The no-problem-society III – Beautification of living trying to gain space

No problem, of course – indeed, only if there is shadow, there will be light. And the one-sided view, so prevalent as it is so easy, allows to ignore seeing the ‘dark side’ – which of course is a problem for those actually sitting in the middle of the shadow. In other words, what really is at stake is – as so often – the old question not simply concerned with to be or not to be but where and how to be – the Shakespearean is relatively simple to answer as it is universal in the sense of the finality that is involved: a simple reduction of being on physical existence, the story around it nice, superstructural and though it is essential for the individual it is in terms of the social not much more than bric-à-brac. The other question deserves a more differentiated look as it is about power, and as such it is, equal to the question of value, fundamentally relational and ‘human’. Three quotes from Hannah Arendt’s book on the human conditions are providing some food for thought:

 Man, in so far as he is homo faber, instrumentalizes, and his in- strumentalization implies a degradation of all things into means, their loss of intrinsic and independent value, so that eventually not only the objects of fabrication but also ‘the earth in general and all forces of nature,’ which clearly came into being without the help of man and have an existence independent of the human world, lose their ‘value because [they] do not present the reification which comes from work’.[1]

And

The unfortunate truth about behaviorism and the validity of its ‘laws’ is that the more people there are, the more likely they are to behave and the less likely to tolerate non-behavior. Statistically, this will be shown in the leveling out of fluctuation. In reality, deeds will have less and less chance to stem the tide of behavior, and events will more and more lose their significance, that is, their capacity to illuminate historical time. Statistical uniformity is by no means a harmless scientific ideal; it is the no longer secret political ideal of a society which, entirely submerged in the routine of everyday living, is at peace with the scientific outlook inherent in its very existence.[2]

It is also about equality

This modern equality, based on the conformism inherent in society and possible only because behavior has replaced action as the foremost mode of human relationship, is in every respect different from equality in antiquity, and notably in the Greek city-states.[3]

While Hannah Arendt discusses these issues in the perspective of the general conditions of existence, it is not less, perhaps even more relevant in terms of social classes and groups – and the spaces provided for the development.

Sifting things onto the behavioural level is usual simple: the appeal to be optimist, the appeal to behave in a responsible and respectful way, to be emphatic – and even the non-utilitarian approach will soon reveal the real issue. And that is the objectivity of shadow, the objectivity of the shades of grey .., and the nevertheless somewhat finality of black. As we could see: defined by statistics, defined by the combination of different paint particles.

Indeed, as Arendt pointed out, action is not least a matter of speech, understood as consequential communication. However, as the issue had been previously about space and its creation, we can approach this way (some of) the underlying issue(s): real spaces are about real communication, at least about allowing real communication – honest communication as dispute. The true ‘art’ of the Greek polis in which communication was about dispute which was about having the better arguments – and of course: the better way of presenting. Surely different of compared to today’s common mutual confirmation and shown agreement – with the clenched fist in the pocket and shaking the head after turning around … no problem, just do what you can present – and today, more than ever before, you can present figures.

Even indicators and evidence are reduced on means of confirming and proving what we know, not helping us to understand complex patterns and reducing issues on simplified causal and mono-directional connections.[4]

Quality of any product or service is now defined by … – by what the producer or provider states it is about. Yes, it is reality defined for instance by the ISO, the new gods of the International Organization for Standardization claiming

We develop and publish International Standards.

It is simple: if we include for instance the failing of the product after three years in the definition of a standard of a lawn mover and if the product is failing after three years it may be said it is ‘good’. Lasting longer would actually not be ‘good’, as it would not ‘fail as promised’.

Goethe’s Mephisto already knew:

To nonsense reason turns, and benefit to worry.
Woe unto you that you’re a grandchild, woe!
For of the law that was born with us, no!
Of that, alas! there never is a query.[5]

(Goethe, 1806)

One of the problems – perhaps this makes us feeling that things are ‘new’, that they are getting worse – may be that we witness some kind of exponential growth of stupidity: close a hole by digging another and dig another hole to close the second and …, with any new one we are not simply facing a spatial shift but instead a larger than the original one that we closed, somewhat unrecognised, piecemeal strategies to maintain some form of peace, friable and from the beginning inclined to emerge as smooth nonsense: beautiful and without substance and without even claiming any substance.

But if things would be as simple as they appear to be … but they aren’t if we allow moving forwards and backwards, acknowledging the dialectical, dual meaning of sublation. –What is this about then?

