Creative Conflict


Jung’s idea is based on the premise that conflict per se between two cultures (countries, societies, or religions) is natural or normal.

The problem to be tackled is not to remove conflict, but to prevent it escalating into destructive violence, by helping the conflict become productive.  Conflict becomes destructive when it is hijacked by unconscious, emotional tendencies that are out of control and have massed together to form a cultural movement.

Conflict is productive when both sides recognise the validity of the other, and collaborate to find solutions to their differences.

[Steve Myers]
'World Peace - how to do your bit'


Related posts:-
The Principle of Polarity
Everything is connected
Assuming a position

Collaborative Communication

Defined                     -                  Primitive
Tight                         -                  Loose
Narrow                    -                   Wide
Perfect                     -                   Flawed
Definite                   -                   Indefinite
Sharp                       -                   Blurry
Pure                         -                   Contaminated

There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

[Leonard Cohen]

Beneath our words lie our meanings. Words are a way in which we communicate meaning to one another.

I’d like to talk about the difference between ‘defined' and 'undefined' terms. I found these concepts through the work of philosopher Karl Popper, although the meaning I ascribe to them may differ to his. He refers to undefined terms as 'primitive,' so I will too.

The difference between the two is analogous to the difference between iron ore and a steel bicycle frame. Both represent stages in a process of ‘working’ the iron. We could say that the iron has more potentialities in its raw state, as ore, than it does as a bicycle frame, because many things can be made from iron ore, but less things can be made from bicycle frames.

As the iron travels along this process it becomes ever more defined, and purposeful; from the ambiguity of ore, to the specificity of a bicycle frame. Where once it had many potentials - was unsure of itself - now it has few.

When it comes to language, the ore is our primitive term, and the bike frame is our defined term.

Defined terms are those that have, or seem to have, a fixed definition. In other words, they appear to be anchored to something specific, definite, and ‘real,’ and so aren’t as fluid and flexible as primitive terms. Like a tool that has been crafted for a very specific purpose, what they sacrifice in flexibility they make up for in precision.

Primitive terms are generalists. The more primitive a term is, the less definition it has. It could be this, or it could be that. A cat’s miaow, a dog’s bark, or a baby’s cry could all be classed as primitive terms (albeit extreme examples). We must search for their meaning rather than having it spelled out for us.

When it comes to conversation, primitive terms tend to foster collaboration because they require more work from the other person. When your words are ambiguous then their meanings must be searched for, felt out.

In truth, conversation is always collaborative because none of us, no matter how accurate we strive to be, achieve perfection.

In spite of our best efforts, our communcation will always contain holes, tears, flaws, and openings. These are the chinks in our armour, our vulnerable spots. They remind us that, whilst we may gaze at the stars, our feet are still firmly on the ground.

But, significantly, they are also invitations. Our openings let the outside in. They encourage contact; be it a deadly blow, or a tender touch.

In this sense, the more we attempt to define our terms and perfect our communication, the less communal we become. We are like a jigsaw piece, attempting to straighten out its edges in the hope of becoming a square. As a square it can sit side by side with other shapes, but it can no longer penetrate or be penetrated. In chasing perfection - straight edges - it has lost its communal aspect.

As a writer I am like a guide, and I hope to show you, the reader, something; a place that I have been to; a place that I like and that I hope you will also like.

This place doesn't belong to me, I am only familiar with it. The success of my writing - my guidance - is determined by how far I can take you, how near I can get you to it. My English may not be perfect, and I may not always take the most effective route, but I hope that these things won't deter you.

A story.

My dad could be a pedant when it came to words.

He would often halt the flow of a conversation in order to question my usage of a certain term. Sometimes it seemed to me that he knew what I was trying to communicate, but was using my lack of accuracy as a way to not understand me.

He had a habit of setting himself up against me. This was often, it seemed to me, a reflexive action, rather than because he actually disagreed with what I was saying. It sometimes seemed as if it were a game, a form of sparring or battling. I could tell when we’d gone into battle mode: the tone of the conversation would shift, and I suddenly felt more wary, and less free.

In setting himself against me - in saying, "this is a battle, and you are my opposition" - he drew a divide between us. The fact that we were on opposite sides of this divide mean that we were no longer as amenable to each other in the way that we were formerly, during peacetime.

I see my attempts to convey something to him as akin to drawing a picture with my words. What I came up with was pitched somewhere between Monet and Lowry; it conveyed a scene, but, for my dad’s liking it wasn’t realistic enough. There were too many blurred edges and ill defined figures, and he would focus on these.

‘What’s that meant to be?’
‘It’s a person! Can’t you tell?’
‘But it isn’t in proportion! And look, they don’t have a mouth! It’s not like any person I’ve ever seen.’

Although it may not have been entirely true to life, to my mind the picture communicated its scene effectively enough. Whilst they may not have had mouths, you could tell they were people! It seemed that what he wanted was something photo-real; with no room for doubt or ambiguity. Even then, I suspect that he would have found imperfections.

This is because our conversation was antagonistic, rather than synergistic.

What I longed for were conversations in which we were collaborators rather than competitors. I wanted him to look at my picture with a kind eye, with the intent to find meaning rather than obscure it.

‘Is that a person?’
‘Yes, it is!’
‘Ah, I see. And are they holding something? Let me see, it looks like a bag of groceries?
‘Well, its actually a briefcase, but thats near enough …’

What I wanted was for him to ‘cover the gaps’ in my reasoning - in other words, to look for my meaning, in spite of the words I was using to convey it. I wanted him to help me with those places where I was weak - my ambiguities and my blurred edges - rather than seeing them as areas in which to thrust a blow.

This is what we can call synergistic conversation. It is when we collaborate in order to find meaning.

‘I see what you’re trying to do. Do you mind if I add a few dabs of paint? There, what do you think?
‘I like it. That’s a big improvement. It definitely looks like a briefcase now.’

