Thursday, September 09, 2021

Bricolage and the Bricoleur Part 3--Institutional Self-Pleasuring and the Role of the Priests of Contemporary Collectives


 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. It is the rationalization of these found, or discovered, objects, and their investment with meaning (their signification), which then transforms them object and develops a system for imposing meaning and that shapes the community even as it skips along, in delightfully  artistic ways, in the process of both self-constitution and in the investment in the absolute conviction that they had nothing to do with it, but that these constructions are "natural",, "Observable" or "received". The magic of bricolage by communities of bricoleurs.

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. These touch on the self pleasuring element of collective meaning making in the construction of collective realities.

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.


15. Internal auditing has come to represent a legitimating performance of testing system performance against preferred characteristics (in conception and operation). Auditing in this sense are systemic quality control methods, but also as the incarnation of the normative ideal in the operation of systems. The concept applies as easily to human based systems of discretionary decision making and judgment (the traditional institutional-bureaucratic-administrative model and its well-worn apparatus) as it now must to systems of so-called artificial intelligence. Yet AI system auditing regimes tend to pretend either that bureaucratic and AI systems are interchangeable, or worse, that AI systems are subject to a presumption of sinister effect precisely because they appear removed from the sort of human oversight that is the core subject of auditing in the first place. AI is not a fetish; it is a system of commands and protocols that are more or less dependent on those who make and maintain it; its abuses are built into the programing and conceptualizations, into the data scrapping, of the program itself. These are efforts all undertaken by humans either directly, or by the instructions that constitute the parameters within which machines learn. Ensuring AI “quality control” as a matter of internal auditing, in the end, still requires human accountability, the solution to which may not necessarily be more human interaction. To focus on AI is to detach and incarnate the human in the objects that merely express the humanity of its creators and operators.

16. The conventional contemporary approach to reconsideration of issues about tax fairness, tax avoidance, and its connection (the new thing) with democratic viability, is being challenged. Yet at its core what is being challenged is the state system as well; and not just the state system but the fundamental principle of collective wealth partitioning grounded in the inviolability of sovereign collectives each seeking to advance their interests protected by that principle. That is, just as the fundamental ordering principle of asset partitioning in the organization of economic collectives is being challenged by notions of collective responsibility along production chains; so too the analogous notion of tax partitioning based on the principle of sovereign autonomy and equality. In both cases the lynchpin of transformation is the effort to attach the concept of moral wrong to an economic right, and in the process to provide a basis for the transformation of regulatory principles. In its place is an internationalist, and sovereignty porous concept that seeks to align tax fairness not with the state but with the production chains within which taxable wealth is created. It bears noting that for more than a generation developing states have been complaining about this in the context of the construction of value added based global production. But that complaining had little resonance with the OECD states (and now China ) in part because its discursive form sounded like "white noise" in the ears of elites in developed states who had more o gain than to lose from the system of pious incantations about equity within the practice of sovereign advantage. Once it became clear that the problem extended all the way up the tax food chain, and armed with a new and more appealing discursive model (along with principles consonant with high sounding liberal democratic expectations) the challenge of reimagining fairness in tax became more respectable and now more compelling (in the sense that policy changes are coming at the top). However, it also exposes the weaknesses of a transformative project that challenges not merely the operation of taxing but also the weltanschauung of advanced developed states.

17. It is a commonly shared belief among ruling collectives (however constituted) that liberal democracy is in "crisis." Of course, that is the sort of narrative one might expect as a strategy for maintaining power as against the “enemies” of democracy that oftentimes are no more than rivals for power within ruling cliques. And it has an effect on the way in which the apparently open process of self-selection for seeking political office is managed. Part of that crisis also has an analogue to a fundamental issue of Marxist Leninist democratic practice (who and under what circumstances may people be selected to run for office; what is the role of the Leninist vanguard in the selection of candidates; what does mass voting signal in that context, etc. ), and with it a deep suspicion either of self-selection or of selection that is not run through the administrative apparatus of established political parties. It is that underlying disquietude produces another; one equally important to both Leninist and liberal Democratic states: the issue of divided loyalty and the signification of fidelity in political systems marked by extra political heterogeneity. One would have thought that the issue had been resolved to some extent in the last century through the construction of edifices of human rights on the graves of suppressed minorities, and with the development of notions of unifying patriotic fronts especially in Leninist systems. But having cleaned up issues of multiple loyalties from its last refinement in European anti-Semitism, caste politics, and Leninist political orthodoxy, the issue has reappeared in substantially more banal forms: to social actors, and to privileged sub-collectives within a political order.

