Monday, September 06, 2021

Bricolage and the Bricoleur Part 2--The Constitution of Meaning and the Meaning of Constituting

Pix Credit: HERE Thoth, from Movie "Gods of Egypt"

 Bricolage is a popular French term borrowed by English speakers. It is commonly understood to refer to a construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. It speaks to intertextuality (the shaping of text and meaning by other text and meaning), and to the way in which meaning is made from the available objects around us--culture, politics, societal taboos and the like.


Pix Credit HERE

 It is as a bricoleur that I offer the next seven of a number of bursts of thought objects that seek to explore the foundations for the transformations of meaning assembled from the objects around us, even as we work furiously to pretend they are not there or that meaning is somehow a magic show that works on these objects to extract their essence. There is a wonderful scene in the movie, "Gods of Egypt" where Thoth played by Chadwick Boseman, in fear of having his mind appropriated by Set who would combined the attributes of the gods into one personality, sets out to write down the essence of every object, aided by a substantial number of copies of himself.  He considers a piece of lettuce, describing its essence in a variety of increasingly abstract ways until it is grabbed from him by an impatient Horus, in need of Thoth's wisdom elsewhere, exclaiming something like, "it is a piece of lettuce." Both of course are correct, and together they assemble the realities in which we (singular and plural) attempt to occupy. As one reviewer of the movie put it quite correctly, though it was not meant as praise and here it is: an "ill plotted spectacle." (HERE)

For the first seven: Bricolage and the Bricoleur--Data, Alanlytics, Human-Machine Learning and the Assemblage of Society and its Cultures Part I.

For the next seven: Bricolage and the Bricoleur Part 2--The Constitution of Meaning and the Meaning of Constituting

For the third in the series: Bricolage and the Bricoleur Part 3--Institutional Self-Pleasuring and the Role of the Priests of Contemporary Collectives

And the last of this accumulation:  Bricolage and the Bricoleur Part 4--The State as a Consumable Object; and the Objects of Consumable States.


8. Outward projections of disinformation campaigns by foreign states and other actors seeking to advance their own interests or to undermine the viability of the political system of the targeted state have become an issue with relevance to the integrity of constitutional orders, and as an important tool in the arsenal of 5th or 6th generation warfare. It is also quite sensible, given the political-cultural structures manifested in contemporary liberal democratic constitutional orders, to seek as its ultimate management through a future oriented focus on lawmaking. It is also sensible, given the trajectories of the post 1945 development of principles of inter-state political organization, to seek to attain that goal through the interlinking of international law, political philosophy, and computational social science. But (1) in these cases international law tends to come late to the party, but an essential structuring mechanism with some legitimacy and hopefully downward effect within domestic legal orders; (2) political philosophy tends to be the meaning manifestation of political-cultural meaning making, and thus might be understood as a sort of exercise in reverse engineering normative anchors for law making; and (3) quantification and data driven policy operationalization frameworks can both ide bias and treat norms as irrelevant to objectives. The ultimate problem, however, with the interlinkages of these conventional approaches is that while it is easy enough to build a law-norm-tech machine; it is harder to fill it up properly. This is particularly the case in the case of disinformation, especially in the context of the exercise of political and civil rights. And that brings us back to the unresolved issues of disinformation and its projection from abroad that characterized, from pre-modernity, communication during the Protestant Reformation, the Revolutions of the late 18th and mid 19th centuries, and in modernity from the time of the Communist (and thereafter the democratic) International.

9. Interests analysis undertaken in an ideological vacuum exposes interests but sacrifices analysis. Interest analysis is quite useful underneath an ideological framework, but it does not drive the framework, it merely operates within its constraints. It is in that sense such analysis can provide a powerful interior mirror on politics within an ideologically connected community but without touches its ideological critical boundaries, taboos and direction. In inter-ideological interactions, interests become meaningless in the absence of the ideologies that provide the conceptual orders, communities of meaning and miscommunication across ideology that is the essence of structural coupling among variegated and incompatible systems.

