Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Failed states

Guy Debord; Society of the Spectacle, 107:

Stalinism was a reign of terror within the bureaucratic class. The terror on which the bureaucracy's power was founded was bound to strike the class itself, because this class had no legal basis, no juridical status as a property-owning class that could be extended to each of its members individually.

When ruling classes say that communism failed, what they mean is that it failed them.


Anonymous said...

Stalinism, like Leninism, blurs distinctions between ruling and ruled, because of the stated motives of each system. As always, the rulers lie about their motives, but many of the ruled believe the lies, which causes confusion... "if it's a worker's state, then why are the workers getting screwed?"

All systems of over-arching organized human society will collapse because of the human tendencies related to our "superior status" -- our ability to use higher reasoning power, which enables persuasion, which enables lying-to-get-what-you-want. Organized systems will always be co-opted by the mercenary, Machiavellian humans in the population.

This is why small systems are superior, because you can tackle the Machiavellis directly, wherease with big over-arching systems, they remain out of reach.

Anonymous said...

long time reader, 1st time caller.

i've read statements like cf oxtrot's (small is good, big is bad) many times & they've never made sense to me. i.e., humans could never successfully design & live in a "superstate" b/c it *must* of its own nature devolve into something "evil," i suppose b/c bureaucratic layers would separate people from the consequences (for others) of their decisions, & the "interest of the state" would overwhelm the interests of the concrete individuals who comprise that state.

why is this (seemingly) of necessity true as whatever organization's size increases? why is it possible for dozens & dozens of people to work together to say, put on an opera, but these same skills, interests, and abilities could not be translated to governing the US? or the world?

i've always suspected (please show me wrong!) these arguments derive ultimately from some notion akin to "original sin."

Anonymous said...

The comment said it. What was unclear about what I said?

"Original sin"? You must be kidding.

It's true because Americans are greedy, it's part of American culture. Until you can see that the nature of American social systems is one of organize, then let the organization be taken over by the Machiavellian mercenaries, you probably will think SuperSize is best.

I've never seen SuperSize work. Anywhere.

But maybe my definition of what "works" differs from yours.

Cüneyt said...

Well, to be fair, have you ever seen Devolution work? Anywhere?

People are talented; they can be evil on either side of the continuum.

Anonymous said...

charles, you scoff at my statement about "original sin," and then assert "americans are greedy," and then talk about "what works."

something awry here...

Brian M said...

Cuynet asks a good question. I share your basic bias towards "small is best". But...the skeptical side asks how this will really work??? But, I fear that such works only in situations of small populations living in low density environments. Small groups competing (violently, because that is how it would be) in a dense, resource constrained system do not lead to a very functional society.

Too often, local control and smaller hierarchies...even if not in a formalized state system, seem to be as oppressive. The Southern sherrif firmly believed the evil Big Gubmint and "Outsiders" threatened the glorious, locally controlled system of Jim crow and sharecropping in the rural south.

I don't have any answers...I just wonder if it is so simple as "small" and "no government". A religious cult or a gang is not a State, but they can be pretty darn coercive and violent.

JRB said...

That's some sharp thinking there, Brian M!

I've experienced some of the same things -- in a population of half a dozen!

The skepticism towards big may be warranted -- but that doesn't mean it's always practical to go small. The world is a big place now!

Brian M said...

I cannot claim to be a sharp thinker at all (blush)....I'm just contrarian.

Of course...if one believes the peak oil/coming of the apocalypse folks, we may have a much much smaller population. I'm sure there was no overarching centralized State in the Mad Max world. LOL.

Have you read any S. M. Stirling novels in the "Emberverse" post-apocalyptic novels? Basically, 600 years of technology disappears...simply stops working. I have come to see this (not his intention, perhaps) as a metaphor for peak oil/the loss of plentiful energy. Anyway...the post-crash society is certainly decentralized, but it is also violently hierarchical and unjust.

Cüneyt said...

No fair! I demand royalties for Brian's brilliance! :)

Oh wait; that's based on an arbitrary system of idea ownership. Fuck.