Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Should We Proceed from Proceduralism? Freddie Deboer on Jeron Lanier

I find it hard not to celebrate any contrarian essay that contains any paragraph so eminently sensible as this one:
The growing edifice of tech journalism is dominated by a certain kind of thinking: optimistic to the point of triumphalist, obsessed with gadgetry, endlessly impressed by technological legerdemain, stuffed with faith in capitalism, delighted by empty buzzwords and facile grand narratives, always enraptured by the next hot gizmo but endlessly impatient for the next big thing. There is never a shortage of complaints -- why has someone not innovated those grubby delivery men out of pizza delivery yet? But salvation is always only a few drops of innovation away. What kind of problems do you have? Tech is coming. Poverty, disease, war, rape? Hey, man. Just wait for 3-D printers.
This is a passage from Freddie Deboer's review of Jeron Lanier's latest book in The New Inquiry. What troubles me about the review is that it is framed by what seem to me more problematic claims of its own. The piece begins with a statement not unlike the one Obama has been foregrounding in the latest of his "pivots" back to the economy as he anticipates an election campaign (this time the mid-terms which will determine whether he can accomplish anything or not, depending on whether Democrats keep the Senate and regain the House or gain enough in the House that the abortion banning Obamacare repealing climate change denying macroeconomic illiterates of the GOP can be circumvented and legislative compromises reached to solve shared problems). Deboer observes the fraying of what has long passed as the conventional formulation of the American Dream: "If you work, you will survive. Not only will you survive but you will prosper. All our propaganda begins here. Young Americans are promised that work will translate to an ever-improving lot in life, within and across generations." The usual formulation is that if you follow the rules and work hard you will succeed in this country, you will be able to provide for yourself and your family and your retirement, and that you will be building a world in which the next generation can provide for themselves even more generously.

Deboer's basic point here is forceful: "A country that has made its self-definition utterly dependent on the ubiquity of paying work now has an insufficient number of jobs... It is hard to overstate: This country, in its current condition, has no other option but something close to full employment." Needless to say, however, this isn't true if most remunerative work is directed into enterprises that contribute to the destruction of the planetary environment on which we all depend for our survival and flourishing. And needless to say, this also isn't true until hard work is guaranteed an actual living wage in the context of a constellation of welfare benefits that assure education, healthcare, unemployment insurance, retraining opportunities. I worry about the fact that Deboer declares full employment necessary because, "[o]ur pathetic social safety net, even absent the contracting effect of austerity measures, can’t fill in the gaps caused by the demise of ubiquitous employment."

Of course, I agree that our social safety net is pathetically inadequate, but I can't approve the assumptions apparently lurking in his formulation -- that an adequate social safety net is not possible and so full employment is necessary to compensate for that impossibility (every feature of an adequate social safety net has been successfully implemented in recent history, some of those features in our own country's recent history, and so I will not concede the impossibility of an adequate social safety net in principle, indeed, I will not concede that it is not practically achievable even by means of reforms of and within our current system of governance, debased as it is -- things are awfully bad, of course, but there are signs aplenty of demographic and discursive tipping points on the horizon that could be opportunistically taken up by sensible educational, agitational, organizational, legislative forces for progressive reform that could change quite a lot quite quickly when all is said and done), but neither will I concede Deboer's apparent belief that even full employment CAN compensate the lack of adequate social welfare, since part of what social welfare enables is precisely the conditions under which a living wage and the terms of informed nonduressed consent to the terms of employment are secured in the first place. These are not separable questions -- full employment without adequate welfare is simply nonconsensual, exploitative labor. If you want to talk about the fraying of the American Dream, you shouldn't begin by mis-identifying it with a nightmare.

