Collapse Patchworks: A Theory

The complexity of modern industrial, social and organisational flows presents the headlong perception of dromological speed[1]. As we fall faster and faster, our sense of volume is displaced as the surface quickly grows until it is the centre of our vision. The speed of these flows mean that they come at us headlong, as does their precipitous crashes and transformative potential. Stock market crashes, climate change, cultural complexity and viral pandemics sit on the periphery of vision while the flows make up a blurry surface. In this sense, I’m analysing these flows and their collapse both socio-economically, as the production of dynamics that increase complexity exponentially, meaning solutions to it are growing out of multiple places (patchwork); and dromologically, as a series of accelerative flows that mean solutions are constantly instantaneous, interdependent and contextual. Collapse patchworks are the bases of various methods of technological and social practices and instantiations that grow in these flows and anti-flows, creating transformative potential and impotent reaction. The increase in social networking, home-working and social distancing in response to viral pandemics. The stock market crashes and evolutions in industrial policy due to evolutions in human capital, organisational value and trade flows. Within these cyclical patterns and black swan events exist the trails and fractals that makeup new socio-economic potentials, forming part of wider paradigms of growth and innovation as well as methods of containing the future, putting it along specific pathways as the modality of these patchworks grows outward.

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Accidents in Ideological Machines

“Every technology produces, provokes, programs a specific accident”[1]. The invention of the car is the invention of the car crash. The invention of nuclear fission is the invention of Chernobyl or Fukushima. The invention of the internet is the invention of an interconnected fragility and an overreliance. Every technology intends its collapse and its breakpoints. This technological accidentology isn’t only applicable to the machinic technologies of life. It can also be seen in the ideological technologies of hegemonic social forces and their counterparts.

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Cladistic Postmodernity

A posthuman future of markets in everything, artificial intelligence and a dividualisation of the subject augurs itself as the gears of machinic evolution grind. “These new logistical and organisational possibilities produce new ontologies for conceptualising and abstracting information and using it to delineate spaces of action. ‘For the individual agent and complex system alike, this is the continual re-assessment of reality following the (vital) trauma of ontological crisis’. These new ontologies further dividuate the circumstances of being and identity, and produce posthuman forms that compete in increasingly level playing fields for political viability and social recognition”[1]. In combination with crises like the coronavirus pandemic and the auspices of climate change, a future that blurs the line between human and posthuman emerges.

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The Crumbling American Edifice

Biden’s victory has sent people into an idolatrous frenzy, signalling for many the end of the aberration of Trump and a turning point against all forms of nascent national populism. Where the media returns as the unchallenged arbiter of the national discourse. This pathetic liberal imagination will last well into the first months of the Biden presidency as anti-Trump activists and legacy institutions hope to herald the removal of not just Trump but his supporters, apparatchiks and ideology. How long it lasts beyond that is questionable, as the rigours of having nearly the half country view you as an existential threat to their way of life combined with the asymmetric coalition of voters and activists undergirding Biden’s victory spell a turbulent governance as his supporters (in the media, protests, donor groups, etc.) bay for blood and his opponents in the Congress gridlock and delay.

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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.

Link to the study: Structural Fragmentation Continue reading