Partial Demarchy

Tuesday, June 10th 2014

Most people are turned off politically. They don't have much say over anything, so they don't bother getting involved or thinking about things deeply. People spend more time contemplating what type of car to buy than which prime minister to elect. I don't blame them. Politics is boring.

You could say this is good. It's stable. It's not radical. You don't have to pay attention because things are working. But it's only good if the status quo works. But what happens when it doesn't work, stops working or has to change?

The trouble with democracy is that it is dominated by professional politicians. They tend to concentrate on politics to the exclusion of other activity. They tend to adopt policies that keep them in favour with their peers and that keep them employed in their chosen profession. This is fine in moderation. But in excess, the political class becomes a "class" rather than a sampling of the population at large. Certain personalities and ways of thinking come to dominate without many insiders realising it.

A type of ideological in-breeding occurs. The differences between nominal competitors for power are trivial or - sometimes -mendaciously designed to manufacture perceptions of difference. Meanwhile the real operations of the government remain the province of specialists beholden to lobbyists, insiders, special interests and so on. If people aren't paying attention democracy slips into oligarchy.

This is great for the mendacious: they can operate in the shadows. It is also great for the incompetent - they just have to know what to say and when to say it, not why they say it. Or, heaven forbid, think of something to say. They have to do very little of consequence except tow the party line. Politics becomes oddly robotic and formulaic.

The spectacle of a bland managerial elite pandering to disinterested punters is not only forumlaic and tiresome, it ends up being destructive. Due to the ideological in-breeding and closeted nature of the political class, when change is required, they are not up to it. They don't have the wider experience or expertise required. Then the stability the political class crave ends up fostering radical discontent at the margins. Eventually, the institution of democracy come into question.

How do you dilute the political class, reduce the in-breeding and moderate the influence of insiders?

The Dance of Implications

Monday, June 9th 2014

There's a form of manners that teaches that it's impolite to ask for anything directly. Instead of: "Would you help me with these bags", it's … "these bags are so heavy, I don't know how I'll cope on my own."

Rather than put a person into the position of saying "yes" or "no", which can be awkward, you ask for something indirectly. The person can render assistance (or whatever it may be) if the he or she wants to. What could be more polite than that?

But this form of politeness changes from being polite to being silly quite quickly.

Everything is implied. Social lives become confusing and difficult to interpret and impolite to state out loud. The inhibits honest analysis and self awareness. If people aren't habituated to it they can end up lost of tsunami of faux pas and are often excluded. (The reverse is also true, people who communicate this way to people who aren't habituated to this code the manners end up communciating very little at all - they come across as making lots of peculiar statements).

The operating emotions are guilt and shame. A person does things out of duty (guilt in disguise, which is really just fear in a tophat). She has to interpret the implied request and then act on it. On the surface, she observed a need or circumstance. It's her choice to act on it. It gives her an - often illusory - sense of volition.

To the naive, the dance makes the requester seem like an impartial actor with no particular agenda. But the statement of need or contrived circumstance is tailored to engender guilt. If the guilt level is higher than the pain of doing it, the requester will get compliance. The secret for the requester is to:

  • habituate others to the system of compliance;
  • increase guilt levels so that the request is fulfilled;
  • exclude those who state needs and wants more directly.

This creates the circumstances around a person that makes them comply whilst she thinks they are still making a choice.

Of course, it's a dance. That is: one implication can be met by another. One implication can be met by another implication.

"These bags are so heavy, I don't know how I'll cope on my own."

"I know," comes the reply. "I'm so glad I didn't bring any bags this time. I needed my free hands to take the photographs you promised grandmother I'd take … she's on her last legs you know."

Over time the layers of meaning become inculturated. Different groups have different sets of meaning. The British class system perfected this system of in-group implications. The nature of communication becomes lost in sea of obscure symbolism.

If people aren in the habit of communicating this way, eventually they don't even know what they want themselves. The internal dialogue becomes as obscure as the external one. The dance becomes the aim and object; adjusting the pain vs guilt equation in your favour through noble sacrifice, etc. Or, for some, creating perception of noble sacrifice, suffering and so on (I'm so busy! Working so hard! I wish I had time to indulge myself). Over time, the layers of meaning become inculturated. The dance becomes ritual.

Meritocracy, the Kludge and Networks

Saturday, June 7th 2014

According to the historican Peter Hennessy, a man asked Ludwig von Beethoven if he was an aristocrat. (The "von" indicated he may have been). "I'm not a land owner," replied Ludwig. "I'm a brain owner."

Hennessy mentions this anecdote giving a talk about his great pal, Michael Young. Young coined the word "meritocracy" in his 1958 book "The Rise of the Meritocracy".

Rise of the Meritocracy

The book was a satire and a warning. The book ends in bloody revolution in the year 2033, when the narrator is killed and the meritocracy comes to a violent end.

The word is widely used now. Usually with no reference to the book that it came from. Even more strangely, it is often used in sentences completely divorced from Young's egalitarian critique of the meritocratic ideal and its consequences. Young wrote this in 2001:

I have been sadly disappointed by my 1958 book, The Rise of the Meritocracy. I coined a word which has gone into general circulation, especially in the United States, and most recently found a prominent place in the speeches of Mr Blair.

The book was a satire meant to be a warning (which needless to say has not been heeded) against what might happen to Britain between 1958 and the imagined final revolt against the meritocracy in 2033.

Much that was predicted has already come about. It is highly unlikely the prime minister has read the book, but he has caught on to the word without realising the dangers of what he is advocating. source


Friday, June 6th 2014


Valerie the Queen of Rock City

Thursday, June 5th 2014

Valerie the Queen of Rock City

Neem Nid

Wednesday, June 4th 2014

Neem Nid

We're at the bottom of page 66.

Click a page number above to go to that page.