Read: For a Red Zoopolis
I have oscillatory waves of activity on my garden.
Chat with Flancian
One says to oneself that there must be happy people somewhere. Well then! Unless you get that out of your head, you have understood nothing about psychoanalysis.
— Jacques Lacan, Seminar III
q: How would you define liberalism?
a: it’s a few different things, because we’re talking about both an ideology and a system of governance, but here’s the big picture. the key category of liberalism is not freedom, nor is it equality. liberalism has formal versions of both but they’re mostly to secure the existence of private property (equality in exchange, freedom to contract).
liberalism’s key category is security. that is the common denominator running from Hobbes and Locke to Keynes and Hayek, a fundamental anxiety about the inherent insecurity of class society (or civilization, if you’re nasty).
here are some of the things liberalism is.
- charitably, it’s a worldview and political system based on an idea of endless progress. Adam Smith and J.S. Mill conceptualized it as an eternal twin spire of accumulation - of truth and wealth. its purported values are using the self-interested pursuit of one’s personal “Good” as a stabilizing social force; universal equality of moral personhood; consensual governance and the guarantee of certain rights; and efficient allocation of resources through a market system.
- uncharitably, it’s the organizational principles of global capitalism, the developed descendant of Smith and Ricardo’s “science” of political economy. its actual values are security, property, aristocracy, and imperial chauvinism.
- structurally, it’s a legalistic form of aristocracy (“rule of the best”). instead of informal or arbitrary systems like honor and heredity, liberalism combines positive law (statutes, constitutions, judges) with markets, money, and state authority. this combination creates formalized, predictable results that guarantee the security of property, rather than relying on the arbitrary whims of a handful of egomaniacs who think God appointed them. the possibility for reform is built in to defuse instability. it is the tar pit in which we all reside, because we lack sufficient tools to avoid being ensnared; its dedication to procedural values (like formal equality), and its void of substantive content, means liberalism can consistently absorb parts of other political practices and patterns that would otherwise pose a threat, or force competing worldviews to fight them on liberal terrain.
- economically, it’s the political order that a nascent capitalism birthed to protect itself, the guarantor of private property. universal naked force for accumulating and hoarding wealth and power is ultimately inefficient because it paradoxically gives the repressed something to unify around hating. impersonal domination - more subtle forms of coercion by market forces, “invisible threads” rather than chains - and personal domination deployed primarily against internal or external enemies (of the nation, of the faith, of the social contract), is a lot more stable in the long term. meanwhile, constant expansion means there will always be new frontiers to exploit. the neutralization of class conflict is the ultimate goal here.
- psychologically, it’s a deep discomfort with the conflictual character of politics, and with the nature of power. fascists and other reactionaries resent liberalism because they think that wringing the blood out of the weak for the amusement and luxury of a ruling class can be achieved without the need for an impersonal bureaucratic machine [see the conservative-cum-Nazi Carl Schmitt’s critique that liberals treat politics like it’s a debate parlor]. ironically, this brutish desire to dominate is a lesson that fascists learned within capitalism’s absorption and reproduction of preexisting hierarchies and values along the lines of gender, ethnicity, ability, and religion.
- in the language of Tumblr, it’s an enemies-to-lovers fic between the working class and the owning class.
- personally, it’s a whole heap of shit.
Woke up with a sore throat, didn't feel great through the day but made it through the work day. I think I'm feeling better now, nothing serious it seems :)
Watching: Don't Look Up
I like Iain M. Banks and I'm currently re-reading Look to Windward because in Red Plenty it was described it as an example of a 20th century Marxian idyll. It's good and all but I'm reading the Culture now as kind of all premised on Prometheanism / fully automated luxury communism. I'm gonna reread A Wizard of Earthsea (last read as a young teen!) by Ursula K. Le Guin next as in Half-Earth Socialism they describe that as Jennerite ecological scepticism and that is more my bag lately.
I am writing this in the flight from Portland to London.
It was my mum's birthday today. I'm happy she's visiting soon!
Started skim reading (ironically?) How To Take Smart Notes.
Joined the Bonfire playground but haven't got time to do much on there at the mo. But I really love the mission they have around social media so following with great interest.
Yesterday we went on a beautiful walk at sunset with Chris, it was great!
At the lookout point we met Enrique and we became friends.
Writing this on the flight to Seattle. My connection in Charlotte was tight but I made it just fine in the end.
(I wonder who you are, you reading this. If you are interested consider leaving an annotation using the Hypothesis side bar or reaching out :)
Thank you for reading!)
Some things aren't meant to be, I guess. Not in this timeline. It is with pain I experience their loss; accepting the pain I let them go.
I met Ritchie again in the streets of Durham. He was no worse off than last time, but not doing great. We had ice cream together and we walked and talked for a while.
Open Infrastructure Map is absolutely fascinating. Check out all the power stations, turbines, electricity lines, gas, oil, water pipelines, etc are near you. Built on top of Open Street Map data (what an amazing project OSM is).
Equally fascinating is OSM Landuse Landcover. Dead interesting to compare urban areas, agriculture and wilderness. No surprise that near me there is a ton of pasture grazing and crop farming, a bit of urban sprawl, and a depressingly small amount of woodland and forest.
Took me a bit to find https://death.andgravity.com/f-re on verbose regular expressions! Luckily the right search terms were iterated towards...
I keep coming back to the same refrain: "I will show you the shape of my heart."
(I love you. Yes, you.)
Learning more on Markets vs planning, finding it interesting how Friedrich Hayek's stuff on markets as a decentralised information processing system on the surface chimes with what I like about complex systems. And central planning is discordant with what I like about complex systems.
Starting taking voice notes (again).
Listened: Is the UK heading for a recession?
Listening: How to feed the world without destroying it
I feel as if something is turning. It might not be much longer.