10. It appears that our militaries have much to learn from the media, business, and advertising fields as knowledge and persuasion--as ancient rhetoric now refined and digitalized--is weaponized as part of 5th and 6th generation warfare. That learning fits in nicely with the work of military theorists as warfare escapes the constraints of traditional battlefields and shift their primary focus to the management of meaning projected onto target populations, communities, markets, and influencer institutions. The larger powers have already moved swiftly to develop the militarization of these areas and have now invaded virtually all sites of communal operation, especially where communities interact. Europe might be especially vulnerable, especially in its peripheries. Of course, the practices are ancient in form. Cruder forms were used to some excellent though crude effect during the period of warfare in Europe 1914-1945. The difference in contemporary space is that the practices have been rationalized, made more efficient, and their power has morphed through the capabilities of technology. Also of some importance has been the connection between these techniques and the fundamental vulnerability of discourse-based political collectives--particularly liberal democratic states--to these narrative strategies that mean to manage meaning or guide discourse and the attention of the masses (and their social media amplification apparatus). Thus to study the area one must be attuned not merely to the theorization of the techniques and objectives of narrative but also to its alignment with the development and vulnerabilities of contemporary political cultures and its structures of meaning making.

11. The issue of the juridification of politics, as well as the constitutionalization of societal values and its regulation has been at the forefront of important issues in the US since the time of the Great Depressions (1930s) and certainly since the 1970s on a European level. While elites tend to worry about the role of conservative political institutional actors in this area, it ought to be remembered that it burst on the scene in the United States as the great tool (triumphantly utilized over about a century) of progressive and liberal forces and the spearheading elements of a multi front effort that produced movement toward contemporary frameworks of racial, sexual, ethnic and religious equality. That conservatives came late to the field is worthy of study, but that they have the talent to employ the tools developed by progressives to equal effect ought not to be surprising. Still, the phenomenon in its contemporary form is worthy of study if only because contemporary crises have changed the way these tools are used within the legal and juridical politics of Europe.

12. Rationalizing the techniques of politics through judiciary suggests capture, material gain, and the advance of ideological positions. But implying that one set of materially motivated ideologues capture may be "good" or a legitimate baseline for a fine operating system, while their ideological opponents are of a character less legitimate or "bad" or corrupting detracts transforms study from an intellectual to a political exercise. Not that politics is bad, but where such is viewed as essential to the progression of knowledge then one approaches a context in which the public intellectual displaces others in the field of the production of knowledge.

13. It is true enough that the study of the ideologies of the so-called right have become fashionable in recent years, but virtually always from the perspective of the so-called ideological left. That fashion becomes more interesting when that perspective is applied to the so-called "new" ideological left, where what was left when its object was the traditional right, but becomes right when it considers the “new” left. In both cases there is a bit of ideological nose holding, yet the nose assumed quite different form depending the source of the political odor considered. And yet a view of the new "new” left (what might more usefully be referenced as the "vanguard left" with a nod to its inherent Leninism, which from the political conventions of liberal democratic states still sometimes defines “left”) from that of the conventional left is still very much necessary. Necessity here may be grounded on the need to better understand how left ideology in the West is being driven from what had been its comfortable moorings developed after the old radical left violence of the 1960s and 1970s. Greater attention to those sources --along with their analogues in the US and Europe (Bader Meinhof (Red Army Faction); Brigada Rosa, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Symbionese Liberation Army etc.) remind one that left orthodoxy is dynamic and disordered, and more importantly that such analysis is essentially a means of ensuring the primacy of orthodoxy. That last point might be the most valuable use of such studies.

14. It is impossible to rationally approach policy or governance without a deeply developed sense of its episteme (Foucault) or its problematique (Althusser) or its shifting paradigmatic structures (Kuhn). Essential to that approach is the definition of the space within which episteme, problematique and paradigm becomes important. It has become clear that as governance spaces have transformed, have become both more abstract (eg cyberspace) and more functionally differentiated (eg production chains), the character as well as the application of the challenges of all three has become more acute.

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