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Thread: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

  1. #1
    Member Member Tuuvi's Avatar
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    Default Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    So I was reading this interview with anthropologist David Graeber last night that was pretty interesting and I thought it would be fun to discuss it here:

    https://roarmag.org/magazine/david-g...w-debt-occupy/

    I remember some Italian journalist who was asking me which I thought was the better course to take: the German industrial model of capitalism or the American financial one. And I said, well, it’s not like these are options available to everyone! We have this fantasy that Wall Street or the City rake in the money because somehow people around the world are dazzled by the brilliance of their financial instruments. But what are these “financial instruments” really? They’re just fancy forms of paperwork. In fact I’ve argued that they are the very pinnacle of this newly bureaucratized form of capitalism we have now, where it almost makes no sense even to make a distinction between public and private bureaucracies because they’ve totally merged, and where we’re all supposed to think that value emerges from the paperwork rather than from whatever it is the paperwork is regulating or assessing.

    What these new bureaucratized forms of capitalism are really about is making state power an intrinsic element of the extraction of profit: you collude with government to create a regulatory regime that will guarantee widespread debt, for instance, then you use the court system to enforce it. There’s a perfect synthesis of public and private power to guarantee a certain rate of profit to those who essentially fund the politicians. But it all ultimately comes down to a monopoly of coercive force inside the country.
    I think there’s a very interesting essay to be written about the whole notion of “unelectability.” It’s quite fascinating to see so many people, thousands and thousands, on blogs proclaiming how no one else will vote for Corbyn. It shows something profound about the nature of contemporary ideology, which I’m becoming increasingly convinced is not based on convincing the public that the system is good or fair, but only on convincing them that other people think the system is good and fair. Everyone is sitting there saying: “it’s all a scam, but people are sheep, they actually buy this shit!” — whereas in fact the only people being fooled are those who believe everyone else is.

    What are your thoughts?

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    Anarchist.

    Hunter-gatherers, even in the Palaeolithic, could be very hierarchical, but they tended to go back and forth over the course of the year between almost state-like arrangements and extreme equality. They were always experimenting with different forms and any top-down arrangement was inherently temporary. So the question isn’t where inequality came from but how we somehow got stuck.
    Equality comes often when there are only a few variables and only a few individuals to apply them to. The state is the stable equilibrium phase.
    Vitiate Man.

    History repeats the old conceits
    The glib replies, the same defeats


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  3. #3
    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    I think the pattern of political votes easily proves the second quote in the OP wrong.
    If people aren't fooled, why do they vote for all the wrong parties and candidates to change something about the status quo?

    The first quote is my pet issue of sorts, of course it is correct and everyone who disagrees is being fooled.


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    Member Member Tuuvi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Anarchist.



    Equality comes often when there are only a few variables and only a few individuals to apply them to. The state is the stable equilibrium phase.
    Why do you think the state is the stable equilibrium phase? Please elaborate, I'm not sure that I understand what you're getting at.

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    I think the pattern of political votes easily proves the second quote in the OP wrong.
    If people aren't fooled, why do they vote for all the wrong parties and candidates to change something about the status quo?
    For some people at least I think they half-heartedly vote for a candidate or party because they feel like it's better than nothing, or as a protest vote in the case of a party/candidate that has no chance of winning.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    Why do you think the state is the stable equilibrium phase? Please elaborate, I'm not sure that I understand what you're getting at.
    Without state organization, large populations must disperse. If they grow too much again, they will again disperse. In an area with growing population density and nowhere to disperse easily, state organization must emerge or be adopted, or the population will die off, possibly causing a ripple through other populations. Who would tend to adopt state structures to defend themselves. Everything tends toward state production and reproduction above the family or smallhold level.
    Vitiate Man.

