Control System

None of modern science has the slightest value as knowledge; rather, it bases itself on a formal renunciation of knowledge in the true sense. 

The driving and organizing force behind modern science derives nothing at all from the ideal of knowledge, but exclusively from practical necessity, and, I might add, from the will to power turned on things and on nature.

In fact, the concept of "truth” in the traditional sense is already alien to modern science, which concerns itself solely with hypotheses and formulae that can predict with the best approximation the course of phenomena and relate them to a certain unity.

And as it is not a question of “truth,” but a matter less of seeing than of touching, the concept of certainty in modern science is reduced to the “maximum probability.” That all scientific certainties have an essentially statistical character is openly recognized by every scientist, and more categorically than ever in recent subatomic physics.

The system of science resembles a net that draws ever tighter around a something that, in itself, remains incomprehensible, with the sole intention of subduing it for practical ends.

These practical ends only secondarily concern the technical applications; they constitute the criterion in the very domain that belongs to pure knowledge, in the sense that here, too, the basic impulse is schematizing, an ordering of phenomena in a simpler and more manageable way. As was rightly noted, ever since that formula simplex sigillum veri (simplicity is the seal of the true), there has appeared a method that exchanges for truth (and knowledge) that which satisfies a practical, purely human need of the intellect.

In the final analysis, the impulse to know is transformed into an impulse to dominate; and we owe to a scientist, Bertrand Russell, the recognition that science, from being a means to know the world, has become a means to change the world.

The more "comfortable” ideas and theories become "true," in regard to the organization of the data of sensorial experience. A choice between such data is made consciously or instinctively, excluding systematically those that do not lend themselves to being controlled; thus also everything qualitative and unrepeatable that is not susceptible to being mathematized.

Scientific “objectivity” consists solely in being ready at any moment to abandon existing theories or hypotheses, as soon as the chance appears for the better control of reality. Thereupon it includes in the system of the already predictable and manageable those phenomena not yet considered, or seemingly irreducible; and that, without any principle that in itself, in its intrinsic nature, is valid once and for all. In the same way, he who can lay his hands on a modern long-range rifle is ready to give up a flintlock.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 131-2

The imperative to overcome culture as part of the project of mastering nature was expressed with forthright clarity by John Dewey, one of liberalism’s great heroes. Dewey insisted that the progress of liberation rested especially upon the active control of nature, and hence required the displacement of traditional beliefs and culture that reflected a backward and limiting regard for the past.

The savage tribe manages to live in the desert, he wrote, by adapting itself to the natural limits of its environment; thus “its adaptation involves a maximum of accepting, tolerating, putting up with things as they are, a maximum of passive acquiescence, and a minimum of active control, of subjection to use."

A “civilized people” in the same desert also adapts; but “it introduces irrigation; it searches the world for plants and animals that will flourish under such conditions; it improves, by careful selection, those which are growing there. As a consequence, the wilderness blossoms as a rose. 

The savage is habituated; the civilised man has habits which transform the environment”.

[Patrick Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.71

One can safely generalize what Burns and Stalker say about the need to allow for individual initiative, a flexible response to changes in knowledge, the multiplication of centres of problem-solving and decision-making as adding up to the thesis that an effective organization has to be able to tolerate a high degree of unpredictability within itself.

Attempts to monitor what every subordinate is doing all the time tend to be counter-productive; attempts to make the activity of others predictable necessarily routinize, suppress intelligence and flexibility and turn the energies of subordinates to frustrating the projects of at least some of their superiors (Kaufman 1973 , and see also Burns and Stalker on the effects of attempts to subvert and circumvent managerial hierarchies).

Since organizational success and organizational predictability exclude one another, the project of creating a wholly or largely predictable organization committed to creating a wholly or largely predictable society is doomed and doomed by the facts about social life.

Totalitarianism of a certain kind, as imagined by Aldous Huxley or George Orwell, is therefore impossible. What the totalitarian project will always produce will be a kind of rigidity and inefficiency which may contribute in the long run to its defeat.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.123

Our social order is in a very literal sense out of our, and indeed anyone's, control. No one is or could be in charge .

Belief in managerial expertise is then, on the view that I have taken, very like what belief in God was thought to be by Carnap and Ayer. It is one more illusion and a peculiarly modern one, the illusion of a power not ourselves that claims to make for righteousness.

Hence the manager as character is other than he at first sight seems to be: the social world of everyday hard-headed practical pragmatic no-nonsense realism which is the environment of management is one which depends for its sustained existence on the systematic perpetuation of misunderstanding and of belief in fictions.

The effects of eighteenth-century prophecy have been to produce not scientifically managed social control, but a skillful dramatic imitation of such control. It is histrionic success which gives power and authority in our culture. The most effective bureaucrat is the best actor.

To this many managers and many bureaucrats will reply: you are attacking a straw man of your own construction. We make no large claims, Weberian or otherwise. We are as keenly aware of the limitations of social scientific generalizations as you are. We perform a modest function with a modest and unpretentious competence. But we do have specialized knowledge, we are entitled in our own limited fields to be called experts.

[...] but it is not claims of this kind which achieve power and authority either within or for bureaucratic corporations, whether public or private. For claims of this modest kind could never legitimate the possession or the uses of power either within or by bureaucratic corporations in anything like the way or on anything like the scale on which that power is wielded.

So the modest and unpretentious claims embodied in this reply to my argument may themselves be highly misleading, as much to those who utter them as to anyone else. For they seem to function not as a rebuttal of my argument [...] but as an excuse for continuing to participate in the charades which are consequently enacted.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.124-5

Related posts: