sábado, 15 de enero de 2011

On Ethics, Law and Hybrid Literacy

Although my general approach pursues a bidirectional interplay between functions and structures, in the present post I want to address some questions located in just one of the arrows of the overall scheme, the (quasi)causal relation going from Structure to Functions. In particular, I want to address some questions in the realm of Law and Ethics often making parallel with their economic counterpart of Political Economy (as the old fashioned socialist interpretation of economy) against market oriented, Neoliberal Economy [1].

We think of law as an inertial structure for social behavior. From the Ten Amendments to the Constitutions, we have tend to think on the written language as the connatural substrate for law. It would be hard to think on law if there is no reliable mechanism to preserve it in its original form, after all, its reluctance to change is what differentiate law from ethics. One could argue that before literacy there where social institutions which assured the transfer of knowledge and rules of coexistence between members of the tribe. But one can't deny that the lack of literacy constitute a significant obstacle to the development of a more complex law supported society.  I'd like to draw a parallel between these ancient tribes and their structurally challenged institutions with a more modern practice, neo-institutionalism. The later may be seen as the pretension to give a more diachronic character to a long standing synchronic object: the public institutions [2]. Their challenge along the twentieth century was the opposite to the one faced by the pre-literal tribes, they had to implement flexibility criteria in a medium which is not suited for it. The substrate of public institutions is dominated by the most inflexible of all literary styles: bureaucracy. But just as literacy came to the rescue (or doom) for those tribes, now cyberspace reveals as a dimension of language which provides the precision and storage capacity of written language with the addition of interactivity which used to be exclusive of orality. At this moment I want to recall the fact that orality has been for the realm of ethics what literacy has been for law. With the coming of cyberspace and its multitude of protocols for social interaction one faces the question: where is it heading to the former dialectics between law and ethics which used to be separated by two well differentiate substrates: literacy and orality? In principle, liberalism has found in cyberspace a connatural substrate, and it will be hard to claim structural limitations again. We shall see then if liberalism is a functionally complete discourse or if other functional demands will pave their way into the cyberspace by means of protocolary constructions. At this level I think the answer seems obvious -although we might be mislead by echos of old practices-, society cannot be reduced to a local -ethical- ordering. Perhaps the reasons why this debate about ethical vs. law or socialist vs. liberal society seems to persevere being the answers seemingly obvious is because they have been emptied of their original meaning and have joined the same destiny of peace and democracy, that of the virgin princess.

Related Posts: Entre la ética y la ley: paradojas del lenguaje (Blog: PhiLoSoPhiK).

[1] Another useful parallel would be that of synchronic versus diachronic production of proteins.

[2] This is no more than the contradictory extension of economic neoliberalism into the realm of politics (neoliberalism has always have a negative attitude towards public institutions and I guess that realizing, once again, that they could not infinitely minimized them they decided to make them one more agent in the market). It is also worth noting that the archetype of neoliberalism, the corporation, have greater developed from the small private enterprise thanks to the implementation of synchronic practices.

PDT: this post is a mess but I'd rather think of it as an embryo.

domingo, 9 de enero de 2011

The Politics of Utopia, Fredric Jameson. New Left Review 25 (2004). Some excerpts and comments:

"It is that utopia is somehow negative; and that it is most authentic when we cannot imagine it. Its function lies not in helping us to imagine a better future but rather in demonstrating our utter incapacity to imagine such a future –our imprisonment in a non-utopian present without historicity or futurity– so as to reveal the ideological closure of the system in which we are somehow trapped and confined." 

He explains the presence or absence of utopias in terms of ideology and fear. He builds on binary oppositions as a way to probe the vast universe of utopias making it clear that this classification has meaning only as it reflects ideological discourses.

"For it will be understood that, taken individually, in isolation from its opposite number, each of these utopian positions cannot but be profoundly ideological. Taken one by one, each term is substantive; its very content reflects a class standpoint which is ideological by definition. <...> But what these utopian oppositions allow us to do is, by way of negation, to grasp the moment of truth of each term."

Bringing examples such as universal employment versus "the right to be lazy", or apolitical versus hyper-political societies, it is worth to mention his comment on the ironic turn in the utopia of planning versus organic growth:

"But today perhaps things stand otherwise, <...> it is nature which has, in late capitalism and the green revolution been subject to careful planning and engineering. <...> As we have known since Polanyi’s classic Great Transformation, the establishment of untrammelled market freedom requires enormous government intervention; and the same can more obviously be affirmed, and by its own admission, for any ecological politics."

Finally he address the issue of the fear of utopia, which he interprets as a fear of alienation where the dialectical field around which our self gravitates fades away with the risk of leaving a vacuum of meaning, an absence of desire ("What would it be for the addict to desire a cure?"). The perhaps over dialectical approach of Jameson describes the attraction and repulsion of utopia as a circular movement, with no particular meaning other than being the engine of history. I still believe he left many important issues aside such as the role of utopia as a precondition for revolutions as opposed to revolts. And about the fears of utopia, it was worth to mention more obvious but direct threats such as the psychological stress of holding a parallel reality which somehow questions our everyday life.