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On Gigantism

Summary:
Against the core belief of conventional statecraft 2019-02-27 Conventional wisdom holds that centralised control can yield efficiency gains without any noticeable downsides. It facilitates decision-making at scale. It opens up possibilities of horizontal integration, of drawing linkages between different phases of the distribution mechanism, to deliver a singular, more coherent offering. Going big{-er} is always better. This is gigantism: the belief in the inherent value of aggrandising the scale of operations while concentrating control. Everything should ultimately be determined at a single locus of authority or, at least, as few as possible. Corporations

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Against the core belief of conventional statecraft

Conventional wisdom holds that centralised control can yield efficiency gains without any noticeable downsides. It facilitates decision-making at scale. It opens up possibilities of horizontal integration, of drawing linkages between different phases of the distribution mechanism, to deliver a singular, more coherent offering. Going big{-er} is always better.

This is gigantism: the belief in the inherent value of aggrandising the scale of operations while concentrating control. Everything should ultimately be determined at a single locus of authority or, at least, as few as possible. Corporations operate along those lines, as do states and institutions therein.

The hierarchy as an end in itself

Gigantism defines every entity that handles its communication channels and decision-making processes in the form of a hierarchy. A vertical structure creates a built-in incentive—indeed drive—to diffuse uncertainty by means of imposing uniformity. Heterogeneity must give way to homogeneity. Plurality must be superseded by singularity. All shall be streamlined for the distribution mechanism of the vertical structure to function with as little friction as possible.

In a nutshell, gigantism is the ideology that underpins the hierarchical model of political, social, economic organisation. It is the set of rationalisations developed by the members of the hierarchy itself in pursuit of their model’s self-preservation, augmentation, and proliferation.

We can find gigantism as a fully realised ambition in the empires of yore as well as everywhere in our world. The Romans at the height of their reign, which can also be understood as the point in time when they fully realised and embraced the inherent propensities of imperialism, developed a system of absolutism that featured a single deity (the Christian God, the pantokrator or almighty), a single representative of said deity (the Church, headed by the Pope—a hierarchy par excellence), and a single sovereign or superordinate political office (the Emperor).

The reign of wealth as an expression of gigantism

First a definition: Platform: properly equipped basis for the development of new endeavours, applications. The set of prerequisites for a chain of functions.

The concentration of control as a necessary good also exists in the domain of economics, or rather in a subset of economistic thinking that exalts the corporation as the driver of all unmitigated blessings in the economy. Most industries in mature capitalist economies feature a two-tier system that is falsely considered the by-product of the unencumbered operations of the ‘free market’:

  • The platformarchs (platform owners, else rentiers). Large, typically multi-national, corporations that own the very infrastructure or means of access or essential ‘intellectual property’ in the given industry. They become the industry leaders and enablers. This is the economic elite and manifests as an oligopoly or de facto monopoly with strong, symbiotic ties with the domestic political establishment.
  • The platformzens (platform dwellers, else tenants). Smaller business entities that can only operate in the industry within the half-spaces left by the platform owners. They cannot compete with the platformarchs on equal terms due to their lack of ‘scale’. Platformzens typically perform ancillary functions to those of the {mono,oligo}-polistic interests. In cases where platformzens grow in size, they are outright bought by the platformarchs, essentially ending their autonomy and reinvigorating the two-tier system of capitalist business economics.

The reign of [concrentrated] wealth—plutocracy—is the political system that emerges from the fusion of the interests of the platform owners with those of the political elite. For that to be accomplished, the state apparatus must also be structured along the lines of gigantism, in order to be in a position to impose its corrupt will on the populace.

The political establishment promotes gigantism

Which brings us to the point of quotidian politics. Virtually every party across the political spectrum peddles a variant of gigantism. Their ideologies are imbued in imperialistic doctrine, litanies to the contrary notwithstanding.

The contradiction of “free market capitalism”

The neoliberal, else conservative, purports to support the free market, but is in fact in favour of state interventions in the interest of the economic establishment. They have no hesitation whatsoever to push through with draconian measures such as austerity for the masses coupled with excesses for the economic elite: “quantitative easing” which basically is free money for the banksters, bailing out banks or legislating in favour of oligopolies or de facto monopolies in the various sectors of the economy…

Here is the catch. There is a fundamental misconception that capitalism is all about forming an economic domain defined by the symmetry of power among its actors. Naive capitalists think that the terms “capitalism” and “free market” are interchangeable and practically the same. In fact, capitalism throughout its history is the gigantist ideology by which state interventions should be limited to the support of capital owners, which at scale is limited to the support of platformarchs.

I define it as a type of gigantism because the practice of pampering the economic elite presupposes a powerful state that can extract taxes from the masses, impose its will without much trouble, and implement measures in a uniform way. Consider for example, institutions such as that of an independent central bank that is practically immune to public scrutiny—like the European Central Bank or the Federal Reserve Bank of the USA. As such, the capitalist state shares close, nay, inseparable ties with powerful economic interests, forming a politico-economic oligarchy.

