Part 2. Theoretical considerations
Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge
1.4. power societies
The widely shared model about the formation of empires tells us that following the emergence of agriculture sometime 12,000 years ago the sum of societal practices and knowledge that had been accumulated and transmitted from generation to generation over the preceding 100,000 years or so by tribal societies gradually disintegrated. This disintegration of the tribal model spread over a few thousand years and was paralleled by trials and errors in setting up power societies. This process that spanned roughly 7-8000 years culminated, some 5000 years ago in Sumer, in Egypt, and in China, with the institutionalization of empires that reproduce over the generations which is what gave rise to civilizations.
1.4.1. Rupture versus continuity
This disintegration of tribal practices and their accumulated knowledge, better known as animism, did nevertheless not occur in China as the Western Academic canon rules. China is something of an exception to that rule. And so I concluded part 1 of “From Modernity to After-Modernity” by proposing that the societal evolution of Europe, and other societies where animism disintegrated, is characterized by a societal evolutionary model in which change operates brutally as a “rupture” with the past and the creation and imposition of a new worldview while China is characterized by a societal evolutionary model in which change operates gradually in “continuity” with the past by integrating cultural add-ons to the past worldview.
This differentiation between Western rupture and Chinese continuity was certainly most radical during the formation of their axioms of civilization. But I posit that this differentiation continues to operate in later stages of their societal evolution:
for example in how Modernity emerges and develops. This informs us that China's application of Modernity is going to be rather different than what the Western path has been all about.
For example in how Modernism emerges and develops which promises a radically different outcome of Modernism in China than the Western reign of “whatever” and its ensuing confusion.
I wanted to mention this here in order to point to the importance of the divergence between West and East that took place at the time of the formation of their imperial past and the systematization of their civilization. But further elaboration on these ideas is reported to later articles. I want indeed to concentrate here on the factors that shape the East-West divergence in knowledge formation.
All around the world non-power tribal societies have been observed to be displaced by power societies. While that process unfolded along the same lines it nevertheless expressed itself in different time periods due to the different environmental contexts in different geographic locales. As a result till very recently empires and kingdoms, and later modern republics, co-existed with early power societies and even tribes. It is the globalization of Modernity, after WW2, undertaken at the behest of big capital, that in its totalitarian drive finally uprooted the last remaining non power tribal societies. This process of elimination of human societies (genocide) that don't fit in Modernity is very similar to what happens today with the extinction of animal or plant species (6th mass extinction). Under the assault of humans who want to monetize all available resources habitats are shrinking and are eventually totally destroyed. As a consequence other species as well as non-modern human societies are asphyxiating and dieing out. Is this not the most absolute form of totalitarianism?
Globalization has expanded the territory of Modernity to the whole world and it leaves us with a panoply of different systems that integrate Modernity in varying degrees: from a Late-Modern crumbling West to a rising China, India and the rest who are trying to conciliate their cultural traditions with the rationalism of capital while colonially soaked Africa is finally awakening from its nightmare and discovering the sprouting of some first seeds of capital accumulation that project the hope of a new lease on life. In this maelstrom it is difficult to apply any clear categorization. Modernity by now is everywhere but in different doses and applied at different speeds on a ground that is soaked in animism, or in religion, but that by now is everywhere under the administration of power.
What I want to point out here is that the differentiation, in dealing with animism during the formation of the European and the Chinese civilizations, was unmistakably further exacerbated by the accidental emergence of the reason of capital in Western Europe that concludes today in Late-Modernity with its totalitarian imposition all over the world. That means that the contradictions between East and West have been amplified. This is still hidden today by the fact that China traverses a period of ultra rapid economic developmental change that delivered a social and intellectual shock, a kind of anesthesia, from which the Chinese society has still to awaken from. Early signs indicate that the awakening is driving the Chinese society into a revival and renewal of its roots and traditions. This promises us a serious clash with Western Modernity that, in my opinion, will lead to an all-out rejection, of what can only be called, postmodern Western characteristics.
Power societies adapted religions as instruments to glue the minds of their citizens in order to facilitate their reproduction over time. But if the narrative of religions was successful at binding their citizens' minds, and thus ensuring the long haul reproduction of their societies, that kind of narrative is nevertheless extremely poor in term of the knowledge directly applicable by their followers into their daily life. Some might say that whatever the narrative the fact is that it contains its own knowledge and that as such knowledge is relative which would imply that there is no superior or inferior knowledge out there. But this is a fallacy. Knowledge is indeed something reel that serves very practical purposes and as such differentiations in knowledge can lead to vastly unequal applications in daily life.