In demanding rigour, my dad ended up stifling the flow of communication. This is because rigour is a paring down, a distilling or purifying. He narrowed my way until I was left with nowhere to go. The conversation dried up, and I left the room.

New Criticism, as espoused by Cleanth Brooks, W. K. Wimsatt, T. S. Eliot, and others, argued that authorial intent is irrelevant to understanding a work of literature.

Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley argue in their essay "The Intentional Fallacy" that "the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art".

The author, they argue, cannot be reconstructed from a writing—the text is the primary source of meaning, and any details of the author's desires or life are secondary.

Wimsatt and Beardsley argue that even details about the work's composition or the author's intended meaning and purpose that might be found in other documents such as journals or letters are "private or idiosyncratic; not a part of the work as a linguistic fact" and are thus secondary to the trained reader's rigorous engagement with the text itself.

'Authorial intent'

The notion that we must define our terms before we can have a useful discussion is [...] demonstrably incoherent, for every time one defines a term one has to introduce new terms in the definition (otherwise the definition is circular) and one is then required to define the new terms.

So we can never get to the discussion at all, because we can never complete the necessary preliminaries.

Discussion, then, has to make use of undefined terms.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 49

If the symbols in a system had only one correct and complete meaning, communication would break down if that essence was missed.

In normal, successful communication, we do not have to insist on essences, but rather give each other the benefit of the doubt. This is sometimes known as the 'principle of charity'. All interpretation depends on charity, because 'we always have to discount at least some differences in belief when we interpret.’

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.66

Related posts:-
Taking the Rough with the Smooth
You laugh at my back, and I'll laugh at yours 
High Stakes

Borders and Flow

Life                      -                    Death
Together               -                   Apart
Include                 -                    Exclude
Profane                 -                    Sacred
Everything            -                    Something
Dependence          -                    Independence

Liberalism tends to place emphasis on the individual and on the universal collective that contains all individuals. Groupings - those intermediary levels between the individual and the global collective - are generally deemphasised, or discouraged.

By its nature a group is exclusionary, defining its identity as much by what it is not as what it is. The more vivid the identity of the group, the firmer its boundaries. Because liberalism is predicated on the notion of individual freedom and autonomy, and on the free flow of goods, services, ideas, and people within a universal, global market, it must work against anything that may inhibit this flow. In this context, groupings - with their localised customs and norms - act as circuit breakers, impeding the wider flow.

Accordingly, liberalism tends to focus on the restrictive aspect of groupings, characterising them as systems of oppression that place unnecessary and tyrannical inhibitions on the individual. The project of liberalism is to dissolve the boundaries of the group and to set the individual free within the global market - in other words, to maximise flow. Groupings are permitted to the extent that they do not impede this flow in any serious way.

Liberalism points out that groupings are artefacts of culture, rather than nature, and that our natural state is as autonomous individuals. Groupings are, in other words, constructions. They may once have served a purpose, but most are old relics that can be deconstructed.

When the idea of the group loses its positive meaning then to be ensconced unthinkingly within a group becomes pathological - ‘groupthink.’ The modern person must seek autonomy and is encouraged at all times to think ‘for themselves’, independently of custom and local norms, and to question received wisdom. All affiliation must be propositional, freely chosen. Liberalism is a world of open doors, through which you can come and go as you please. 

Even continuity - prevailing sense - becomes a circuit breaker that must be dislodged. Innovation - constant change - gets things flowing faster.

What the Globalist wants is maximum flow, at the largest scale. Everything flowing at all times, with no circuit breakers.

Nothing settled, or static; only constant consumption, change, movement. 'Prosperity lies in spending, not in saving.'

Any ideas that help maximise flow are welcome; any that hinder flow are unwelcome.

More flow means more wealth and power. A settled culture - with traditions that persevere over time, rather than fashions and technologies that are in a constant state of change - is a hindrance to flow, and to the accumulation of wealth and power.

We can't scale down because this would require borders and constraints on the flow, along with restrictions on technology.

Once upon a time borders played a significant role: they guaranteed the continuation of collective identities. Today, borders no longer guarantee anything and halt (almost) nothing.

Flows of all kinds are the hallmark of our time, making borders redundant.

[Alain De Benoist]
'The European New Right Forty Years Later,' The Occidental Quaterly, vol. 9, no. 1, Spring 2009, p. 72

Group cooperation requires identification and solidarity, which are undermined by too much diversity. 

Liberals emphasize the latter, whereas Traditionalists emphasize the former.

Traditional religion has played a crucial role in the development of group solidarity, which is responsible for cultural-social vitality and commitment to the future. Hence, Haidt says that the decline of religion in modern society might have devastating consequences.

[Michael Zimmerman]
'The Republican Advantage'

The first step forward is that from school-age upward our societies must reassert a shared national narrative—including a common national culture.

Some years ago the German Muslim writer Bassam Tibi coined the term "Leitkultur"—core culture—to describe this. It is the most decent and properly liberal antidote to multiculturalism.

It concedes that in societies that have had high immigration there are all sorts of different cultures—which will only work together if they are united by a common theme.

[Douglas Murray]
'Cameron's Multicultural wake-up call'

Maastricht seeks to create a supranational, centralised, bureaucratic state - a homogenised union. It would destroy the pillars on which Europe was built – its nations. 

It would convert Europe into one multicultural space, in which national identities would be fused and sovereignty abandoned. It would coerce ancient European nations to merge into the ultimate artificial state. 

As George Orwell remarked, it is characteristic of intellectuals to pass over in incomprehension the dominant political passion of the age. Today, that passion is the search for national identity. And this is the moment when European ruling elites are seeking to destroy the identity of every European nation.

[James Goldsmith]
The Trap, p. 62

Tolerant? Oh, God. Yes, I know - that's what they drum into you at school.

