pilgrim’s progress john bunyan
February 27, 2010, 4:33 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

From the maps:


Highlights on the way:













endless postponement
February 21, 2010, 1:05 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , ,

I have been thinking recently about how strongly people seem to bristle when they believe someone is lecturing them.  Some people, especially in today’s super charged political culture, have a strong aversion to people who give speeches that try to define how we have lived, are living, should live.  That’s not for me! they scream, leave me alone!  This crowd – mob may be more accurate – doesn’t want the stricture of sets of rules constraining their perceived freedoms.  In a way, I agree.  I’ve come to believe that too many rules often mean there’s a moralist lurking and it will serve you well to move on.

But it always depends on the content of what is being pitched.  That’s a maxim that’s ridiculously easy to illustrate: don’t drink that tenth litre of coke.  You don’t even need to say, it’s not good for you, or, you’ll die.

The following quotation describes two visions of society, one by Deleuze which he calls control; and the other by Foucault called disciplinary.   I see the disciplinary society as classically modern and the control society as postmodern.  The disciplinary society holds broad belief structures true:  management, labour, disputes are clearly defined constructs that relate to each other in clearly predictable ways.  In this society, the world is finite and definable and, presumably, you can sleep at night.

The control society, on the other hand is constantly shifting and operates, according to Deleuze, in orbits instead of linearly: I’m up, now you’re up, but now I’m certified, she’s credentialed, you’re laid off, he’s middle management, you’re middling, I’m studying for exams, that position is terminated, we’ve been merged and taken over, we’re team players, at each other’s throats, sink or swim.  When the only constant is change, your head spins, incredulously, looking for a place to get off, and stand, and assess and maybe live.

The mob I described in my first paragraph are screaming for more control culture.  They are being offered stasis, predictability, specifically the guarantees of personal and social freedoms as defined at the advent of the modern, egalitarian state.  But they’ll have none of it and, presumably, will go on spinning in their disorienting orbits, perpetually postponing the opportunity to take hold of a chance at sanity and meaning.

Here is the description of Deleuze’s control society and Foucault’s disciplinary society —

Deleuze quite clearly sees this control society as a threat as bad as, perhaps worse than, the disciplinary society Foucault described. In the disciplinary society, factories produced a body of workers that could be controlled en masse by management, as well as an avenue of mass resistance via unions. But in the control society, we’re not talking about factories producing goods, we’re talking about businesses producing services; in this society, individuals relate to each other, compete against each other, and their wages fluctuate continually, ‘bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions, and seminars’ (p.179). This metastability is brought into education as well: ‘school is being replaced by continuing education and exams by continuous assessment. It’s the surest way of turning education into a business’ (p.179). So you have a sort of ‘endless postponement’ (cf. Body-without-Organs in A Thousand Plateaus) rather than a defined avenue of development; you travel in continuously changing ‘orbits,’ you ‘undulate,’ you find yourself switching jobs and careers and positionalities (p.180). The factory is gone, as are unions and lifetime employment; the best way to get a raise, as a friend once told me, is to switch jobs.”

Clay Spinuzzi, Reading Roundup: Deleuze on Control Societies

February 18, 2010, 10:35 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags:

the european dream
February 8, 2010, 7:32 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

The American dream is only a dream after all.  I had a suspicion.  There were so many red flags chief among them grandiloquence, bombast:  if we keep telling ourselves we’re the best, then we’re the best.  Peddlers of the big lie everywhere:  that to tell monstrous falsehoods will breed credulity.

I stepped off the boat (actually it was a plane) over 12 years ago.  My first reactions were that it seemed … communist, incredibly.  I’ve never heard anyone else who has moved to the US describe it that way, but I hold firmly to the description.  Streets and buildings were shabby, shops forlorn, people up to their necks in groupthink speaking in clipped and thuggish phrases, options that initially seemed abundant proved narrow and restrictive, city centers were abandoned and shuttered on the weekends and evenings, a general joylessness pervaded, the design of products and streets and consumer goods was utilitarian at best.  No babushkas or bread lines but pretty much everything else you wouldn’t expect if you watch a sitcom or a hollywood movie.