    History repeats the old conceits
    The glib replies, the same defeats


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  6. #6

    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    It can be questioned whether the state and business were ever separate.
    Government has to set the rules ie: where the law is silent, everything is permitted; so law as a check on behavior and as enabler:

    http://definitions.uslegal.com/c/carriers-case%20/

    The subject matter may have changed. The exchange of goods seems pretty straight forward (at least given acceptance of the assumptions made under law), but what about the exchange of paper, the terms of which are rarely understood by the parties, let alone the legislators. So the "...making state power an intrinsic element of the extraction of profit"... may not be the issue, rather the relationship between the state and profit extraction; does the gov't represent the business or the electors? and if both, to what degree each?
    Last edited by HopAlongBunny; 12-04-2016 at 00:08.
    Ja-mata TosaInu

  7. #7

    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    It can be questioned whether the state and business were ever separate.
    As I touched upon in an unrelated thread, money of account has existed for a long time - before coin, before Hammurabi.
    Vitiate Man.

    History repeats the old conceits
    The glib replies, the same defeats


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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    Quote Originally Posted by Tuuvi View Post
    For some people at least I think they half-heartedly vote for a candidate or party because they feel like it's better than nothing, or as a protest vote in the case of a party/candidate that has no chance of winning.
    And it would have been too hard to register as a democrat and vote for Sanders in the primary?
    Is this some kind of most amount of anarchy for the least amount of effort thing?
    In that case it could backfire quite hard with Trump anyway.


    "Topic is tired and needs a nap." - Tosa Inu

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    Senior Member Senior Member Fisherking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    There are a few complex issues at work here in the article.

    What most have not examined is that both the Tea Party and Occupy movements were founded on the same principles. Not on the peripherals with which the parties tried to co-op them on. Neither actually joined with either party. The sentiment and ideas are still there awaiting some form of leadership to bring them to the fore.

    The established order is hostile to these leading to the media colouring both as Crazies and generalising them with false stereotypes to reinforce that perception.

    The issue of the American Bureaucratic Oligarchy is another. Most do not recognise it for what it is or prefer to call it by some other name. Few know how it arose or its provence.

    Do we have any students of history that can put a proper name to it?


    Education: that which reveals to the wise,
    and conceals from the stupid,
    the vast limits of their knowledge.
    Mark Twain

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    Member Member Tuuvi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Without state organization, large populations must disperse. If they grow too much again, they will again disperse. In an area with growing population density and nowhere to disperse easily, state organization must emerge or be adopted, or the population will die off, possibly causing a ripple through other populations. Who would tend to adopt state structures to defend themselves. Everything tends toward state production and reproduction above the family or smallhold level.
    Do you have a source for this claim? I have to admit I'm skeptical. One the one hand, states formed on almost every continent wherever agriculture and urbanization developed, so you could be right. However I don't understand why the lack of a state would require large populations to disperse or die off. Just because there is no state doesn't meant there isn't any political organization whatsoever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    And it would have been too hard to register as a democrat and vote for Sanders in the primary?
    Is this some kind of most amount of anarchy for the least amount of effort thing?
    In that case it could backfire quite hard with Trump anyway.
    I think we're misunderstanding each other, my reply to you had nothing to do with Anarchism. I was just pointing out that just because someone votes for someone doesn't mean they wholeheartedly back whoever they voted for.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    Just because there is no state doesn't meant there isn't any political organization whatsoever.
    Well, yes - we're talking about the state, not "any political organization whatsoever". The state involves the formalization of inequality and its system across time and space, not for a single group over a lifetime (or less). Large populations cannot be ordered without this system, and large populations cannot be materially provided for without the utilities generated for and sustained by this system.

    Here's a start:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The simultaneous emergence of new institutional forms to organize larger social units and new
    agriculture techniques suggests that either institutional or technical innovation may have been the driving
    force in the revolution. New archeological evidence suggests that sedentism preceded domestication of
    plants, implying that institutional change probably preceded technical change (Gebauer and Price 1992).
    Regardless of whether institutional change was the driving force in the Neolithic revolution or a response to
    changing opportunities, the new Neolithic institutions must have created new ways of structuring human
    interaction. We offer a new approach to Neolithic institutional change consistent with conundrum posed by
    the archeological record: why were people willing to live in cities where their health was lower than in the
    surrounding hunting and gathering societies?

