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0x009 ::: The Price of Anarchy

Published onJan 14, 2022
0x009 ::: The Price of Anarchy
‘The Price of Anarchy’ ::: Research Archive

‘The Price of Anarchy’ is a concept originally developed in the contexts of economics and game theory. In particular scenarios, The Price of Anarchy compares differences in efficiency in the presence and absence of hierarchical coordination mechanisms. For this salon, we will invoke The Price of Anarchy in its broadest possible sense to explore challenges in horizontal organising in all contexts: from solidarity-based organisations, to packet routing in digital networks.

Recommended Materials:
Theorymatters: The Price of Anarchy - Tim Roughgarden et al. (short article)
A Prehistory of DAO - Kei Kreutler (article)
The Tyranny of Structurelessness - Jo Freeman (article)
An Introduction to Extitutional Theory - Jessy Kate Schingler & Primavera de Filippi (article)
The Problem of Scale in Anarchism and the Case for Cybernetic Communism - Aurora Apolito (article)
Wikipedia: The Price of Anarchy - Wikipedia (article)

Recent Salon Report ‘The Price of Anarchy’ by William Kherbek
On 24 January, we held our first Salon of the new year. The event was entitled ‘The Price of Anarchy’, and we had contributions from a raucous collection of Salon regulars along with some new faces. The discussion focussed on the ways in which organisational structures play a role in defining creative and political outcomes. As always, the views expressed were quite diverse and heterodox, ranging from discussions of education, spiritual practice, biology, and collaborative creative endeavors. Among the ‘big ideas’ that came up was ‘holacracy’, and the ways that such self-consciously management-orientated theories fare outside of the corporate environment.

Salonnières also examined the hierarchies inscribed in contemporary notions of education. How aspiration to university education is both encoded into contemporary political discourse, and undermined by the radical market forces unleashed by the platform economy. At the centre of the discussion was the Peter Turchin’s notion of ‘the overproduction of elites’ (discussed elsewhere as ‘graduates without a future’, and in other, more optimistic registers as the creation of, for example, ‘new Arabs’) and the wherefores of how a generation of ‘overqualified’ graduates have come to enter a job market where their main role is largely that of providing wage-control leverage for employers.

The dynamic of inside and outside, vis-à-vis institutions, was also a key point of discussion, in particular, the notion of productive forms of ‘trespass’ as a means of providing mechanisms for the sharing of knowledge, and novel perspectives on persistent problems.

As is perhaps unsurprising, the status of institutions was a crucial node of discussion. The question of what an ‘institution’ is animated several exchanges. Perhaps one fruitful perspective is that which has been promulgated by the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Douglass North, i.e. that institutions are simply ‘structures of incentives’. Institutions may loom large, but in North’s reading it is perhaps their strange lightness that allows them to become so enduring and mutable. North’s thought also recalls the thinking of post-war Oxford Ordinary Language philosophers like J.L. Austin who view institutions as being fundamentally ‘speech acts’.

Another of the key touchstones of the discussion was was Jo Freeman’s book ‘The Tyranny of Structurelessness’. Freeman’s work provided a lens to examine the interstices between the rhetoric of horizontality and the political aims towards which such formations purport to strive.

Over the course of the Salon’s two-hours, the speech acts were flying, and left us looking ahead to our next Salon in February, on ‘Acc/strology’.

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