If all that seemed a bratty and ungenerous reading of someone with views that are likely sympathetic to my own, just wait for what comes next. "For argument’s sake," writes Deboer, "let’s consider America’s employment crisis not as a failure of conservatism, market fundamentalism, neoliberalism, nor austerity." Well, no, I won't consider that because it simply isn't useful to pretend obviously true things are not obviously true. Plutocrats who were never happy about the New Deal and the Great Society formed an archipelago of market fundamentalist think-tanks and activist organizations to counter Keynesian academic knowledge the better to spread plutocratically advantageous macroeconomically illiterate free market pieties and to provide lobbying for the more reactionary precincts to be found in plenty of successful American capitalists -- the Southern Strategy and rise of the Religious Right created coalitions mobilizing white-racist populist resentments in the service of plutocratic ends, radically displacing organized labor through outsourcing (first to the American South and then out of the country onto overexploited regions of the world) and enabling lowering wages, dismantlement of social welfare, and intense wealth concentration through automation and other technical means (standardization and networking of manufacturing, storage, transportation, and communications systems, for example). In other words, America's employment crisis is indeed a result of policies supported by conservative, austerian, market fundamentalist, neoliberal ideology in the service of elite-incumbent interests. That Deboer says we should set those aside only "for argument's sake" suggests he probably ultimately agrees that this is what is afoot, at least roughly-speaking, but I simply don't agree that clarity arises from his proposal that we set aside what we know to be true here. He proposes a coinage, "proceduralism," to describe an alternate understanding of what has yielded our present distress:
A proceduralist views society not in terms of a necessary goal (say, happiness and opportunity for all its members) but instead as a set of rules that it must follow -- because they are natural, because they stem from the Western tradition, because they comport with human behavior, because they follow God’s law, depending on whoever is justifying the current procedure. If these rules are followed, no injustice needs to be redressed. Rules can be discarded or changed if their intent is found to be problematic, but outcomes can be good or bad without issue. Problems arise only if the rules are broken.
Of course, we all know the sort of rationalizing he is talking about here, but to treat it as the source rather than symptom of the problem seems to me to let the tail wag the dog. I suppose that more or less any large-scale longstanding administrative implementation of ideological assumptions will attract its share of what Deboer calls proceduralists. And while their undercriticality and inflexibility is apt to be annoying and even mischievous, I kept getting the feeling that whenever Deboer calls out the proceduralist species he is really calling out the specific proceduralists he disapproves of because he really disapproves their assumptions and ends. And this is why "proceduralism" doesn't really add as much to his otherwise useful discussion as he seems to think it is: either proceduralism is pluralist in ways that demand a critique that focuses elsewhere, or proceduralism needs to be elaborated and amplified into something more like Barthes's critique of an inherently reactionary naturalizing "mythology."

Definitely I am back in the saddle with Deboer when he derides in tech-talk its "yen for 'disruption,' an empty term for empty minds in empty people, makes traditional obstacles like social contracts suspect or downright pernicious. This has led to an embrace of proceduralism by those true believers who want an app economy to be the engine of capitalism. And such people rule the world." But what he is describing is the displacement of one administrative logic, say, a broadly congenially Galbraithian one (which had its own proceduralists you can be sure) by another set of assumptions and ends, say, a broadly disastrously Friedmanian (and you can pick the Friedman you wish we were freed from, Milton, David, Thomas) one. What I think matters here, though, is more in the erroneous and inequitable assumptions and ends in play, not that the effort to implement ends often attract proceduralists who foolishly naturalize their assumptions, procedures, and ends in their zeal.

