Keith Hart on Tue, 27 Jun 2017 19:09:37 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> How Tinder helped to beat May & could win the White

That's very well put, Felix. Ephemeral networks do not by themselves
launch new versions of society. We need a richer toolkit for that.

In "Kinship, contract and trust", a 1988 study of the economic life
of migrants in Accra, Ghana, I located trust on a continuum of belief
between blind faith and open-eyed confidence. These migrants lived
in the stateless society of a slum separated from the bulk of kin
at home. They lacked formal employment or were very poorly paid.
They were reduced to relying on social networks ("friends" in the
loosest sense) of contingent deals that rarely added up to a stable
or substantial income. Trust in essence is acceptance of the risk of
default in personal dealings. It is not a rock on which to stand.
There is no more pathetic complaint, imo, than "But I trusted you (or
it)". Longer-term social activities, especially involving production
rather than just exchange, do require somewhere to stand. Hence the
value of families for business and of legal guaranteed for contracts.
I later extended this analysis to religious, ethnic, criminal and
local organization.

Trust has lost its exclusively personal referent for us, largely
because business corporations won the human rights of individual
citizens in law while retaining their special privileges such
as limited liability for debt. Jefferson tried to get into the
constitutions safeguards against the three main threats to democracy
-- big government, organized religion and commercial monopolies
(pseudo-aristocrats whose aim was to restore monarchy). The
Federalists kept the last one out. In size, wealth, power, reach and
longevity the corporations will beat the rest of us every time, unless
we build political institutions adequate to containing them.

As a result of their success in blurring how we think, a typical
dictionary definition of trust is "belief in a person, thing or
idea". If we want to win back control of the world for humanity, we
must clear up this confusion of political language. We are human and
the corporations are not. Trusting Felix, the dollar and Vodacom are
not the same thing. Yet so much of contemporary discourse insists
that humanism of this sort is an obstacle to intellectual and
political progress. This does the work of the corporations for them.
Contemplating the precarious lives of those marginal migrants in the
informal economy might help us to clarify how to distinguish personal
from impersonal social relations, as well as how to combine them.

Tocqueville's book on the early American democracy had two parts, the
first dealing with formal politics, the second with informal social
institutions. He considered racism to be the deadliest threat to the
democracy's future, but after that majority rule. The constitution
provided some of this, but he put his money on free association. Taken
together, he envisaged public institutions that supported private
self-expression, rather than opposed them as in bourgeois ideology
(also mainstream ideology today).

It is depressing that so much discussion in forums like this one,
abstract social networks from the highly particular historical
arrangements that make for political life in a given place. Surely we
haven't forgotten the excitement generated by Tahrir Square, allegedly
the birth of Twitter as a political tool, and it will live on in
unpredictable ways. But the army controlled the economy as well as the
means of violence and now Sisi is helping the Saudis to close down Al
Jazeera. Building on hype about Tinder is guaranteed to end in tears.
I have a friend who says that what Labour needs next is big data a
la Cambridge Analysis. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, "Good


On Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 6:05 AM, Felix Stalder <> wrote:

> I think what social media are really good at is to produce "bursts"
> of activity. Things flair up, reach a lot of people, and then die
> out quite quickly. The idea that these bursts would, over time,
> consolidate into something more structurally coherent (other than
> companies that provide the infrastructure) has been wrong, at least so
> far. This is probably not a co-incidence.


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