Mirror

I.

I’ve been working on a concept I call the sources of policy. This hasn’t happened in the context of asemic horizon, meaning: it’s mercenary treason of the project of theory. Instead, I’ve been developing the notion of “sources of policy” as part of a larger project that precedes me and that I hope to influence.

This larger project has both impressive technical chops (something which has continually eluded us, if only because I couldn’t spend that much time on theory) and the kind of high-awareness, high-purpose sociality and social purpose that our obscurity has never allowed us to reach. Maybe more importantly, this larger project hopes, as Socrates did, to be a midwife to the truth-rain of the Many. Theory, in the presence of a midwife, has no place and no role. There’s no theoretical situation — and indeed, I’m onboarded as an engineer (the first time I’ve ever had such a title).

The Midwife has startling ambition; it’s close to grasping at Dasein itself by the breast of its jacket. It assumes axiological problems to be amenable to some kind of automatic manner as the business of business goes on — pending some market design work, maybe. It quickly admits, like the first Wittgenstein, that it believes the logical multiplicity of propositions to match the logical format of what they refer to. Philosophically the whole thing is a mess, but it’s a testament to Midwife’s imagination and muscle that loose theoretical problems may turn out to be relevant at all.

Is there a meaningful sense in which theory and the Midwife hold a mirror to each other? As we said, the Midwife is already twice what theory ever hoped to achieve in a technical sense (even if not something that can be neatly incorporated into theory); its blind spot is precisely theory’s obsession. To give this a Lacanian flavor: the Midwife has the kind of mature articulation that theory knows it lacks; a delusional identification would kickstart the drama of subjectivity for theory. On the other hand, if the Midwife comes to identify its signature technical chops with a mature dominion over axiology, it begins to acquire an Imaginary. Is that new, or is it a standard feature of some class of projects? What is the global effect of this axiological delusion in society and for society-at-large?

II.

The sources of policy are meant to have the distinct Machian flavor of the distant masses of the universe. As an abstraction, it pulls away from arguing about particular threads to instead focus on the generic knot that brings them to a high-noon showdown. It has this format due to simple convenience — how it fits with ongoing conversations, and how it sneakily inserts the genericity of “policy”, at first unnoticed.

But formats have consequences: the ensuing development of sources of policy (even as translated to this blog and removed from the Midwife’s context) invert the typical exposition of general axiology as arising from some kind of pyramidal progression — small-scale discord being gradually abstracted away — and instead paints the applicable value systems (and here the various flavors of Schwabian conspiracy theories fit well, if that’s your song) as shining lights from distance, the actual source of which we’re unable to see. Instead, we see — most of the time — policy (in this very generic sense) reflected elsewhere. In this crude analogy where blinding axiologies are equated to blinding lights, the NPCs of internet jargons are further demoted to walls and curtains. (Here, you can fit your favorite flavor of Zizekian-Olavian account of “ideology”).

By all appearances, everything about this paints a scenario of powerlessness, a desert of agency necessarily kept apart from sites of “axiological causation” (don’t get attached to this phrase, it’s like a division by zero). This is the “Zero Hedge story”. Its mirror image, the “Storm of the Bastille story”, presents a counter-narrative of revolution. Zero Hedge continually sees itself in the mirror as an enabler of revolution while dealing only in despair over the Age of Schwab. Revolutionaries continually see themselves as standing for those bereft of agency. This dynamic tension gives balance to the notion of “sources of policy”. Sure, in various ways you’re a source of policy. But how do you plan on preventing an eventual breakneck-speed decarbonization of the economy? YOU WILL EAT WORMS AND YOU’LL BE HAPPY, say the sources of policy. Even the extremely intelligent and skeptical folks at the Midwife believe we should eventually stop eating beef.

III.

Despite the concept-world we’ve developed over time at asemic horizon, the only fundamental proposition about theory is that it is the theory of generic structure. Seen as a theorem, this has two parts: the infinite recursion (theory is the theory of the theory of the theory….) and the generic structure. The recursion means that generic structure is never actually instantiated; we never press the “on” button, it never climbs the stage — it’s not a Golem. But still, to figure in the formula, generic structure has to speak in some interface, some plug format, some common language that matches the infinite recursion. The precise word is satisfy — generic structure must not only match theory, but the fact that theory is the theory of the theory of….

The sources of policy share some of that colorchroma. The precise formula escapes me right now, but the point is that sources echo and reflect sources endlessly; we never need to instatiate the blinding lights of tyranny because the reflection game never ends. It would appear one cannot outrun Deleuze: stratification (chrema?) traps singular points in “systems of resonance” and “redundancy”. Epistemic resonance makes theory; axiological resonance makes the reflective effects of (generic) policy — i.e. reified axiology. But theory is its own undoing, it destratifies itself. The blinding lights in the sky — how far do they need to be in order to be stable to continuous threat of little revolutions?

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