Mechanization & Machination

Marx, Deleuze & Guattari, and more recently, Raunig go to immense lengths to elucidate the predicate logic implied by the etymology of machina. Raunig shows kindness to the English-speaking audience by likening this importance to the double signification of invention. Invention may signify: a) mechanization, that is, the solution to a problem, inefficiency, or risk, by enclosing within a complex object the knowledge that typically requires practice and virtuosity; b) machination, that is, the fiction, misleading, plotting, or scheme that convinces an audience of a “false cause” as described by Schopenhauer, a manipulation known to magicians, storytellers, filmmakers, and warfighting.

We will take each meaning within our wave-particle duality as we describe the rhizomatic paths. The strict capitalist treats invention as an object of commerce, systems of analysis are well-maintained regarding assets, depreciation, and procurement. Under arborescence, the invention represents clear intention and value, behaving particle-like in its singular existential instantiation. A more skeptical view, generalizing invention to understand its unintended consequences, shows the wave-like behavior of invention generalized as a system of objects. This wave function is complex because it must trace the path of its rhizomes. The complex function of invention represents holistic probabilities. The wave combines all its real, positive, non-imaginary instantiations, filling in gaps with probability densities. In this way, it reveals the impact on the population of opportunities over time.

Invention, as both mechanization and machination, is the foundation of human socioeconomic progress. Our analysis here will develop a reusable pattern. On the one hand, as empiricists like Hume, Locke, and William James might pursue, the arborescent collection of inventions that allow for the progressive mechanization of human labor. On the other hand, as rationalists like Descartes might pursue, and as Raunig attempts to show in social terms, the abstract machine belies power that humans experience incompletely; the sum of all inventions remains less than the total of all inventions when we include those we have not yet invented. Machination occurs in the abstraction of mechanization, both positive and negative. Mechanization treated positively in arborescence reaches one series of conclusions, while machination treated negatively in rhizomatic moral judgement reaches a different series of conclusions. The full truth-value of semiotic inventions requires a quantum superposition of each and all.

Pure arborescence cares for the strict articulation of aggregated instances exclusively. No accounting for the number and distributions of machines provides for its generalization. The semiotic leap to a generalization occurs prior to the conclusions this abstraction will claim. Mechanization is the collapse of so many truth-value particles. From simple machines like pulleys, levers, and fulcrums, to the machines of the industrial revolution, arborescence accounts for them, in the professional sense of the term, rather than criticizing in the social sense. This generalization through incomplete aggregation tends to treatment of mechanization as an implicit good. The probable semiotic universal becomes tied up with two forms of trust, one of probability and one of morality.

The concept, however, does not remain in the realm of positive particle instantiation. Generalizing suspends disbelief of the sign, bridging the moral valuation-signification along with the semiotic, both molar and molecular. If the moral value held true to the semiotic value, if the wave-particle relationship of generalization remained trustworthy, we would give little thought to the rhizomes. In this case, with Marx, we find a machination born of generalized mechanization. The intended particle consequences of each invention and the actual particle consequences of each invention produce unintended consequences in aggregation.

Simply, we come to a moment when the generalization of the promises of signs, machines, and commodities reveals itself to signify something else, something more, something wrong. Tracing the machinations of generalized mechanization has been the ongoing method of the Postmodernists. The divorce between the semiotic trust and our moral trust, such as the faith that one machine makes labor easier, smoother, and more consistent, but a thousand machines entrap us, enslave us, and turn us all into janitors rather than craftsmen – this we call alienation.

                The school of suspicion in the late 1800’s recognized that the arguments of philosophy had ignored the relationship of trust necessary for the generalization of concepts. Marx explored the alienation of the laborer to the machination of capitalist mechanization. Nietzsche explored the alienation of morality from the instincts that preserve the vitality, ingenuity, and resilience of the species. Sigmund Freud explored the alienation of psyche from its libidinal forces. Everywhere that the particle may accept its singularity of mechanization, suspicion suggests we look for a wave function – not simply to predict with increasing probability the appearance of new concretized opportunities, but to also find emergent anti-patterns in the decentralized wave. Feuerbach, who Engels cites as influential, reveals the alienation of organized religion through (as we are calling it) the backpropogation of the abstraction of deity:

“RELIGION is the relation of man to his own nature, – therein lies its truth and its power of moral amelioration; – but to his nature not recognized as his own, but regarded as another nature, separate, nay, contra-distinguished from his own: herein lies its untruth, its limitation, its contradiction to reason and morality; herein lies the noxious source of religious fanaticism, the chief metaphysical principle of human sacrifices, in a word, the prima materia of all the atrocities, all the horrible scenes, in the tragedy of religious history.”

– Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity

Through the backpropogation of the personal capacity to create particle-gods, concretized to the virtues necessary for a single Lifework, the semiotic abstraction gradually appropriates the morality of the observers into the power of the sign. Then backpropogation of the abstract, in the absence of the trust of mothers and fathers teaching their children the process of god-formation, the semiotic and moral unite to enslave the entire population. Hobbes wants us to tread lightly, as seen in Leviathan, when challenging the moral system in despotic control, fearful that entire system falls apart. Nietzsche blinks in disbelief as he applies the ideas of liberty in British political philosophy onto the recently emancipated serf of Eastern Germany. Writing in isolation in Switzerland, the ideas of utilitarianism and the childhood memories of workers in Leipzig left him nauseated, if you believe his account. The dissonance drove the passionate pro-aristocratic sentiment he expressed through praise of the “master morality” of Greek and Roman virtue ethics and the “slave morality” of institutionalized monotheistic religion in the Judeo-Islamic-Christian tradition.

For the 21st century reader, two glaring sources of ignorant thought occur throughout the skepticism of the empiricists and the virality – flipping the rhizomes up toward a new arborescent analysis – of the school of suspicion. First is the absence of developmental psychology, only later established by Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and others. The influence Jean-Jacque Rousseau and responses from Mary Wollstonecraft drove this improved suspicion, that parental influence, socialization, and education may play a much greater role in creating inequality of abilities than any genetic inheritance. Second is the insights of Behavioral Economics, in the proof that what many Europeans attributed to hereditary predisposition emerges from climate, population density, agricultural practices, distribution of wealth, and availability of resources.

Returning to Raunig and the invention of abstract machines, we now face a question of whether we treat society as a system of signs, social machinations, or as the enslavement of machine enclosure, social mechanization. The digital age compounds the need for a superposition principle of meaning and significance. The moral, political, economic, and mechanical have networked into an inescapable matrix, more now than even Rousseau once described.

The line between mechanization and machination blurs the moment acceleration becomes virtualization. Baudrillard shows how the question of absurd morality and the authentic life as described by Camus becomes inaccessible when the system of signs becomes indistinguishable from the machines of reality. We must toil on this question, else it drives us to despair. Having established our hermeneutics and heuristic of meta-suspicion, we must endure our time in the desert.

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