No, Blake was not very tolerant. He didn't even think tolerance was a good thing. It was just more slobbering. He thought it blurred all the outlines and muddled everything - that it made all cats gray. So that nobody would be able to see anything clearly and sharply.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 28

Tolerance                      -                    Justice
Agreeableness               -                   Conscientiousness
Anything                       -                    Something

Those who proclaim the virtues of tolerance believe that they’re tolerant but generally that’s not the case. They just don’t want to accept the responsibility that playing by the rules would bring.

And being useless and unable to move towards a valuable goal and failing to hold anyone else accountable as a consequence of their equivalent failures does not make you tolerant, it just makes you unable to move forward in the world in any productive manner.

We know that these two axis of value - tolerance and justice - are associated with two cardinal personality traits: one is agreeableness and the other is conscientiousness.

People on the radical left - politically correct people - tend to be very high in agreeableness but they tend to be very low in conscientiousness. And that begs the question whether or not their tolerance is a consequence of their avowed love of other people or their hatred for the fact that any structured society requires adherence to a shared set of ordered beliefs and the capacity for people to compete within those ordered beliefs to attain success or victory.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Tolerance as a vice'

Nationalists feel a bond with their country, and they believe that this bond imposes moral obligations both ways: Citizens have a duty to love and serve their country, and governments are duty bound to protect their own people. Governments should place their citizens interests above the interests of people in other countries.

There is nothing necessarily racist or base about this arrangement or social contract. Having a shared sense of identity, norms, and history generally promotes trust. Having no such shared sense leads to the condition that the sociologist Émile Durkheim described as “anomie” or normlessness.

The trick [...] is figuring out how to balance reasonable concerns about the integrity of one’s own community with the obligation to welcome strangers, particularly strangers in dire need.

[Jonathan Haidt]
'When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism'

To this day, our lives are largely spent in drawing boundaries. Every decision we make, our every action, our every word is based on the construction, conscious or unconscious, of boundaries. To make a decision means to draw a boundary line between what to choose and what not to choose. To desire something means to draw a boundary line between pleasurable and unpleasurable things and then move toward the former [...]

Every boundary line is a potential battle line, so that just to draw a boundary is to prepare oneself for conflict. Specifically, the agonizing fight of life against death, pleasure against pain, good against evil […] but in seeking to experience the positive and eliminate the negative, we forget that the positive is defined only in terms of the negative. To destroy the negative is, at the same time, to destroy all possibility of enjoying the positive. The root of the whole difficulty is our tendency to view the opposites as irreconcilable, as totally set apart and divorced from one another.

While it is true that buying and selling are in some sense different… they are also—and this is the point—completely inseparable. In other words, buying and selling are simply two ends of one event, namely, a business transaction. In just the same way, all opposites share an implicit identity. That is, however vividly the differences between these opposites may strike us, they nevertheless remain completely inseparable and mutually interdependent, and for the simple reason that one could not exist without the other [...]

[Ken Wilber]
No Boundary, p. 18, 21-2

Contact is not simply a matter of joining or togetherness, but involves a heightened awareness of the distinction between self and not-self;

in other words, contact occurs at a porous boundary, one that holds self and other apart, but at the same time permits interaction and exchange [...]

“The contact boundary is the point at which one experiences the ‘me’ in relation to that which is ‘not me’ and through this contact, both are more clearly experienced”

[Herb Stevenson]
'Paradox: A Gestalt Theory of Change'

Every ‘good' scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is.

[Karl Popper]

All societies draw on nationalism of one sort or another to define relations between the state, the citizen and the outside world.

Craig Calhoun, an American sociologist, argues that cosmopolitan elites, who sometimes yearn for a post-nationalist order, underestimate “how central nationalist categories are to political and social theory—and to practical reasoning about democracy, political legitimacy and the nature of society itself.”

["I don’t mean that we should prefer nationalist accounts, but rather that we should take them seriously and see how deeply imbricated they are in our conceptual frameworks rather than trying to wish them away."]

'League of nationalists', with further quote from Craig Calhoun, Nations Matter: Culture, History and the Cosmopolitan Dream, p. 8

Another image to which [analysts of postmodernity] return is the collapse of boundaries.

Not just the boundaries between real and unreal, right and wrong, matter and spirit, but the boundaries between people, individually and collectively. In this regard Deleuze refers to “the end of enclosure”.

The fences which we once constructed around our community, our profession, our gender, our economy, our culture, our nation, our humanity, are in the process of disappearing, and this disappearance is a source of anxiety and grief.

We might suggest that [nationalism] has its roots in this grief. The people to whom [its] message appeals are grieving at the loss of the enclosures which once defined who they were and what was their purpose in life. A globalized, multicultural society threatens their reason for being.

It is not surprising that it is in rural communities that the loss is felt most keenly and that [support for nationalist ideas] is strongest.

[Bernie Neville]
Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'

We concluded that only a gradually accruing sense of identity, based on the experience of social health and cultural solidarity at the end of each major childhood crisis, promises that periodical balance in human life which - in integration of the ego stages - makes for a sense of humanity.

But wherever this sense is lost, wherever integrity yields to despair and disgust, wherever generativity yields to stagnation, intimacy to isolation, and identity to confusion, an array of associated infantile fears are apt to become mobilized: for only an identity safely anchored in the 'patrimony' of a cultural identity can produce a workable psychosocial equilibrium.

Industrial revolution, world-wide communication, standardization, centralization, and mechanization threaten the identities which man has inherited from primitive, agrarian, feudal, and patrician cultures.

What inner equilibrium these cultures had to offer is now endangered on a gigantic scale. As the fear of loss of identity dominates much of our irrational motivation, it calls upon the whole arsenal of anxiety which is left in each individual from the mere fact of his childhood. In this emergency masses of people become ready to seek salvation in pseudo-identities.

