That's a good question.
Excellent article, with one exception: the man-made global climate crisis section - no basis in scientific fact that we are causing whatever major changes that are, or will be taking place, now or in the future.
Once upon a time, WWII veterans who worked for the US forest service developed a general emergency response playbook for fighting wildfires. It was very good. So good and adaptable (it doesn’t prescribe specific actions but procedures for making decisions) that it was adopted by all government agencies and private industry. One can get certified in aspects of applying it.
Covid was textbook situation for applying ER procedures, and yet we never did. Nor can it be blamed on trump because public health professionals at the highest levels ignored the ER binders in their offices and Biden didn’t course correct and return to them. It was and is systemic. It will be more and more problematic in the future.
On this I speak from significant, professional experience at various levels of responsibility in incident command teams.
Piece on climate change was guaranteed to draw out "debate'. I don't deny human impact on global climate but I don't buy in to the story about very small amount of CO2 causing drastic weather impacts. But if there is one thing that pisses me off it is reading the terms "climate change denier", "covid denier", "vaccine denier"... It usually signifies closed minds and therefore no point reading their views any further.
However, in general I do buy into the rapidity of decline could catch us all out theory. The threads binding our Western society are thin and heavily interlinked. Almost all of us fail to grasp just how tenuous they are and how quickly the veneer of civilization can degrade.
I was underwhelmed. Pretentious as hell, plenty of bombast, but when I start looking at what it’s actually saying and whether there’s any analysis backing it up . . . there isn’t much there.
The whole “PMC” thing you see a lot of these days I find interesting. They’re inventing a class (that was originally invented by the Participatory Economics people, under the name “co-ordinator class”). But they’re using it largely to AVOID class analysis. The Participatory Economics people invented the co-ordinator class to DO class analysis–they made claims about the structural role of the co-ordinator class that make them and their interests distinct from either the working class or capitalist class, and talked about the political/economic implications of that.
But this stuff doesn’t do that. It’s just cultural-oriented twaddle; it’s a dressed up version of “they don’t do things the way they used to when I was a kid, nobody respects their elders any more, why don’t they learn the three Rs?” Really, it talks a ton about how the modern higher education system, really mostly just in the US but rhetorically extended to anywhere else kind of rich, is somehow uniquely bad because reasons, and that somehow makes modern managers uniquely incompetent. But it doesn’t really say why that should be so. Oh, and “caste”? Really? Come off it. Does this guy know what a “caste” IS? Maybe, but if so he knows he’s not using it here to mean anything, just to arouse vague emotional resonances. And, the whole line of, um, argument? confounds two very different aspects of modern higher education.
The more emotional part is complaints about, basically, the “soft” stuff, including sort of “soft political” stuff–the woke subjects like gender studies or anything dealing with race. Now, anti-woke type would LIKE to say people shouldn’t study that stuff because it makes it harder to keep the darkies down, but the halfway serious ones can’t quite do that. So they try to talk like the problem is supposed to be some kind of proliferation of, basically, studies of useless stuff, that diverts peoples ideas and energies into blind alleys with no practical purpose. (Note that they don’t bitch about the proliferation of theological colleges–talk about studying useless stuff)
This is ahistoric nonsense. Elite education has rarely been about anything practical or useful, including that of the most successful bureaucracy the world has ever seen, the China of the bureaucratic qualification exams, which were all about literature and history and philosophy and stuff. It never mattered because people learn on the job, so as long as they’ve learned how to learn they’ll be OK.
And in terms of recent times, the liberal arts and social sciences, even when you add in the “woke” social sciences, get a smaller proportion of university funding today than they ever have. Universities used to emphasize literature, philosophy and freaking Latin! There was WAY more of the “useless” stuff than there is now, and it was far more thorough, proud and unrepentant about its uselessness because few thought university was supposed to be a vocational school. Meanwhile, women’s studies is a TINY department–go to any university, look at the enrollment, look at the budget, look at the number of offices. Same goes for all the other stuff the right bitch about being studied at universities. There is no possible way any of that stuff is having a big impact on political economy.