1.4.2. Knowledge and Pragmatism
The real value of knowledge resides in its capacity to enhance the well-being of the specie. That's how the production of knowledge has always been such an important driver of human societies. In other words knowledge that has no impact on pragmatic matters relating to the life of a specie is knowledge that has no use for that specie. Such knowledge is detached from the principle of life and always ends up being discarded when things get rough for the individuals and their societies. Evolution is indeed not only a process of mutation and change; it is also a cleaning up process to discard what is inessential to the life of the specie. In my mind the gluing of citizens' minds in order to enhance societal cohesion is one example of what such pragmatism is all about but this is only one such parameter. There are potentially many other parameters of pragmatism that are directly impacted by knowledge.
When I speak about pragmatism it does not relate to how we apply a doctrine, or an ideology, into present daily life as was largely implied in past theories about pragmatism. I'm speaking here about how societies and individuals maximize their well-being. This is the essence of the being of individuals and societies. So the pragmatism I'm talking about here addresses the essence of the human specie's being. The individuals and their societal groupings constitute indeed the polarities of the human specie. The evolution of the specie is given by the sum of interactions, between the individuals and their groupings, which form the specie's existential answer within the limits of its contextual environment. So the pragmatism I have in mind here relates to how individuals and societal groupings act to maximize their well-being. But we should always remember the fact that well-being is not always in the range of the positive; it can eventually enter negative territory when an imbalance in the interactions between individuals and their group takes place. So when I speak about knowledge this relates to the perception by individual minds about what actions are conducive to their well-being and what actions are not conducive to their well-being. But we have then to answer what exactly is well-being. Such an answer can't be restricted to the mood here and now (subjectivity). It has to be framed in the larger context of the human specie reproducing over the span of the long haul (objectivity).
Here is a first shot at a classification of the parameters of pragmatism for the human specie and I suggest that it is also largely valid for any other living specie albeit expressed in the specific forms of their different contexts:
1.enhancing the psychological and material well-being of the individual representatives of the specie. This matter largely relies on the responses given by their societies.
2. enhancing the sustainability of the activities of the specie. This depends largely on the reproducibility of the societal environment. In other words individual behaviors are being given not so much by the exercise of individual free will but are more like being a resultant of the societal context. It is indeed the systems set in place by societies that supply the individual with the conditions to produce what he needs to satisfy his objective needs (food, clothes, roof,…). The same goes for his psychological attitude which largely results from:
- first the manner in which societies set up the conditions in which individual objective needs are satisfied. If the individual objective needs are not being satisfied adequately or if the satisfaction is being broken psychologically by a vast inequality in its execution then the individuals will feel unsatisfied and will eventually react against such a societal set-up. In Late-Modernity Western societies are largely plagued by those ills: falling incomes for the great majority and shocking inequality that threaten the stability of societies. To counter such risks of societal instability politicians are being paid by big capital holders to set up authoritarian decision making processes that they feel will be necessary in the near future to keep societies from falling apart: communication of propaganda to manipulate the minds, dilution of the rights gained in the past, systematic spying on citizens, militarization of police services, etc…
- secondly the peace of mind procured by the societal narrative that gives the answers to all existential questions. If the individuals' minds are under stress due to the societal worldview's unsatisfying answers to their existential questions they will not only be unsatisfied they will grow restless in their search of satisfying answers and this will directly lead to the fragmentation of their societies along the lines of multiple group-thinks and if individualism is exacerbated, as it is under Western Late-Modernity, group-think itself will dilute into atomization which is when the individuals start to think they know better about everything than anyone else. Butt that's the point when societies are ready to collapse under the impact of whatever circumstantial destabilizing force that presents itself first.
3. enhancing the sustainability of the activities of the species in our contextual environment. In other words the narrative has to ensure that our present behavior as a specie leaves as good or better an environment to the following generations. This has to be understood as an absolute condition for the perpetuation of the species. The destruction of a species' habitat by one of its generations can not be understood as anything else than the condemnation of its descendants to their demise. At this gauge, I'm afraid there is no milder way to say this, Modernity in its Late phase is condemning the next generations to live the agonizing experience of the demise of humanity from the face of the earth...
