Wolf Tivy on democracy, “governance futurism”, Palladium, religion and transhumanism

Elite aesthetics.
  • A mechanical engineer by training.
  • Lawyers vs. engineers (there are too many lawyers in power vs. engineers).
  • The project is to influence the most important people on a 20-50 year timescale and contribute to the consciousness of the Western elite by taking the most sophisticated view possible.
  • Democracy doesn’t matter, the question is elite competence. Democracy is an elite ideology, it’s an incentive for elites to govern well. Do the elite believe they need to govern well?
  • The goal is a collective political community that does great things. What is the inspiration and energy amongst the elite that will lead toward those things?
  • The real question of functional democracy: can the elite agree about who should be in charge and get feedback from the population? In China they get “big data” feedback from the population.
  • Democracy is a big public ritual that reaffirms the elite ideology. The ritual of democracy is distracting. We have incredible inefficiency that isn’t necessarily caused by democracy but encrusted upon it.
  • The 60’s revolution was somewhat justified in trying to “stop the machine” but that’s all it did and now we’re “frozen”.
  • Palladium aims at elites but those outside of the current paradigm vs. those at the top of the current setup (those taking a chance on creating something new vs. those invested in the status quo).
  • “Noblesse oblige”, “skin in the game” (concepts introduced by interviewer) come down to elite ideology, even in a democracy the elite can stagnate for decades and face no accountability.
  • We have an entrenched regime of the upper middle class. “When you become powerful you can use that power to entrench yourself.”
  • People’s opinions are shaped and organized by the system in order to sustain the system. Elections and organizing are happening ways the system knows how to digest.
  • Elites are accountable to God because if elites stagnate they won’t be prepared for exogenous threats (subjects can become warlords, you can be conquered from outside etc.).
  • Do the elites of a system have a vision to do something? Do they have the discipline to do the work? If yes, they will be fine. The question for elites is “what do you care about”.
  • But if the focus is “I want to retire on my yacht” or “go to Epstein’s island” that’s doomed.
  • In democracy subjects become liabilities rather than assets (“we have to brainwash them”) vs. people to be lead in pursuit of something great.
  • Interviewer question: “Is there anyone in charge right now?. No, to the extent there is a regime, it’s failing.
  • Dissident scenes (like the “conservative world”) complain about being oppressed but if you actually try to do anything you will win by default because the regime is in its death throes.
  • The regime/system is actually good in that it’s holding back chaos and giving us “time to work”. The job is not to oppose the system but to create a coherent elite in order to inherit and steward the system/civilization.
  • The WASP elite failed and nothing really replaced them. There are conspiracies and interest groups but no one is in charge. No one is able to “act above the institutions” and direct them.
  • It’s a spiritual question: one faction of current elite have a spiritual commitment to the pleasure of the self (it’s not “material” but still transcendent in its own way).
  • Liberal-individualism in it’s original conception was a serious/interesting ideal (heroic individualism like Mills and Emerson), but it became “we are going to retreat into the pleasures of the self”.
  • Rather than answering questions with exploratory individualism liberalism turned to stopping thought. Popper says “destroy anything that could actually create change” (his admittedly negative reading of Popper).
  • Better to put individualism on equal footing with other ideologies like “theism”.
  • Utilitarianism is an evil ideology.
  • The key question: “what is the vision that I have for the cosmic order and my place in it?” Once you’re thinking about that you’ve evaded the “thought stopper”. “Which visions are we compelled by?”.
  • It doesn’t have to be religious in the sense that most people mean but it is religious in the original mean of the word: “binding”. “Are you bound by some system of principles and transcendent values?”
  • The secular modern scientific worldview is a religious one.
  • The “thought stopper” could be seen as a defence against what science actually implies because if you take science and technology to their full potential you get a religious vision.
  • The work has not been done to update Christianity in light of science nor to drive science forward to deal with theology and value.
  • Anti-transhumanist in the current day but “ultimately we end up there” if you take the scientific/modern worldview seriously (but OPPOSED to the “self-worshipping” and “fake” transhumanism of the current day).
  • “Is mankind the perfect being?”. No, we can create a being that will surpass us. It’s the principle which animates being that is important rather than humans as is.
  • “God is manifesting into the world the kind of beings he wants to have a relationship with”
  • “I am a religious ideologue”
  • “Governance futurism” and “luxury political theory”
  • Governance futurism is concerned with “elite and regime formation”. The aim is to lay a definitive foothold in a subject with each issue of Palladium.
  • “Luxury political theory” is the aesthetic element (an issue of Palladium can look beautiful just sitting on your coffee table).
  • We are not in the game of subversion, rather construction (maybe circumvention). Subversion is a “standoffish” and “avant garde” approach.
  • Recommends Thoreau in the vein of “quit your job” as Thoreau questioned a life based on acquisition and thought humans should be worthy of material progress.
Advertisement