18. How does one create empire in a world that appears to have rejected the concept and invested it with the most nefarious qualities--qualities that are attached to a historical era now passing, and incompatible with the sensibilities of the current historical era? The answer seems as simple as it is dangerous--one builds an empire by defining an object (it can be bodies of individuals, it can be actions, it can be affinity) over which a unifying ideology can be constructed (a legitimating and realty defining universe of meanings of the normal made) that then can be overseen and interpreted authoritatively by other objects (people, institutions, states, it doesn’t matter) producing systems of privilege, obligation, and responsibility that extends vertically along the ordering of the objects now bound together in community through the power of meaning making to organize the normal and expected. In the current era, the building blocks for this empire building are the state, the behavior norms (patterns of and expectations of behavior), the centrality of economic production, and the power of vertically and horizontally arranged networks of relationships toward mutually advantageous goals. It is from this that our current post global empires can be developed.

19. Post-colonial and post colonialism (one grounded in history and the other in ideologies of the now receding models of imperial organization and mission) form important elements in Western discourse. That, of course, is the last great legacy of pre 21st century colonialism--its discourse, and the it built a framework of understanding the world that emerges from the abandonment of the old colonial model first for the 1945 unified global order of the community of states and now for the rise of post global empires grounded in the terrains of global production. But it is also self-serving self-centered. To keep the focus on 19th century European colonial powers averts the gaze from the colonial practices of non-European imperial projects--whether they be centered on religion, ethnic supremacy, or subaltern within larger imperial constructs. It also distorts notions of empire into something that is consigned to a particular people and a particular time. The implication--and one useful for emerging imperial orders--is that empire is empire only if it is European and close in operation that that if 19th Century European models. The joke, in that case, is on us.

20. It has become clear that the institutional models through which economic activity is aggregated, and its value added production is distributed no longer align closely with evolving conceptions of the relationship of production to other societal imperatives, or for that matter to the needs of the political collectives. This is as true for Marxist Leninist systems now struggling with its New Era Fundamental Contradiction (from the time of the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress) focusing on the misalignment between production and the distribution of value throughout the population, as it is, apparently, in so-called capitalist (better understood as markets based) systems. This later distinction is important to remember and critical for the way in which one approaches the issues of the valuation of the costs and benefits of production (the so- called ESG debate), the alignment of politics and economics (political oversight through compliance and accountability cultures), the discovery and elimination of free riding (the incorporation of social, environmental (including climate change), and cultural costs in the valuation of production and the calculation of profit. It has been manifested at the international level through the construction of increasingly influential soft law frameworks (that is for the development of guidance for the construction of transnational private law within collectively managed global production chains), for example the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, as well as national efforts--the central element in this proposal, to engage more deeply in the current form of legal reform, the efforts to repudiate that fundamental (at east in some states) principle of corporate purpose in the form of shareholder welfare maximization.

21. The notion of shareholder welfare maximization (with its heyday in the 1970s and Milton Friedman) has been giving way to notions of enterprise (that is institutional) welfare maximization; and the issue of stakeholder value has sometimes been transposed into the more nuanced question of appropriate valuing of the costs of production on stakeholders (as well as the equally complicated debate about the role of compliance based systems structured on principles of prevention-mitigation-and remedy. This is an area in which it is tempting to misread, or to strategically read, interventions--for example that of the US Business Roundtable of August 2019. But it is also an area in which the trajectories of transformation cannot be avoided. The unanswered question revolves around the way in which that effort to extract doctrine from out of these trajectories of change can be attempted with due regard (and transparency) about the fundamental, and deeply contested, core principles that animate the project and with a nod to contending doctrinal positions, including progressive positions on the issues. That, however, is as much a function of meaning making as it is the product of the application of scientific methods to the extraction of truth. In order to accomplish the later, it is just necessary to develop a collective embrace of truth. That, in turn, has been a moving target in the context of corporate purpose, and more importantly, in the universe of actions and objects that must be valued in the calculation of corporate contribution to positive societal value.

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