I have indicated only by a few suggestions that the anxieties outlined reach into adult life, and this not only in the form of neurotic anxiety, which, after all, is recognisable as such, kept in bounds by most, and can be cured in some. More terrifyingly, they reappear in the form of collective panics and in afflictions of the collective mind.

The rapid spread of communication and the increasing knowledge of cultural relativity endanger people who are in marginal position, people who are traumatically exposed to a numerical increase or the closer proximity or the greater power of others-than-themselves.

Among such people the drive for tolerance has its point of diminishing returns: it causes anxiety. 

Similarly, the drive for judiciousness is by no means as immediately conducive to civic peace or, for that matter, to mental health as the new American peace ship 'Mental Hygiene' would have us believe: for the tolerant appraisal of other identities endangers one's own.

[Erik H. Erikson]
Childhood and Society, p. 371-2, 377

This radical transformation of the population of America has taken place with incredible speed. There has been large-scale legal as well as illegal immigration (the latter estimated at between 2 and 3 million each year). What is more, the immigrant peoples, once installed, have a higher birth-rate. 

The twentieth-century writers Oakeshottlo and Santayanall believed that one of the disasters which can befall any community is that its shared understandings, in other words its common culture, be dissipated in too rapid or too sweeping change.

You do not mean to imply that a nation cannot integrate foreigners?

Of course not. Indeed, nations need new blood and new ideas. 

But they can only absorb a limited amount at a time. They cannot allow themselves to be overwhelmed by immigration otherwise they will lose their identity and cease to be nations. 

Newcomers who are welcomed into a nation should want to honour and respect the customs of their new home. 

[James Goldsmith]
The Trap, p. 51, 59

Submarines are built with watertight compartments, so that a leak in one area will not spread and sink the whole vessel. Now that we have globalised the world’s economy, the protective compartments no longer exist. Thus, we have globalised problems. 

A crisis in Mexico has become a ‘potential world catastrophe’.

[James Goldsmith]
The Response, p. 97

The politicians and technocrats who govern us […] find it difficult to distinguish between a nation and a commercial enterprise. Often, they describe their own country as though it were a company, for example, UK plc.

[…] the belief of our power elites [is that the] world economy is to be run for the benefit of footloose corporations, not to serve the fundamental requirements of communities throughout the world.

We know that there are now two different and conflicting economies, the corporate economy and the national economy. Is society going to continue to accept that its true needs are subservient to the interests of the corporate economy? Or will we bring harmony to the two, so that they both prosper within a home economy respectful of free enterprise?

[James Goldsmith]
The Response, p. 119-20

The idolatry of giantism that I have talked about is possibly one of the causes and certainly one of the effects of modern technology, particularly in matters of transport and communications. A highly developed transport and communications system has one immensely powerful effect: it makes people footloose

Everything in the world has to have a structure, otherwise it is chaos. 

Before the advent of mass transport and mass communications, the structure was simply there, because people were relatively immobile […] There were communications, there was mobility, but no footlooseness. 

Now previously, before this technological intervention, the relevance of frontiers was almost exclusively political and dynastic; frontiers were delimitations of political power, determining how many people you could raise for war. Economists fought against such frontiers becoming economic barriers – hence the ideology of free trade. But, then, people and things were not footloose: transport was expensive enough so that movements, both of people and of goods, were never more than marginal. 

Trade in the pre-industrial era was not a trade in essentials, but a trade in precious stones, precious metals, luxury goods, spices and - unhappily - slaves. The basic requirements of life had of course to be indigenously produced. And the movement of populations, except in periods of disaster, was confined to persons who had a very special reason to move, such as the Irish saints or the scholars of the University of Paris.

But now everything and everybody has become mobile. All structures are threatened, and all structures are vulnerable to an extent that they have never been before.

Economics, which Lord Keynes had hoped would settle down as a modest occupation similar to dentistry, suddenly becomes the most important subject of all […] It tends to absorb the whole of ethics and to take precedence over all other human considerations. Now, quite clearly, this is a pathological development, which has, of course, many roots, but one of its clearly visible roots lies in the great achievements of modern technology in terms of transport and communications.

While people, with an easy-going kind of logic, believe that fast transport and instantaneous communications open up a new dimension of freedom (which they do in some rather trivial respects), they overlook the fact that these achievements also tend to destroy freedom, by making everything extremely vulnerable and extremely insecure, unless conscious policies are developed and conscious action is taken, to mitigate the destructive effects of these technological developments.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p. 57-8

Within any field of human interest, liberty is a necessary condition of scientific advance. This follows because science can proceed only where there is complete freedom to advance hypotheses contrary to prevailing opinion.

Pareto, indeed, considers liberty to be an indispensable requirement of scientific method: “It follows that before a theory can be considered true, it is virtually indispensable that there be perfect freedom to impugn it. Any limitation, even indirect and however remote, imposed on anyone choosing to contradict it is enough to cast suspicion upon it.

Hence freedom to express one's thought, even counter to the opinion of the majority or of all, even when it offends the sentiments of the few or of the many, even when it is generally reputed absurd or criminal, always proves favorable to the discovery of objective truth." […]

Experience seems to show that, almost always, liberty is a condition for an advanced “level of civilization," in the sense that Mosca uses this expression. That is, liberty is needed to permit the fullest release of the potential social forces and creative impulses present in society, and their maximum development.

[James Burnham]
The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, p.222

[…] no society can discover an order without a concept of what is normal and what is right. Conceptually, the normal is unromantic because every norm destroys the occasional license of the romantic.

In the face of a normative concept, even the romantic qualities of antithesis and contrast break down. The courage of a brave man is not the higher unity formed from depression and exaltation. The rationally ordered state is not a synthesis of anarchy and despotism.

As such, legal ideas are unromantic in the same way. 

