Keith Hart on Sun, 8 Oct 2006 19:04:27 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Invisible States: Europe in the Age of Capital Failure


 >How could a society (or, say, a social movement or group of social 
movements) support secondary knowledge production so that people can get 
the information they need, from credible sources, in a form they can 
understand, in time to act on it?<

Thanks for this interesting reflection on Brian's impressive essay. I 
have a few scattered thoughts.

Another way of approaching this question would be to ask how individuals 
can train themselves or be trained to exercise effective judgment in 
such matters; and what formal structures (rules) might be conducive to 
their being able to do so. This is of course a late Enlightenment way of 
putting it, epitomised by Jefferson passim and Kant's Critique of 
Judgment, but it can also be found in Tocqueville's mature work (e.g. 
The Old Regime and the French Revolution). In a way, this is the 
Romantic idea that, when the rule systems are breaking down, corrupt or 
irrelevant, what matters is what each of us carries around between our 
ears; but also our ability to come together in designing new social 
forms. Hegel effectively overthrew liberal philosophy, replacing it with 
the focus on society that has dominated western thought ever since. Our 
times cry out for new ways of combining individual and collective 

More specifically, your reference to rumour reminded me of my time as a 
professor in the Ivy League in the late 70s. The students wanted to have 
access to everything written about them, including letters of 
recommendation for funding, jobs etc. I said that this would lead to 
anodyne letters being subverted by unaccountable phone calls to the 
gate-keepers. At least the present system of confidential letters meant 
that what people wrote could be scrutinised by their colleagues and 
possibly sanctioned. But the underlying contradiction was the attempt to 
impose egalitarian principles of bureaucratic procedure onto structures 
of extremely unequal power. It didn't seem to me then or now that, by 
agitating for disclosure, the students would do much to change their 
place in the power structure.

To put it another way, why is it that the mainstream US media have 
colluded to an extraordinary degree in the present regime's abuse of 
power and yet seem, broadly speaking and for now, to be getting away 
with it? This at th every time when the US has become home to the new 
media whose liberating potential we celebrate on nettime. What would it 
take to change that?

Your reference to the appalling ignorance of the divisions within 
western societies in places like the Middle East reminded of similar 
experiences in Africa. I have been told there that Europeans don't 
murder each other the way that Africans do (ie individually for personal 
reasons, as opposed to a policy of public genocide). So, like you, I 
have sometimes taken on the informal role of an anti-ambassador. Even in 
Europe, Italian students have said to me that the British don't take 
Europe seriously because we think we are superior to the Continentals, 
with no sense at all of the neurotic insecurity that drives British 
xenophobia these days.

As I said, scattered thoughts; but thanks for provoking them.


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