Administered Society [Part 3]

THE SECULAR ESTATE ...  Our knowledge of history is easily distorted by words we use to describe and communicate phenomena.  We may take an artwork or symbol as representative of true belief. We may wrongly assume that a totemic image of a lizard tells us totem users believed their world was shaped by a lizard, when, for example, the image only symbolised a line of lineage within a family group. Emile Durkheim showed us how often a ‘god’ was simply the emblem of a society, so that the object of ‘worship’ was not society’s ‘deity’ but rather was the expression of reverence and care for society itself. Similarly we place our faith in old translations of old languages which continue to inform our consciousness of an object even though its true or multiple and nuanced meanings were lost in the original translation. Or, finally, we project images from today’s world onto the objects excavated from houses and burial places dating from thousands of years ago. Then, even after scholars have upg

Administered Society [Part 2]

THE TEMPLATE ... The model I use to explain administered society presupposes that administration was not yet discovered in the preexisting and contemporaneous forms of society. The “we do not permit the existence of leaders” group-over-person societies and the “like it or not we do require smart and strong leadership” person-over-group societies both lacked the modern organisation. Every era has its own modernity, and in the periods before 1000 BC the epitome of modernity was organisation by means of administration.  Agriculture may have pushed society toward administration, but its transformative potential could not have been realised without administration. Thus the pinnacle was administration. The progenitors were Mesopotamian. The organisation phenomenon originated in slow outgrowth from preexisting societal types when, by accumulations of new individual wealth and power made possible by agriculture, some households experimented with internal divisions of labour and techniques for

Administered Society [Part 1]

NINE HYPOTHESES ... For no other society in history can we say without equivocation that its origin lay in the guiding hand of economic forces. The demands of agriculture are what initially motivated the inventions of administration — experimentation with land and water management, the invention and refinement of tools for production, the processes of producing these tools, organisational modes of coordinating labour in larger scale enterprises, the preservation and storage of harvested goods, and means of recording and regulating commercial exchange of goods within and across borders. When the principle of administration had been discovered, and once domestic units of sociopolitical and economic organisation had been transformed by the possibilities that administration offered, the incentives existed for further technological invention and technical innovation which expanded the scope of administrative action in ways that transformed governance and geopolitics. Since we are defining a

Niklas Luhmann’s apples-to-oranges category error impairs his theory of society

I have read and reread Niklas Luhmann’s books for several years, initially in puzzlement, later with excitement about the possibilities offered, and finally with disappointment that is nonetheless tempered by gratitude for all that can be learned from his expertly-conceived high-risk journey to imaginary societies that probably never will nor can exist. Discovery, after all, is the essence of social science. Even in a well-intentioned, ambitious, systematic and arduous voyage across the seas which at the end discovers nothing of substance, some smaller, wonderful and indispensable discoveries will have been made along the way. I will try to balance the good against the bad. In retrospect I now see why Luhmann cannot be considered of equal stature to Weber and Parsons in the pantheon of social theorists, though the conceptual lineages between these three are clear to see. It was for the concepts and that lineage that I first read Luhmann, and this was worth while. Furthermore, since Luh

Book Files: Leibniz on the Art of Discovery in a distinction between synthesis and analysis

  Leibniz wrote: Synthesis is achieved when we begin from principles and run through truths in good order, thus discovering certain progressions and setting up tables, or sometimes general formulas, in which the answers to emerging questions can later be discovered. Analysis goes back to the principles in order to solve the given problems only, just as if neither we nor others had discovered anything before. It is more important to establish syntheses, because this work is of permanent value, while we often do work that has already been done in beginning the analysis of a particular problem.  But it is a lesser art to use syntheses already set up by others and theorems already discovered, than to achieve everything through one's own work, by carrying out analyses, especially since we do not always remember or have at hand the truths which we ourselves or others have already discovered. Analysis is of two kinds. The common type advances by leaps and is used in algebra. The other is

Hayek’s Error 2: The Missing Evolutionary Stages

As well as reasons previously given for objecting to Hayek’s definitions of a hypothetical distinction between rules of society and of government, there is an objection on grounds of history and ideal types. I refer to Hayek’s method of contrasting tribal society and modern society, which though also improbable as a hypothesis of spontaneous order, has more to commend it. Hayek:  “The great change which produced an order of society which became increasingly incomprehensible to man, and for the preservation of which he had to submit to learnt rules which were often contrary to his innate instincts, was the transition from the face-to-face society, or at least of groups consisting of known and recognisable members, to the open abstract society that was no longer held together by common concrete ends but only by the obedience to the same abstract rules.” In the conceptual opposition of tribal society with modern society I find some grounds for a rigorous hypothesis for the probable existe

Hayek’s Error 1: The Unprovable Rules of Society

Hayek persuasively communicated to a wide audience several essential truths about the modern economy and society that had long been neglected or denied. In the late twentieth century we had Hayek more than any other thinker to thank for the taking hold of sound beliefs about the benefits to society of competitive processes, the impersonal nature of the market economy, and the desirability of reducing the range and quantity of services that states are called upon to provide.  Hayek had a tremendous influence on the West’s dominant ideologies in the 1980s.  If we now enquire why these ideas no longer exert much influence, should we include a consideration of the methodological quality of the Hayekian thesis? For example, did Hayek integrate a simple clearly-understood contradiction in his central hypothesis about the evolution of modern liberal society? Was his hypothesis found to be ill-defined and unprovable?  I, for one, am not convinced by Hayek’s explanation of the locus and pro