So no, if our managers are different from other managers in some way, it has nothing to do with woke university professors. It probably has a lot more to do with being a hegemon, and having been one for a while. Empires always seem to get like that; their big organizations are so big, and have not been seriously challenged for so long, that everyone in them doesn’t feel a need to worry about the ostensible goals of the organization and instead works to feather their own nest in some way.
But there is one aspect of the modern university education that probably does have some impact on modern organizations and how they are run. That would be the business department. Unlike women’s studies departments, business departments are huge. Unlike race studies departments, business departments are explicitly dedicated to training people how to run big modern organizations. Unlike comparative literature departments, the people trained in business departments then, in their masses and droves, go and in fact do run those organizations. I mean, huge size, explicitly designed to teach people to manage organizations, and their graduates do in fact run nearly all large organizations . . . gee, if I were looking for something in education that might actually influence organizations, do you suppose that could be a candidate?
And business departments didn’t exist before about the 70s-80s, so if you’re looking for something that changed relatively recently . . . yeah. And the thing is, the business department, along with its little uncle the economics department, has a particular ideology; these things were created by capitalists for the purpose of funneling more money to the capitalists, and one of the core methods was the financialization of everything. Another is basically the relentless finding of more and more externalities. But there you go–the thing is that this is not some kind of autonomous cultural force that magically created incompetence. This is a tool of the ruling class to reinforce their hegemony, a tool which has worked very well. It has some drawbacks, particularly from a “whole of society” perspective, or even just a “keeping NATO capitalists dominant over other capitalists” perspective, but the capitalist class have been laughing all the way to the bank and controlling the hell out of the politicians, so a success so far from their perspective. And it is not the only such tool. There are lots; think tanks and PR firms, for instance. So again, this is not a story where universities somehow single-handedly remade society. It don’t work that way.
Some of the “universities became garbage and that’s the problem” crowd do complain some about the business department, or about bits of it at least, but they don’t seem to understand why it’s a problem; again, this article seems to be rolling it in with the incompetence idea, like business departments are teaching people to be ineffective. They’re not, they’re teaching people to be effective at doing something that is bad for most people–these days often including even the more traditional capitalists. The line between effective financial capitalism and ruthless exploitation of externalities on one hand, and fraud on the other, is pretty minimal. The idea is not to do anything useful, the idea is to make rich people money, and it’s doing that.
Now, nowhere here am I trying to claim there’s no such thing as an urban upper-middle class which holds managerial and some prestige positions, which is doing well for itself so far, and which has no empathy for the working class, including the white outer-suburban+rural working class. There is. But it isn’t much different from how it’s ever been, its education (aside from the business schools) is no worse than it’s ever been, and its effective competence is mostly determined by institutional factors that have nothing to do with whether some of its members took some courses and got tainted with a belief in equal hiring for women and blacks and gays.
And if you want universities to stop being bastions of class privilege, the answer isn’t not teaching any courses about gays or chicks, it’s abolishing tuition fees and expanding access so people from all classes can go.
Thank you for these insights! It seems we are facing something like the Medusa, a monstrosity almost impossible to kill. But using a mirroring shield Perseus froze Medusa by the horror of her own mirror-image, so that he could cut her head off. Maybe the monstrrosity of our civilization can be stopped by mirroring its horrors to itself. How fitting that eu is headed by a female.
Yes, a very thoughtful article. Shame the comments don't do it justice.
The world is now made up of complex man-made systems which have very little redundancy due to the 'just in time' supply chain cult. So if one part of the system breaks down, it all grinds to a halt. eg 'you can have a table without the legs', 'a fridge without the doors' etc etc
Imagine if the 'third world' countries that still manufacture stuff just tell the financial centres of the universe (US, UK) that unless they do this or that, then all antibiotics will be cut off, and also vaccines, all chemotherapy products. The West has put itself into a weak position, while deluded that they are still strong.
