David Graeber on Bureaucracy

23 March 2015

‘The Utopia of rules’ by anthropologist David Graber is an interesting study of modern bureaucracy and where it came from. (Can be purchased here )

The author argues that since the seventies there has been a subtle shift away from social democratic corporatism (the idea that management and workers have shared interests) towards the practice of unrestrained value extraction by management. This shift comes together with a strengthening of corporate bureaucracy and the weakening of shareholders; Now most new (bureaucratic) regulations have the hidden aim of extracting even more fees from the subjects, so that it all serves the grand scheme of unrestrained money grabbing.

later bureaucratic forms of management were pushed into every aspect of existence, as the corporate and state bureaucracies merged into a single whole.

The resulting picture is rather bleak; the author even also compares the resulting bureaucratization as being similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

(i think that there is an alternative explanation for a marked rise in the amount of bureaucratic procedures since the seventies: nowadays everything is looked at as a system ; this makes the analysis and resulting management structures much more complicated, now with a more complicated management structure we now have a more complicated system of bureaucratic procedures. If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail - system science and computers would be this universal hammer)

However one aspect is left out of this picture: the degree of personal choice permitted/tolerated by this system of governance is still much larger then anything that existed in the Soviet Union; one possibility is that people will hack their way out.

I would define the practice of ‘hacking’ as follows: a hacker analyzes the structure of a system, each part of the system may have conflicting requirements: for example what is permitted on a conceptually lower level may not be allowed on a higher level (and vice versa); however the different parts of the system do interact in order to constitute the system ‘as a whole’. Of course these discrepancies can be exploited with positive results; in practical terms that would mean that a better understanding/command of the bureaucratic system can lead to a more efficient ‘march through the institutions’.

If this hacker mindset reaches a wider audience then this will allow for customization/gradual change/reformation of the bureaucratic system of governance. Or maybe it will just result in a backlash that will turn the system into something even more authoritarian; who knows.

I still think that gradual change is much more productive than attempts of a universal overhaul/revolution of cosmic scale.

my summary of ‘the Utopia of rules’ by David Graber

Essay ‘The Iron Law of Liberalism and the Era of Total Bureaucratization’

-sixties and early seventies: rebellion against bureaucracy -later period: less public interest in the topic; but more and more paperwork is required ! paperwork became ubiquitous, so we don’t notice it; how did this change come about?

The right had the liberal critique of bureaucracy := free market mechanism are more efficient preferable to government intervention/bureaucratic management. 19th century liberals saw bureaucracy as a remnant of the Feudal order; Ludwig van Mises - bureaucracy is a flaw of the democratic process - information less efficiently organized than by free market; bureaucratic rule leads to dictatorship. (Q: the author did not mention Hayek who said similar things)

Problem: number of civil servant grows under all political orders (the ‘iron law of liberalism’ is that action to remove red tape for the sake of liberalism produces even more red tape) (Q: not limited to ‘liberalism’, socialists are also very successful at generating red tape, maybe even more than liberals ?)

Markets were initially created as side effects of military operations (Rome: procurement for the army, coinage in Rome invented as means of provisioning); later: central banks invented to finance war. (Q: in Babylon it was the temple/palace economy with the aim to organize long distance trade for raw materials)

Also they need a lot of regulations to make a free market happen (it doesn’t happen by itself) “an endlessly ballooning array of legal clerks, registrars, inspectors, notaries, and police officials who made the liberal dream of a world of free contract between autonomous individuals possible. It turned out that maintaining a free market economy required a thousand times more paperwork than a Louis XIV-style absolutist monarchy.”