And, if you can forgive me for insisting so, neoliberal technocrats and plutocratic pricks and the vapid futurological rationalizers of the status quo who fluff them do not in fact "rule the world" in any absolute sense. I am not naively denying actually existing concentrations of authority, capacity, wealth, and muscular might by any means, but it is equally naive as a factual matter to discount the force in notionally representative democracies and even more authoritarian regimes of education, agitation, organization, legislation for progressive reform in resisting or at any rate complicating, sometimes in democratizing ways, the play of these forces. It is good to know who one's enemies are, but one should not concede their rule -- on the very practical grounds that to do so is to stop seeing clearly, and in ways that always only benefit precisely the ones whose rule you are presumably critiquing. Deboer kinda sorta concedes this point when he reminds the "proceduralists" that "[t]he really essential function of the social contract is to prevent the people from burning everything down. There are too many of us to be held down by force." By the way, I happen to think a social contract facilitating sustainable equity-in-diversity isn't primarily but only incidentally about staving off social instability, but much more about releasing and ramifying the creative, expressive, problem-solving genius of the greatest number of people in a way from which the greatest number of people can benefit. As Hannah Arendt would put it, the field of the political is fatally misconstrued through the biological lens of mortality (that we are vulnerable and constrained by the dangerous company we are forced to keep) rather than the biological lens of natality (that we are always introducing novelty into the made world we share in the making and maintenance of).

Anyway, I fear it is from a vantage defined by these many problematic assumptions (a rather resigned attitude toward our perpetual "rulers," our permanently inadequate social welfare system, the pessimistic mortal rather than natal characterization of plurality as the condition of political possibility, an emphasis on procedures risking distraction from the assumptions and ends that actually invigorate them) that Deboer reads Jaron Lanier's latest book Who Owns the Future? (About which I have recently written myself here.)

Deboer very agreeably writes about Lanier's agreeableness:
In attacking digital optimism, Lanier makes for a compelling apostate. Against those who mistake technology for an agent of change, rather than a tool through which human beings create change, Lanier can be unsparing. The clarity of his thinking helps demonstrate the wooly illogic of various utopian assumptions, the folly of thinking that the Internet means we can have something for nothing -- that we can freely download anything and everything without incurring a social cost.
I agree with all this, and I suppose I may as well add that I have been enjoying Lanier's writing for years, even before he penned his notorious turn of the century Half Manifesto (a text which I have been assigning undergraduates more or less every year since its publication). I think I also agree with Deboer in disagreeing with the places Lanier takes his own congenial observation, namely: "the endless copying and sharing of worthwhile digital media has deeply threatened creative industries and may threaten the essential structure of civil society by undermining the economics behind middle-class jobs." Both Deboer and I seem to disapprove Lanier's conclusions here.

For myself, I simply can't agree that the historical accident of a highly capital investment intensive infrastructure for pre-digital cultural production (printing presses, broadcast studios, distribution of units of material) which enabled plutocratic control of culture rationalized by the aura of professional credentials is actually properly identified with "the essential structure of civil society" in any sense of the phrase. While I disdain a strain of techno-determinism and techno-utopianism in his writings (especially any suggestion that digital access could be a magic bullet to overcome the poverty and pollution in overexploited regions of the world -- access to clean water comes far closer, and even it isn't) I do agree broadly with Yochai Benkler's anti-industrializing model of p2p-production which proposes that digital networking potentially decouples the conditions under which work in the (rather reductively construed) "creative industries" are produced and accessed online in ways that might be radically democratizing (which is not the same thing as the claim that this possible and desirable outcome is likely or what seems to be actually happening) -- read the Conclusion of The Wealth of Networks, beginning on page 460 here for a taste of a much more richly elaborated case.

Deboer's disagreement with Lanier is different from my own. He concedes up to a point the value of Lanier's critique of "Siren Servers" which capture and concentrate into a very few hands value that was once more broadly and equitably distributed throughout society -- as when a handful of entrepreneurs and tech-support staff at Instagram replace the enormous numbers of people who were employed by Kodak and all the ancillary industries associated with the distribution and development of Kodak's material products. And Deboer is as impatient as Lanier is with any claim that such developments have "gutted" the various instituted culture industries. He rather characteristically quips: "Despite the anti-elite posturing that has long attended pro-piracy arguments, the elites in the music business are doing fine. Jay-Z can continue to make his millions selling cell phones and T-shirts... People may have thought that they were merely robbing from the rich when they used file sharing services, but last time I checked, the guys in Metallica were still millionaires." But now here is the sentence I clipped from the middle of that observation: "It’s the musical middle class, people who clawed their way to sustainable employment in the arts in jobs as session musicians or A&R guys or similar, who have lost the most." This is certainly true, but I agree with Lanier that this needn't have been the case, and I also agree with Deboer who disagrees with Lanier's proposal of an alternative, but I think I also disagree with Deboer's reasons for disagreeing with Lanier.