Furthermore, neoliberals or conservatives promote individualism, which is an ideology that greatly facilitates gigantism. You are but a decontextualised human. Your local community, your culture, mean nothing. You are just a factor of production that holds “human capital”—and all individuals are replaceable by each other.

Individualism creates precarious living conditions for everyone that is not part of the economic or political elite. Rootlessness makes us weak, keeps us divided and at odds with each other by forcing us to resort to our base instincts of surviving in the face of precarity.

And the capitalist suggests that this inherent asymmetry is just the level-playing field where the “invisible hand” (according to Adam Smith) of the market is allowed to work its magic. Madness! Or rather class consciousness that rationalises every hideous measure in the interest of the status quo’s preservation.

Ultra-conservatives are capitalists with a different rhetoric

For all intents and purposes, the ultra-conservatives are in the same camp as the neoliberals, at least insofar as gigantism of the capitalist sort is concerned. They just focus more on the promotion of traditional values: values that embed and embody the capitalist values of individualism and the deification of the amoral corporation.

They are explicit about wanting a paternalistic political order. The state as a cop and pimp. Their ideas of the homeland, public security, and the archetypical family are to be enforced by the all-mighty state apparatus—an assortment of bureaucrats that claims to know what is good for its subjects and has the means to impose its will: propaganda, security forces, mass surveillance… These initially keep the populace in submission and are eventually marshalled for the support of the domestic economic elite typically under the pretext of some patriotic cause of “protecting our own companies”.

Economic elites need only conform to the utlra-conservatives’ demands on the social policy front. A fairly trivial task, especially once social policy is reduced to a mere witch hunt against certain groups of immigrants. Otherwise, the balance of power and distribution of resources remain in tact.

The self-righteous professional central planner

Social democrats are slightly different than capitalists, or so they think. Their starting point is the aggrandisement of the state architecture. The power elite should be omnipotent and omniscient, so as to have the means of forwarding whatever agenda of social reform. The typical social democrat is an exponent of technocracy, albeit one that conforms to the ideals of progressivism, however defined in any given context.

Perhaps without realising it, the social democrat believes in the essentials of capitalism. A powerful state that can enforce its edicts with ease. A state that can, in other words, manipulate every aspect of public life. A bureaucracy that can engineer social reform with the help of large corporations that control the means of production—the platformarchs.

Now combine that with the quintessence of “progressivism”: the notion that social reform should take place in an incremental fashion, as opposed to abolitionism. Progressives are satisfied with keeping the core of the system in tact. It is what gives them nourishment.

Make no mistake: “progressive” in this case seldom is about going forward and being enlightened. It concerns the management of the capitalist nexus of interests in a more overt and involved way compared to the deluded advocates of ‘free market capitalism’.

The social democrat is typically the one who toils to preserve domestic big businesses by means of subsidies, so that these may in turn stick around to employ people. This is their notion of “creating jobs”: keep the platformarchs happy, support the plutocracy and enhance it, so that the rest of society may perpetuate its precarious living. In effect, social democrats are desperate to reinforce the multitude of symbiotic relationships between public entities and private interests.

Think of all the laws that are being passed which expect from banks to hold more capital or from a handful of software giants to police the Internet. All in the name of the “average citizen”, as if the progressivist technocracy has any first hand experience of precarity!

In every field of endeavour, the self-righteous professional central planner imposes bureaucratic constraints that harm small private entities while ultimately reinforcing the dominion of the economic elite.

Their understanding of social policy presupposes the presence of large corporations and of state-business symbiosis. Big state, big capital, big labour unions, with the bureaucrat as the glue—the nasty goo—that keeps everything together.

Meanwhile, they may claim to be against individualism, but their exhortations tend to have the same effect as those of the neoliberal. Open borders, the idea that we are all just “humans” or “people”, enforced multiculturalism, quotas in the interest of ‘positive discrimination’ and other items from the social justice warrior’s agenda…

All converge at a vision of the human person as a rootless individual that can be moved around with ease and, more importantly, manipulated by the almighty state.

Communism is neither about the community nor the commons

The communist wants a ubiquitous, all-knowing state, that directs intersubjective experience from a single command centre. Allusions to “the commons” are nothing but references to complete ownership of the means of production and governance by a state apparatus; a bureaucratic elite.

In practice, the communist is a louder social democrat. The differences between their beliefs are ones of degree, not category. Oh, they also have distinct circles of cronies. Same principle, new faces.

More importantly though, state ownership of all that can be owned produces a monopoly of power, which can then be distributed with ease among the technocrats that form the communist elite. The Soviet Union was such a kleptocratic dystopia, as is modern-day China.

No, such regimes do not constitute a deviation from the ideal communist polity. Rather, they are the natural outcome of the complete concentration of authority at a single locus of power.

The three scales of modern gigantism

The only noteworthy differences between gigantists qua gigantists concern the ceiling they place on the upward concentration of power.

  • Nationalists (nation-statists) want to concentrate control at the national centre.
  • Continentalists seek to do the same at the continental level (e.g. the EU).
  • Globalists wish to take things to the international domain, where a global bureaucracy will take charge (e.g. the UN).

