Context : thinking about NetoCracy, FeudalismCapitalismInformationalism and the InformationalistReductionOfCapitalism / TcpIpVsTheDollar.

1) Economics is defined as the study of the allocation of scarce resources, but perhaps could also be thought of as the study of how work gets articulated (where "articulated" means something like a combination of "organized" and "motivated").

2) Thinking in terms of networks. We see that the articulation of work has both a network structure or topology, and link-types. For example : feudalism (and the internal structure of companies) has a hierarchical topology, and links have distinct characteristics : direct orders are given, reports are made to superiors.

3) We can see the dialectic shifts between economic modes postulated in various Marxist traditions and NetoCracy as something like a shift in topology and link-type for articulating work.

My proposal (which is sort-of implicit in NetoCracy) is that the three topologies are :

  • hierarchies
  • fields
  • networks

Where networks really are a synthesis of the two preceding ones. This dialectical way of thinking is in contrast to a more commonly assumed mere competition between Hierarchies and Networks or the view that hierarchies are simply a dysfunctional limited subset of networks. (NetworksVsHierarchies)

The most confusing notion here is the "field" or mass. (I'm getting the idea - although not the terminology - from SunnyAuyang's FoundationsOfComplexSystemsTheories, and yeah I still haven't read it properly) Anyway, in a common modeling strategy for complex many-body systems, one individual is considered, and the rest of the system (market, population, material) is summarized as a single entity. The rational economic atom makes its decisions in a world where everyone else's preferences have been reduced to a single vector of prices. I see a parallel between this and the notion of ProjectMan in NetoCracy's characterization of the capitalist phase of history. The capitalist individual is conceived as a free to participate in the market, and the citizen of the democracy is seen as free to participate in the democratic process. In both cases the market and the state are monolithic but responsible to his action.

Both "hierarchies" and "fields" are myths. Or rather, they're convenient fictions, abstracta, RealPatterns etc.

The myth of hierarchy is that there is no way to route around or break the hierarchy. It's true that there's a lot of machinery to prevent this. But a violent enough upstart can crown himself empreror. Nepotism subverts the corporate org-chart. A lucky / smart concubine can advance her family.

The myth of the field is equality of access. In the hierarchy your "place" is everything, and often immutable. In the field, place is allegedly nothing. There is only the individual - rational, self-sufficient - and his interactions with the mass, the market. That the field has its own structure, that it's bent by the gravitational pull of monopolies and oligopolies, or political dynasty or celebrity, is ignored, or discounted as a regretable aberation. (MarketPopulism)

In many ways the network is the synthesis of the hierarchy and field. Like hierarchy, the network admits that place is important, yet unlike hierarchy it admits any structure can be changed by the formation and removal of links. Like the field, it suggests an equality of access. This is still a myth, the network has an emergent structure and dynamics lead towards unequal link distributions (PowerLaws). Like hierarchy, link-types matter. Like the field, links are ideally equal and symmetrical, even if they're OneWayLinks ...


Contrast :