Deboer sympathetically summarizes Lanier (I believe) when he writes
it’s easy to get songs for 89 cents, albums for $5, 48-hour movie rentals for $2, endless apps for a couple bucks, access to Netflix’s vast streaming database for less than $10 a month…. Yet unauthorized and unpaid downloads continue to number in the hundreds of millions. Can it really be that less than $10 a month is still too much for access to so much content? How low, exactly, must the price point be before there is no longer a legitimate excuse for not paying it? What if that price can’t sustain the people who create the content?
To me, it matters enormously that "unauthorized and unpaid downloads" are unauthorized only because that is what the law presently says about them, but that there are easily quite as many good reasons to describe these downloads as the sort of sharing practices of which cultural life has always consisted as it is to describe them as a kind of stealing, in which case it is an open question whether they actually should be "unauthorized," especially if they are happening hundreds of millions of times. I happen to think it is deeply injurious to the law rather than a measure of respect for it to treat as unlawful conduct numbering in the hundreds of millions undertaken by otherwise everyday law-abiding people. And given how much creative work is now and has always historically been unpaid you will forgive me if I do not consider the appearance of the word "unpaid" in this connection as inherently damning. I cannot say I approve in the least Lanier's apparent suggestion here, and possibly also Deboer's, that there is no legitimate excuse for not paying ten bucks for music and movies. What if paying for creative work is a necessary mystification of the conditions under which creativity is collectively enabled, what if the commodification of its products is necessarily distortive and disabling of creative expressivity? I cannot say that I think creative culture would be much injured if NOBODY got to be Jay-Z or Metallica.

If the rise of digital networked formations has ruinously displaced certain middle-class employment, I must say that the problem and the solution to the problem lies not in digitization (or a different desirable digitization) as such so much as in the existence or not of organized labor and actually responsive government ensuring highly progressive income taxes that resist inherently anti-democratizing wealth concentration while also funding unemployment insurance and retraining programs and permanent access to adequate healthcare, nutritious food, reliable shelter, and educational opportunity. I do tend to think that in almost any sociocultural formation at least some "creative people" will always attract conspicuous fame and fortune through their efforts -- whether their work happens to accord with my own taste or not -- but I do not agree that the story of creative culture and creative expressivity as such is necessarily a story understood particularly well by focusing on such people (or on particular failures of "deserving" people to be such people themselves). I am quite content to contemplate a world in which creativity is supported mostly by the enthusiasm amateur creative people feel for the work of creation itself, or the enthusiasm of the fandoms a certain few enormously lucky creative people manage to attract to themselves.

The problem of wealth concentration via technological transformation (in the US at least) seems to me largely to be a problem of the decline of organized labor and a problem of neoliberal dismantlement of social welfare programs domestically coupled with neoliberal over-exploitation elsewhere rendered invisible by distance and false triumphalist narratives of investment, developmental, and progress. When Lanier talks about the various creative industries he is actually focusing on a particular example of a larger phenomenon. Lanier's own solution is a classic futurological fanboy non-starter: The actually existing internet does not live up to Ted Nelson's prophetically futurological envisioning of it because network links are not as reciprocal as Nelson thought they might be. As Deboer puts the point, "Lanier laments... that linkbacks, trackbacks, pingbacks, and similar are not embedded in the basic technological architecture of the internet." Presumably by pressuring the online economy into something like the classic futurological vision Lanier still prefers to its existing reality, we might render that economy more democratic. Lanier proposes that a retro-futural return to Ted Nelson's vision of the internet might render it an engine that, to return again to Obama's recent parlance, "builds the economy from the middle out."