Viewed romantically, injustice is only a dissonance that is aesthetically resolved “in a sacred music, an endless feeling of the higher life.” This is not spoken in a metaphorical sense, but rather in the only category that is accessible to the experience of the romantic.

That is why there is neither a romantic law nor a romantic ethics, just as it would be confused to speak of a lyrical or a musical ethics.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 161

A core feature of liberal philosophy and politics is recognition of the arbitrariness of almost every border.

This runs as a golden thread in considerations not only of the political understanding of borders-primarily national borders—but of any existing differentiation, distinction, boundary, and delineation, all of which come under suspicion as arbitrarily limiting individual freedom of choice.

All such “borders” are interrogated for their arbitrariness, and few can ultimately withstand the pressure of such interrogation - even those that are not arbitrary but are nevertheless limiting. Borders and boundaries based in geography, history, and nature must increasingly be erased under the logic of liberalism.

[Patrick J. Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.xviii

The global circulation of commodities, information, and populations, far from making everyone affluent, has widened the gap between rich and poor nations and generated a massive migration to the West, where the newcomers swell the vast army of the homeless, unemployed, illiterate, drug ridden, derelict, and effectively disfranchised.

Their presence strains existing resources to the breaking point. Medical and educational facilities, law enforcement agencies, and the available supply of jobs to mention the supply of racial tolerance and goodwill, never abundant to begin with—all appear inadequate to the enormous task of assimilating what is essentially a surplus or "redundant" population, in the cruelly expressive British phrase.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.169

According to the editor of the New Age, A. R. Orage, the reduction of labor to a commodity - the essence of "wagery" - required the elimination of all the social bonds that prevented the free circulation of labor.

The destruction of the medieval guilds, the replacement of local government by a centralized bureaucracy, the weakening of family ties, and the emancipation of women amounted to "successive steps in the... cheapening of the raw material of labor," all achieved under the "watchword" of progress.

Since wage labor depended on the "progressive shattering to atoms of our social system," those who opposed it would have to make the unions into agencies of social cohesion and civic trust.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.321

Capital grows inasmuch as people engage in free competition. Hereby, individual freedom amounts to servitude inasmuch as Capital lays hold of it and uses it for its own propagation. That is, Capital exploits individual freedom in order to breed: 'It is not the individuals who are set free by free competition; it is, rather, capital which is set free.’

The freedom of Capital achieves self-realization by way of individual freedom.

In the process, individuals degrade into the genital organs of Capital. Individual freedom lends it an 'automatic' subjectivity of its own, which spurs it to reproduce actively. In this way, Capital continuously 'brings forth living offspring'.

Today, individual freedom is taking on excessive forms; ultimately, this amounts to nothing other than the excess of Capital itself.

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.4

Under the immaterial mode of production that now prevails, more information and more communication mean more productivity, acceleration and growth. Information represents a positive value; inasmuch as it lacks interiority, it can circulate independently, free from any and all context. Accordingly, the circulation of information admits acceleration at will - for purely arbitrary reasons.

Secrets, foreignness and otherness represent impediments to unbounded communication. In the name of transparency, they are to be eliminated. Communication goes faster when it is smoothed out - that is, when thresholds, walls and gaps are removed.

This also means stripping people of interiority, which blocks and slows down communication. However, such emptying-out of persons does not occur by violent means. Instead, it occurs as voluntary self-exposure. 

The negativity of otherness or foreignness is de-interiorized and transformed into the positivity of communicable and consumable difference: 'diversity'.

The dispositive of transparency effects utter exteriorization in order to accelerate the circulation of information and speed communication. Ultimately, openness facilitates unrestricted communication - whereas closedness, reserve and interiority obstruct it.

The dispositive of transparency has the further consequence of promoting total conformity. The economy of transparency seeks to suppress deviation. Total networking - total communication - already has a levelling effect per se.

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.9-10

The mole moves through predetermined spaces; as such, it subordinates itself to spatial restrictions. The mole is a subjugated subject. But the snake is a project inasmuch as it creates space through the course it steers.

The passage from the mole to the snake - from subject to project - does not amount to setting out for an entirely new way of life; instead, it represents a mutation, indeed an intensification, of capitalism, which remains one and the same.

The mole's restricted movements impose limits on productivity. Even when it labours in disciplined fashion, it cannot exceed a certain level of productivity.

The snake eliminates such limitations through new forms of movement. Accordingly, the capitalist system is switching from the mole-model to the snake-model in order to generate more productivity.

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.18

When communication is to be accelerated, idiosyncrasy poses an obstacle inasmuch as it amounts to an immunological defence against the Other. Idiosyncrasy stands in the way of unbounded communicative exchange.

Accordingly, immunosuppression is necessary for acceleration to proceed. But now, immune responses are subjected to massive suppression so that information will circulate faster and capital will accelerate.

Communication achieves maximum velocity when the Same reacts to the Same. In contrast, the resistance and recalcitrance of otherness, of foreignness, troubles and impedes the smooth communication of the Same. In the Inferno of the Same, communication attains its highest speed.

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.82-3

Since the most important aspect of self-organisation is the emergence of structure through the activity of microscopic units that do not have access to global patterns, the principles that determine the behaviours of weights and nodes locally are very important.

[One of the preconditions for self-organisation is that there] is competition among the units. Competing for limited resources is the basic driving force behind the development of structure. Stronger units thrive at the expense of others.

If resources were limitless, i.e. if growth could take place unrestricted, no meaningful structure would evolve. Boundaries, limits and constraints are preconditions for structure.

[…] There is also co-operation among at least some units. If only single units won, the resulting structure would be too simple for self-organisation to evolve. Co-operation is also necessary to form associations among patterns. Mutual reinforcement and co-operation are preconditions for a rich, meaningful structure.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.94-5

It would be simplistic, however, to link ‘power’ with specification and aggregation, and ‘resistance’ with movements of generalisation and disaggregation (cf. Patton, 2000: 65–6).