“The rise of the modern corporation, in the late nineteenth century, was largely seen at the time as a matter of applying modern, bureaucratic techniques to the private sector” impersonal bureaucracy this was supposed to be better than ‘the networks of personal or informal connections that had dominated a world of small family firms’ (Max Weber wrote a lot on the impersonality and objectivity of the bureaucracy)

The USA became very bureaucratic when it turned into a world power (early twentieth century); the state adopted the bureaucratic machinery of the big private corporations; (so both bureaucracies kind of fused - in both public perception and practice)

This private/public fusion was greatly increased by the New Deal (practice like ‘revolving doors’ where civil servants turn into industry managers and vice versa) and was even more fueled by the need to administrate the WW II wartime economy; the author says the US never demobilized, so it essentially stays like this ever since.

“the need to preserve certain domestic industries for military purposes, and to develop others, has allowed the U.S. government to engage in practically Soviet-style industrial planning without ever having to admit it’s doing so. After all, pretty much anything, from maintaining a certain number of steel plants, to doing the initial research to set up the Internet, can be justified on grounds of military preparedness. Yet again, since this kind of planning operates via an alliance between military bureaucrats and corporate bureaucrats, it’s never perceived as something bureaucratic at all”

Growth of importance of the financial sector (after scrapping of the gold standard in 1971 / post Bretton woods) created even further ‘regulation’ - as the state has to regulate the amount of money creation and keep up some semblance of competition. Fusion of private and public sector means that these regulations are greatly influenced by the Banks.

  • before 1971: dominant theme was corporatism: long term employment in mega corporation created impression of shared interest between management and workers (both white and blue collar); investors were subordinate to this corporatism. (sixties radicals were up against this coalition so they were talking about social-fascism like the commies in Weimar of the twenties)

  • after 1971: new focus of management on value extraction (away from corporatism) + tended towards shareholders and finance. Now no more long term employment, if management wants to win loyalty it grants shares - circle of investor class was widened. So that the middle classes bought the idea that they have a stake in the investors fortune (this would isolate them against the unions/blue collar workers)

Propaganda: everyone should look at the world through the eyes of the investors, CEO’s are the new heroes of the nineties. Now investors/management goals and middle class goals were aligned with middle class - this ‘set the stage for the process whereby the bureaucratic techniques (performance reviews, focus groups, time allocation surveys ?) developed in financial and corporate circles came to invade the rest of society-education, science, government-and eventually, to pervade almost every aspect of everyday life’; Corporatism like ‘vision,best practices’ invaded language (Q: what about the left with PC, didn’t they help with adoption of newspeak ?)

‘For all its celebration of markets and individual initiative, this alliance of government and finance often produces results that bear a striking resemblance to the worst excesses of bureaucratization in the former Soviet Union or former colonial backwaters of the Global South’

Sign of this: the cult of diplomas and certificates - these were very important in bureaucratic societies of SU and former colonies and seen as a symbols that impart authority; now in US you need a BA for sort of everything. In the US student loans put them students into long term debt, new formal education requirements mean even more debt (the union of public and private bureaucracies want to extort a cut off from future income)

Says that this is likewise in finance: In US banks that are caught swindling by the regulator are not brought to court, instead they settle for a fine that is less than the profit gained by transgression!

Lots of built in double standards; why? Bureaucracy is an Utopian project: claims to be based on meritocracy (formal examination as entry criteria), but being a cousin of a boss is also important. so pretending that the Utopia is real leads to double standards:

Says that protests against globalization/free trade agreements in the nineties were protests of the left against predatory bureaucracy (?) (later he regrets that this was not the real focus) claims that protest actions were meant to break the wall of censorship ‘Lessons learned’ from this movement:

  • impersonal rules and regulations only effective if backed by threat of violence (that’s why 19th century liberalism saw introduction of modern police); More bureaucratic control -> more heavily armed police, strong threat of violence against transgressions; also nobody dares to resolve conflicts without calling the police.

  • technology is not the cause of processes it is a tool; the key was institutional change (alignment of finance and corporate bureaucrats) ‘the direction that technological change has taken is itself largely a function of the power of finance’

  • all these changes were justified by (bureaucratic) efficiency and (market rationality); when ultimately it is all about money extraction ‘talking about rational efficiency becomes a way of avoiding talking about what the efficiency is actually for’. Says that a left wing critique should show how all these changes fit together to extract/extort money.

