Friday, April 15, 2016

Organizations and Dominant Reason

In this post I wanted to tie two of the series I've been developing separately so far: the one about the evolution of the West's (and now the World's) dominant reason (history of dominant reason Ihistory of dominant reason II) and the one expounding my theory of the organization (Theory of organization IIIIIIIV and V), neatly represented by the following diagram:

As you may remember, in the latter theory the organization was a group of people within a common environment which used the resources available to them to pursue a common end, and which renounced (willingly or by compulsion) to some freedom in order to increase their chances of achieving said end. A necessary part of that environment is the implicit set of assumptions, models and definitions that enable them to agree about what the end consists in, how it fits within the wider definition of what a “life well lived” consists in, and what kind of pre-defined relationships of precedence (hierarchy) can be assumed from the whole of society (remember that within the theory that “whole of society” is just the political organization of higher order every individual within a bounded territory belongs to) to inform the more detailed ones within the closer group.

So we can consider that the dominant reason of the society that harbors any organization is a substantial (and required) part of its environment, which limits the kind of organizational agreements that can be meaningfully reached and vastly reduces the effort to create new organizations by providing a template to which they can easily conform. To get a better grasp of the influence they exert, it may be helpful to analyze the relative importance of different kinds of organizations (and the most salient examples of each kind) during the different phases that Western dominant reason has gone through in the last three centuries and a half, starting by what I’ve called Baroque Reason:

The most important organization for almost every member of society was back then the Church one belonged to. Such Church had sway over the most minute details of everybody’s life (it was, in our terms, much more Dominant than now, albeit less Adaptable, less Voluntary, less Isocratic, less Simple and less Egalitarian). Education was reduced to a few (but highly influential), and mostly controlled by the Church anyhow, while there were almost not political organizations in the current sense (the Nation State was beginning its formation, and only in a few places like France, Spain and England) and very minor economic ones. As the money one earned or the resources one commanded where considered very secondary in order to determine one’s station in life, economic activity was mostly oriented (for the majority of the population) to the satisfaction of the most basic needs, and didn’t require much coordination beyond that.

For reasons I’ve explained elsewhere, such organizational structure of the baroque period was destabilized by the combination of the printing press, a phonetical alphabet and the Protestant reformation, and catalyzed by thinkers like my much studied Davey Hume it was finally superseded by a new environment, dominated by a new kind of dominant reason:

Politically economic reason flourishes under a new scenario, sanctioned in the Treatises of Westphalia, which enshrine the now firmly established nation states as ultimate guarantors of their citizens’ rights. In an increasingly complex economy (these are the years when the Industrial Revolution has already taken off, bringing in its wake an increasing job specialization and automation, and taming the motive forces of steam power to supplement the animal power available until then) a man’s occupation occupies a growing portion of his interests (I’m deliberately using the masculine pronoun, as this is essentially a man’s world, although the budding factories started incorporating massively women and children in their semi indentured workforces).

Partly as a reaction against the excessive rationalism of the economic organization, the dominant reason takes a more spiritual turn and rediscovers the attraction of the uncanny and the occult, in what has been called the Romantic Revolution, which gives birth to its own, well differentiated kind of Reason, which will in turn force to an adaptation of the relations of dominance between the different types of organizations its citizens belonged to:

Note that not only the political affiliation becomes more important (not only due to the increasing weight of the consolidated nation states in the individuals’ consciences, but also because of the increased polarization within each particular state caused by the class and attitude towards the past centuries’ attempts at revolution), but also the education, as befits a society obsessed by “genius” (motivated by the displacement of the problem that occupied most the minds of the ruling classes, from assuring their subsistence to amusing themselves once such assurance could be taken from granted). Religion, in the meantime, looses not only its collective salience, but becomes substantially less dominant at each individual’s level.

The growing complexities of economic progress, and the exigencies of consolidating power in the face of an exploding population force reason to shift once again towards what we have called bureaucratic reason, forcing in turn a new shift in the relationship between the different organizational types:

Which takes us to our current predicament, in which after the collapse of the two challengers for world supremacy (one still anchored in sentimental reason, Nazi Germany, and the other anchored in bureaucratic reason: the Soviet Union) the country that more thoroughly embodies the tenets of the latest reason (the United States of America) can reign unopposed and present its understanding of how to organize both each individual’s life and the collective whereabouts of the whole society as the ultimate exemplar. Needless to say, under such assumptions the different organizational types have adapted themselves once more:

Indeed, in our current value system the economic organizations are almost the only meaningful ones, and to a certain extent the rest “count” only to the extent that they can enhance our chances to land a better job in a more rewarding economic organization (employer). The apparent successes of some Christian denominations both in Europe and in the States (mormons, Opus Dei, etc.) can be seen as a testament to the networks they can form, the social capital they can build, and thus the enhanced job prospects they offer most of its adherents. The main measure of the quality of any Western university is what wage differential it allows its alumni to command. And as it is well known, political parties of any persuasion have morphed into giant redistribution machines, which act as parasites on the overall economic activity of the nation to suck resources and give them more or less covertly to those monogamously associated with them (that’s why declaring political allegiance can be a minefield for any businessman, as it would keep him unable to access the public teat while the opposing party is in power).

This analysis provides us with a powerful tool to imagine alternative ways to organize society, if we ever want to weaken the current dominant reason. Right now there is no way to dislodge the whole schema of values that force us in the direction of “keeping up with the Joneses” endless competition and increasing efforts in exchange for always diminishing returns (as attested by the growing realization that we in the West will bequeath to our descendants the dubious honor or being the first generation that attains a standard of living worse than the one his parents enjoyed). Within the current dominant reason the economic organization we belong to will necessarily demand our best energies and the vast majority of our time. And there is no way of “prospering” or “flourishing” outside an economic organization, as the only end we have been brought up (may be “programmed” would not be too strong a word) to understand is the kind of social recognition which can only be bestowed to those within the economic organization (even if it is one of their own founding). Now how such dominant reason could be modified would be the topic of a separate post. 

No comments:

Post a Comment