On the use of philosophy in social design
One of the weaknesses of social design is its over-pragmatic, too-determinate quality. Not that the ideas are bad ideas—usually they are quite provocative and inspirational. Instead, the writing is too specific, too concrete, too confident. Nietzsche was suspicious of anyone's earnest planning for the improvement of people or culture. The primitive Daoist, Zhuangzi, would have nothing to do with social improvements, except to have nothing to do with them. Richard Sennett pleaded for an end to the planning mentality, and for the opening of anarchic cities. There is little, almost nothing, of skepticism, suspicion, humility, open-endedness, or self-critical thought in such social design works as Parecon, Economic Democracy, Human-scale technology manifestos, green culture celebrations, or even anarchist imaginaries.
Certainly, it pays to take what's good out of multiple visions and designs, but given the fictional quality of any particular design for a better world, plan for a more just society, or more free life, I would propose another way of facing the issues, namely philosophically. My article, "The Flow of Experiencing in Anarchic Economies" (see below) tries to give reasons for not jumping on any organizing bandwagon, and for a meta-theoretical approach to anarchic social transformation. I know from a handful of exchanges with the designer of Parecon that such skepticism is not always appreciated. Nonetheless, I think that if design of social processes is to be participatory, the determinate, principled approach to social design comes off as social engineering from without. Even if the driving principles are those typically associated with anarchism, that's not participatory.
The Flow of Experiencing in Anarchic Economies
(Originally published in Amster, DeLeon, et. al., eds. Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy. NY: Routledge, 2009.)
Sociatecture is participatory design of sociality.
- Human existence is neither purely individual (pure unit) nor purely collective. It is impure process (halting and restarting), but this can be more or less simplified: Daoism, Bro. Lawrence, Spinoza, Picasso, Kierkegaard.
- Socio-individual life is the basic unit-process, or differential, of ‘human’ existence.
- Sociality is the practice, conditions, and goal of socio-individual life. There are no individuals without sociality.
- So: participatory (acts of) design for a free society; that is to say, unplanned (or short-range planned), and open-ended.
Sociatecture is philosophical act insofar as design is philosophical. Design is philosophical when it creates a concept or consistent concepts as meta-practice. Concepts (abstract differentials) with which to work, with which to live.
In Sociatecture, to design is to live; there is no limit on what may or should be designed, there is no compartmentalization of life into the actual (and mustbeputupwith) and the potential (and mustbeworkedfor), there is no exhausting sociality. This is how to promote Sociatecture to those who are worn out, who are skeptical, who put up with poor living conditions, poor conditions for autonomy.
No predetermined method for Sociatecture’s work. No determinate structure. Structurally, Sociatecture is self-organizing. Sociatecture is a voluntary associational membership process.1 It is not only worker-owned but only exists as affiliated social designers. Anyone whose life’s work is to bring new social forms into being, forms more free and cooperative, is invited to link up with and create Sociatecture through social designing.
Any sociality has 5 components that may be designed. These are processes of large-scope of concern, relevant to multitudes.
:Law-politics-ethics-custom: managing actional motive forces (the challenge is, how does each self-manage in the context of each self-managing?2)
:Education, family and child-rearing: managing self-growth
:Urban form: managing place practices
:Economics: managing exchange, material, emotional and informational—“a copper for your thoughts,” literally.
:Health: managing one's quantity of life
All management is self-management,3 so, sociatecture is life maintenance.
All design practice must include component integration as one of its tasks.