“Platforms act as both springboards for alterity and the means for monopolisation. They increase exit amongst the platform owners in some senses, and amongst the users in others”. They are hubs for communication and vectors for different forms of socio-economic organisation. If we view history as a series of Kondratiev waves (50-60 year developments of techno-social evolution) or epochal sequences (as defined by Mumford as the period of technics), our current period can be described as the “Age of Informations and Telecommunication” or the intertechnic period respectively. Much as the neotechnic phase of production that Mumford identified sat between the eotechnic and paleotechnic forms, in the intertechnic the power of e-commerce, internet communicatory networks and social media sit between monopolistic tendencies and decentralist modes, with Amazon as a particular vector of this intertechnic phase. This phase is not some cliff-edge, but rather a representation of the ambiguity of internet structures (platforms, marketplaces, multimedia, etc.) that both have decentralising means and tendencies and have individual organisations in this ecology that attempt to control the flows and methods of these tendencies. Thus questions of antitrust, economic organisation and what our institutions should do and will be come to be primary. Continue reading
The realities and codes of modern politics as a series of negotiations and compromises between political actors over distributional, international and regulatory affairs are giving way to something more viscous and difficult to map. The codifications of politics as a delineation of ideological variation between competing but generally set groups whose ideas were known through manifestos and negotiated through shared axioms are now being de-codified as situations are becoming more and more complex, eating away at these institutional capacities to cope. The axioms that were before set in place through loose constitutional frameworks and arenas for debate (parliaments, congresses and ballot boxes) are now becoming battlegrounds and fissures where difference gives way to disconnection and insularity, and where the totality of politics that was previously found in negotiated strategies is now found in singular issues and neo-tribal forms. Continue reading
This is the transcript of the talk I gave for the Wyrd Patchworkshop Quattro – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYXemShH_Yo&feature=youtu.be
The intersection of social media and governance present an interesting dilemma between communication and commodification, as the pull of both produces disequilibrium between and amongst the various platforms and their relation to governing structures. There is a segmented relation between the use and reproduction of human capital (as represented through data, influence and images) and the possibilities for resistance and world-building that these platforms allow. “Images, information, knowledge, affects, codes, and social relationships . . . . are coming to outweigh material commodities or the material aspects of commodities in the capitalist valorization process” as “living beings as fixed capital are at the center of this transformation, and the production of forms of life is becoming the basis of added value”. The governing of the interactions of socio-economic spheres have found a new force to contend with in the form of the platform and the social media network, as issues of data management, image control, proprietary rights and arbitration become central to people’s existence on online forums. A swirling disequilibria develops between the processes of social communication outside the market/company moorings, and the processes of commodification/valorisation that pull these communicatory nodes back into the circuits of capital. Continue reading
The recent political scene of the West can be seen as the growth of fragmentation of nationality, social identity and the political collectivity. The most obvious events come to mind: Trump, Brexit, the Gilets Jaunes and other currents of populist fervour. However these events have greater lineages than is supposed in most media narratives. The tribalism present in modern politics and the ideological variation are built from blocks made during the fall of mass parties and the increasing relevance of policy automaticity and the growth of life politics. A politics of antagonism has built itself upon infrastructure of political disengagement and senses of consensus. Continue reading
The libertarian political goal is dead. The achievement of a small state, so small that you could drown it in the bath, is never going to be achieved in pluralistic democracies that favour particular groups of lobbyists, tribes or social movements. Each of these groups will increasingly desire patronage and a seat at the table, increasing the complexity of decision-making and the distribution of resources which in turn increases the scope of the state and its organisational nexus. A small state then is impossible unless coercive structures are in place to limit its growth, thus making the ideal of a small state redundant.
“The tribal form, at its best, embodies high ideals about how a society should be organized and how people should treat each other”. The tribe is the ur-form of the human socius, becoming the building blocks of further governmental assemblages as human societies increased in complexity and scale to encompass different forms of order, from kingdoms and empires to feudal suzerainties to constitutional states and liberal democracies. However, as systems evolved and concatenated, the tribal form remained as an essential presence amongst more complex elements. The language of governance still holds sway to notions of fraternity, affinity and the centrality of councils for discussion and dissemination. While the modes for these forms have been largely de-ethnicised and scaled away from kinship groups toward complex levels of decision-making, the notion remains of maintaining common bonds around bordered and segmented spatio-temporal series. Continue reading
The concept of a free labour market, or even markets freed from the grips of wage labour in some significant manner, is conceptualised in much left-libertarian thinking as the development of truly freed markets. Writers such as Kevin Carson and Eugene Holland posit a postcapitalist concept of markets that have distinctively non-Polanyian features (i.e. removing labour, money and land from circuits of exchange), instead having sets of independent producers engaging in voluntaryistic commerce along the lines of selling their wares on the market for simple profit. “In a society where most people own the roofs over their heads and can meet a major part of their subsistence needs through home production, workers who own the tools of their trade can afford to ride out periods of slow business, and to be somewhat choosy in waiting to contract out to the projects most suited to their preference”. Throughout much of Feudal Europe such a conception held sway for long periods as much of the peasantry had access to lands and tools that allowed them to self-provision in a very simple division of labour. However even during this period it was subject to strong regulatory forces through forms of serfdom, land tenure and labour provisioning that limited peasant movement. While certainly not fully akin to capitalist wage labour, these shared obligations were contractual (in a loose sense) and required the limitation of full freedom as posited in left-libertarian ideologies. Continue reading
The Libertarian Ideal (with Chris Shaw): a podcast I did with Frederic Voltaire Bastiat discussing critiques of libertarianism and my ideas of post-libertarianism.
In this podcast I discuss theories of state formation, critiquing the conquest theory of the state that is proffered by Rothbard, Oppenheimer and Nock. I propose that state formation is instead more complex, incorporating cooperative as well as coercive methods which are facilitated by increasing socio-political complexity. I further note that states have facilitated technological development and created infrastructure for economic structures that libertarians see as anti or non-state (i.e. markets, money, innovation, etc.) and that states cannot be viewed as unitary forms, but are instead heterogeneous structures that are part of wider societal assemblages that combine and conflict along contextual lines. Continue reading
My original essay defining delineations that make up and inform the libertarian ideal as I see it set out critiques of the libertarian position on markets in relation to modern capitalism. I noted that libertarians played a paradoxical game similar to socialist claims of real socialism never existing. In this case, libertarianism wanted to claim the benefits of modern capitalism (technological development, increasing life expectancy, better choices in marketplaces, etc.) while removing any statist baggage that sullied the waters. Thus capitalism and the progenation of markets were placed in an ideological vacuum that removed them from historical context. I further critiqued the libertarian reliance on abstract axioms, primarily the non-aggression and self-ownership principles, which further removed economic exchange and political development from historical reality. Continue reading