Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some notes on Hirst

Modern Western states are narrowly plebiscitarian "democracies" (cf. Schumpeter) wherein elites espouse roughly the same economic ideas (cf., say, Poulantzas).

Materialism -- the kind which involves having swimming pools and special shoes -- is the dominant but unsatisfying ideology (cf. Habermas on civil privatism and familial-vocational privatism. Fatalism and an orientation towards immediate gratification for low- and high-income demographics, acquisitive abstinence for the middle. Cf. food).

Social theory is attenuated. Your options are: postmodern ironism, rationalism / game theory, or a metadiscourse of concern for academic enquiry as such (wherein falls Political Sociology. The compulsory mixture of analytic and contintental styles creates a huge burden for a kid who is trying to trace connections between ideas simultaneously with interventions among authors. It does seem to force you into a historical narrative to resolve it all though). A retreat, anyway, from social generality into issue-specificity / identity-centrism.

Can we reason from existing institutions? Cf. Habermas on democratic incrementalism.

Associative democracy -- a third way between collectivist state socialism & laissez faire capitalism.

Contra utopianism:
  • Marxism's ideal of a stateless society without a complex division of labour is an unattainable "institutionlessism" which legitimated brutality as pragmatism, so.
  • Modern laissez-faire ignores issues of governance and institutions to purify markets ... its foci imaginarii is a social order sustained exclusively by production and transaction.
So far, not that far from the spirit of Keynes, Fordism and embedded liberalism. Why did this break down? Cf. Streeck.

Prevailing forms of governance are difficult to apply to de facto social conditions. One of associative democracy's strengths is to generate standards, not just coordinate action (cf. of course communicative reason vs. steering media).

The prevalent methods of governance are:
(1) hierarchy and imperative
(2) exchange and contract
(3) bargaining and deliberation

Central planning suffers where product mixes change rapidly and there is an emphasis on customization. We see a drive towards decentralisation, devolution and complex, multi-centred methods of monitoring product quality and productive performance.

The collapse of state socialism is connected with central planning's failure to address the increasing complexity and localization of social action. The audit explosion originated in the imperative first to protect then to replace administrative coordination of action.

Modern capitalism diverges from perfect competition inasmuch as it is characterised by large corporations, complex division of labour. Cf. "natural monopolies," monopolistic and oligopolistic competition & Habermas's "great concerns."

Weakly regulated markets are not always prosperous and efficient (let alone substantively egalitarian). With the marketization of labour, certain costs of social stabilisation are transferred to the state in the form of income maintenance, retraining etc. Typically the state has also been obliged to set up a powerful bureaucracy to counteract the very incentive structure created in these activities, policing illegitimate use of benefits and politely coercing the unemployed into seizing undesired opportunities. Streeck argues that the costs proliferate even into the category of biological reproduction, as "flexible" and uncertain work disincentivises child birth in key demographics. The structure of familial-vocational privatism coexists with a new ideology combining achievement orientation in the vocational dimension with fatalism in the familial.

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