In the 19th century Americans used to think that value is produced by labor and that capital derives from labor (and is therefore secondary); this changed with the big corporations, these pushed a new ideology ‘Andrew Carnegie spoke of it as “The Gospel of Wealth” - that value was instead derived from capital itself’ and that value is ultimately produced by bureaucracies of big corporations.

Public debate about bureaucracy is largely out of touch:

George Wallace in 1968 created the following narrative: bash them parasitic politicians and condescending bureaucrats! (this caught on because the US likes the 19th century picture/ideal of self sufficiency); this narrative was later adopted by both Reagan and Clinton; this line of argument was very successful because Americans like to see themselves as self sufficient individualists.

The term ‘deregulation’ means increasing more regulation to achieve the desired effect such as more competition in the financial sector. Now the left says this created the crisis of 2008 - so they are seen as being for even more regulation.

later the welfare state was scrapped; the left would just try to save remnants of the old welfare state, while trying to adapt ‘modernizations’ - some fusion with privatization that only caused Bureaucracy to grow; -> the left can’t formulate any positive alternatives. (the authors critique of bureaucracy is supposed to contribute to a discussion toward one)

Essay ‘Dead zones of the imagination’

Why anthropologists did not study bureaucracy - but they do study ritual surroundings in society, and bureaucracy is part of the rituals (it goes with both, death, everything).

  • paperwork is boring; in contrast to that rituals are dense and can be interpreted without end.

  • But literature does deal with bureaucracy? answer: ‘Great writers, then, know how to deal with a vacuum. They embrace it. They stare into the abyss until the abyss stares back into them. Social theory, in contrast, abhors a vacuum-or, this is certainly true if its approach to bureaucracy is anything to go on. Stupidity and violence are precisely the elements it is least inclined to talk about’ (Q? violence is not interesting to social sciences ?)

  • social scientist did not produce a critique of bureaucracy - despite a growing amount of administrative procedures in academia.

Maybe because they are building these structures? academia as a factory of workers for the US/global administrative apparatus.

Weber was very important in the sixties in US social science: Max Weber was adapted to act as developmental theory for the world bank (to counter Dialectical Materialism/Marxist ideology). (Also Weber was a big fan of bureaucracy : he sort of formulated its meritocratic ideals and claims to objectivity) And up until Vietnam the social science departments cooperated with the military intelligence apparatus (Q: he does not mention that this deep cooperation goes back to WWII)

After Vietnam the social science departments turned leftwards; now Weber was out and Adorno/Frankfurt school was in; later Foucault became the new unquestioned authority (what Weber used to be before) (they still used Weber for ‘rational choice theory’ - in order to train new bureaucrats)

Foucault said that knowledge is a form of social power (the Power/Knowledge Nexus); social sciences like to interpret ‘dense’ topics (with the hope that their skills at interpreting these will place them in a position of power); Bureaucracy is not ‘dense’ so it is not handled. (Q? Maybe they just don’t want to confront their real masters ?)

Back to the theme of violence: “institutions involved in the allocation of resources within a system of property rights regulated and guaranteed by governments in a system that ultimately rests on the threat of force” (as punishment for non compliance, this is also known as ‘structural violence’) People instinctively like to ignore this implicit thread of force - because its not addressed to them - if they comply.

Anthropologists don’t like to interpret ‘structural violence’ in these terms; they avoid looking at question of implicit threat of state power; instead they look at secondary things like gender relations/sexism, rituals etc.

(What follows is typical for anthropologists - an example from the very strange culture of Madagascar; a strange analogy to Bokononism in ‘Cat’s cradle’; can only guess what is true and if there is an error of interpretation)

  • the pre colonial Merina kingdom had slavery; so people were used to master-slave relations.

