Deacon deepening

by dyketheelder

“One theme of this book is that the planet, and indeed the cosmos, is replete with self-organizing, spatiotemporal systems flowing at different speeds, levels of sophistication, and degrees of staying power. These impersonal systems are open to some degree and never in perfect equilibrium; they interact, with each having a degree of entanglement with several others. … The biosphere itself is an open, thermodynamic system, driving heat into space and contributing to the condition of life on Earth. Such a perspective does not deny self-organizing power to economic markets. It does, however, suggest that these systems are much more fragile, interdependent, and volatile than their fervent supporters imagine, partly because they are closely involved with other self-organizing systems operating at various scales and tempos.”
That’s from the first paragraph of the chapter “second interlude: modes of self-organization” in William E. Connolly’s new book THE FRAGILITY OF THINGS: SELF-ORGANIZING PROCESSES, NEOLIBERAL FANTASIES, AND DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISM Duke UP. The rest of the chapter does a halfway interesting job of spelling out some of Deacon’s apparatus (he calls it “teleodynamism) and applying it in a preliminary way to financial markets and their social consequences. I haven’t read any other chapters except at a glance — I’m real busy at the moment — but the book looks to be pretty wide-ranging (Sophocles, Kant, Whitehead, among others). I’ll certainly get to it when I have the time.
For me, Connolly is a blast from the past. He was one of the more or less Marxian political scientists active in the 60’s (Peter Bachrach and Steven Lukes were others), and I read some of his stuff then. He went completely off my screen for about a half century, and now he’s back. Lo and behold, he’s traveled some of the same ground I have, and we meet at Deacon. Those of you who see promise in Deacon’s approach may want to look at its use by an old lefty with a real track record.


2 Comments to “Deacon deepening”

  1. Greetings. Lest you think that this post has elicited no response whatsoever, I am pleased to inform you that I have, at long last, begun reading Deacon and have placed an order with for a copy of Collins. The example of the zero, with which Deacon begins, is fascinating. Reminds me why, confronted with any argument, we should always ask, What is missing here?

  2. Just a quick note to say that William E. Conolly, The Fragility of Things, arrived at The Word Works today. So far, I like the style in the opening.

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