Here is an excerpt from a review of Jeremy Rifkin’s book The European Dream written over six years ago.  Look at that list of quality of life indicators that Europeans enjoy:  longer life, less poverty, less crime, less suburbs, longer vacations, shorter commutes!  Why?  I must be policy and policy comes from ideas, so their ideas of living must be very different than ours.

I have written posts about the difference between continental and Anglo attitudes to living based on the writing of the English philosopher Simon Critchley.  (Essentially, the continental, or European, tradition is to use wisdom to look for better ways of living; and the Anglo way to merely search for and implement functional solutions.)  I think this is why Europe enjoys a better standard of living than us:  they use wisdom to secure a good life, we use technique to get ahead.

Everyone is talking about what we need to dig ourselves out of the messes we’re in.  I say we need good leaders.  I say we smoke out the ones who look merely for short term fixes, and replace them with ones who have broad and bold and daring visions of good living.  Either that or lobby the government for easy options for emigration.

Here is the excerpt:

The European Union’s GDP now rivals the United States’, making it the largest economy in the world. The EU is already the world’s leading exporter and largest internal trading market. Moreover, much of Europe enjoys a longer life span and greater literacy, and has less poverty and crime, less blight and sprawl, longer vacations, and shorter commutes to work than we do in the United States. When one considers what makes a people great and what constitutes a better way of life, observes Rifkin, Europe is beginning to surpass America.

More important, Europe has become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity’s future. In many respects, the European Dream is the mirror opposite of the American Dream. While the American Dream emphasizes unrestrained economic growth, personal wealth, and the pursuit of individual self-interest, the European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and the nurturing of community.

We Americans live (and die) by the work ethic and the dictates of efficiency. Europeans place more of a premium on leisure and even idleness. America has always seen itself as a great melting pot. Europeans, instead, prefer to preserve their rich multicultural diversity. We believe in maintaining an unrivaled military presence in the world. Europeans, by contrast, emphasize cooperation and consensus over go-it-alone approaches to foreign policy.

All of this does not suggest that Europe has suddenly become a utopia. Its problems, Rifkin cautions, are complex and its weaknesses are glaringly transparent. And, of course, Europeans’ high-mindedness is often riddled with hypocrisy. The point, however, is not whether Europeans are living up to the dream they have for themselves. We have never fully lived up to the American Dream. Rather, what’s crucial, notes Rifkin, is that Europe is articulating a bold new vision for the future of humanity that differs in many of its most fundamental aspects from America’s.

–Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream

author:  Jeremy Rifkin

Simon Critchley
book:  The European Dream, Rifkin

Continental Philosophy, Critchley
organization:  The Foundation on Economic Trends

February 6, 2010, 5:21 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

How civilized!  The Brit in me likes to fling that phrase around, every once in a while:  a label for someone drinking tea from a dainty cup with his pinky up, playing tennis in whites, snacking on smoked meats and vodka, being versed in opera.  Or slaughtering the natives.  Civilization, a complex topic, and one that leaves a decidedly mixed taste in the mouth.

Jeremy Rifkin’s definition of civilization below is smart because it addresses the foible of both of our political extremes.  On the right:  blood ties aren’t enough, to civilize your associations must extend beyond mere blood; and on the left:  you must develop as an individual to engage properly in society.

Here is the excerpt —

A heightened empathic sentiment also allows an increasingly individualized population to affiliate with one another in more interdependent, expanded, and integrated social organisms. This is the process that characterizes what we call civilization. Civilization is the detribalization of blood ties and the resocialization of distinct individuals based on associational ties. Empathic extension is the psychological mechanism that makes the conversion and the transition possible. When we say to civilize, we mean to empathize.

We frequently hear political conservatives argue that empathy is a code word for collectivism. They fail to realize that empathic maturity requires a well devolved sense of selfhood and individuality to flourish. Political liberals in turn, are likely to associate “individualism” with uncaring narcissism, again, not realizing that a well formed self identity is required for empathic extension and compassionate behavior.

–Empathic Civilization, Jeremy Rifkin

author – Jeremy Rifkin
book –  Empathic Civilization:  The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, Tarcher 2009
organization – Foundation on Economic Trends