Friday, November 11, 2016

Ideological Lag

The economy sets the rules of how we cooperate (and has throughout history), because how we cooperate is how we work together to make and do stuff - any stuff - all stuff - ever. Those arrangements (personal or institutional) are eventually established in terms of our evolving levels of productive technology and patterns of trade.These things are thoroughly interconnected.

But there's usually a very uncomfortable lag between the implementation of an economically significant technology, our new working relationships that emerge out of the change, and the collective story that makes sense of it, a story that generally reflects evolving notions of "justice".

Being forward looking is very important. It's time to resist nostalgia for an imaginary "homeland" as we cannot afford to be tribal in a transnational economy. The last century in Europe should have taught us that. This is what we should remember today.

We need to allow ourselves to risk thinking informed by wisdom and good purpose. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Power and human instincts

 I'm reading "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Harari. He says

"how did humans organise themselves in mass-cooperation networks [a.k.a. Socioeconomic systems] when they lacked the biological instincts necessary to sustain such networks? The short answer is that humans created imagined orders and devised scripts. These two inventions filled the gaps left by our biological inheritance."

Turns out these scripts tend to invoke a divine decree as a warrant for legitimacy, as we know. But it's very doubtful that these hierarchical orders were planned and hammered out by Hammurabi and co. with many times the cunning of a modern PR consultancy or even fully consciously, as Harari insinuates.  Who is going to accept and carry out his social role no matter how lowly just because some clever storytellers concocted and disseminated the very story to organize hundreds of thousands into stable economic networks? Narratives probably emerged and evolved along with mass cooperation networks. The numinousness bestowed via divine blessing on the experience of the revelation of "justice" (which differs based on the socioeconomic organization in play) is a strong hint that there is indeed an instinctive aspect to human narratives supporting the social order. We don't get it yet because we're too focussed on discrete entities as ontically  "fundamental" (perhaps part and parcel of the individualist script in play today that has supported the socioeconomic order known as capitalism.)

Narratives can be concocted and are influential but the notion that the powerful can manage to manipulate the organization of whole civilizations by consciously concocting tales of divinely legitimated justice is utterly simplistic. Nevertheless this and similar explanations are advanced indirectly in works like Ian Morris's Why the West Rules for Now. One thing the historical supposition of a transcendental source of justice has left even non religious investigators today is the sense that we are above nature and that our various versions of narratives of justice are not instinctually rooted. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On Tribe and Discourse

On Tribe and Discourse

Earlier blog entries in this space (Culture is Geologic [gone - eaten by former blog host], Tribalization and the Global Economy and Relativism [below], Populism and Power [also eaten]) expressed the view that industrialism, by disrupting awareness of a direct relation to nature, dislodged the web of discourse that integrated tribe and ecosystem and replaced the integrating mythos with a place holder that Lacan refered to as the Name-of-the-Father.  This place holder can now be filled, the sentiments of "tribe" artificially but all the more zealously aroused, by any number of banners.  One's sense of personal identity is wrapped up in some kind of tribal membership.
I say all the more zealously because in a globalized economy, tribal connections, especially among urban or modern people, are likely to be reaction formations to some degree.  Believers of myths today believe them literally and historically, rather than heuristically or metaphorically; fans idolize teams and do battle over loyalties; patriots die for nations that never supported them; gangs fight over territories; people are relieved to be identified as belonging to a market segment.  Reaction formation is characterized by overly intense beliefs; overly intense to sustain the lie to oneself.  
A little reflection and anyone can see that intense tribal loyalties are artificial yet deadly in a global economy.  The organic integrity of pre-literate tribes has long decayed, as we can see directly in the aboriginal peoples of the world whose ways have been sideswiped by globalization.  Today, the tribe as a social-psychological form is decadent.  A true way of renewal needs to be found. 

Tribalization and the Global Economy
Historically, tribe is a set of economic relationships between people that direct their relation to local nature; i.e., a socio-economic system.  An attendant mythology embedded in linguistic structures models the world for members of the tribe. The mythology institutionalizes kinship relations, the rites and rules of reproduction and life events in patriarchal terms.  Tribe is circumscribed by a set of proprieties and shameful transgressions (especially reproductive) that literally define its membership and its members’ sense of identity.

What happens to tribe in the global economy? 

In a global economy, the tribe resides in an alienated nostalgia.  There is an empty place-holder for what should be a meaningful socially-integrating force (that makes us feel at home in the world and explains our connection to nature in mythological terms), but the place-holder embodies the same amount of energy and urgency as any locally based socio-economic system.  In an unrooted global economic system, any banner can galvanize a group in the time it takes to score a goal , shout “death to infidels” or prefer one popular music genre over another.  Why?

Psychologist Jacques Lacan had the brilliance to realize three things:  One, that the sense of personal identity one has is necessary for basic sanity; Two, that this sense of identity does not self-subsist in individuals but is a product of one’s linguistic place in the patriarchal-tribal system of meanings; and Three, it is necessary for there to be an integrating but intrinsically undefinable locus of navigation to this system of meanings, which he facetiously but accurately called “the name of the father.”  So the answer to the question as to why tribe can galvanize with such astounding force is that a linguistic community is deeply necessary for sanity.  There are obvious exceptions, but unfortunately until Lacan is wrong, and Carol Gilligan is right … 

2016-06-08 Note: Name of the father "as the delegate and spokesperson of a body of social Law and convention", not the phallus as per Freud. There are probably better sources out there. I was reading Malcolm Bowie 11 years ago in 2005 if anyone's interested.