Chris Bickerton on Technocracy

  • How do you define technocracy? It means different things to different people but the consensus core is “rule by experts.”
  • Plato is often cited, Plato rejected the distinction between polis/politics and what the ancient Greeks called oikos/household. Plato said that we can think about them in the same way because both are a matter of craft/skill. “Philosopher king” rulers have that capacity, combining expertise and power.
  • From the end of the 19th century into the 20th century “technocracy” is associated with modern technology, engineers, and technological developments. It’s a movement within modernization with engineers and technical know-how at the center.
  • Is technocracy opposed to democracy? The Platonic conception is opposed to democracy. In Plato’s formulation specialists should rule over others. Closer to the current day it’s more complicated.
  • Silicon Valley boosterism is a form of post-political technocracy but that’s not the main notion of technocracy at work today.
  • People tend not to go so far as saying it’s an alternative but rather a compliment to democracy with the aim to identify realms best staffed by experts.
  • It’s accepted that central banks are the domain of the experts, ie. a legitimate realm for the technocrat.
  • But who decides? In many cases it’s technocrats themselves, the state or outside experts.
  • At one time pre-2008 there was consensus in economics on models for policy makers. Economists were vested with independent technocratic power for this reason.
  • If there is consensus it becomes easy for politicians to say “let’s hand it over to the experts.” When there isn’t consensus the technocratic model breaks down.
  • If there isn’t a consensus view the technocratic model breaks down—even in terms of appointments—and the situation is back in the realm of political debate.
  • The more leftwing economics vision—Keynes and skepticism of the price system—lost out in the late 20th century and the outcome was consensus.
  • In the UK politicians have left decisions like quantitative easing to the Bank of England. Politicians are happy to foist responsibility onto the BoE where there is ambiguity about who should act.
  • Some politicians see themselves as technocrats.
  • The emphasis on “competence” and the “CV” demonstrate a technocratic element in UK politics.
  • Tony Blair said “my ideology is what works.”
  • The above is a technocratic statement because it’s an either/or frame that doesn’t acknowledge another view. The other more democratic position is that views represent different values. More recently the values view has given way to right or wrong and right or wrong turn in politics is dangerous.
  • The Micheal Gove statement “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts” was against the notion that claims to expertise should be decisive.
  • Trump is a populist but a clear “what works” person. His supporters used a “plumbing” metaphor. Trump emphasizes “my business has been successful” etc.
  • There is a wonkish side to the technocratic view of politics as opposed a deal making or populist political strain in the current day but they are opposed to the same thing.
  • Both views oppose the sclerotic political class, excessive partisanship, interest groups, rent seeking etc.
  • If you accept that technocracy doesn’t want to replace democracy then it’s in a weak position vs. populism as populism has a democratic mandate.
  • There haven’t been many technocratic governments in Europe since WW2.
  • Macron is technocratic. In terms of what he says, his great emphasis on expertise, how he has brought state administration into his office and the fact that he came to power without much of a party structure. His party En Marche is new and top down. Macron is an “I get things done” or “what works” person. A “voice of people” who are tired of French politics.
  • Is technocracy straight-forwardly opposed to politics? Yes. Party politics is not premised on a right or wrong answer. There is an in-built relativism with party politics.
  • The sense of right and wrong is really important to the technocratic view.
  • Is the current Chinese political system basically technocratic? There is no democratic political competition and party rule rests on a claim of “what works” ie. market economy and prosperity.
  • The problem when legitimacy rests on “what works” is what happens when it stops working? In a democracy if something doesn’t work the system isn’t challenged you just vote the party out.
  • Who are the technocrats in Britain today? The UK is a front runner in terms of the “regulatory state” ie. investing power in independent institutions. The element of technocracy in British politics is shown in the competence/CV view.
  • The British state as a whole over the last 30 years has increasingly oriented to institutions run by experts. This trend is very powerful and present in UK politics and undermines what people think parliament can do. That said, increasingly people are questioning this tendency.

Paris, 1968: “1968 and the Struggle Against Technocracy”

These are notes from a lecture by Andrew Feenberg. The lecture was found by searching “Technocracy” on YouTube.

  • A French student revolt provoked a general strike in May 1968.
  • We have a false image of the whole New Left, they were actually serious political movements challenging the notion that we have to live with a technocratic consumer society.
  • It was about an alternative social model, the inheritance from the New Left is anti-technocratic struggle.
  • Paris 1968 started out as a small student revolt, students were arrested and locked out of the university and gained a new target in the police as a result.
  • Students began to build barricades in part as a reference to history like the Paris commune. Barricades became more and more numerous.
  • At this point a huge police attack was organized but the violent attack mobilized many people against the government.
  • Students were let back into the university and had talks about revolution.
  • At the arts school the students seized the studios and made posters like the famous poster of a fascist policeman wielding a baton.
  • “We want to build a classless society.” (student statement)
  • Scenes: Workers and students seized a factory and were jubilant, saluting each other.
  • “We must destroy everything that isolates us from each other (habits, the newspapers, etc.)”
  • All this was as a trauma for business executives and civil servants who saw themselves as doing a social service.
  • A strike movement began to appear in the middle class.
  • Even civil servants from Finance were involved. Also the ministry of housing, white collar postal service workers etc.
  • The protests/movement contained the notion of self-management vs. the planned economy of the Soviet Union which was more so supported by the Communist Party. Workers “by and for themselves.”
  • De Gaulle consulted with generals and implied the possibility of civil war.
  • Sartre said “you have enlarged the field of the possible.”
  • “refuse profit, progress and luxury.”
  • “Do not confuse the TECHNICAL division of labor and the HIERARCHY of authority and power” (the first is necessary, the second is not)
  • “all power to the imagination”
  • “ni dieu, ni metre” (neither god, nor meters ie. measurement)