In his recent post on modernity and myth, Vince Garton notes Sorel’s interest – in sharp distinction to the majority of Marxist currents of his day (or today, for that matter) – in small-scale, workshop-based production. Vince writes:

Against the mainstream of Marxism—and against later theorists such as Schumpeter who would decisively identify the trajectory of capitalism with indefinite industrial concentration—Sorel’s vision of the far future self-abolition of capitalism was one of distribution, the internal development of workshop organisation; we may say, in the tradition of Catholic social thought, subsidiarity.

An exceedingly brief thought (and a sideways preview of a work in progress): industrial disintermediation  will be the process through which hyper-capitalist atomization is converted into subsidiarity. 

Edit: If communism is to be based, as Xenogoth suggests, on otherness and differentiation, then a neo-Sorelian perspective on industrial disintermediation – and the question of ethics that are tangled up in this complex – is of immediate interest. After all, such processes constitute the fragmentation of the current industrial order, which on the one hand opens up escape routes from the present through the increased ability to produce independently, while on the other hand it poses hard questions fully-automated, luxurious Walmart Socialism advocated by so many on the radical left.

19 thoughts on “Transformation

    1. Interesting speculations from the RAND Corporation:

      The growing flexibility and replicability of printers suggest the potential of AM. And if current trends continue, today’s technological constraints might be negligible in a few decades. Similarly, the material constraints of AM are becoming less binding through time. The raw materials currently used in AM are expensive, and their sourcing remains an important focus of ongoing research and development. Some researchers are working on methods to incorporate locally sourced or recycled materials and dramatically reduce costs—experimenting with reusing recycled plastic waste; generating plastics from plant-based cellulose; and printing with sand, glass, and clay. As more objects are made from locally sourced materials, there will be less reliance on current supply chains.

      Of course, rare and nonsubstitutable minerals will still need to be transported, and these could continue to drive future costs.13 But as the constraint on material types relaxes, more products will be produced locally, loosening the tie between everyday consumption and concentrated markets and potentially disrupting traditional economic forces. Admittedly, given the historic trend of declining transportation costs, not all products will become locally produced. Unless energy costs rise dramatically, many commodity products will continue to be produced remotely and shipped to consumer markets. However, the overall trend toward more additively manufactured, locally produced goods is likely to grow.

      The benefits that localized sourcing and manufacturing could provide to violent extremist organizations (VEOs) are especially concerning. VEOs, such as Al Qaeda, tend to operate from remote areas outside the reach of state authorities. Such locations provide cover but increase transaction costs, making it harder to maintain supplies or build up capabilities. Local sourcing of materials could change this dynamic, mitigating one of the few advantages that traditional state security forces hold in their battle against VEOs. While it might not become any easier to acquire rare materials (e.g., radioactive elements), most weapons do not require such exotic ingredients.


      1. dmf

        thanks for the link, sure the manufacture of firearms/explosives/drones/etc is already a danger but you can’t print a working gun yet and really not to hard to buy traditional weapons at this point, more worrying down the road is Russia or others using more biological and internet weapons.
        I think any long term process/project that relies on long distance supply chains and regular supplies of power for these kinds of projects to overtake factory manufacturing is going against the current (and mounting) trends of increasingly fragile infrastructures, see the situation in India of Puerto Rico, so without some miracle infusion of state capital into upgrading (even maintaining) infrastructure even if some significant part of these engineering dreams get actualized and scaled up (as Silicon Valley is finding out hard to make and scale hardware) I don’t see them being very widespread, good news for the billionaire preppers I suppose, will be interesting to see it all unfold. Rand as you know has a long history of overestimating engineering capacities but even they are willing to point out some deep weaknesses


      2. To be quite honest I’m not worried about the dangers of 3D printing weapons and consider the capability to do so even to be a positive development in most respects. As for infrastructures and whatnot localization of production + demand-pull commercial dynamics seems like the single most logical response to fragility (and is already taking place in various areas around the globe). So in that sense I would disagree with you: I certainly see this as the major coming trend.


      3. dmf

        I’ve seen the CDC models for potential plague distributions and their quite grim but as I say that’s more a question of state actors at this point, as for going local well that takes us back to the supply of raw materials (not easy for example to clean up industrial materials for reuse) and energy (no really good batteries yet), time will tell.


      4. I don’t think it’s as simple (well, not simple – as you said it would basically be miraculous!) as the state turning its attention back to infrastructure in something other than a piecemeal basis. Simply returning to the overarching principles that govern the currently-existing infrastructure system would be nothing short of disastrous. There’s a clear and demonstrable correlation between the way infrastructure has developed in the United States and an overbloated – and often quite inefficient – industrial mass production system, and furthermore this cannot be separated from urban sprawl, environmental degradation, income inequality, etc. So I don’t think it’s at all a question of just private vs. public. Yes, private institutions can be awful but these sorts of things blossom with the help of the bourgeois state (and I’m intensely skeptical that a state under capitalism will ever be anything other than a bourgeois state, even if it is ostensibly ‘socialist’).

        So without a fundamental break at the level of organizational principle, all infrastructure revamping will reinforce this cumbersome nonsense that is based on outmoded industrial modes. It’s this disconnection, the persistence of the cultural pseudomorph (to borrow from Lewis Mumford) that will be a major driver, in my opinion, of industrial disintermediation – which is a tendency that challenges the state in its current form as much as the dominant organization of capitalism. And that is a good fuckin’ thing.

        That said, the state, even bourgeois state, has a role (the Catholic principle of subsidiarity invoked here connects to this dual horizontal/vertical governing axis), and if I’m going to put on a purely idealistic hat I think it would be great to marry private micro-manufacturing with publicly-financed infrastructure that is geared towards it, as opposed to Fordist-style industry. Something interesting I’ve come across recently: the people who seem to be talking the most about reigning-in urban sprawl, efficient public transit, urban planning based on dense, walkable cities is the post-alt right…. which is a major problem for the left, which is simply spinning out in circles at the present moment. There’s many things contributing to this, but on of them I think is that these portions of the right are thinking in increased opposition to the bourgeois state, while the left in many respects is trying to shore it up. From a cultural perspective, this is fascinating, but from a lefty perspective this is pretty worrying.


      5. dmf

        ” I’m going to put on a purely idealistic hat I think it would be great to marry private micro-manufacturing with publicly-financed infrastructure that is geared towards it, as opposed to Fordist-style industry. ” that could be great (at least would be different) but would be also be revolutionary (and so quite unlikely in this age of hypershortermism/buybacks/monopolization/etc) in terms of financing, Evgeny Morozov and others are trying to imagine alternatives to bond initiatives and the like but to date nothing has really taken off that I’m aware of, meanwhile in the race to the bottom:


    1. Yup! I’m working on a book project plus several essays series for VA and elsewhere, so I figured that the distraction of Twitter needed to be curbed just a bit for the time being.

      I did see though that you’re doing a livestream with jMo today? If so, what time? I’d like to tune in if possible.

      Liked by 2 people

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