Somehow most of the western populations have been infantilised, to the point of confusing foot stamping with effective actions.
One thing that occurs to me, Aurelien. is that people will come to your last essay, praise it and spread it, and then go on doing the same damn thing you pillory. Namely, support "cool ideas" because hey, they are so cool, and thinking through consequences is so taxing. You could -- we all could -- spark an effort to sweep all the accrued bullshit off the table. No more "defund the police" when in actuality you have no clue how to do "community policing." Which takes me back to the day when the same sorts of unserious people were (in the US) shutting down mental health hospitals because "freedom and self determination for everyone" was such a cool idea, with a lot of these poor souls ending up on the street. The "cool idea" then was "community mental health care" which never happened.
What may not be clear from that essay is that people on the conservative side are just as guilty of pushing "cool ideas" that lack contact with consequences. Just look at the drug war. A 100 years ago, their cool idea was to "shut down the saloons and ban demon rum"! It did not work out as planned. So we do the same thing with the other substances people like to abuse. With more overdose deaths and more money to criminals, every year, like clockwork.
Sorry, don't mean to ramble. I am all about how to apply what you wrote about. How do we quit this bullshit about cool ideas. And I guess how do we avoid the unserious people like Tom and Daisy like the plague! :-)
Just wanted to thank you for your essays over the past six months. They've been a breath of fresh air and a kick in my butt. So many in my generation are utterly addicted to entertainment and/or the mainstream propaganda. If the west is going to make it through this, that's going to have to change, starting with me. I can't say I have all the answers yet, I'm still not sure what my "calling" is, but over the past few months I've had the realization that there really is no one coming to save us. If I want a West where people are competent and moral, and where institutions work, I have to embody those ideals. And that means more study and less mindless hedonism. So thank you Aurelian!
aurelian - just a quick comment on your concerns at the beginning.. regarding the PMC article you wrote previously, which i thought was great.. it might be rewarding to talk about the ruling class who support the PMC and how an inept PMC actually works in the favour of this same ruling class.. people are hired to screw up and keep things in a state of chaos, as opposed to a smooth running system..
I was pretty sure that Conrad Von Hotzendorf's love for Gina Von Reininghaus was far from unrequited. At some point, I think after the fall of Romania, the Dual Monarchy even used its influence with the Vatican to obtain an annulment so that they could marry.
Incidentally, Romania entering the war on the Entente side caused the Central Powers more stress than the entry of the United States.
Anyway, the sociopaths running the West would exterminate 99% of life on earth without a second thought, if that was the price of dominion over whatever was left. "Don't Look Up!" might as well have been a documentary.
Here is how a system engineer/operations research analyst (from WW II and on) looks at a "problem":
Simply put, these are (1) the nature of the problem or crisis I would call this the 'operational view', in case of aircraft: I want to fly from point A to point Z. The problem statement is usually made w/o regard for other consideration, but you may find you have to change something in the other two views, or change the object. A problem with political stuff~!
(2) the individuals who are trying to deal with it and I would call this the 'technical view', that is the pilots and flight crew, as well as the capability of the aircraft to fly to point Z.
(3) what the system within which they are working allows them to do. We call this 'systems view' as all the effects needed outside the aircraft module needed to get to point Z: air traffic control, ground servicing, the repair state of the aircraft, fuel, weather etc.
the above is roughly what US DoD suggests, judging from performance the past 30 years they divert...... critical thinking and freedom to investigate the real issues!
The overall thrust is all very true. Climate change created by humans though has never been proven, it is a religion of faith rather than fact, smallpox was already in substantial decline before the vaccine was ever used, and recent studies show spread of covid in schools was almost non existent, and ill fitting masks had no bearing on that. Your big picture analysis is excellent, interesting though how as a European you still believe a host of the institutional fallacies. And of course what is a conspiracy theory? Anything outside official doctrine, a doctrine that generally has financial beneficiaries.
