April 6, 2011

Scott's Heel?

Started reading the book 'Seeing Like A State' by Professor James C. Scott. Although there are a number of folks who challenged me to read it, because I am a member of the Zeitgeist Movement and supporter of the Venus Project and its resource based economy, these same people are often adversaries of the previous general ideology but that's not the reason why I delved into the material. I honestly wonder if things could go terribly wrong even if the plan sounds that good and where people have the best of intentions. It's also never a bad thing to increase your knowledge or to test what you have.

I already read summaries on the internet so I, generally speaking, already knew what it was about. Scott criticizes central planning and 'utopian' plans, arguing that 'micro-factors' will always be swept aside for the greater common good - thus doing damage and that this methodology is ultimately self-defeating. Certainly powerful arguments since not recognizing elements that could do harm is not desirable no matter what you do. Yet I wonder about things on another level. Having read 70 pages of the book so far I'm not really in a position to make a definitive conclusion on Scott's thesis, yet my mind is already wrestling with the information.

Above is a brief excerpt of what Scott is getting at (in the material I've read so far). While he makes a point, I can not escape the notion that his conclusion is not the fiasco he portrays it to be. Did the planning really fail (that much)? Much of what he described as more or less inadequate is to some extent standard practice these days in most parts of the world. Surnames, managing forests, land tenure and legible cities are these days accepted, while they were resisted when these changes were implemented.

The level I wonder about is this; the dynamic flux of transformation. In essence, the mechanics of order vs chaos. What I mean by that is that you can have a natural and organic forest, city or human construct - no matter how chaotic it might appear - but when you disturb that natural order, does it result in lasting chaos or does an equilibrium reassert itself over time? Because what I see in Scott's thesis so far an equilibrium and new natural order did manifest once again. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself since there's a lot more reading to be done. More on this later.

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