  • the French took over in 1895 and abolished slavery; now everybody assumed that they were all in equal status as slaves of the French.

  • as a result the culture of the Malagasy subjects changed: now every power relationship between adults in society became an objectionable thing (Q? so they all became hippies, i doubt that, in traditionalist societies people usually have to obey existing customs; sort of ‘tyranny of the commons’ ?)

  • the paradox is that the French (and pre colonial) masters were never really present at the local level, so this is an abstract fear: the bureaucracy did never provide any services to the population, (no police and no regulations !))
  • the state bureaucracy did have to maintain an air of authority: they did that by using French (which became the language reserved to commands !); also education is revered - and you need some of it in order to became a bureaucrat: so the position of bureaucrats is based on strange rituals

Political science on relationship between coercion and information;

  • if the subordinates fear the master then they are not inclined to share information with the masters (but the subjects need to understand their masters !) (more coercion leads to less information)

  • also masters do not need to understand the subjects if they can just apply force. Masters can then grow totally out of touch with reality.

Still masters continue to apply bureaucratic procedure as a substitute for communication with their subjects (example: passport system that started apartheid; policeman no longer had to communicate with the blacks - only had to look at the information in the internal passport) Violence removes the need to communicate with subjects; so subjects say that procedures that regulate this orders are stupid.

  • less extreme example: Men in paternalistic settings say that (a) women act illogically (b) but women have ‘intuition’ (analogy: peasants are stupid but have ‘peasant wisdom’) These schema help men to avoid the need of communication with their women. However dependent women need to employ more effort in order to understand their masters.

  • now for subordinates: ‘Imagination tends to bring with it sympathy, the result is that victims of structural violence tend to care about its beneficiaries far more than those beneficiaries care about them. This might well be, after the violence itself, the single most powerful force preserving such relations’

Anthropologists again don’t like to analyze violence as a means of communicating a message and as having symbolic powers (they also romanticize violence - see it as sending a message to a larger audience as a symbolic act)

(Q: ? Strange: when I communicate with social workers on behalf of some poor guy then I always get the impression that social worker is not inclined to help; they are just bureaucrats guarding the state money from encroachment; Maybe Anthropology is also not about understanding other cultures rather than about how to handle these cultures in a colonial/post-colonial framework ?)

So the main function of the Police is about enforcing regulations by projecting the implicit threat of force; much less often they do deal with crime-fighting. “Police are bureaucrats with weapons.” Most times that people get beaten up by error is by just talking back; Policemen feels that his ‘ability to define the situation’ is being challenged and reacts non proportionately/(childish because he is unable to correlate different points of reference)

In theory: Bureaucracy is about abstraction: the rich realm of reality is classified into ready made schema and statistics (formulas as tools of classification). Of course each step of abstraction throws away details that are not relevant to the abstract schema.

Now the Bureaucracy has to support existing power relationships - so the important detail/biases of which details are thrown away is determined by these power relations; If the abstraction process is out of step with reality (power usually get to this position as explained earlier) then situations of stupidity are created - the abstract schema of regulations perpetuate the ideas of the rulers that are out of step with reality (structural blindness) - this discrepancy is perceived by the subjects as idiotic.

(this perception of idiocy was exploited as a tool by the neo-conservatives: they had to mobilize support for scrapping the welfare state - despite the fact that it was in the interest of the subjects)

“structural violence creates lopsided structures of the imagination. Those on the bottom of the heap have to spend a great deal of imaginative energy trying to understand the social dynamics that surround them-including having to imagine the perspectives of those on top-while the latter can wander about largely oblivious to much of what is going on around them.”

(Q: ? Maybe subjects are calling it ‘stupidity’ partly because they are not trained in abstract methods of thinking ?). (Q: ? Maybe calling these skews stupid is just a defense mechanism of the subject, as a way of rationalizing it while still staying remaining the larger framework ?)

Says that the left was always acting as a critique of Bureaucracy (all protest movements had this component); Yet they all generated their own bureaucratic procedures ! Why?

