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Re: <nettime> Markets, Hierarchies, Networks: 2 questions
Brian Holmes on Sat, 15 Apr 2006 09:30:55 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Markets, Hierarchies, Networks: 2 questions


Hmm, Felix, I was led off the track by your use of the word 
commune, which I thought was surely a typo - since in 
American English, a commune denotes a hippie community that 
has exchanged utopia for history! Cooperatives are more 
easily understood as attempts at doing things together, 
producing both objects and the forms of daily life, though 
of course comunes do the same thing, so your use of the word 
is just surprising, an interesting surprise. With that 
cleared up, your following remarks make perfect sense:

> If you look at how power works, there
>are real differences between these different sets. In markets, power is 
>based on money, since the coordination takes place through price signals. 
>In hierarchy, power is based on position, since decision-making authority 
>is hard-coded into the structure of the organization. In a network, power 
>is a) based on the ability to define the network protocol, and b) on the 
>ability to contribute to the overall goal of the network on the basis of 
>that protocol. In cooperatives, power is based on the ability to create 
>consensus.

Does a cooperative not then become a small version of a 
democracy? A democracy also theoretically bases its power on 
the ability to create consensus. But in contemporary 
societies, what we see is that democracies mainly create the 
illusion of a reasonable, Habermasian consensus, which 
serves to mask the economic operations of markets, 
hierarchies and networks....

>Somehow, I think 'cooperation' is located on a different, normative, level. 
>I have a hard time to think of cooperation in negative terms, and I have 
>less problems thinking of networks as, say, being set up for exploitation. 

On the normative level, the key words for the four types 
might be: competition (for markets), command (for 
hierarchies), reciprocity (for networks) and consensus (for 
cooperatives). I'm interested in how all these forms of 
organization work, and I'm sure many others are, so more 
references to interesting articles would really be 
worthwile. In particular I wonder about your own interest in 
cooperatives. Of course that was a great theme of 70s 
political-economic theory: workers' self-management....

As for social network analysis, it would be great to hear 
more from Shannon Clark who surely has precise ideas about 
what is emerging from that field; my question was meant as a 
kind of pointy but gentle provocation. Concerning what you say:

>In the late 1990s, I was doing research on electronic money, and I met 
>David Chaum, who was doing digicash at the time. I asked him why he had 
>become interested in anonymous e-cash. The story he told me sounds 
>credible, even though I don't know if it's true. He said that before the 
>overthrow of the Allende government in 1973, the CIA has done extensive 
>analysis of the communication pattern among senior officials of the 
>administration. They were not interested in what they were taking about. 
>What they were really interested in were the communicative networks and in 
>understanding who are the key nodes, connecting one part of the 
>administration to another. These were the people they were taken out first, 
>thus seriously crippling the ability of the government to coordinate its 
>response to the events. He was a afraid that online such techniques would 
>be even more powerful if we did not have anonymous communication, including 
>financial communication.

All you have to do is look at the massive number of articles 
and diagrams on the Al Qaeda network to be sure that this 
long-held interest of the CIA has been pursued up to today. 
Among others, the reseearchers who come to mind are the 
infamous Rand twins, Arquilla and Ronfeldt; Marc Sagemann, 
the forensic psychiatrist who also tried his hand at network 
mapping; and above all Karin Knorr Cetina, who has written 
an article called "Complex Global Microstructures: The New 
Terrorist Societies," published in Theory, Culture & 
Society, a journal to which I don't have access (if anyone 
can send me the pdf it would be great). Like many people 
using SNA representation techniques, Knorr Cetina is 
interested in complexity theory, which promises to tell us 
something about how organizations cross thresholds of 
change. Someone like Harald Katzmir from FAS.Research in 
Austria is also very interested in such theories. I am just 
ignorant of how far they have gotten in real predictive or 
even just insight-generating applications.

best, BH




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