Though the former are frequently the means whereby relations in assemblages assert control and thus power over other relations, we cannot assume that resistance is always associated with generalisation and singularity.

As noted earlier, a capitalist marketplace is actually a radically unconstrained space, in which anyone can trade with anyone (Deleuze and Guattari, 1984: 222). Resisting the forces of the free market in such circumstances may actually entail individual consumers aggregating together and re-specifying themselves as a ‘workers’ collective’ that refuses to accept the anarchy of the marketplace.

[Nick J. Fox & Pam Alldred]
‘Social structures, power and resistance in monist sociology: (New) materialist insights’

The theory behind factor substitution in economics is that firms will substitute one input for another in response to changes in their relative prices.

This is based on the idea of production being subject to the law of diminishing returns, meaning that as more of a single input is used, its marginal productivity will eventually decrease. As a result, if the price of one input increases, firms may switch to using more of a cheaper input to maintain the same level of production.

This substitution of inputs is known as the factor substitution effect, and it helps to explain why changes in the prices of inputs can impact the cost of production and ultimately affect the supply of goods and services in the market.


Communication without community can be accelerated because it is additive. Rituals, by contrast, are narrative processes that do not allow for acceleration […] A narrative is a form of closure: it has a beginning and an end and is characterized by a closed order.

Information by contrast, is additive, not narrative. It does not combine into a story, a song, that could form the basis of meaning and identity. Information can only be endlessly accumulated.

Symbols stand still [but] information exists by circulating. Stillness only means that communication ceases, stands still. It does not produce anything.

In the post-industrial age, the noise of the machines gives way to the noise of communication. More information and more communication holds out the promise of more production. Thus, the compulsion of production expresses itself in the compulsion of communication.

Beneath the old wild pear tree, silence rules, because everything has already been told. Today, the noise of communication replaces the silence.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.13, 31

The neoliberal imperative of optimization and performance does not allow for any completion. Everything is provisional and incomplete; nothing is final and conclusive.

It is not only computer software that is subject to the compulsion of optimization. All areas of life are subordinated to its dictates, even education. Life-long learning does not involve completion. It amounts only to life-long production.

The neoliberal regime abolishes all forms of closure and completion in the name of increased productivity.

Ties and bonds, as forms of closure, are also increasingly cut. Flexibility is enforced by the ruthless destruction of bonds. The isolated subject of performance exploits itself most efficiently when it remains open to everything - in other words, when it is flexible.

The excessive opening up and removal of boundaries is present at all levels of society. It is the imperative of neoliberalism.

Globalization also dissolves all closed structures in order to accelerate the circulation of capital, commodities and information. It removes boundaries, de-sites [ent-ortet] the world, turning it into a global market.

Tourists […] travel through the de-sited world. They circulate incessantly, like commodities and information.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.28-9

Rituals give form to the essential transitions of life. They are forms of closure. Without them, we slip through.

Thus, we age without growing old, or we remain infantile consumers who never become adults. The discontinuity of autonomous time gives way to the continuity of production and consumption.

Rites of passage give structure to life in the same way seasons do. Whoever passes a certain threshold has concluded a phase of life and enters into a new one. Thresholds, as transitions, give a rhythm to, articulate, and even narrate space and time. They make possible a deep experience of order. Thresholds are temporally intense transitions.

Today, they are being erased and replaced by an accelerated and seamless communication and production. This is making us poorer in space and time.

In our attempt to produce more space and time, we lose them. They lose their language and become mute. Thresholds speak. Thresholds transform. Beyond a threshold, there is what is other, what is foreign. In the absence of the imagination of the threshold, the magic of the threshold, all that is left is the hell of the same.

The construction of the global is premised on the ruthless destruction of thresholds and transitions. Information and commodities prefer a world without thresholds: unresisting smoothness accelerates circulation. Today, temporally intense transitions are disintegrating into speedy passages, continuous links and endless clicks.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.35

Liberalism is perhaps the ultimate propositional identity. To be a liberal is not to have what David Goodhart calls ‘ascribed’ identities […] As a Lululemon yoga pant wearing wine aunt, your tribe is your belief.

The problem with propositional identities […] is that they exclude no one, because a belief is open to anyone. But any identity needs boundaries to be meaningful (and especially, to confer status).

[Imperium Press]
‘The Epistemic Divorce’, Imperium Press, Substack

On the dominant liberal view, government is to be neutral as between rival conceptions of the human good, yet in fact what liberalism promotes is a kind of institutional order that is inimical to the construction and sustaining of the types of communal relationship required for the best kind of human life.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p. xvii

The Round Tablers, who had no firsthand knowledge of native life or even of tropical Africa, were devoted supporters of the English way of life, and could see no greater benefit conferred on natives than to help them to move in that direction.

This, however, would inevitably destroy the tribal organization of life, as well as the native systems of land tenure, which were generally based on tribal holding of land.

The white settlers were eager to see these things disappear, since they generally wished to bring the native labor force and African lands into the commercial market. Oldham and Lugard opposed this, since they felt it would lead to white ownership of large tracts of land on which detribalized and demoralized natives would subsist as wage slaves.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The Buffer Fringe,’ p.95

The interest of the United States in multilateral trade rather than in bilateral trade was to be found in the fact that her surpluses existed in all types of goods - foodstuffs, raw materials, and industrial products - and the markets for these would have to be sought in all kinds of foreign economies, not in any single type.

Accordingly, the United States became the world’s chief defender of freer and multilateral trade. Her chief argument was based on the fact that such trade would contribute to a higher standard of living for all parties. To the United States, whose political security was so sound that it rarely required a moment’s thought, a higher standard of living was the chief aim of existence. Accordingly, it was difficult for the United States to comprehend the point of view of a state which, lacking political security, placed a high standard of living in a position second to such security.