  • Part of this is due to realism - to give it all an orderly appearance the left does the same - it creates its own bureaucracy.

  • realism comes when one has to accommodate/face the threat of force
  • when the revolutionary movement creates its own realities it has to interact with regulations of the old order - hence the rise of procedures. (? naturally for a leftist he blames it on the old order ?)

Also the left failed to produce a critique of bureaucracy/ existing power relations. why?

  • He says the 19th century left did not see question of institutional violence as primary factor (? why does he ignore Bakunin ?)

  • Marx thought that mode of production was more important; stressed the imagination required for production process (humans design their artifacts before they make them)
  • Sen Simon said that artists should be the vanguard; only they were supposed to have the imagination to create a new social order.
    • so both thought that the great liberation would be a liberation of imagination. These were the origins of the 68 slogan ‘power to the imagination’.

(Q: ? what liberation, for who?: Marx, Sen Simon and Lenin did not have any problems with coercion, as long as they are the rulers themselves (see Marx on the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ - after the Paris commune; also he ignores that in all ‘successful’ revolutions the anarchist idealists were put to the wall by the more organized managers. ?)

Discrepancy in Marx: when talking about imagination in material production he talks about ‘design up front’; when talking about revolution (the earlier Marx) stressed the that socialist society can’ be designed up front. Author says this is due to different types of imagination.

  • in material production the creative work is done exclusively by the elite/rulers (this separation leads to alienation of the workers)
  • in social production (childcare, housework) interpretative work mainly done by subordinates (see before); Here alienation of subjects is due to living in a structural oppressive structure.

Argues that both types inequalities are shattering imagination; and that ‘alienation’ is exactly this shattering of the imagination. Bureaucratic procedures are ‘stupid’ because they codify situations of structural inequality “such procedures come to partake of the very blindness and foolishness they seek to manage”

(Q? and in a kibbutz/commune there is still someone who has to do the boring work)

Big question: how does one change society without creating a new violent bureaucracy? Of course they try to change peoples outlook (cultural revolution): Situationist: ‘creative acts of subversion’ should give people a temporary break from settings that turn them into passive spectators - this liberates people to regain their creativity. Paradox: upheavals occur out of nowhere; says that the public when put into a liberating contexts acts radically then in a normal setting. (that’s why the same French public could be sympathetic of the students in 68 and still a month later elect a right wing government) Its the surrounding institutions and procedures that are defining the ‘horizon of the possible’


essay ‘On flying cars and the declining rate of profit’

In the sixties and seventies there were certain assumptions about technological progress in the near future that did not take place; instead we got computers (tools for simulation) Says that formerly the number of scientific papers no longer doubled within fifteen years; from 1970 onward this stopped; speed of travel also peaked in 1971. the author feels cheated; this essay tries to explain why this happens.

(Q? did it occur to the author that the more a technical system becomes complicated; the more complex it is to change it ? (and once you have to embed a computer it becomes even harder); a bit naive to assume that it is a linear progression; diminishing returns: in the sixties they had to put in the enormous expenses of the space race in order to continue with fast growth, that was unsustainable; also there is a limit you can get out of fossil fuels.)

Thesis in the seventies they switched to favor technologies required for labor and social control.

(lots of bullshit follows)

Says that AT&T slashed investment into research due to changes in taxation: before the seventies corporate taxes were high so AT&T preferred to put profits into research. (Q? does not mention the breakup of the AT&T monopoly in the late seventies ?) Says that lower corporate taxes also meant higher executive salaries and stock buybacks (instead of research and capital investment)

Public research went into arms race; so that it all had a military slant (drones instead of multipurpose robots). (? problem: tech is just not yet there ?) Also claims that technologies for social control were deliberately favored.

Antithesis Claims that rulers figured that tech progress creates problems (Toeffler) so that changed allocation of funding to less disruptive areas. Still even in well financed areas there was slow progress. Claims that in big science also suffers from hyper bureaucracy (application of corporate stye management let to big increase of administration effort) with disastrous effects on science.

Also a big increase of competition (and privatization of results/patents) means less sharing and open discussion among researchers; It all amounts to an atmosphere that rejects brilliant individuals and favors colorless bureaucrats (‘green colorless ideas sleep furiously’ - yeah the sentence has a sense!)

In 19th century Britain they did not have big corporations; so it was all governed by individual entrepreneurs; and that led to a climate that favored the oddball tinkerer.

Big corporations ™ came about in Germany and the US; hence the rise of big state sponsored big science programs (still they had a place for brilliant individuals);

“The final victory over the Soviet Union did not really lead to the domination of “the market.” More than anything, it simply cemented the dominance of fundamentally conservative managerial elites -corporate bureaucrats who use the pretext of short-term, competitive, bottom-line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind.”

(Q? what about ycombinator/’angel’ investors: successful entrepreneurs who are funding new ventures ? he failed to mention that.)


“administrative imperatives have become not the means, but the end of technological development. “

Marx through that competition between capitalists inevitably leads to technological progress; now “the current form of capitalism, where much of the competition seems to take the form of internal marketing within the bureaucratic structures of large semi-monopolistic enterprises, would presumably have come as a complete surprise to them”

(bla bla Utopia will lead us out of stagnation, bla bla)


essay ‘The Utopia of rules, or why we really love bureaucracy after all’

Max Weber: a bureaucracy claims the monopoly on information within a government (each government guards his knowledge - thus creating job security), this way it makes itself indispensable to government, (and impossible to get rid of it; rulers and dynasties change but the civil service remains) Appeal of bureaucracy: its objectivity: in its ideal form it is “simple, predictable, and-within certain parameters, at least-treat everyone more or less the same.”

Well in the 19th/early 20th century the state socialism based on bureaucratic rule had a strong appeal (Hayek also says so, but here is a better explanation as to why this came about)

In both Germany and the US of the 19th century the postal system was admired for its efficiency.

  • The post applied top down military principles to organization. Postal services were first the couriers of the military; later commercial function was added, even later in the 19th century the wider public started to use it.

  • In mid 19th century more than half of state’s budget went into the postal system ! (In the US 70% of all federal workers were employed by the postal service )

  • In Germany: the post office was the inspiration for Weber’s admiration of bureaucracy. in 1867 Prussia acquired the right to run its postal service for the whole of the Germany holy empire; it was used as a tool for unification and was therefore a showcase/prestige project for the unified state.

  • the same principles of organization were later used to govern the German states social services (Bismark emulated socialist social insurance + other services after his the Sozialistenverbot of 1978)

  • Lenin’s notion of state socialism was inspired by the German postal service! (‘State and Revolution’ p 52)

  • Anarchist (Kropotkin) were inspired by a different aspect: postal service between states was regulated by the international postal union - by method of negotiations based on consensus (not dictated).

  • Lenin’s ideas of state socialism were also based on in (‘State and Revolution’)

  • now the same pattern happened with the internet!

” A new communications technology develops out of the military.

  1. It spreads rapidly, radically reshaping everyday life.
  2. It develops a reputation for dazzling efficiency.
  3. Since it operates on non-market principles, it is quickly seized on by radicals as the first stirrings of a future, non-capitalist economic system already developing within the shell of the old.
  4. Despite this, it quickly becomes the medium, too, for government surveillance and the dissemination of endless new forms of advertising and unwanted paperwork. “
    • bureaucracy appeals when it is part of a technological system that achieves impossible dreams. Here tech stands for rationality, which is giving us great Powers.

  • former (Medieval perception, also classics) says that rationality has the function of taming our animal instincts.

