Monday, August 30, 2004

complexity and capital: metaphysics and the market; or are justice and charity self-organizing?

(the second of three posts coming out of my summer reading of Lev Manovich concerning new media and technology. Here is the first.)

What if all this talk about complexity, self-organizing systems, and the connectivity of life is really just the emergence of a metaphysic to under-gird global capitalism? As Len Manovich says in Abstraction and Complexity (an otherwise very intersting account of art and technolgy), "Just as the classical physics and mathematics fitted perfectly the notion of a highly rational and orderly universe controlled by God, the sciences of complexity seem to be appropriate in the world which on all levels - political, social, economic, technical - appears to us to be more interconnected, more dynamic, and more complex than ever before."

But shouldn't this collusion between science and the social order be questioned. Might not this marriage be the means of bondage rather than that of liberation? Isn't the logic of non-linear, non-hierarchical relations between the parts and the whole (the arche and telos, the cause and effect) the ultimate justification of the laissez-faire mentality of global capitalism which seeks to deregulate the entire globe for the free, spontaneous, self-organization of commodity exchange? Might not the paradigm of complexity be the new ideology which undergirds, and easelessly oils, the machine of global capitalism?

And conversely, are Justice and Charity even really self-organizing and spontaneous within a system? More often than not they are the explosion and violent reordering of a system. Justice and Charity would only be spontaneous and self organizing if we believed in the benevolence of the system, it parts and inputs. But is this what we really believe is the case of human systems?

And finally, if top-down or bottom-up reductionistic hierarchies can't be trusted, nor can the systems of complexity, whom can we trust? What specter within the system, what Spirit from beyond might moves us beyond these dichotomies?

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