Recently I looked a bit into Artificial Intelligence, also watched some films (as e.g. Ex Machina, Her). I still think it is interesting – and something that, in different ways, goes beyond the ‘narrow topic’. There is a film ‘Io e Caterina’, in Italian, a comedy but it is about the relationship between a man and his robot. Another thing I saw recently at the airport in Helsinki: a ‘voting stand’ asking the esteemed user to asses the service. What is new, remarkable? The development: It begins with people meeting at the counter and expressing directly what they think of each other, possibly ‘feedback cards’ can be found on the desk. Then there is the ‘press button-feedback’ at counters: emoticons where we still are asked to ‘assess how people perform’. Now we have machines by which we can assess how other machines ‘behave’: how did you like the automatic self-check-in?

This links well to what I wrote earlier: marrying a robot.

The legal dimension of such ‘marriage between humans and robots’ is actually in the perspective of legal doctrine a fascinating question … ridiculous? not imaginable? The real problem with self-driving cars is … exactly the same – the need to redefine the legal subject and include a ‘body’ that is so far not capable of holding rights. Frightening? Sure, to some extent. However finding an answer may also open a way to redefine ‘rights of nature’ – a discussion we are pursuing in many Latin-American countries, in particular in Bolivia … – indeed, now the question seems to go beyond the differentiation between behaviour and action a sit had been posed earlier, with reference to Hannah Arendt. Now we are challenged to search for higher for higher forms of both, behaviour and action.

Especially as we can move now back to the question of spaces and spatial (not least urban) development. On of the core problems is that under the condition that requires everything has to be measurable, standardised everything has to be as well appear as reification, even more so: is reification and by this it is made tangible. What is more, this reification is on the one hand individualised as only as act of individuals who are ‘trading’ reified ‘things’ the social is constituted. What is more, the ex-ante-inclusion of social considerations into this relationship would actually make it impossible to function in the required way. This means not least that little profit coming from these individual relationships is better than large profits from social engagement. This is one of the explanations (admittedly amongst others that are not less important) that we find the global pressure on prices – the all-presence of ‘cheap stuff’, the need for the generalisation of the common law of business balance as matter that pushes all of us – well, the majority – downwards.

However, there are indications of limits having been reached, pushing to some new forms of bringing things together. ‘complete individualisation’ and ‘complete commodification’ are striving for their exoneration, for re-socialisation and de-commodification: at this stage it is about the socialisation of private space, not more, and not less: the shopping malls as destination of the outing; the coffee shop as living room and office – its flagship supposing that everything is

Crafted by hand and heart

Where one can

Make every sip more rewarding

And of course it is a place where the contradiction is life, stands at the core: the very person and hand and heart driven service offers that you can

Pay with your phone. And do so much more.

 

Such ‘imagined communities’, this changing cultures of coffeehouses, are now taking over even the traditional small nests of the old cultures, the nests of resistance as for instance the probably strongest defenders of the national coffee bar tradition and there are many other of these ‘communities’ now: other coffee companies, restaurants that change the concept of self-service towards self-production, the DIY.

And they are also emerging in other areas: the various ‘communities’ as researchgate.net and academia.edu, allowing all of us putting us under pressure, establishing a climate of ‘digital self-monitoring – the self-tracing in cybernetic capitalism’[6], and also giving us the feeling of moving in a space of discourse where we are

… invited you to participate in the comments on his draft paper …

To view the paper and comments, please follow the link below:

Writing about this topical field – topical on the sense of current, it also in the understanding of dealing with a subject matter – is difficult as it is again and again dis-tracted into looking at the details: the dying system still being able not only to maintain but even to gain. Perhaps there is really not more in it? Let’s wait and see …

****

 

[1]            Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press: 156; with reference to Das Kapital, HI [Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, Abt. II, Zurich, 1933], 698

[2]            ibid.: 43

[3]            ibid, 41; see then also pages 159 ff., the chapter on The Exchange Market.

[4]            see Herrmann, Peter, 2014: Indicators – More than Evidence and Maths; in: Kondratieff Waves: Juglar – Kuznets – Kondratief; editors: Leonid Grinin (Russia), Tessaleno Devezas (Portugal), Andrey Korotayev (Russia); Volgograd: ‘Uchitel’ Publishing House

[5]            Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1806: Faust I, Vers 1972 ff; English translation

[6]            Simon Schaupp, 2106: Digitale Selbstüberwachung. Self-Tracking im kybernetischen Kapitalismus’; Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, 160 Seiten, ISBN 3939045292

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