This series of trials needs further analysis. Where is the connection with the other social classes and the capitalist dynamic?
It is clear that the outsourcing of functions to other countries and the decline in the capacities of the state apparatus were caused by the search for a higher rate of profit and greater control of the organized popular and middle classes. Reagan, Thatcher and Pinochet did not come out of nowhere.
I don't think the PMC is a homogeneous group. It seems to me more "a coalition of interests" than a class.
As for the comments: binding only progressive values to the PMC is a bit superfluous. Don't conservative Republicans in the US have members in the PMC? Obviously yes.
The source of most of the problems you describe can reasonably be attributed to the financialization of the economy. Profitability trumps quality when any action that might interfere with the monetization of all value will be overridden by the vulture capitalists.
Government, as executive and regulatory function, is analogous to the nervous system, while money and banking function as the blood and circulation system of society.
We have evolved to the point of understanding government has to be a public utility, even if it is far more cumbersome than just one autocrat, but yet to seeing the same principle applies to banking.
When the medium enabling markets is privately held, we are all tenant farmers to the banks.
So rather than a functional system of asset allocation and accounting, we have this monstrosity sucking all value out of everything and using it as chips in the casino.
With public government and private banking, the banks rule. As there is less oversight, no elections to work around and control the finances of anyone running for office.
Consequently the one job the flunkies in office have, is running up the debt the banks need to store their mountains of cash. The secret sauce of capitalism is public debt backing private wealth.
As linear, goal seeking organisms in this cyclical, circular, reciprocal, feedback generated reality, people see money as signal to save and store, while markets need it to circulate.
Consequently Econ 101 refers to it as both medium of exchange and store of value.
Blood is a medium, fat is a store. Roads are a medium, parking lots are a store. The hallway is a medium, the hall closet is a store. Doctors, highway engineers and the average five year old have more sense than the field of economics.
Money is a public utility, like roads. It's not your picture on it, you don't hold the copyrights and are not responsible for its value, like a personal check. It is not a commodity to mine from society and the economy, but the social network and contract enabling it. As a medium, you own it like you own the section of road you are on, or the air and water flowing through your body.
Simply creating mountains of debt to back the stored money is not saving anything.
I could go on, but it's basic points like this, that have to be dealt with, before we are going to get our act together.
We don't even understand the difference between a store and a medium and we think we are going to solve the complicated stuff?????????
Dumb fuckery rules.
I stopped reading at "Likewise, human-induced climate change has now gone too far to stop, let alone reverse.". There is no human-induced climate change. Have you personally noticed any changes in the climate over the decades? We know it has been warmer in the past than presently. The infamous Hocky Stick was a failed attempt to hide the medieval warm period, which was warmer than today. BTW, the world thrived then, but became a miserable place during the little ice age that followed it. None of these climatic changes were human induced.
The climate alarmists don’t look at geological time scales that show atmospheric CO₂ concentrations were an order of magnitude higher than today. CO₂ comprises 0.04% of the atmosphere, If you want to visualize how small that number really is, imagine a pair of quarters placed in a row at the end of a football field. The combined width of those two coins as a percentage of the length of a 100 yard football field is a bit greater than the percentage of CO₂ in the atmosphere. Yet, we are supposed to believe that this tiny concentration of CO₂ in the atmosphere poses a dire threat to the world if it increases over the next 50 years. The bigger threat is any hare-brained schemes to reduce CO₂ concentrations. A reduction of CO₂ concentrations to 0.016% would halt photosynthesis and kill off all plant life on land. Animals would all die out soon after.
Of course, the alarmists never seem to understand that all the carbon in fossil fuels came from. the ancient atmosphere.
Lol I had enjoyed previous essays but had to stop with this gigantic honking turd: “Likewise, human-induced climate change has now gone too far to stop, let alone reverse.”
Gimme a break😂