1.4.3. From animism to civilization and last to Modernity
In short, culminating some 12,000 years ago, a changing climate disturbed existing life conditions and people moved where food was more abundant. Agriculture emerged, fed more mouths, and the tribal population golden number broke down. Tribal societies were thus destabilized which unleashed the formation of early kingdoms:
- patriarchal power imposed itself over what had been matriarchal non-power tribes.
- ambitious tribal chiefs annexed neighboring tribes which effectively started the formation of Early-Kingdoms.
- later on one of the kings unified all tribes, and other kingdoms in his area, under his umbrella and de-facto founded an empire. As documented at length by Arnold Toynbee many kingdoms and empires were created in this fashion but very few survived indeed.
- brute force could integrate other tribes in a kingdom or an empire but it was insufficient to keep them under control and so institutions relying solely on power did not reproduce over the generations. Such a reproduction only happened when the men of power secured the collaboration of the men of knowledge. It is their knowledge that, once shared with all, glued the minds of the citizens around a shared worldview. And a shared worldview is what ensured the institutional reproduction of the kingdom or empire over the generations. This historical process is observed to have unfolded over a lengthy period of some 6-7000 years following the collapse of the tribal societal model. The resulting institutional reproduction of kingdoms and empires, in turn, solidified the societal worldview; distilling it, into its essential principles, into axioms that effectively launched a civilization over the long haul (see “From Modernity to After-Modernity”. 01 and 08).
- among early civilizations only the Chinese survives today. The other civilizations collapsed and their societies were overtaken by one or more new kingdom(s) or by a new empire (Middle-East). In other areas people surviving fallen societies simply integrated in existing local communities (Incas). We should pause at this last observation. We already saw that China followed a different path than Middle-Eastern civilizations by co-opting animism instead of destroying it. Could co-opting animism as the worldview of the empire, by any chance, have been the reason of the Chinese empire's resilience? Going even further could we not posit that it is the pragmatism of animism that is the real reason for continuity? These questions, I feel, touch the essence of the principle of survivability or reproducibility of the human specie which forms the level playing field where valid knowledge distinguishes from invalid knowledge. I'll elaborate further on this in my conclusions about knowledge.
- There is no doubt that Modernity impacts the working of civilizations. All societies on earth have absorbed:
- the reason of capital
- the worldview that the reason of capital pushed on societies with individualism and the form of thinking derived from the reason at work within capital. But is the worldview of Modernity necessarily eradicating all traditional worldviews?
- philosophic rationalism and the scientific method.
There is also no doubt that Modernity reshaped radically the model of knowledge acquisition in all societies around the world. But is Francis Fukuyama therefore right to posit that Modernity is the end of history? To answer this question we'll have to examine the following in our conclusions:
- how is the traditional Christian European worldview coping in Late-Modernity?
- how are the axioms of the other surviving civilizations coping under the assault of the worldview of Modernity?
- how are the worldviews of the societies under those surviving civilizations faring?
While patriarchal power imposed itself very soon after agriculture took root animism nevertheless remained in application, at the local level, in the villages. Popular culture remained thus animistic during the entire transition period from tribal societies to empires and civilizations.
By exonerating the men of power from the chores of work, through a monopoly on the first quarter or other proportion of the product of the citizenry's work, the power structure instituted inequality and privilege. With the imposition of power the shaman lost his own privilege, of being released of the obligation to work while his needs were satisfied by the tribe. The shaman had now to collect a remuneration for his services from his neighbor “clients”. Life had suddenly taken a turn for the worse and become a whole lot more difficult for the men of knowledge. Their traditional privilege of being absolved from the chores of work was now the preserve of the men of power. For the traditional men of knowledge this corresponded assuredly to a fall from absolute primacy into utter relativity.
The man of power did nevertheless not escape the lure of animism. For a long time the shaman remained at his side as some sort of psychological adviser. His role having being trivialized it is understandable that, succeeding to be retained as a man of knowledge at the side of the men of power became the target for many a shaman. This extended indeed somewhat his former privilege of being absolved from the chores of work while having his needs satisfied. Re-appropriating his former privilege was a very strong reason for the shaman to compete with his peers for the ears of the men of power. It is in this competition that some shaman eventually differentiated their stories and so slowly appeared different narratives tracing the path toward religions. The roots of religions reach, not in the practice of animism as is so often mistakenly professed but, in the differentiation of narratives unleashed by the competition between men of knowledge for the ears of the men of power.
