Nettime mailing list archives

Re: <nettime> Return of the F-scale
Prem Chandavarkar on Mon, 29 Feb 2016 21:04:52 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> Return of the F-scale


True, Havel was in a very different kind and level of authoritarian
state. But it is a prescient warning that ideology can offer a tempting
security where the centre of power is allowed an equivalence with the
centre of truth. And this can happen across the entire range of
pre-fixed ideologies, from right to left. What we need is a separation
of these two centres, where the role of the centre of power is to
facilitate rather than own/control the debates on the centre of truth.

I agree with you totally that collaboration and scale are crucial. But
several questions need further work. 

The key to collaboration is the construction of a commons. Capitalism is
sceptical about the idea of a commons, believing that the tragedy of the
commons, that Garrett Hardin articulated, is inevitable; for which state
regulation is the only cure.  With the neo-liberal belief that that an
'inefficient' state must concede space to an 'efficient' private sector,
we have a tragedy of the commons of a different kind. 

Elinor Ostrum argued that Hardin's tragedy of the commons occurs when
the situation is structured as a version of the prisoner's dilemma, a
non-cooperative game where the participants do not interact with each
other during the course of the game. This is the state of affairs under
current models of capitalism where rational self-interest is supposed to
lead to the efficiency of the market's invisible hand. Ostrum's studies
show that where interactive participation is foundational, people are
able to negotiate and sustain a nurturing of a commons. 

Most of Ostrum's work is on communities of a fairly small scale, and
your question of scale remains.  How can one scale up these efforts? I
suspect the foundation is to deploy the principle of subsidiarity where
the lowest level of the hierarchy does the maximum it can, and what it
cannot do it delegates upwards. The higher levels are subservient to the
lower levels, which is a reversal of the convention where the highest
level determines the overarching strategy, and delegates details and
implementation down the hierarchy.  How this happens needs further
elaboration, and I am not aware of any theory that offers clear
direction on how it is to be done.  The organisation most often
mentioned where the principle of subsidiarity was coined and implemented
at a global scale is the Roman Catholic Church, and the extent to which
they have remained faithful to this principle is a matter of some

The issue of collaboration and participation is also one where the
picture is not clear.  Majid Rahnema, in his analysis of participatory
development, identifies four dimensions: a cognitive dimension where the
development discourse is constructed and comprehended through
participation; an instrumental dimension where participation is deployed
as a strategy for greater effectiveness; a political dimension where the
development project is legitimised through participation; and a social
dimension where communities are built or reinforced through
participation.  It  Most governments maintain the status quo of power by
foregrounding the instrumental dimension, giving some ground to the
political dimension, but largely ignoring the cognitive and social

We remain wedded to the idea of a social contract that is constructed
through technical expertise in a centralised, often opaque, manner.  We
are far from the full description of participation that Rahnema
describes, or the orientation toward nurturing commons that Ostrum has
studied and theorised. There is still much work to be done on a new
political theory.


> On 29-Feb-2016, at 2:29 PM, Patrice Riemens <patrice {AT} xs4all.nl> wrote:
> The question is then whether authoritarianism is the TINA for
> security/ well-being of 'the masses' (which Geert wants to re-educate,
> apparently). One must not forget that Havel was living in such an
> authoritarian state which also operated as a 'nanny'. He obviously
> longed for the 'liberties' we had in the West - and which we were
> using very poorly (to consume mostly). There surely must be better,
> co-operative, collaborative options. But then I think a 'reduction in
> scale' (of almost everything) is the prime condition to move forward.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org
#   {AT} nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject: