You are here

The Radicalism of Systems Theory

I find myself increasingly engaged in systems theory without having a self-awareness about it until just now. I'd pretty much forgotten about systems theory and hadn't studied it for quite a while. Anyway, after some review I don't think it's unfair to propose there are plenty of relevant and contemporary applications that leftist movements and general society would find practical. Ever since industrialization social theorists have gradually abandoned universal principles, simplistic reductions and totalizing models for a conceptual and perceptual disposition with more general forms of knowledge often involving evermore context-specific analyses. This is partially because industrialization represented a period of rapid evolutionary changes and growth in human social complexity.

"The language of intrinsic human rights represented a significant advance beyond the previous language of world religions in terms of its universal applicability and its thiswordliness."
Immanuel Wallerstein, World-systems Analysis: An Introduction, 2004

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, became historically possible because of the world market and was defined by technologies like the printing press. Industrialization would have never happened without world market that beyond simply normalizing the exchange of goods practically socialized various different peoples and cultures. Post-modernity, like modernity, is arguably being marked by another explosion in human consciousness, one that has all the potential to revolutionize global civilization by making it more practical, equitable, and sustainable. However, as we speak post-modernity is being defined by the distinct emergence of a revolutionary social infrastructure which has an exponentially greater capacity to access and communicate information. This has not only drastically advanced humanity in various fields of philosophy, science, medicine, architecture, etc far beyond those particular ways aforementioned, but has given us the capacity and the tools to begin effectively resolving the large array of social problems that started becoming immanent global crises after industrialization ie the capitalist crises of over-production, under-consumption, over-accumulation; all of which reinforces each other.

The overpopulation crisis is characterized not so much by the explosion in the size of the world's population over the last 150 years alone, but from the lack of social evolution in the process of this population explosion, which has presented the effect of stripping much of the earth's resources, polluting its atmosphere, and (particularly in the mid-20th century) hitting a record ceiling in global poverty despite reaching historical levels of productivity. The globalization of capitalism has partially and temporarily ameliorated global poverty by Western investment and foreign economic development, a more broadly geo-political distribution of wealth, that has meant reinforcing and exacerbating the global state of socio-economic inequality, resources scarcity and ecological decay, via an increasingly brutal and yet self-destabilizing mode of government. This civilization is plagued by 1) wasteful, cost externalizing and blatantly destructive modes of production, consumption and disposal. These modes of association are constituted as 2) global system of inefficient and irrational government and corporate bureacracies that by the administration of managerialists, with all their redundant roles and procedures, serve to maintain the process of capital accumulation. This polity-form is destabilizing our whole ecosystem, thereby compounding the scarcity of resources that mutually reinforces our dependence from ignorance and emulation on increasingly shittier and more unsustainable modes of government. This creates a feed-back loop that develops reactionary and fascist political tendencies, tightening the grip and escalating the repression that's creating the very problem in the first place. Deforestation, extractive mining, monogenetic monocropping, and excess carbon emissions from the worlds capitalist industrial, agricultural, and infrastructural complexes are eliminating biodiversity and risking total cascade failure from said ecological imbalances.

"The capitalist world-economy needs the states, needs the interstate system, and needs the periodic appearance of hegemonic powers. But the priority of capitalists is never the maintenance, much less the glorification, of any of these structures. The priority remains always the endless accumulation of capital, and this is best achieved by an ever-shifting set of political and cultural dominances within which capitalist firms maneuver, obtaining their support from the states but seeking to escape their dominance."
Immanuel Wallerstein, World-systems Analysis: An Introduction, 2004

It's appropriate that from the Information Age we have expanded and refined our political imagination and vision in ways that can preserve biodiversity and facilitate the development of the planets ecosystem. This involves a global transcendence of capitalism, ie a general dissolution of governmental authority, structural hierarchy, institutional bureacracy and violent and oppressive methodologies. Bioregionialism, technics and social ecological practice would help reinforce biodiversity from levels of genetic-diversity, species-diversity and agrobiodviersity which not only reinforces the transition away from capitalism by ameliorating scarcity and inequality, or the political conditions of reaction and fascism, but would begin resolving alienation which includes but is not exclusively defined by a wide array of various mental illness without the need of formalizing mental health institutions, professional roles, or the subsequent diversion of financial, economic and material resources toward capitalist or non-profit industrial investments.

Broadly intersectional and multi-issue campaigns would more than just mobilize the masses but would bootstrap and equalize them in ways that emergent systems far more practical, resilient and stable could be maintained from their sense of justice and progress in self-government. This spontaneity of this movement and subsequent order may not be a finalizing moment, but arguably a defining moment for a new institutional structure, tradition or strategy for creating an alternative society. The displacement of the old government doesn't have to be absolute, unless we entertain all the logical implications of such a notion. An alternative society doesn't require social uniformity in political identity or agendas, not according to systems theory, consider it's the mode of socialization in all of its details (structure, norms, methodologies, etc) forms a more immediate and concrete base in terms of actualization and institutionalization than a persons self-identified values and beliefs. If reactionaries aren't invading the domains of workers and families, they like anyone else have their freedom to believe, considering believing and acting are two different things. The preparation and organization of coercion is a social form of acting, particularly since the threat of force is essential to their own self-identified organizing principle like any govermental auuthoritarian. Systems theory is immensely useful when building these systems and acknowledging how they might work together in order to prevent negative downstream effects and create as many positive externalities we can in the process.

"People resist exploitation. They resist as actively as they can, as passively as they must.
Immanuel Wallerstein, Transforming the Revolution, 1990

(Article image from from Christopher Chase-Dunn

Commenting on this Story will be automatically closed on October 10, 2020.