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Re: <nettime> Zittrain's Foundational Myth of the Open Internet
Brian Holmes on Fri, 17 Oct 2008 20:39:20 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Zittrain's Foundational Myth of the Open Internet


Florian, this is great stuff! I continue to agree.

If you had more to say on the Hayek-Popper-Bertalanffy connection, that 
would be brilliant. On my old-book collecting spree I also picked up the 
1968 Alpbach symposium, Beyond Reductionism, organized by Arthur 
Koestler, which includes Hayek as well as Bertalanffy. It's yet another 
avenue I am waiting to explore. The reason I am interested is because 
Hayek was the one who introduced into economics the key notion of 
self-organization (the landmark paper is also in 1945, but hey, it's not 
all about dates....). Hayek was against general equilibrium theory, the 
economic version of a closed system, which suggested one could calculate 
in advance all the necessary exchanges of a economy (this was called the 
socialist calculation controversy). Hayek believed that you could not, 
and that the price signals of the market constituted the best 
information system available, absolving each person of any necessity to 
know the whole system and effecting the proper allocation of resources 
automatically. For this reason old Friedrich (the father of all 
neoliberals) went on to profess a strong interest in... cybernetics. 
This is another instance where ideas we have loved on the cyber-left 
since the 70s and 80s - like open systems, self-organization - turn out 
to have strong ties or at least parallels to a liberal/neoliberal 
tradition. I think that in order to emerge from what now looks like the 
outright disaster of neoliberalism (I been tryin' to tell y'all for 
years 'bout that...) it is necessary to understand these ambiguous 
connections between the anarchist ideal of self-organization and its 
market-oriented neoliberal version.

best, Brian


PS - Some quotes from Hayek, the first reflecting the thrill of wartime 
engineering:

See “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” in The American Economic Review 
35/4 (1945), where Hayek describes the price mechanism as “a system of 
telecommunications which enables individual producers to watch merely 
the movement of a few pointers, as an engineer might watch the hands of 
a few dials, in order to adjust their activities to changes of which 
they may never know more than is reflected in the price movement” (p. 
527). Also see Friedrich von Hayek, *The Constitution of Liberty* 
(University of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 159: “Much of the opposition to 
a system of freedom under general laws arises from the inability to 
conceive of an effective co-ordination of human activities without 
deliberate organization by a commanding intelligence. One of the 
achievements of economic theory has been to explain how such a mutual 
adjustment of the spontaneous activities of individuals is brought about 
by the market, provided that there is a known delimitation of the sphere 
of control of each individual.”


Florian Cramer wrote:

> On Friday, October 17 2008, 10:27 (+0200), Felix Stalder wrote:
> 
>> On Thursday, 16. October 2008, Brian Holmes wrote:
>>
>>> Yes, to my mind, it was the intellectual atmosphere of a period. But
>>> that period was very much infused with the economic and scientific
>>> liberalism. It is no accident that Popper's book "The Open Society and
>>> its Enemies" was published in 1945!
>>>
>> Of course, it's not an accident. Popper saw the book as his personal
>> "war effort" (though it was published only after the war was
>> over). And, yes, it's about defending a liberal tradition against
>> totalitarianism, but beyond that I cannot see any connection to
>> cybernetics. 
> 
> But major schools and affiliations of cybernetics, general systems
> theory in particular, were exactly about defending liberalism against
> totalitarianism on the grounds of scientific models. Ludwig van
 <...>


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