  • David Hume: rationality is a tool of achieving our goals; so here it is outside of morality.

now “The whole idea that one can make a strict division between means and ends, between facts and values, is a product of the bureaucratic mind-set, because bureaucracy is the first and only social institution that treats the means of doing things as entirely separate from what it is that’s being done” Bureaucrats are supposed to be rational where rationality is divorced from ethics;

  • these two interpretation coexist somehow, so it is not clear what the word ‘rationality’ actually means (can mean contradictory things in different contexts)

It gets worse:

  • notion of rationality was first advanced by Pythagorean: they noticed that many things can be described mathematically - leading up to motion of heavenly bodies (planets)

  • later in late Roman times this notion was universally adopted; now the trick is that it was assumed everything originated with G-d; so rationality was used as a tool of understanding the transcendental; so rationality was a tool of the mystical (at that time); \

  • so in late Roman times they tried to picture transcendental (angelic) hierarchies of beings where everything is ordered by increased level of rationality; this looked quite similar to the Roman bureaucracy ! This went on in medieval Europe, even though they did not have a real state with a bureaucracy to begin with ! (Q? and the Roman church did not have a bureaucracy of its own ? i don’t buy that)

  • says that the Renaissance brought no clear break with the past: now reason as is turns into something transcendent (or

“The appeal to rationality in Descartes and his successors remains a fundamentally spiritual, even mystical, commitment, that the mathematical or math-like abstractions that are assumed to be the essence of thought, are also the ordering principles that regulate nature-and this remained true whether they were identified with God, or seen as the ultimate proof of God’s nonexistence.”

  • in this tradition notions of rationality (or bureaucratic rationality) never remain to just as a tool; they always turn into some notions of cosmic hierarchy (or ‘higher reason’) (for example we are told that reason is what distinguishes Humans from animals - that’s bullshit but apparently ‘reason’ still bears this transcendent role)

When speaking about states:

  • sovereignty - an area where there is a monopoly on the use of force
  • administration - (bureaucratic norms and procedures of government)
  • politics ( any competition/interaction between the political actors/centers of power)

On the fringes of centers of cultures (Mesopotamia,Egypt, Rome) there were ‘Heroic’ barbarian societies, where politics was very important as a permanent contest between aristocrats. (also they are the negation of everything that the cultured bureaucracies stood for) (what follows is a long cultural criticism peace on which principles of bureaucracy are negated in fantasy books) Fantasy books about these ‘heroic’ society have an appeal for this reason; says its a form of escapism and reassurance that you you’d rather want to live in the real world.

  • And this reassurance is the actual reinforcement of the bureaucratic order.

What is a game? - it has a clear designation of players, is bound in time and is defined by rules. Real world situations are ambiguous, and people follow them similarity -> a game is a utopia of rules. (‘Game’ is in contrast to ‘play’, which is not governed by rules)

Sovereignty: in Medieval Europe they had this question: is the monarch bound by the laws of the country or is he above the law? Personal power thrives (and becomes feudal) if the rulers are not bound to regulations (can play by their owns rules); Another area - grammar: grammar is descriptive in nature; but once the grammar book has been written people look to it as a prescription.

So there is a tension between rules/game/grammar vs anarchy/play/free usage ; without rules there is despotism/lack of common framework/absence of common language; too much rules however turn into a straight jacket and kill creativity.

If (any) organization grows in size then it has to organize somehow; however anarchists try to build non dominating structures, so this is a inherent contradiction for them.

  • Jo Freeman: in feminist groups larger than twenty informal cliques start to form; they start to control(/hide) information from the rest of the group and start to wield power.

  • now they can either formalize this state by turning these cliques into governing bodies (steering committees); this process creates a lot of rules (the positive effect is that this can create mechanisms of accountability)
  • the other choice is to not grant these cliques special status; Problem: they continue to wield real power from the shadows/non formally.

(Q:? I would add that they can avoid creation of accountability structures and continue with arbitrary rule - but the author likes the idea ? He dismisses the argument that groups that are ruled by shadow structures as an ‘esthetic argument’)