1.4.4. The civilization of Europe = Christianity
I have given an extensive overview of the formation of Christianity and how it kept Europe together after the fall of the Roman empire in my posts “The axioms of civilizations” 06 to 11 (1). We also discovered how Christianity was the fertile ground in which Early Modernity would later sprout. But there is more. Christianity also sowed the seeds that would bring about Modernity. What follows is a further elaboration on that subject more particularly focused on the aspect of knowledge formation.
Change as brutal rupture: Rome and Christianity
The Roman empire absorbed many of the gods and cults of conquered nations. Belief in Rome was thus an evolving story. Roman power observed that religion was rendering nations cohesive and so it adopted religion as a tool to transfer the substance of local cohesiveness to the imperial center. The absorption of Christianity was in line with this trait of Roman imperial opportunism.
Christianity did not start out as a unified movement. It emerged in Palestine and spread on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean as the outcome of an effort by Jesus and his Jewish followers to cleanse Judaism of stiff rituals and a corrupt hierarchy. That reformism of Judaism gained many adherents among the people including more and more gentiles. So the cult was spreading further and further from its place of birth. In the absence of a written code the beliefs of the followers and their rituals were thus influenced by the different cultural and language contexts as well as the ideas of other existing religions. It is the expansion of the mass of non Jewish believers that made Christianity as a distinct cult from Judaism. The churches of the new religion were naturally influenced by their local context. In the absence of a centralized authority Christianity was a very diverse movement indeed which impulsed a proliferation of gospels.
When it reached large masses of followers Christianity inevitably attracted the interest of the Roman Imperial power:
- With the Edict of Milan in 313 Emperor Constantine gave Christianity its official stamp of recognition.
- Later, in 325, he convened the Council of Nicaea that was charged to unify the Christian narrative.
- After his death Christianity continued to grow and eventually, in 380, the Edict of Thessalonica made it the State religion of the empire. This is when Christianity was defined as a single doctrine and all other belief systems were forbidden which was implemented with the use of force.
The nobility was converted within a short time but different mutations of animism had blended into popular culture that were sticking in the minds. This could have been perceived as being a problem but the emperors and popes transformed it into an opportunity by integrating those animistic mutations into a Christian context. Sacrificial sites were converted into Christian churches, animist-paganist feasts were converted into Christian feasts and so their traditional narratives were diverted to satisfy Christian finalities.
Christian evangelism critically enhanced Individualism.
The men of power had tasted individualism by exercising power and would then fight to keep their privileges. Christianity expanded the reach of individualism to all by insisting on the personal, the individual, character of the conversion. In so doing Christianity was pointing to the autonomy of the individual who was thus suddenly presented as being more important than the group. Monks and pastors were in charge of education and they taught children, starting in the earliest age, to distinguish between “me” and “you”, “my things” and “your things” and as adults they were asked to act toward the others by respecting their rights which made magically appear the notion of “my rights”. Families were asked to adopt the new culture by doing each their “own thing” out of any control by the group which was in conflict with the custom that had prevailed over the past tens of thousands of years.
Such individualistic ways of thinking were radically different from people's past animistic ways and it would take many generations for them to be ingrained in all minds. Individualism makes believe that people have to go their own personal ways while animism makes believe that people have to act kindly along the lines of their inter-relations with all the other individual particles in a world that is interconnected. Animism relates the human individual intimately to all the other particles within their contextual environment and with the spirits that animate them all. So an animist could not possibly conceive of living as an individual in a separate and distinctive state from the other particles around him.
That process of acculturation took centuries but the fact is that by pushing such an individualistic agenda Christianity prepared the terrain in which Modernity would be able to later blossom. This is how Modernity would eventually develop accidentally in a very primitive Europe while never erupting in far more advanced societies because individualism was absent from their ground or otherwise as in China individualism was contained by strict societal rules.
It is worth pondering here if Modernity has been as successful at eradicating Christianity as Christianity had been to eradicate animism. Westerners hold a widely shared belief that they live in a "post-Christian age". The forms of our thinking and our language have unmistakably ceased to refer to the Christian creed but, I think, the substance of our thoughts and our deeply held beliefs remain very much what they were under Christianity. We are being driven for example by an implicit faith in perpetual progress that makes us believe that science and technology will solve any problem that our societies could one day be facing. Such a deeply held belief is like a straight line mechanical thinking projecting always better days into the future; something we call progress. But such an idea was unknown of in any other civilization and culture. We have to recognize that such a faith is rooted in Judeo-Christian theology and it would be difficult to find a satisfactorily justification for it in any other philosophical context. In other words, even if they think otherwise, Westerners are still stuck today in the same belief system shared by their ancestors along the last 1500 years; a belief system that is integrally derived from the hidden axioms of their Christian civilization.
