Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bankruptcy of liberal proceduralism

Sounds good to me, Levi. We are all children of the Sun, indebted to its self-immolating generosity. But then what is energy, anyway? After several hundred years, techno-science has achieved wonders through the instrumental mastery of energy. But what is it? How is it that the energy studied by physics becomes the libido studied by psychologists? If we are to take thermopolitics seriously, don’t we (we political theorists) also need an account for how free action is possible in a world described by physics as (at least statistically) deterministic? If it is all just the playing out of the laws of thermodynamics, where is there any room left over for politics? 
It seems to me you want to marshall a discourse surrounding energy on behalf of a movement for political liberation. But for this to make any sense, aren’t we going to need to define energy in a more general, perhaps more speculative way than the instrumental definitions of physicists?
Even the Christian mystic Teilhard de Chardin granted that “To think we must eat.” “The highest speculation and the most burning love,” he continues, “must be coupled with, and must be paid for by, an expenditure of physical energy, as we know too well. Sometimes we need bread; sometimes wine, sometimes the infusion of a chemical element or hormone; sometimes the stimulus of color; sometimes the magic of sound passing through our ears as a vibration and emerging in our brain in the form of an inspiration…But on the other hand, so many different thoughts come out of the same piece of bread! Just like the letters of an alphabet, which can produce incoherence as well as the most beautiful poem ever heard, the same calories seem to be as indifferent as they are necessary to the spiritual values they nourish.” (‘The Human Phenomenon,’ p. 29-30). 
Teilhard is committed to the rejection of any dualism between physical and spiritual energies, and he dismisses the idea that these two might somehow transform one into the other. He ends up articulating a form of evolutionary panexperientialism, which rests on the same family of process ontologies articulated in detail by Bergson and Whitehead. There is plenty to be suspicious of in Teilhard’s thermopolitical framework, but nonetheless, he recognizes the profundity of the problem.

Of course, the American project in democracy is a moderate version: a democratic republic. The founding fathers were just as concerned with a tyranny of the mob as they were with a centralized tyranny. It never was the case of the exercise of “collective power” so nothing, really, “has given way to democracy as representation”: American democracy was always ‘representative’. 
Although I am uncertain that Adam does not mean ‘representation’ as Vorstellung, he directs some concern to ‘representatives’ of ideals such as inclusiveness and diversity. The ‘democracy to come’ awaits its own advent, and might be undone in the waiting, as ‘to come’ (as Caputo and Derrida might say) might very well crush ‘democracy’ under the pressure of the waiting. Democracy—Vorstellung. Yes, I agree.

Oct 29, 2014 - Scientists recently discovered that good leadership plays a key role in the success of a particular species of insect. It turns out that the larvae of the Australian steel blue sawfly – known locally as the spitfire – can teach us a lot about the value of democratic leadership.
The larvae might only reach a length of 7cm, but en masse they are a force to be reckoned with. Grouping together in their hundreds, the diminutive creatures thrive by following a leader to forage for food. Unlike other species like baboons and wolves where the leader asserts dominance through taking a greater share of the food, both followers and leaders in these sawfly communities feast on the same amount of Eucalyptus leaves (yum). Working together, the insects can strip an entire tree of its leaves in a matter of days.
The larvae evidently value their democracy – they typically stay together in their large groups for the duration of the larval stage, about seven months. What’s more, scientists observing groups of the creepy crawlies discovered that groups comprised of all leaders and all followers were ultimately less successful than one with a mix of leaders and followers; it was found that in these mixed groups, both leaders and followers were better off than they would otherwise be. 
In rapidly changing, dynamic work environments, democratic leadership of this sort is important. We must work together in these fast changing circumstances, recognising the value of collaboration. The leaders who do best here are those who accept the ideas of their colleagues, taking all options into account before making a decision for the good of the team, benefiting everyone. 
If we can swallow our human pride, there are lessons to be learned from sawfly larvae – here are some tips to keep your team as democratic as a Eucalyptus tree that’s crawling with hungry bugs.

Thomas D. Seeley - 2010 - ‎If it is deposited in a standard-size cell in the combs, where after hatching into a larva it will be fed by the workers with standard-quality larval food, then it will ...

Susan P. Liebell - 2013 - Darwin had claimed that cruelty and imperfections in the natural world— particularly the larval cannibalism ichneumon wasps—might be more easily explained 

Reason why Mythology is pernicious. "The concepts the mind clings to are the most powerful idols."… @IndiaFactsOrg - 7:06am - 22 Jan 15

Unearthing cosmopolitanism - Times of India - Jan 25, 2015
... important in their own times" is what Sachidananda Mohanty's book, Cosmopolitan Modernity in the Early 20th Century, sets out to achieve.

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