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The Nature of Order // Book Two // The Process of Creating Life

Started by droqen, January 04, 2023, 05:17:11 PM

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things which are similar must be similar, and things which are different must be different.


We are nearly to the end of PART TWO, wow. I made it. There is one last little bit in the chapter on SIMPLICITY, these two sections titled 'METAPHYSICAL NOTE' and 'NOTHINGNESS' and I am quite excited to read them, but I think I would like to have a clear mind before doing so. See you soon enough, book.


Oh yeah that's good stuff! It makes me really want to read Book 4. And, upsettingly, makes the link stronger between this and Kastrup's mental world. Argh!

I don't need a quote for this. Simplicity, perfection, nothingness, being alive. They are all the same.

The 4th book is called The Luminous Ground; this little section at the end of simplicity, "NOTHINGNESS," contains the first solid reference to that Ground; simplicity is closeness to the Ground, aliveness is an unbroken lineage from nothingness, perfection is . . . all of the above? I think they are all synonymous, or at least symmetrical.

Perfection is symmetrical to nothingness.

Now that's a phrase.





P. 496

. . . living processes . . . require freedom of action, freedom within the process. This means that each process must allow every step of each adaptive sequence sufficient latitude to go wherever it needs to go . . . freedom of action at each step.

. . . totalitarian democracy . . . the system of thought and action which is prescribed by the rules, procedures, lock-step processes of the modern democratic state, which attempts to [function] by social routines that are military and regimented, not free or organic.

. . . in the future age which stretches before us, we must now find ways of turning society beyond its too-regimented path, and towards paths of design and planning and construction which allow the life of every whole and the life of every part to emerge freely from the processes by which we make the world.





This chapter contains a rather wonderfully exhaustive list of ordinary processes ("Looking at the instructions in a software manual . . . transfer of funds from one bank account to another . . . application of fire safety laws to make all staircases at least three feet wide . . . use of weedkillers on driveways . . ." (p500)) in order to make the point that a large number of them are neutral in character, not "directly concerned with the life of the result" -- but that "The world is shaped by these processes, is given its style, order, character, and functional form by these hundreds of thousands of processes acting in concert over the surface of the Earth." (p501)

The chapters concludes with a section entitled "THE PRIMARY FUNCTION OF SOCIETY."

"society --- the huge system of process-rules and principles we know as society" (p. 509)

Alexander is very prescriptive in this chapter in a way that is gently inspirational but mostly a bit excessive? I don't disagree. In fact I agree very much. But I don't mean to take on such an aspirationally transformative attitude towards a creature as large as society. Society is a monster. A great beast.


Yes, here Alexander faces off against this great monster but knowingly. I like what he said in the last chapter ---
"The world is shaped . . . given its style, order, character, and functional form
by these hundreds of thousands of processes acting . . ."
It truly captures the whole monster in all its fury, though I will not be fooled into thinking capturing a clear description is the same as capturing the monster.


In this chapter, MASSIVE PROCESS DIFFICULTIES, Alexander describes specific struggles with the shape of our society today. I am sympathetic to these struggles, I grieve for them. His grievances take on a shape so familiar that it makes me uncomfortable and I see no need to dwell on them further than I have already.


There is a chapter that echoes a piece of Mutual Aid, when it speaks of eschewing experts and specialization. I can't find that quote from Mutual Aid, but I'll quote Alexander in the next post:


P. 521
     The mystification of professional expertise causes further difficulties. In order to achieve local adaptation of the millions of centers in a living structure, it is necessary that decision-making control over these centers is decentralized as far as possible, placed in the hands of the people who are closest to it. Yet in modern society an extraordinary number of men, women, and children are convinced that they do not know enough to lay out a house or an office or a road --- that it is an arcane matter for professionals which only professionals can do. This deep-seated and wrong-headed belief has been inculcated by the heavy-handed tone and legal character of design and engineering professions, leaving people as impotent recipients of the designs handed to them by their more competent "betters."
     The architect's claim to be the only person in society who can manage design capably, is not only manifestly false (because architects have done such a bad job). It is also, from a deep theoretical point of view, inimical to the growth of a living environment, because it concentrates too much design authority in a handful of people, making successful adaptation impossible.

. . . the critical issue lies in the matter of competence and permission. It is necessary for people to have access to the minimal competence to lay out small parts of the environment . . . This competence must lie within individual hands of people who do not have special training. And it requires, also, that some similar competence for local design of streets, public space, shared space, is in the hands of groups of individuals, again unskilled . . . And, most important of all, it requires a system of social arrangements which ALLOW people to have control over these parts of their environment, which touch them so deeply.


I'd like to extract a few choice phrases from the above, but I loved those two paragraphs so much whole as they were written that I had to put it up just like that.

1. It is necessary for all people to have access to the minimal competence, and social permission, to lay out small parts of their private environment, the shared environment, or indeed any domain which touches them deeply.

2. Any claim to exclusive expertise over this access is inimical to the growth of a living environment.

3. An extraordinary number of men, women, and children have been convinced, perhaps by such claims, that changing the conditions of the environment which touches them is an arcane matter which only experts with exclusive expertise can do.

4. In order to achieve local adaptation, the local adaptation so crucial to living structure, it is necessary that decision-making control over the important parts of the world at each and every scale -- "centers" -- is decentralized as far as possible, placed in the hands of the people who are closest to it, and not according to any claim of exclusivity over any domain.


P. 523, describing the modern process of "development":

. . . all the primary decision-makers are absent from the project, uncaring about the individuals or the land . . .


P. 529

     The very methods that render bureaucracy efficient [are] namely, the application of fixed rules in the wrong kind of way, and the early 20th-century version of systemization of rules and procedures so that people can be replaced[.]

     The advent of computers has changed some of that [static systematization]. For the first time, mechanized procedures are available with are inherently flexible, context-sensitive, capable of responding uniquely to differences, and thus approximating, in human-created fashion, the organic living processes of nature and of traditional society.


How weird. But in some way this mirrors some of my own hopes about the internet, especially around the years this was published (less so now, in the strange ad-laden internet that appears dominated by the megasiloes of social media).



What we know as the modern organization with machinelike repetition of processes, came from Frederick Taylor [an American machinist]. . . . It is amazing to realize that Taylor himself very well understood the positive social and human conditions of the living process . . . And then, for reasons of money and efficiency, he deliberately set out to destroy it. Three principles of Taylorism are: (1) Disassociate the labor process from the skills. . . . (2) Separate conception from execution. (3) Gain monopoly over knowledge to control labor process. . . . Taylor himself wrote: "The full possibilities of my system will not have been realized until almost all of the machines in the shop are run by men who are of smaller caliber and attainment, and who are therefore cheaper than those required under the old system."

P. 530, footnote on Taylor

I have given a short summary of Taylor's ideas because even those of us who are thoroughly sick of the bureaucratic and machinelike character of modern society will, in general, not be aware of the extent to which it all started with the work of one man, nor the extraordinary extent to which these changes were deliberate, conscious, willful. Obviously, if all this was created by the deliberate thought of an individual --- as indeed it was --- it becomes easier for us to conceive the possibility of changing it. It becomes conceivable that within a short space of time --- perhaps, no more than another fifty years --- another, entirely different system of processes can be made to grow in society.