Deboer quotes Lanier:
Twitter doesn’t yet know how to make much money... but is defended this way: "Look at all the value it is creating off the books by connecting people better!" Yes, let’s look at that value. It is real, and if we want to have a growing information-based economy, the real value ought to be part of our economy. Why is it suddenly a service to capitalism to keep more and more value off the books?
A large part of my problem with Lanier's formulation here is that he seems to be proposing that only things on the books have real value, but that has never been true in the least. I happen to think (following Polanyi's formulation in The Great Transformation, among others) that [1] the sustainability of ecosystems, [2] individual life and hence labor, and [3] money as markers enabling systems of exchange are all enormously valuable things not one of which is properly valued as a commodity. That is to say, I believe that only when these phenomena remain "off the books" is it possible to grasp their value for what it actually is. Further, I suspect that creative expressivity indispensably relies both on individual labor and on an archive enough like a local ecosystem that it, too, is commodified only at the cost of a profound distortion of its actual value and conditions of existence. Certainly I agree with Lanier that capitalist formations often accomplish parochial profitability through the externalization or socialization or disavowal of costs and risks and dependencies, but when it comes to elite capture of the value of creative expressivity it seems to me the deeper problem is the effort to monetize creative value in the first place, not that this monetized value is inequitably distributed. Deboer may or may not finally agree with me on this point. He agrees -- as do I -- that there is indeed real value arising out of microblogging practices like twitter even if so far it "isn't making much money." But while I don't think it makes much sense to expect to grasp the way twitter is valuable through the question of whether it is making money or not, Deboer proposes a different focus: "My question is whether it [twitter or Instagram or what have you] can replace manufacturing, the auto industry, and all the other industries that no longer employ people in the numbers or at the relative wages they once did. The math is everything."

First things first. The math is NEVER everything. "The math" itself never provides the terms on which any math is made to be applicable to anything nor the terms on which to value the values it optimizes for. I'm sorry, but these things matter.

But let me turn to the thrust of Deboer's own objection to Lanier. I disagree with Lanier's vision of a better internet because it seems to me to want to expand the false monetization of creative value into ever more and more fields of human expressivity, in the hopes that ever wider and ever more intensive misapprehension of that value will somehow eventuate in more equity and more democracy -- when it is far more likely to enable, as it has always done hitherto, ever wider and ever more intensive forms of circumscription of creativity in the service of elite-incumbent wealth capture. Deboer disapproves Lanier's visions as well but for rather different reasons. Earlier on in his piece he writes:
Arts and media are not typically seen as being a part of the mainstream, middle American economy. [Given the long postwar prevalence of Hollywood, American broadcast television, and the recording industry, and the coupling of marketing and public discourse I happen to think this claim is at least debatable --d] But a vast number of industries are going to be subject to the disruption that has become the norm in media. In 50 years, there will be no such thing as a cabbie. The steady job that offered stable wages to thousands of new immigrants in urban locales will be gone. Bank tellers and nurses and elementary school teachers and journalists aren’t safe, either. For years, medicine has been trumpeted as a safe haven from unemployment. But the high-price of health care may drive the development of technological substitutes. Are doctors and nurse’s aides going to be replaced by robots in the next 50 years? I don’t know, but to not worry about it—to continue to push more and more young graduates into the medical field out of a conviction that it represents a safe harbor? That just seems foolish and potentially cruel.
Now, I am the last person to deny the recklessly destructive enthusiasm for MOOCs in today's corporatized and on a respirator Academy. But the simple fact is that while it is easy to understand why a businessman administrator thinks it would be awesome to turn teaching into a television program that can be profitably re-run forever without cost, it remains true that education doesn't actually work that way and hence the Academy can never be profitable in the way businessmen like things to be profitable and pretending otherwise just means that letting businessmen run the Academy will only destroy the Academy (which is still necessary to a working civilization which means, in turn, that it will be saved from destruction right in the nick of time or it will have to be re-built after it is destroyed by people who actually understand what is going on).

