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<nettime> Fwd: Re: Forms of decisionism
Felix Stalder on Sun, 17 Jul 2016 16:40:38 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Fwd: Re: Forms of decisionism

I begin to worry about the theory of the three crises, which Brian,
building on "regulation school" research and "long wave" economic
theories, has put forward, which has been at the core of the
techno-politics project in which I'm deeply involved, and which
informed many of the the most productive threads within nettime over
the last, say, 5 years.

The theory states that capitalism is structured into large-scale
patterns (techno-economic paradigms, which include cultural and
psychic forms) which are reorganized roughly every 40 years during
systemic crises: (1890-1900) 1930-1945, 1970-1980, and now, 2010-?.

The approach has much to offer, not the least that brings into view
complex, large-scale and heterogeneous dynamics that nevertheless
follow some internal logic. It also suggests that is it is possible
to spot patterns of the new paradigm early on. Following this theory,
we can except a transformation from an informational paradigm to some
sort of ecological paradigm, which could range from eco-fasicsm (build
a wall, let them drown!) to some sort of federation of resilient
communities (p2p society).

Each of these historical transformations is understood as ratcheting
up capitalism and its social and economic institutions to be able to
manage a higher degree of complexity. If we follow Manuel Castells on
this point, then the Soviet Union, which established itself on the
patterns of what he calls "industrialism" (of which Fordism would be
its capitalist incarnation), never managed this transformation. Rather
it fell into a state of stasis (from late 1960s to mid 1980s) and then
broke down in a belated attempt to transform itself. The vacuum was
filled by neoliberal globalization integrating the entire globe into a
single, interdependent techno-economic system.

But what if, this system is like the Soviet Union, unable to reform
itself, sticking to its ideology and forms of organization, despite
mounting evidence that the problems it tries to solve are getting
worse, rather than better?

This would imply a crisis of much larger dimensions (not that the
previous dimension were small...), because the next jump in the order
of complexity that social forms to be able to accommodate is much
larger than the transformation from Fordism to Post-Fordism.

I think it's beyond question that we have passed some form of
threshold and are already living in world that is an order of
magnitude more complex than that of a generation ago.

The most obvious and challenging aspect of this new complexity is that
fact that there are no more externalities. Externalities, quite simply,
are consequences that are caused by a certain social process, but that
do not register in the internal logic of that process and can thus be
ignored. The classic example is a factory that pollutes the environment
but does not have to pay for the costs.

Or, empires could wage war in distant regions without violence ever
affecting its home territory.

Assuming externalities allows to keep complexity down.

I think we all know intuitively that this is no longer the case. Climate
change, no matter where pollution originates from, is affecting us
directly, Terrorism is bringing the violence back into the center of
power in ever more extreme and desperate forms.

By rise in complexity the established institutions across the world
(mostly of Western origin) are overwhelmed and are looking weaker and
more incompetent with every new "former externality" showing up at their

This opens the space for the great allure of retro simplicity -- from
simple living as a life style, to retro marketing of bio foods, to
right-wing calls to "take *back* the country" or to "make it great *again*".

But, historically speaking, if there is something like a direction to
the "process of civilization"  then it is towards social forms of higher
complexity. This is not necessarily an improvement in terms of quality
of life for everyone, but fighting it has historically been a receipie
for collapse.

But what does that mean for us? I think from a cultural point of view,
one urgent task could be find ways of making this higher complexity
intelligible and expressible, through new ways of seeing, feeling and
acting that, as a bottom line, encompasses all living forms. To make the
task even more complicated, these cultural innovations need to in tune
with political and economic fights, and must contribute to reorient
technological development towards more sustainable horizons.

Not a great call to arms, I know. Sorry.

On 2016-07-15 08:14, Brian Holmes wrote:
> Past a certain point of chaos, the question is no longer whether or
> not to enter a state of exception. The question is when, how, with
> whom, by what means, and to what ends.


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