In sharp contrast to the United States in its attitude toward the problem of international trade was Nazi Germany. This and other countries were seeking “independence” (that is, political goals in the economic sphere), and they rejected “dependence” even if it did include a higher standard of living.

They frequently rejected the argument that autarky was necessarily injurious to the standard of living or to international trade, because by “autarky” they did not mean self-sufficiency in all things, but self-sufficiency in necessities. Once this had been achieved, they stated their willingness to expand the world’s trade in nonessentials to an extent as great as any standard of living might require.

The basic key to the new emphasis on autarky is to be found in the fact that the advocates of such economic behavior had a new conception of the meaning of sovereignty. To them sovereignty had not only all the legal and political connotations it had always held, but in addition had to include economic independence.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, p.230

Related posts:-

Simply put

Simple                      -                   Complex
Mono                        -                   Poly
One                           -                    Many

“Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.

One third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.””

'How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday ... and why'

Following the referendum on the EU there are many who have found themselves asking why the vote went the way it did - why did so many people vote ‘Leave’? In the post-mortem that has played out in the media, some reasons have been more prominent than others, with ‘immigration’ being a particularly hot topic. But what are we really talking about when we talk about ‘immigration’? Is there more to it than there appears to be?

The subject of whether to stay in or leave the EU is extremely wide ranging. There are many different considerations, ranging from the pragmatic to the ideal; from concrete concerns about business, legislation or immigration, to more ephemeral notions like ‘togetherness’, or ‘independence’; from those considerations that occupy the mainstream, to those more esoteric viewpoints on the lunatic fringe.

Much of the commentary following the referendum has seemed to suggest that people voted for a few, or even one, core reason. For instance, one prominent exit poll gave a list of three pre-determined reasons for voting, and asked its subjects to rank them in light of how much they influenced their decision. In light of their responses it claimed to explain why people voted the way they did.

No doubt there are some who are only aware of, or interested, in a single issue, and have voted with only that in mind. However, it is equally true to say there will be others who feel pulled in many directions by many different, and even contrasting, considerations.

In asking someone to select a reason - or even a core group of reasons - we are demanding that a multiplicity be shrunk down to a unity; that something complex, expansive and nuanced be converted into something bite-sized and simple.

So for example, a person may, when asked, give their reason for voting ‘Leave’ as ‘immigration.’ Whilst it can refer to a specific issue, ‘immigration’ can also be a catch all term for a variety of other things. The person in question may be worried about the disintegration of their community; or about their lack of individual, local or national identity. Indeed, these notions can also be taken apart and seen to consist of many other, smaller, issues.

In this sense, ‘immigration’ is used as a shorthand; perhaps because it is the most relevant of the available options; or because the person can’t, for whatever reason, articulate a better, more accurate, reason.

When I’m asked to explain my reason for doing something I’m often unable to articulate my thoughts and feelings. It may be that at some point in the past I have come to a conclusion based on a rational thought process - a moment of clarity - but now, some time later, this thought process has become lost in all of the thoughts, feelings and experiences that I’ve had since.

Recalling my reasoning may be difficult, and could take a long time. It may be that I simply can’t recall it at all. All I may know is that I have a conviction about something, and, at best, I may have a memory that there was a thought process that led to that conviction. Remembering the ins and outs of the that process is another matter.

Or consider the person who is not used to rationalising their thought process, or articulating their motivations. When asked to articulate and to rationalise - to provide a reason - they may struggle, and reach for the nearest available option; an option that may not be entirely accurate.

A person may even tell themselves that immigration is the core issue for them, whilst remaining oblivious to their deeper motives; to the wounds and grievances that really move them. For instance, they may feel deep grief because the lack of community in their life, whilst being in denial about this grief, and in the dark as to its causes.

Its also worth considering how people are polled. Have they been given the time and space to articulate their own concerns, or have they been asked to choose from a limited range of options? Have they been given enough time to think their answer through?

When we are forced to choose from a selection of pre-determined answers our thought is shepherded in certain directions. Indeed, the very fact that we must limit our reasons (choose one, or a few) closes out nuance and complexity. If we must give our answer within a certain time limit - for instance, if we have a questioner in front of us who is waiting for an answer - then we may feel compelled to rush and could find ourselves groping for the nearest available option.

I suppose my point is that stats can be very misleading. Or to put it another way, my point is that I have many points.

Perhaps this impulse to conclude with a singular, simple ‘point’ is at the heart of the matter. Put simply, we have a need to simplify.

There are always a multitude of reasons, and we can, if we wish, simply things and whittle them down; place one above another and so on. And this process of simplification - or purification - can be very useful. But it seems to me that its always worth remembering the multiplicity that lies beneath every unit; the complexity that lies beneath every simple answer.

To say that a certain percentage of people voted ‘Leave’ because of ‘immigration’ is a simplification.

Whether it is too simple depends on your point of view.

Related posts:-
The Pyramid
Short Cuts
Digging Deeper
This, Not That 


Life                      -                    Death
Together               -                   Apart
Include                 -                    Exclude

Is it a given that any system of social organisation will necessarily exclude someone or other?

If a thing is only a thing because of all of the things it is not, then identity is predicated on the idea of exclusion. As a person you have an identity because you say yes to some things, and no to others. You allow certain things within your borders, whilst keeping others at a distance.

Thus, inasmuch as a collective (a locality, a community, a society) has an identity, it must be exclusive.

From this it follows that when a collective attempts to include all - give everyone a place - within its boundaries, it also works to erase its sense of identity.

Inasmuch as those within the collective define themselves in opposition to those on the outside, the more people there are on the outside, the more there is to oppose; and thus, the stronger the sense of identity within the collective. As the number of people on the outside decreases, the opposition becomes weaker. When there is no-one left on the outside then there is no longer anything to oppose; and all sense of collective identity disappears (indeed, the notion of the collective itself disappears).

