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Re: nettime: Hari Kunzru/Rewiring Technoculture
Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) on Sun, 5 Jan 97 23:57 MET


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Re: nettime: Hari Kunzru/Rewiring Technoculture


Hari (and all the Nettimers):

Thanks for your thoughtful (and lengthy) contribution to this ongoing
discussion.  It obviously required much care and went into much more useful
detail than Louis Rossetto's "those post-Marxtists are just jealous of our
success" reply.  Hopefully, other editorial folks within the WIRED sphere
will also pick up their keyboards and join the fray.  However, I'm not sure
that, when boiled down, you have really said anything all that different
than Louis (or, Louis quoting Kevin or whatever).

You have said that there is a new way of viewing such phenomena as states
and markets (or what used to be called politcal-economy).  You have
repeatedly referred to such phenomena as "complex" and "emergent" and even
"organisms."  You are clearly a disciple of complexity (aka chaos) theory. 
This framework (along with it's 1950's General Systems Theory predecessor)
is certainly the hot post-industrial buzz.  It is distinctly different than
the preceding modernist approaches to the topics (and the many before that)
and, therefore, it (and you) can justifiably call itself more hip and cool.
 The problem is whether it  is right, however.

Louis also begged this question.  He, like you, bemoaned the use of older
frameworks to critique the newer approach while never bothering to lay any
basis for the validity of the newer post-industrial analysis.   It's just
newer, that's all.  He, like you, lumped everything before the post-modern
era into a giant heap and set fire to it -- ignoring enormous and crucial
distinctions within previous approachs.  He, like you, pushed on with the
"optimism meme" by claiming, without any basis in reality, that a better
(or the best of all possible) world would result from using the
post-civilization framework in setting policy.  But, I suspect that he,
like you, know that just won't be good enough.  Prove it.

Most importantly, no one from any precinct remotely close to WIRED has
grappled with the obvious current effects of post-industrial globalism. 
Decades of predictably declining post-industrial economies are already
taking their toll.   Stagnant wages and lack of aspiration are already
turned into crime and who-gives-a-flying-fuckism that presumably are the
justification for police television cameras in so many public places in
Britain and that amazing bill that effectively ends all pretense of privacy
in your country.   Parents no longer care about grades or even education so
kids are getting dumber and dumber every term.  Antibiotic defeating
microbes are rampant and viral plagues worst than the Black Death have
already consumed parts of Africa -- a continent slated for vast
de-population.  The only part of the economy which is arguably truly
"global" is the financial market which is dominated by speculative
gamesmanship which threatens to collapse the world's banking system --
ushering in a truly chaotic endgame.  Post-industrialism is nothing less
than the end of civilization -- just as Boulding said it was in "The
Meaning of the 20th Century."  It's happening.  RIght now.  As they say,
don't get me started.

It is absolutely disingenous to claim that complexity theory derived policy
will do "better" without being specific about the likely outcomes would be
of all the alternative approaches.  Have you read Michael Vlahos'
"ByteCity"?  Did you see that amazing LIbertarian broadside posted on this
list?  Did you see my "English Ideology" piece? What will a truly
post-industrial world actually look like?  Are you familiar with the
phrase, "New Dark Age"?

But, it is because outcomes cannot be planned in the post-modernist
framework that they are left out of the discussion.  Following the
disasterous failures of the modernist attempts to plan social progress in
the first half of this century, the post-modernist has embraced the
you-can't-plan-anything and who-believes-in-progress-anymore attitude. 
These attitudes are then combine with post-modernism's utter disregard for
humanity's unique capabilities and the result is a recipe for mass death
and devistation.  Why won't post-modernism only lead to even greater wanton
destruction than what came before?  As you might have noticed, I'm quite
convinced that it will.

I agree that modernist "solutions" are unlikely to work, however.  Perhaps
you have seen my essay "What Do We Think?" posted on this list which chides
us all on a tendency to fall back on handy institutional frameworks and
already failed approaches.  I came down strongly in agreement with
Rossetto's challenge to us all to come up with something better.  But, that
challenge is to go far beyond post-modernism and far beyond WIRED's
uncritical embracing of post-civilization themes filtered through their
interpretation of the "optimism meme."  

Complexity theory is the problem now, not the answer. It, like the entire
post-industrial ediface, must be scrapped.  It has already visibly failed.

BTW, I'm working on an essay called "Beyond Fundamentalism" which may be
helpful in stimulating discussion about that post-WIRED framework.  Stay
tuned.

Meanwhile, Hari, could you please send me a back issue (or two) of the
British WIRED and I'll subscribe.  I just can't seem to find it a my local
cybercafe. <g>  Thanks.

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City
newmedia {AT} mcimail.com
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