    After briefly reviewing the existing economic and anthropological hypotheses about the Neolithic
    revolution, we present a theory of the state consistent with the conundrums in the archeological record and
    capable of explaining the emergence of large social units several millennia ago. The heart of the theory is
    what North, Wallis, and Weingast call the “natural state” (North, Wallis et al. 2006). In a natural state, the
    political system manipulates economic privilege to create rents that can be used to create social order and
    reduce violence. We then set forth the methodology and the skeletal evidence showing that urban life was
    relatively unhealthy but also considerably less violent. Consistent with their ideas, we argue that institutional
    change in the form of well-organized elite coalition with relatively well-defined elite property rights reduced
    violence to the point that early cities because attractive places to live despite their adverse effect on health.
    Any method of reducing violence requires inducing militarily powerful individuals to stop fighting.

    The natural way of doing this is to weld a number of powerful individuals into mutual, credible agreements
    with each other to stop fighting. In order for these agreements to be credible, however, the military elites
    must lose something significant if they choose to fight each other. Credible agreements require that each
    military elite must perceive that it is in his own interest and in the interests of the other military elites not to
    fight. The solution is for the military elites to agree to enforce each other’s exclusive property rights in the
    land, labor, capital, and valuable economic functions that they control. Because each elite member of the
    dominant coalition has exclusive rights to the surplus produced by his assets, and because that surplus
    declines if violence breaks out, it is possible to create a coalition of elites that simultaneously creates and
    enforces elite privileges (including property rights) and reduces the level of violence in society.

    Viewing a nascent state as a coalition of powerful individuals who credibly commit to end violence
    against each other is preferable to a model in which a monopoly of coercive power gives rise to the state.
    Gaining a preponderance of military power requires the organization of significant numbers of individuals.
    Rather than finessing how this organization originates and maintains itself, our approach begins by
    identifying the organizational mechanism at work. Moreover, a state that rules by coercing subjects and rivals
    is continually waging, or threatening to wage, war against its own subjects and its rivals. Belief systems in
    which the legitimacy of the state is tied to the provision of order can never emerge in such a system, since the
    explicit agreement between the powerful is cooperate or else. Instead, Elman Service argues that successful
    social organizations “wage peace” (Service 1975). That is, the social system secures peace and cultivates
    beliefs about the legitimacy of the system, which are consistent with the fact that powerful individuals have
    positive incentives to maintain the peace, rather than living in a social order where a balance of terror is all
    that insures order.

    Our review of the evidence as well as new data we bring to the table show that violence was the
    common lot of hunter-gatherer societies. Property rights are only enforced by the force of arms. As a result,
    the emergence of a natural state does not reduce the rights of non-elites and transfer them to elites. Instead,
    elites create newly defined and enforced rights for themselves. In turn, a natural state allowed non-elites to
    obtain protection at the cost of reduced health. The attraction of an agrarian society was not a higher physical
    standard of living, it was a safer life and thus, presumably, greater utility.

    Second, the theory of the natural state predicts that early states all should share a common
    organization form in which elites dominate economic, political, and social privileges. The sixth section of the
    paper compares the theoretical predictions to the anthropological evidence of the formation of early states.
    Again, the evidence provides a consistent picture of the structure of early states that fits neatly with the
    predictions of the natural state theory
    Vitiate Man.

    History repeats the old conceits
    The glib replies, the same defeats


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

  12. #12
    Old Town Road Senior Member Strike For The South's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fancy Forms of Paperwork and the Logic of Financial Violence

    The extreme equality referenced was due to kinship bonds. Trying to using these societies as models is a duplicitous slight of hand by anthropology departments to garner more funding for their departments.

    article is trash.
    There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford

    My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom.

    I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation.

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