me obscure philosophers Ernest Cassirer, Hans Vahinger , and the Spaniard Unamuno. In graduate
school at UC Berekeley I was first affected by the developmental school of Heinz Werner . But soon took up with the developmental
work of Piaget which rooted epistemology in organic development. That exploration was supported by Cassirer’s philosophy
and symbolic forms . I moved further into the human and
social side through Kenneth Burke’s application of the understanding
of drama to human life.
Secondarily I was supported by the work of Lewis Mumford, Eric Voegelin, Arthur Lovejoy, and personal contact with Paul Feyerbend . When I went to Harvard at the Center
for Cognitive Studies with Jerome Bruner I also meant Erik
Erikson and David Riesman who were in many ways the first
real men on the social science side in my life . I was very influenced
by Jerry Letvin and his mix of drama and biology . Feyerbend
introduced me to Giorgio deSanillana (not the philosopher
but the historian of early science) and I met Michael Maccoby, which led me to study psychoanalysis At Eric Fromm ‘s
institute in Mexico, and taught me social character analysis
Since then and there have been new influences. Increased
interest in Eric Voegelin , Mircea Eliade, Simon Schama, Mirowski,
MaryPoovey, and Henrik Ibsen, to name a few . I
do believe in cross fertilization , and, however much of
a burden it is, it also creates freedom and responsibility.
January 22, 2006 § Leave a comment
Societies can’t change because those with power hold on to power. Now it is the military industrial complex in the US wanting war because they can sell arms and wars at a time when there is not much purchasing power for other things they can sell.
This means that keeping together the oil, military, state nexus is a dominant driver.
This means that Iran is a likely target, but I remain concerned about Cuba and or Venezuela.
And of course in the longer run, China.
The west, and the US in particular, remain brash, even stupid, and set a bad model, from the wars for Mexico, Cuba (Teddy Roosevelt), Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Granada, to Afghanistan and Iraq. The deep problem now in for Iraqis is that there may not be an economy that can support twenty million.
The deeper issue is how much our Iraq policy really is an ol policy, and if it is falterng, how does that lend energy to an iran war? The Tie in to Israel…?
On the other side the mobilization of internal resistance to Bush is increasing in wisdom and intensity. This is limited by things like the NYT not covering Gore’s speech last week, and the weakness of the Democratic party, which is too aligned with the same financial structures that dominate the republicans.
The Republican leadership is aligned with the primitive right, and the democrats with the identity politics groups who are not focused on the general state of the economy. The leadership of both is tied to the near same financial interests, as in Biden’s vote for the banks on bankruptcy.
January 21, 2006 § Leave a comment
From Slate, this is what we are getting for Homeland security. The idea of treating internal opposition, even violent, as equivalent to outside terrorists, is bad history.
Only the NYT fronts the indictment of 11 environmentalists for allegedly staging 17 attacks between 1996 and 2001 on such targets as lumber interests and a ski resort. No one died in the attacks, but they did an estimated $23 million in damage. At a news conference, FBI director Robert Mueller III said violent environmental groups were among the bureau’s “highest domestic terrorism priorities.” The WP’s inside story arches a rhetorical eyebrow, recounting up high a Dec. 25, 1999, incident in which the group set fire to a wood product company’s offices and left behind a note reading, “Early Christmas morning elves left coal in Boise Cascade’s stocking.”
from Kevin Drumm, on the possible resurence of a moderate republican, more truly conservative view.
The tough-talking, 78-year-old ex-Marine said in a telephone interview that he decided to challenge Pombo in the June 6 GOP primary because of the congressman’s efforts to weaken environmental laws and connections to figures in a Washington corruption scandal.
“This is no Republican Party I recognize today,” McCloskey said.
January 21, 2006 § Leave a comment
Reading from the new issue of world systems. Wallerstine’s research associates exploring the emergence of a for real global society on he impetus from “globalization.” The first idea is that globalization will break down the states and an ill-formed world with lots of chaos (unbound human energy on the lose from past organizations) will likely happen first.
