Into the Post-Network Era

“‘Segmented, polycentric, ideologically integrated networks’ (SPINs): By segmentary I mean that it is cellular, composed of many different groups…. By polycentric I mean that it has many different leaders or centers of direction…. By networked I mean that the segments and the leaders are integrated into reticulated systems or networks through various structural, personal, and ideological ties. Networks are usually unbounded and expanding…. This acronym [SPIN] helps us picture this organization as a fluid, dynamic, expanding one, spinning out into mainstream society”[1]. Networks as unbounded and expanding give a good picture of what the defining paradigm is within the network era. An integrated, increasingly connected global society that, instead of containing the bulwarks of industrial organisation and bordered nation-states caught within rigid international blocs, has an interconnected series of junctures and circuits (of global cities, airports and international trade routes). It is, as I described before[2], a dialectic relation of deconstruction/reconstruction, where the nature of things like community, industry and citizenship are a bricolage display of decentred variables that can be picked and chosen. It is best represented by the professional association and the logistical firm, both being fluid networks of value chains, human capital, social associations and horizontal communication channels.

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Beyond Building: Networks as Constraints

“Our nation and our civilization were built on production, on building. Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being”[1]. Marc Andreessen’s recent call to build as a means to regenerate American growth and reinvigorate ossifying institutions is an attempt to break through the latent stagnation in both American and wider Western growth patterns. A teleology of building to disrupt political deadlocks and move from neoliberalism or the California ideology (which has seen huge growth in software, financial engineering and logistics alongside a stagnation in productivity, wages and the “real” economy) to a state-led (or governance-led) post-Keynesian social order[2] with greater state-corporate partnership and a focus on infrastructure.

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The Dynamics of Decentralisation

Systems of governance flow from tendencies of cooperation iteratively, scaling upward from smaller units toward integrated structures. These movements of order creation are both partially spontaneous and partially constructed, flitting the borders between Hayekian evolution and grand planning. DeLanda describes these as assemblages, multi-scalar entities that exist in-and-of themselves in relations of exteriority to other units. Markets, cities, governments and other institutions can be described in these terms. The nation-state also exists as part of this matrix of relations, existing in a multiplicitous set of functions that interact variably and conflictually. They contain multiple crystallisations of power that develop alternative narratives and systems through which they compete and cooperate. Continue reading

Notes on Fractured Conflicts: Autonomous Zones and Siege/ACC

Following from my last speculations on the fractured conflict that the George Floyd protests and riots brought up, further developments of autonomous zones and alt-right infiltrations have shed more light on these conflicts that “have fractured into the dynamic tension between different tribes and the narratives they proscribe”[1]. These developments have shades of the Occupy movement in 2011 and right-wing movements with a similar attitude toward central government control who attempted self-government, but they are emplaced in a wider culture war dynamic that means the issues and relations become muddled. Continue reading

Fractured Conflict: The US Riots

The explosion of rioting and protest following the killing of George Floyd shows the fragility of US political relations and the extent to which nihilistic subjectivism – the displacement of a national subject in favour of different tribal and identity-focused conflagrations – have infected US political discourse. George Floyd’s killing as another example of police brutality was the inflection point for this to erupt, with the causal mechanisms multiplicitous and dispersed. The history of racial violence, segregation, community segmentation and deprivation are clear throughout much of the US urban geography. The limited distribution of wealth combined with the containment of gang violence and malinvestment within black neighbourhoods has created powder kegs which have regularly burst, from the civil rights-era riots to more recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore. Continue reading

Structural Fragmentation: An Analysis of Administrative Organisation in the EPS PGR Administration Team

Following on from my recent essays on various aspects of organisation theory and its applications to different political, sociological and administrative aspects, I conducted a study within the University of Birmingham analysing the EPS PGR administration team, using combined methods of workplace observation, surveys and interviews to determine the team structure, its bottlenecks and its fragmentation. Through these, I propose three solutions which could begin to restructure and reform the administrative organisation: geographic centralisation, process centralisation/reorganisation and a combination of both of these. This links to theories I’ve propounded around organisational ossification, adhocratic organisation and the nature of flux within administrative systems.

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Modes of Politics: Ideological Cycles & Fragmented Britain

Ideological Cycles

Viewing British political history through the prism of ideological waves shows distinct variations in the ideological positioning of British governments. The post-war settlement entrenched Keynesian demand management. With the stagflation crisis and the IMF bailout, Thatcherism brought in quantitative monetary policy, privatisation and market openness. Following the political failures of the Conservative Party under Thatcher and Major, New Labour presented a social democratic version of the Thatcherite consensus, neoliberalism with a human face. With this came the introduction of public-private partnerships in the NHS, education and transport infrastructure and the introduction of corporate management techniques into the public sector, flexibilising both the state and social democracy. Continue reading

Intra-Competitive Networks

In modern politics and organisations more generally, the Weberian bureaucracy of clearly-organised hierarchies, lineated systems of control and a series of standardised processes, rules and outputs has been increasingly superseded by the advent of the network, a system of loose control configured more by ideological coherency and the inculcation of values. As Mintzberg describes the evolution of organisational environments, as complexity increases (i.e. the level of knowledge and information to be processed is greater) there is a growing trend toward decentralisation (to work constellations based on expertise and experience) and organic structure based around informal mutual adjustment and work group autonomy[1]. This can be seen in the fields of human resource management, media, think tanks and regulatory organisations acutely. Continue reading

The Transformation of Human Resource Management: Performance as Practice

Performance management is the institutional triptych of individual, team and organisation matching their demands and needs along one path. Here the contiguities of these three elements are blurred to attempt to bridge their gaps in skills, knowledge and information. It has moved from a command-and-control structure of top down implementation of goals to be met via annual reviews where pay-based bonuses are distributed and the weakest are let go (the Jack Welch model) to an increasingly decentralised system of constant feedback via informal meetings so as to meet the adaptive nature of modern business goals and focus on personal development within organisational culture, emplacing agility within the wider organisation through an individual-based and team-centric focus. Continue reading

Membership Negotiation and Organisational Structure: From Learning Styles to Meta-Systematicity

“Companies and shop-floors thus produce the heat of chatter, some of it meaningless and some of it subversive, creating code within code and internal signs that route-around management practices, filling in gaps and moving capacity by creating autonomous junctures via intra-shop-floor negotiations and informal guidelines”[1]. Organisations are a locus of activity, from membership negotiation to their structuration. They tessellate across informal and formal methodologies of practice, never fully controlling but never fully autonomising either. As they flit between adaptivity and rigidity, they must find methods of integrating the formal and informal, particularly when it comes to incorporating members and meshing individual aptitudes with organisational ideologies and needs. Continue reading