[iDC] The "electricity" of near future participation

keith at thememorybank.co.uk keith at thememorybank.co.uk
Fri Sep 15 18:51:31 EDT 2006

This note is intended as a reinforcement of the main drift of Trebor's
critique of Bruce Sterling's novel. It may well be completely off the wall,
but here goes anyway.

My favorite dictionary defines 'trust' as "belief in a person, idea or
thing". This is the crisis of our civilization, that we can no longer tell
the difference between a person, an idea and a thing. It makes no
difference if I place my trust ion you personally, in General Motors, in
the dollar or in the traffic lights turning green after red and orange.

People like Bruno Latour would have us believe that it is a bourgeois
distraction to accord people a different status from inanimate objects. It
is true that separating an impersonal sphere from the kind of personal
politics that marked feudalism was a huge effort of the bourgeois
revolution. But a couple of centuries later the elision of that distinction
became the main program of that alliance between states and corporations
that dominates our era. It is precisely the confusion of a thing or idea
(the corporation) with living persons (individual citizens) that defines
our stage of capitalism. the intellectuals have slavishly followed without
apparently recognizing that they do the work of the institutions they claim
to oppose. The rise of the intertnet has given a big boost to this
tendency. How else could designers of objects be credited with control of
society's destiny?

I have written a small book on this theme which I will not attempt to
summarize here. It is called The Hit Man's Dilemma: or business, personal
and impersonal. Its conclusion is that it is just as damaging to merge the
personal and the impersonal as it is to insist on their radical separation.
We need to work out new combinations of the two that address the crisis
humanity faces at this time.

Keith Hart

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