As somebody who has spent the last two decades deriding the serially failed predictions of facile futurologists let me point out to Mr. Deboer -- who shows all the signs of being a relative newcomer to this discursive field and hence to take it more seriously on its own terms than it deserves, even if he also shows signs of very healthy skepticism and outrage about many of its assumptions -- that although it is true that wide-eyed venture capitalists and would-be celebrity CEOs and pampered pseudo-intellectuals in positions of government may indeed wreak no small amount of havoc on the basis of thinking otherwise, actually there is absolutely no reason in the world to assume that cabbies, nurses, or teachers are about to be replaced by driverless cars or intelligent robots or syndicated infotainment television shows. This matters.

It is the furthest thing from foolish and cruel to be training teachers and nurses right about now. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (the actually real result of high health care costs, as against the futurological fantasy of Cylons in sexy nurse outfits) -- and, one hopes, the eventual and continual passage of Medicare expansions, pre-retirement Medicare buy-in, single-payer state systems, more community health clinics, the rollback of right-wing forced-pregnancy overreach and compensatory expansion of family planning clinics, and so on in the coming years, the more and the sooner the better (and there are people working on this, and you should number yourself among them wherever you are situated to do the most good) -- actually suggests that we should be training far more nurses and healthcare providers than we are at present, and expanding their role and compensation to reflect their very real competence in contemporary medical practice. A world that seeks to replace nurses and teachers with robots is a world that simply won't work and if that is the world that is coming there is no end of foolishness and cruelty in view, planning for a sustainable alternative is far from the most foolish or cruel thing we could be doing right now. This is not to say that we should not be worried about the impact of techno-triumphalism on public policy -- but it is to say we shouldn't be worried because the techno-triumphalists are right and the robocalypse is nigh but because they are wrong and we should be focusing on policies to provide real education and healthcare in a equitable way for the good of all, which means a whole lot more public investment and public employment paid for with a whole lot of progressive taxation. (For much more on the arrant nonsense of driverless cars, robots, artificial intelligence and the like I recommend one scroll down to those topics as organized in my Superlative Summary critiquing varieties of futurological foolishness.)

It is crucial to remember the extent to which the inevitable claims of the techno-utopian immaterialists are based not in actual transformations of material reality into some kind of digitized roboticized informationalized immaterialized "spirit stuff" but on a radical imposture or disavowal of material realities -- cyberspace is fueled by coal smoke and accessed on toxic devices pieced together by wage slaves by hand -- the "information economy," the "service economy," the "creative class" are all supported by an over-exploited precarious informalized domestic workforce and on starving suffering multitudes making consumable crap for next to nothing invisible to all but the corporate surveillance cameras and the heat-signatures appearing on drone targeting software -- the new goods of the new economy were bundled high-risk investments peddled as secure or split-second pseudo-purchases skimming micro-profits aggregated into billions in acts of obvious con-artistry and fraud. Although Deboer is skeptical of the facile triumphalism of so much "technological" discourse, I wonder to what extent he has nonetheless bought into some of its most deeply enabling terms as he seeks descriptive narratives to account for the amplifying injustices of the postwar epoch.