The communities that have managed to retain a strong sense of identity in the contemporary world seem to be those that have very definite borders; in other words, those that are exclusive.

Two that come to mind are the traditional Amish and Jewish communities. Both set very firm guidelines on the kinds of person they will and won’t accept within their collective. I imagine that most people from modern western societies, myself included, would find these communities extremely restricting, and very hard to live within.

Modern progressive societies attempt to include as much as possible within their boundaries. Words like ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘globalisation’ can be used to talk about this process. Whilst an Amish or Jewish community may exist within a larger collective (‘American’) they see themselves as very much distinct and, to a certain degree, separate from this collective. The only way they can maintain their identity is to remain a collective within a collective; in other words, to not assimilate into the greater whole. More assimilation = less identity (or to put it another way: stronger borders = stronger identity).

Thus the Amish primarily identify as 'Amish,' and secondarily as 'American.' And, inasmuch as 'Amish' and 'American' are mutually exclusive - as much as to be one means to not be the other - then one must suffer in deference to the other.

Multiculturalism faces its multiple cultures with a choice; to loosen their cultural boundaries and assimilate, to a degree, into the larger whole; or to maintain those boundaries and remain isolated.

Picture a colour wheel. The more the colours mix, the less distinct they become. When all colours are merged they become a dull brown or grey. To retain their vibrancy, they must remain separate: they must have boundaries; say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

I’ve heard it said that multiculturalism is good because it increases diversity within a society; it brings new things, different viewpoints, ideas, experiences, and so on: it brings new colours into the wheel. However, this diversity is only possible to the extent that the cultures - the colours - within the collective do not mix. We gain diversity, but at the expense of cohesion.

This presents a schizophrenic situation: on the one hand, I want to belong to something greater than myself, a collective; and for that collective to exist it must have an identity. In other words, it must distinguish itself from other collectives. But on the other hand, I’m urged to transcend boundaries and think of myself as part of something larger. My urge to be part of a collective conflicts with the imperative to transcend the boundaries of that collective.

What really happens is that I’m asked to think of the collective of which I’m a part in an ever more expansive and abstract way. As one boundary is dissolved, another appears on the horizon. Much like Russian dolls, no sooner have I escaped one container than I find myself within another, larger, one. What this suggests is that, inasmuch as we continue to think of ourselves in a collective sense, we will always need boundaries and will always be excluding someone. For instance, we can only think our ourselves as citizens of the earth because we are not citizens of some other planet.

What affect does this swelling of boundaries have upon us? If, for instance, I'm part of a community of 50 people, chances are that I will know most, if not all, of these people. It will be a close community, at a scale that makes sense to me (a 'human scale'). I understand this collective in a relatively concrete way, inasmuch as I know the people within it and understand our relation to one another.

However, the more my collective increases in size, the less likely I am to know everyone within it. Concrete relations are replaced with an abstract sense of relatedness. As the collective becomes more inclusive, the links between its constituent parts weaken. It may be that the kind of bonds that tie together small groups of people simply don't emerge when a group exceeds critical mass.

I raise this because the pendulum of contemporary culture seems to have swung fully in a particular direction, embracing concepts like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘inclusion’ whilst maligning concepts like ‘boundaries,’ ‘exclusion,’ and so on. In other words, we’ve swung, collectively, into an imbalance.

Another way to put it is to say that we’ve had the thesis - exclusion (tribalism, etc) - and we’re now getting the anti-thesis - inclusion (mutilculturalism, etc).

Perhaps we’re just about ready for the synthesis…

It seems that I need vulgarity. I'm fascinated by it. The things I disapprove of define me as much as the things I approve of.

Sure, I could spend all my internet time reading my digital copy of The Wire, watching the films on ("all avant garde, all the time"), or listening to Arte Radio. But, even given the opportunity to be my own curator, my own programmer, I throw in some stuff that's compellingly appalling, some stuff I love to hate.

Otherwise, what would there be to rebel against? How could I enjoy my trek to the cultural high ground?

'Portrait of the artist as a young snob'

A third theory attracting considerable attention recently is that mechanisms similar to those behind racism drive affective polarization. 

Thus, party identification becomes a central component of people’s social identity, regardless of any meaningful differences in policy goals. The intense emotional conflict between partisans then is not a dispute about issue positions, but rather an “us versus them” dynamic familiar in social psychology

[Darren Schreiber, Greg Fronzo, Alan Simmons, Chris Dawes, Taru Flagan & Martin Paulus]
'Neural nonpartisans', p. 3

In social identity theory, the mere sorting of individuals into groups is sufficient to lead to a range of discriminatory beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. 

Whereas previous generations of scholarship had attributed intergroup tensions to a range of sources including historical animosity or resource scarcity, subsequent research using a “minimal group paradigm” showed that bias in favor of members of the ingroup and negative affect towards the outgroup could be created by just arbitrarily divvying people into clusters, in the absence of any of the factors typically suggested as causes of ingroup bias.

[Darren Schreiber, Greg Fronzo, Alan Simmons, Chris Dawes, Taru Flagan & Martin Paulus]
'Neural nonpartisans', p.3

Henri Tajfel proposed that stereotyping (i.e. putting people into groups and categories) is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate:

1. the differences between groups

2. the similarities of things in the same group.

This is known as in-group (us) and out-group (them). The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image.

We categorize objects in order to understand them and identify them. In a very similar way we categorize people (including ourselves) in order to understand the social environment.

Similarly, we find out things about ourselves by knowing what categories we belong to.  We define appropriate behavior by reference to the norms of groups we belong to, but you can only do this if you can tell who belongs to your group.

Once we have categorized ourselves as part of a group and have identified with that group we then tend to compare that group with other groups. If our self-esteem is to be maintained our group needs to compare favorably with other groups.

[Saul McLeod]
'Social Identity Theory'

Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel 
The Principle of Polarity
This, Not That 
Here Be Dragons