One can identify such tendencies across the political spectrum, depending on the subject matter. The common denominator is gigantism.

Gigantism detests autonomy and autarky

We may not live in a modern incarnation of the Roman Empire. Yet we still have to struggle against its greatest legacy. At every scale there is an oligarchy consisting of political and business elites.

For gigantists, politics is about the distribution of control and the management of interests that are detached from actual human communities. They loath distributed systems because they cannot manipulate them. And they dislike strong organic ties between people as these remain robust to the sense of rootlessness that gigantism preaches and thrives in.

The gigantist wants to think of abstractions as physical entities so as to reinforce their drive for the concentration of sovereignty. Hence the tendency to speak of states or nations as if they were individuals. “Europe needs”, “Germany wants”… Such language makes it easier to render things impersonal and to proceed to take power away from communities.

The faceless state and the impersonal corporation can work in tandem, while the ordinary fellow toils at the sweatshop in pursuit of some consumerist fantasy, else dies on the battlefield driven by patriotism. Either way, the promise of a better life post-death keeps them at awe—another expedient myth that formed part of the tenets of Roman totalitarianism.

  • Consumerism is the equivalent of a treadmill whereby we must ceaselessly work to reproduce our precarious lifestyle, while precarity ensures we always suppress our demands. Bad eating habits, poor health in general, a deviation from the simple and natural life, constant bombardment of {mis-,dis-}information, means that the consumer cum guinea pig is always subject to the machinations of the oligarchy—to the bureaucrats that peddle peanuts as welfare subsidies and to the economic elite that exploits their psychology by inducing in them the false needs that are characteristic of the insatiable consumerist behaviour.
  • The terra patria (homeland) is yet another abstraction else fiction that obscures the tyranny of the plutocracy by virtue of placing the exploiters and the exploited under a common denominator, ignoring social injustices altogether. The exploiter is depicted as “one of us”, conveniently disregarding the fact that their very conduct runs contrary to the conviviality and solidarity shared by organic communities (who truly identify in their fellows “one of them”). The tyrant’s cultural background, the language they speak, the religion they practice or worldview they hold, does not make their dominion any less odious.

Time for re-institution

There is no point in trying to fit into this system. We will always be struggling against its built-in propensity to engender elitism. We must enact reform at both the political and the personal level. To achieve that we must first combat rootlessness, which manifests as individualism, humanitarianism, racialism, and similar ideological constructs that decouple the human person from its natural and social habitat.

You are neither a decontextualised human nor a part of an imaginary homogenised whole. You have individuality but it is brought into being through your inter-subjective experience, which unfolds in your immediate community and locality. That is where you belong. That is what makes you, and your community as a whole, stronger. And that is where you may build your collective life in a spirit of genuine freedom; freedom from the control of gigantists.

The goal is to bring the locus of authority to the local level. We do not need some bureaucrat to decide for us, nor some politician in the capital city to forward the agenda of their corporate sponsor. The task must be to gain control of the means of production and governance within our milieu. We must own the land we live on. By owning our space, we must also take control of its politics. We literally have a stake in the community. We are a fraction of it.

Citizenship is not about a legal arrangement between the state and its subjects. It rather signifies the capacity of each of us as a member of the local community, as an owner and defender of its land, and as one among equals in terms of power within the political compact. This is the ideal of the citizen-homesteader-guardian.

A fully fledged revolution should not be ruled out. However, we must not let that be an obstacle to gradual-yet-inexorable change. Reform is also about “small, continuous victories” as I like to call them.

We start by changing our ways and leading by example. For instance, we boycott industrial loaf and switch to eating real bread that is produced locally. We organise events where we help our neighbours and friends install free/libre software on their computers. We want to liberate them from the shackles of corporations that spy on them and try to extract profit and ultimately power from their entire computing experience. In a similar fashion, we prepare group activities where we instruct our fellow citizens best practices for cultivating their land, preparing their food, raising their kids, etc. in a manner that is sustainable for the locality, the community, the surrounding ecosystem.

We must strengthen the intimate link between locality and community through such forms of activism. The objective is to put an end to urbanisation (and its concomitant rootlessness) by re-establishing the agrarian model with the help of technology and the latest scientific breakthroughs. In this regard, we must share knowledge about sustainable agriculture, ecosystem-friendly ways of water management, the importance of cultivating bacteria (benign microorganisms) for the purposes of gastronomy and land preservation, and the like.

Ecosystemic consciousness, a frugal and natural modus videndi, is not merely about being in peace with the rest of nature. It constitutes a direct opposition to the interests of gigantism that seek to control the food chain. We fight against chemicals, pesticides, patented crops—patents and artificial scarcity in general—, and the complex of corrupt politics and big business behind them.

At the level of ideas, we must cultivate the virtues of locality and community. Localism is about fighting for control within the very space we occupy. Communitarianism is about strengthening the ties between us at the inter-personal level. Our answer to gigantism is a distributed system built around local communities: an organic polity.

About P. S.
Protesilaos Stavrou

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