As an academic trained in rhetoric I appreciate the long passages Deboer devotes to the exposure of Lanier's muddled, overwrought, and overburdened metaphors. I haven't talked about those lengthy passages in Deboer's piece because I don't have much either to add to them or to disagree with in them. I have already pointed out that the "proceduralism" he emphasizes seems to me to lack the critical force he invests it with, since it is a phenomenon that can attaches in some measure to most implementations of governing assumptions and ends and hence it will really be the assumptions and ends themselves that matter most to critique -- and it won't surprise you that for those reasons neither have I belabored the point by zeroing in on many places throughout his piece in which Deboer seems to me rather arbitrarily to declare this or that facile formulation especially redolent of "proceduralism" when it doesn't honestly seem there is really much in the way of stakes attaching to the assignment when the real problems involved seem to be matters of false assumptions or skewed priorities. In the end, Deboer complains that Lanier is ultimately proposing a whole lot of radical shifts in the ways our material and normative information infrastructure plays out in the world, but does so in the service of what remains a fairly conventional view of liberal bourgeois capitalism. The real radicalism of the proposals makes them less likely to be accomplished, and the real conservatism of the vision makes them less worthy of accomplishment in the first place. I think that is a fair criticism, but I hesitate to say so for fear that Deboer would probably say the same of the vision from the vantage of which I propose my own criticisms of Lanier (and Deboer). If Lanier's pet proposal of a retro-futural revamping of the internet to accord with geek icon Ted Nelson's original design seems implausible to the point of foolishness, I honestly can't say that I find more reasonable the strident cadences with which Deboer concludes his piece:
Lanier’s plan won’t be put into place, and the masters of our universe will continue to believe that, somehow, the economy will correct itself -- with innovation, or disruption, or dynamism, or some other soggy term that explains nothing and conceals everything. Meanwhile, more people will have their stable jobs disrupted from under their chairs, just a bad day at the markets away. What should disturb us most is not merely that the last financial crisis caused companies to shed so many workers but that so many seemed to do it with no real impediment to their daily operations. How many of the young white-collar middle-class workers stuffed into offices spend half their time on Facebook and YouTube? In a proceduralist country obsessed with efficiency, who is efficient enough to feel safe at work? And how long before that feeling of precarity compels them to tear the whole edifice down?
We'll set aside at the outset my obvious criticism that it isn't only digi-utopian meme hustlers (to use Morozov's piquant phrase) who fetishize what passes as "efficiency" by their lights -- not to mention that efficiency isn't exactly the worst thing to shoot for in its proper precinct after all -- so I don't see any more point in the "proceduralist" jibe here at the end than anywhere else, except to the extent that like most neologisms it is functioning as part of a self-promotional machinery of attention-capture for a worthy well-meaning intellectual in a rather anti-intellectual culture that needs him more than it realizes. Now, I agree that all sorts of lovely people will continue to have their stable jobs disrupted -- not only through the misapplication of techno-utopian neoliberal digitizing downsizing and outsourcing and crowdsourcing scams, but through all sorts of reactionary policies, not to mention through ongoing ever-exacerbating catastrophic climate change, but also I have to say through personal misfortunes, criminal outrages, bad choices and so on. As I keep saying, I think that we all benefit from a society which provides support in the face of these disruptions not only to ameliorate suffering which immiserates us all but to facilitate the re-emergence of sufferers into the field of collaborators in the solution of our shared problems and the enrichment of available experience. For me that means education, agitation, organization, legislation in the service of sustainable equity-in-diversity out of the actually available materials at hand. I actually don't much care if some people want to call the resulting society "capitalism" instead of, say, the "democratic socialism" or "social democracy" I would probably call it myself. Am I merely another bland rule follower by Deboer's lights, then? I must say I personally refuse to confine my hopes to the dumb daydream of the precariat "tear[ing] the whole edifice down" instead! Of what does this "whole edifice" consist exactly? Does anything deserve salvaging? In what measure? According to whom? On the basis of what? Honestly, total revolution? That's still the register of radicalism we are left with here? Revolution in the service of what ends? Revolution accomplished by what means at what costs? Revolution undertaken by which real actors, from what real motives, with what real opponents? You will forgive me if I propose by way of conclusion that revolutionary intellectualism sometimes has its own worrisome proceduralism to contend with.

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