The impact of individualism on thinking and behaviors
Science and technology have emerged out of the Christian thinking about the individual and about man's relation to nature. Not only had innovation started well before the crusades (wind mills, watermills, etc...) but returning crusaders imported into Europe the lost Greek classic books and the works of Arab intellectuals. In the pre-existing context of innovation the discovery of those books acted like a booster of intellectual curiosity and universities were soon erected as centers of learning. Let's remember that Latin was the language of knowledge and that it was practiced solely by monks which means that the acquisition of knowledge was shaped at the image of the Christian books that indefatigably repeat that man is superior to nature, or whatever other species which have been placed there it was said for our exclusive pleasure. Christianity assumed that mankind was the center of reality and that the rest was at its disposal. While this today has started to be rejected by theologians, for reason of avoiding the responsibility of the church in creating the present mess, the fact remains that it has been the church's practice and thinking over the last 1500 years at the exception perhaps of St Francis whose message Rome has been eager always to hide until Pope Francis popped on the scene. The concepts of systems that were innately internalized under animism, and the interdependence of their parts, was something of an anathema to the church and by extension to the ethos of the West that had been shaped as an “all taker” who did not have any qualm for using the other particles who shared his environment.
Long distance traders bought Middle-Eastern luxuries for the satisfaction of the European aristocracy and the logic or the reason at work within the capital they invested in these ventures was readily accepted. This is something that never had occurred in other societal contexts. Middle-Eastern societies, India, and China had nevertheless already been trading for more than thousand years before the European entertained the idea but capital and its reason never came to the minds of their merchants. Chinese, Indians and Arabs were the ones who perfected the financial instruments that made long distance trade possible (banking, letters of credit, etc…). What was different was the working of their minds. Chinese, Indians and Arabs were thinking about their “selves” in other terms than were European merchants. Christianity had detached Europeans from the systemic vision of animism while cultivating the ego. That systemic vision of animism was still largely shared by Chinese, Indians and Arabs who viewed themselves as particles of their groups. So the acceptance of the reason at work within capital has to be understood as a kind of mechanical submission of the ego who is eying the promise of a personal surplus in order to increase his capital base. In other words Chinese, Indians and Arabs were using dumb money while Europeans were submitting to the reason of capital to satisfy their individual drive for richness. In this we see how the West freed the individual from society, the cell from its body, and unleashed a creative chaos that believers in societal systems never could rival with.
But creative chaos had unexpected consequences as the medieval historian Lynn White made amply clear in his 1967 article “Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis”: "In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit...Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects."
Unfortunately Lynn White is right. The conception of Man's monopoly on spirit is the reagent that drives individualism to take without concern for consequences. The combination of “Man's monopoly on spirit” with individualism, when combined with the reason at work within capital, opens the mind to a mechanical rationality that eviscerates Animism and so the old inhibitions to exploit nature and other men crumble. Increasing evidence of the damage inflicted by humanity to its habitat imposes finally the recognition of the real and extensive damage that individualism and the rationality of capital, Science and technology, have inflicted to the earth, the other species, and to humanity itself. But the Christian and Western axioms of civilization won't let their carriers recognize that the responsibilities of such a state of affairs lies within themselves. Those axioms now make believe to their unconscious carriers that remedies will be found to whatever humanity may be confronted with. Such a belief relieves them from any questioning but reality does not go away and so they resent the discourse of the more enlightened minority that questions their blind faith in a savior that is no more than a mechanistic producer of false knowledge.
Reason, science, and materialism
We should approach the character of knowledge in modernity from 2 angles. The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list of characteristic. It is merely given as illustration of big trends that shape the present thinking and thus also the thinking of scientists.
1. The context in which knowledge is produced:
1.1. Axioms of civilization (information stored in the subconscious): dualism, finite world (closed system), rupture, necessity to abstract and model starting from nothing, observing the detail and projecting the gained knowledge to the whole, etc...