I am thinking of the article this morning of Steve Clemmons on
Paul Wolfowitz , Busy Neo-Conning the World Bank: Staff Rebellion Brewing and his doing to the bank what rove/cheny did to K street – force alignment with US policy to get a hearing. Back..
“Current globalization processes neither follow any underlying master mechanism of rationalization, nor show any ordered pattern. The social world must be seen as an interaction field in which vastly different interests clash..”
So it isn’t rationalization because the underlying forces are not of the same kind, and results cannot be predicted. (easily).
Even at the individual level the interactions are indeterminate. Not only is globalization not inevitable, it must be recreated every day y many decisions, and hence is vulnerable to alternative actions by small players. (bin Lad, Seattle).
The journal raises issues about the application of complexity theory, which tends to stress the non-linear indeterminacy. Yet the world seems to move in a fairly comprehensible non phase shift way. My view is that since most people are trying to align themselves with what is happening, they help solidify major perceived trends. This reduce ambiguity.
There is a good discussion in the introduction to the issue about the overuse of complexity theory and its
“failure to notice the importance of the tenacious social structures in which these flows are embedded and by which interactions are shaped.”
(Factoid. There are 4 million airflights a day in the world.)
The mobility implied by chaos theory is disrupted by for example the small number of cell phone numbers actually called per owner. They do not call the whole potential field. In the same way airports are vastly immobile as infrastructure support to airplanes. Y2K also reminds us of the tenacity of the “system” through the alignment of its people.
Interrupt for the moment from Garrison Keillor’s
Writers’ Almenac this morning. Just wonderful.
Poem: “Birches,” by Robert Frost from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Henry Holt and Co.). (buy now)
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Back to the article: how does the soft power of those weak and poorly connected become real power? For all the openness, real people live behind many kinds of barriers; language to take one example. Or access to the country club.
“A third problem with complexity theory is that it neglects the need for coordination within the (economic, cultural, etc.) sub-systems of the world-system.”
“If, as indicated above, hard
power can buy soft power, then economic, political, and cultural systems must
have a common understanding of their respective internal logics,”
So money provides a vastly limiting factor on what controls the open network.
Which leads to “global social change is far less complex, and less unpredictable, than has been argued by proponents of complexity theory.”
And, to get our heart rates up,
“As in the 2Oth century, when high degrees of internationalization prevailed, world wars were not prevented; so in the 2ist century warfare among “the great powers” is likely to reoccur, unless serious alternatives are put forth.”
Which helps frame responses to the Bush staff response to Bin Laden. A response might go “There are many reasons to oppose the policies of the Bush administration. They do not reduce the threat of terror but increase it. They weaken America’s identification with its own best values, it keeps energy prices high and world tensions raw. It tends to increase the wealth of the already wealthy, and decrease the wealth of the rest of us. Among those who are against these policies are those who are losing out in the US, those whose values are being undermined (moderate conservatives), and those over seas that find us difficult to stomach on their terrain. The fact that these groups are opposed to Bush does not mean they represent the same goals.”
Weak. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it is real simple. “Bush never did understand the value of having friends, and keeps making enemies of us all.”
“antisystemic movements may succeed in ameliorating, or even in preventing, the three major negative consequences of hegemonic rivalry and capitalist production in the world-system. What may emerge, as a result of hegemonic rivalry, is therefore no longer a new hegemon but global democracy. ”
But what can democracy mean by now, after Bush has made democracy to mean democracy his way? See Democracy
“the odds for the long term do lie on the side of a democratic [world] community”
The tendency to hang optimism of democracy, and sustainability, seem like in some ways weak reeds, but history can work that way.
January 4, 2006 § Leave a comment
I spent the day Reading the first half of his web posted draft of a book, the self awakened, at
and wasn’t able to do much else. The title couldmake it sound like a typical new age self help, but it eally is about poliical change, and he ned to confront a number of very widely held assumptions about eality, change,science,and human nature.
I Took it to Goat Rock, where the Russian River meets the sea, and watched the twenty foot waves while reading the first forty pages. I tend to like books which put well what i have thought unedited. This is such. A fairly complete theory of society, knowledge, human nature, the scientific enterprise, and the hopes for solid change.
Highly recommended, and I’ve not digested it yet.