2017 is rich with events that expose the complex connections between law, politics, economics, religion and culture. These events will set the course for 2018, even as new actors seek to take manage people, events, states, enterprises and other institutions with substantial consequential effects of the mass. But most of all 2017 was the year of big data, of social credit, and of the realization that the algorithmic institution (state or otherwise) might well replace the regulatory state as the driving force for the management of people, institutions and behaviors. Where once the regulatory state was said to express the will of the people refined through their representatives in government, currently the algorithmic enterprise can be said to build systems for managing people and institutions from the data it harvests from them applied to metrics that both reflect their desires and directs it toward certain ends. But this was also the year of statues, of mass violence and of surprising revelations that both marked and drove significant cultural change.
With no objective in particular, this post and a number that follow provides my summary of the slice of 2017 to which I paid attention through epigrams and aphorisms. It follows an end of year tradition I started in 2016 (for those see here).
Ruminations 77: 2017 in Epigrams and Aphorisms
3. If human rights emerge from the people, it acquires its form only when it is delivered back to them through the state; from the people, to the people through the state; that appears to be the fundamental relational structure of human rights. ["Despite the fact that the UN human rights framework is grounded on the principle of the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, China nonetheless is pushing its version of “human rights with Chinese characteristics,” which prioritizes the right to development and economic rights over individual civil and political rights, and insists on a relativistic approach to human rights based on each country’s unique history, culture, values, and political system." China Pushes ‘Human Rights With Chinese Characteristics’ at the UN]
13. And thus the cult of personality infects the relationship between master and servant and between the leader and the state; in the former case the enterprise buys the individual to serve as a husk into which to insert its manifestation, in the later the individual is dissolved within the body of the leader. [NBC News source says Matt Lauer will not receive a payout ("Television news contracts typically include a morals clause, giving a network some flexibility to fire a high-priced anchor for cause.") and here; How Hollywood aims to change its culture of sexual harassment; Social Media Can Get You Fired So Plan Accordingly ("Your brand is who you are, and you are your brand. If you want to be a famous, then by all means be incredibly incendiary online. File law suits, make up a whole new persona. But I really hope it pays off, or you will likely be unemployable.")]
14. And yet the great contradiction of labor defines the power relations between master and servant--an individual does not merely sell her labor, she binds herself to service and thus consents to the suzerainty of the master in all aspects of the servants life. [Within these parameters there is only a difference in degree (a substantial one to be sure and one on which legal distinctions are built) between the labors of the independent contractor and of the slave and to treat slavery as exceptional and historically contingent affects generally the analysis of labor; Death by Overwork in Japan: Cultivating a Healthy Workforce From Across the World ("In the wake of increased international focus on karoshi—a common Japanese term meaning “death by overwork”—Japan’s government and business leaders alike agree that Japan’s “culture of overwork” is a critical issue in need of a solution."); but see Right to a private life at work? Monitoring an employee's communications was a breach of the Article 8 right to a private life (managing the scope and application of the power in employers); ]
15. The feudatory relation between labor and enterprise suggests the fundamental ordering framework of human rights; the state has a duty to protect but the enterprise has a responsibility to respect precisely because the servant has consented to the overlordship of both. [It is within these webs of polycentric governance that the gross sexual harassment scandals of late 2017 can be situated with respect to the normative violations (of rights and individual dignity), of social expectation, of enterprise reputation, and of the requirements of law, including the more general requirements of social norms and process; and their failures Weinstein's Complicity Machine; A powerful person has been accused of misconduct at a rate of nearly once every 20 hours since Weinstein; Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo Movement]