1.2. Traits of Christian worldview: individualism, power, inequality, hierarchy, rules, obedience, anthropocentrism, Eurocentrism, etc...
1.3. Traits of modern worldview: individualism, reason of capital, rationality, nation state and warfare, from the micro to the whole, etc...
1.4. Traits of late modern culture: material girl, instant gratification, consumerism, everything is a commodity, financialization of everything, etc...
2. The internal mechanics of the production of knowledge in Modernity:
2.1. The producer of knowledge is the scientist. He is a citizen of his time and his mind forms in the air of the time.
2.2. Knowledge production as a commission. The owner of capital or his representative orders a knowledge quantity and the work of the scientist is remunerated which indicates his subservience to capital and power, etc...
It is difficult not to see that science today dominates the field of knowledge and that it projects an authoritarian image rejecting anything that has not received the imprimatur of the scientific community even if that something has proved to offer something useful for some individuals or for society as a whole. Now it is also a fact that, by economic necessity, science is subservient to the interests of power (economic, technological and political) and we can observe that this subservience too often results in its focusing not on understanding nature (wisdom) but on manipulating nature (power). This shift from a traditional concern of knowledge for wisdom to a concern for power finds confirmation in science's exclusive “trust” in quantitative measurements at the exclusion of qualitative aspects of reality that are not necessarily measurable. So quantitative measurement has taken precedence over any other form of perception of reality and it should thus not come as a surprise that the image of reality that this projects back to us is not representative of the real nature of the reality that is being observed. We should indeed remember that science is an activity of its time and that scientific theories are shaped by the demands of the dominant political, economic, and cultural actors of the time. In other words the perspective of scientists is being biased, not by society, but by those who have the power over society. In that sense scientists' concerns do not relate to what is good from the systemic, or holistic, vantage point of humanity as a specie but relates to the narrow interests of a minority of citizens who control the levers of power.
Seen from this angle it is not difficult to understand why science approaches reality, or the universe, as if it were a machine made out of material stuff that runs according to a code of law. But force is to admit that this an anthropocentric presumption. It is indeed no more than a projection of what is being observed in the material world we live in. But human life is not being driven solely by materialism. Our minds are in an incessant dialog with our brains and this forms the spirit or the soul of our specie. Furthermore the probability that the materialism of modern man is uniformly distributed across time and space is nil. So we can only conclude that what the scientific approach presupposes is that there is a universal truth emanating from modern man's centrality without having a shred of proof about it. But while it has no way to prove the tenants of its own model of reality science has the presumption to impose its own methodological framework to anyone who criticizes it. From what authority? From the authority of societal power?
We can only conclude from all this that science has framed reality, from within a Western perception about what nature is all about, a perception that is adapted to the errants of societal power. This sounds suspiciously close to religious faith and not necessarily better than any other faith in history. Being aware of the incontrovertibility of these damaging facts we have to categorically refuse that science could ever be used to suppress the meaning of the principle of life as well as threatening human existence. If there is anything at all that is sacred it is the principle of life that is embodied in the human specie and this should be untouchable.
Having said all that I will be the first to agree that the scientific method is one of the greatest gifts that has been bestowed on humanity. But, let's be clear, the scientific method is no more than a communication method that allows for the replicability of a test in order to confirm or not the viability of an hypothesis. The problem is that this method has been satisfying the near exclusive interest of a small minority since so long that it is now being perceived to be carrying the ideological baggage of that minority. This is a shame.
Innovation as rupture
“Creative destruction” is known as Schumpeter's idea of the destruction of existing ways by innovating and developing new ways. Over the last decades this idea has morphed into an ideology that obsesses for novelty. The result is disconnection, incoherence, and increasing uncertainty for the individuals as well as for society at large.
But why such an obsession with innovation?
Creative destruction serves as the justification and deliberate introduction of new products that are pushed in the minds of consumers by making believe the falling value of similar products sold previously. The whole operation relies on communication techniques to manipulate the minds in order to push consumers to purchase and thus swell the returns of corporations which finally increases the surpluses of capital holders. In other words creative destruction is one of the strategies that the mechanical reason at work within capital impulses to satisfy its thirst for growth.
