Alberto Gaitan on Fri, 20 Jun 1997 09:12:21 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Declaration of the Obsolescence of Cyberhy

> From:          Issa Clubb <>
> Hi all -- this is my first post to the list. I'm impressed with the quality
> of the debates; things seem to be picking up just as almost all other lists
> fall asleep for the summer. I'd like to respond to the debate about
> potential correspondences between biology and economics, a topic I find
> fascinating and quite productive. Mark Dery and Alberto Gaitan, among
> others, have written engaging, serious attempts to get at the problem.
> First of all, I've read in a couple of posts a formulation which goes
> something like, "Humans are part of the natural world, therefore anything
> humans come up with is in a sense part of Nature." Surely the process of
> A statement like this is *not* semantic squabbling, as Gaitan
> suggests, rather an attempt to force the argument in one's favor.

Not at all how I meant it.  It's not a kludge.  A GoTo.  I meant it 
as an attempt to concede that it is tautological to use the term.  
I'm completely agnostic about it.  I'll stop using it if everyone 
else does, too.  <g>

> this to argue that the constitutionalist political concept of "inalienable
> rights" is "in some sense natural" is entirely useless, even if
> superficially, sure, I guess it's kinda true. Under this rubric DDT would
> be "natural". Whether we can find behaviors in nature that *resemble* a
> political concept -- though I like the idea of a jackal taking the Fifth --
> is a different matter entirely.

Yes, DDT is natural.  Doesn't mean it's good for the Earth any more 
than falling asteroids (also natural) are.

> Gaitan says, metaphors are necessary but limited. What I'm concerned about
> in the history of cross-pollination between science and politics is the
> constant slippage from metaphor to fact, and from study to ideology. Social

Yes.  It's the societal mind's arms thrashing about in the dark 
trying to make out features.

> Gaitan writes, "Human culture defines itself using the paradigm of the day."
> Granted. But it's also crucial to remember that human culture defines
> *nature* using the paradigm of the day. It's a feedback loop of metaphor,
> from which science is not exempt. Scientists use the metaphors, figures,

Hence its slipperyness.

> The question becomes, when is it ever counter-productive to those in
> control of a society's production of meaning, without some kind of
> "denaturalization" of prevailing ideology, to loosen their grip on that
> society's production of wealth? Do we wait until this is true?

In the extreme, where a monopolistic entity has extended control, 
the people roll out the guillotines; violent revolution.  The 
last resort.  More often, resistance to tyrannies spreads like a bad 
smell (dare I say like a virus?) until enough people want to do 
something about it, the "denaturalization" you speak of.

> Or, put another way, the tyrranies which are dismissed as naive -- Jim Crow
> laws, for instance -- actually at the time (to whites, of course) seemed
> like natural responses to a potential threat to the homeostatic equilibrium
> of the system. And the same, as Gaitan mentions, is true now -- the
> "threats" are different, that's all.
Well put.

> If we can claim that a given ecological system is most often viable or
> successful (I've heard the term "sane" used here, is that standard?) based
> on its complexity, density and flexibility (proliferation of many different
> species, etc.), can we not also claim that an economic "ecology" which is
> made up of a dense arrangement of varied "species" -- government, private
> companies, unions, NGOs, etc -- is likely to be more successful than a
> system optimized for just one type of institution? And that the second
> system is *more* likely to become a desert?

The question becomes Are all the examples you give above the analog 
of species?  In my mind, some of them, like government, obtain a kind 
of status like environment when examined locally (intra-nationally).  
When examined internationally, governments become like species and 
seems to argue for nation states rather than one world government.

I dug your post.

Alberto Gaitan
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