So innovation is a principle to satisfy capital and to hide its true nature corporations are financing communication campaigns through the complete gamut of available media that involve public relation specialists, discourses by intellectuals, and advertisement. Communication is used with the intention to make believe that innovation is being demanded by the consumers. But in reality innovation is a process that necessitates financing spread over different specialized sectors:
- fundamental science
- applied research and development
- production processes
Fundamental science is financed largely by the public sector. Sometimes large corporations are associated in the effort. Those investments are realized in the hope to impulse wholly new sectors of economic activity. Once such a knowledge matures it is being transferred to private corporations who apply that new knowledge in the development of commodities and it is at this stage that design, engineering of production processes and marketing enter the fray. In other words the make believe campaigns that the innovation is being demanded by the consumer is only undertaken for mature products that are planned to be offered on the market in the near future. This proves without a shred of a doubt that innovation is a principle whose only purpose is to satisfy capital and nothing else.
Marketing is in charge of making believe that the consumers are demanding the commodities resulting from the investments realized by capital in the chain of activities starting from research and concluding with the engineering of production processes. But only after the deep knowledge of a new line of products has been transferred to corporations will capital invest in applied research and development to launch new commodities. This explains how the ultimate decider about the fields of research is capital, or public or private, and why scientists and researchers have to submit to its orders. Darpa, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is one of the biggest investors in fundamental research and also in the prototyping of new products like robots. Darpa's is investing in a wide range of sectors (Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, communications, etc…). Google was one of the beneficiaries of its investments in web search. All this indicates the intermingling of big capital's interests with state power.
The whole field of innovation is driven by the mechanics of the reason of capital while it is being justified by the institutional agents of rationality as being the march of humanity toward progress. Nowhere do we observe in this whole process that the well-being of humanity is ever being taken into account. To be taken into account the well-being of humanity would need to be put at the center of humanity's priorities and it would then become the subject on everyone's mind. In the process everything else would be made dependent on it but this is certainly not what we observe.
So in order to satisfy the internal mechanics of capital the societal system has to make forget about human will and its ideas about well-being. This is why the first priority for capital was to invest in communication technologies in order to manipulate the populations to demand the products generated by the innovations that it has been investing in. This is kind of a perpetual machine that day after day churns out capital surpluses by producing without end new products that destroy past ones.
The end of the road
The well-being of the human specie is not a concern of this perpetual machine. The mechanical reason at work within capital is the motor that powers our economies and it has made rupture the general principle by which innovation enters daily life. This is then being communicated as the top of progress. But such an economic construct dwells further and further apart from any concern for humanity's need to reproduce into the future. When this point is made the intellectuals at the service of the machine invariably answer that we are entering a singularity that is incomprehensible for our poor human brains and that henceforth we'll have to abdicate the power of the human mind to the Artificial Intelligence power of the machine. Capital now wants the abdication of the human mind because its mechanical reason aligns with the mechanical reason of the machine.
The mystery to me is how otherwise smart people like scientists could accept the idea of an abdication of the human mind.
What is going on here?
To me this looks like the end of the road, a final rupture, or better perhaps the conclusion of a system of thinking. It is as if Western societal culture completely lost it, as if it lost trace of the place of humanity in the whole. Fireworks all over the world! It is the abdication of our humanity. This abdication to the machine is imposing in our minds the ultimate relativism toward the principle of life. But such a ultimate relativism is a sacrifice to the devil.
The game is nevertheless not over yet. The only way this could come to pass would be:
- through strict sociatal engineering of consent and the use of physical force by a totalitarian system imposed by big capital to all societies on earth.
- by chance big capital does not have full control over all societies on earth. There is thus still a chance that this project will be resisted. This is a worldwide class-war that is going on! And competent men of power are certainly not any longer to be found, in quantities, in the West...
In my mind it is crystal clear that this path toward complete insanity is the result of Western Christian dualism. The game of human life was presented with a beginning as an act of creation through “the love of god”. That beginning meant there was an end and that end of the game of life is “the love of the machine” that subjects humanity to the mechanics at work within capital and an absolute obedience in reason and rationality.
1 & 2. “From Modernity to After-Modernity”. I wrote this series of 20 posts during the 2014-2015 winter. They form book 1 of a broader approach about the transition from the historical era of Modernity to what comes after Modernity. That first book totals approximately 120,000 words. I'll rework the text and prepare the illustrated lay-out of an e-book that I'll also publish as a very short run art edition, within the next following… years.
3. Lynn White. “Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis”. This article was initially published in Science, New Series, Vol. 155, No. 3767 (Mar. 10, 1967)
It is available as a free PDF
5. Discussion of the question "non-Chinese dynasties"on Quora