Ktismatics

12 June 2012

The Pre-Ironic Stance

Filed under: Culture, Psychology — ktismatics @ 3:31 pm

The most comprehensive formulation of therapeutic goals is the striving for wholeheartedness: to be without pretense, to be emotionally sincere, to be able to put the whole of oneself into one’s feelings, one’s work, one’s beliefs. It can be approximated only to the extent that conflicts are resolved.

These goals are not arbitrary, not are they valid goals of therapy simply because they coincide with the ideals that wise persons of all times have followed. But the coincidence is not accidental, for these are the elements upon which psychic health rests. We are justified in postulating these goals because they follow logically from a knowledge of the pathogenic factors in neurosis.

Our daring to name such high goals rests upon the belief that the human personality can change. It is not only the young child who is pliable. All of us retain the capacity to change in fundamental ways, as long as we live. This belief is supported by experience. Analysis is one of the most potent means of bringing about radical changes, and the better we understand the forces operating in neurosis the greater our chance of effecting desired change.

Neither the analyst nor the patient is likely wholly to attain these goals. They are ideals to strive for; their practical value lies in their giving us direction in our therapy and in our lives. If we are not clear about the meaning of ideals, we run the danger of replacing an old idealized image with a new one. We must be aware, too, that it does not lie within the power of the analyst to turn the patient into a flawless human being. He can only help him to become free to strive toward an approximation of these ideals. And this means giving him as well an opportunity to mature and develop.

– the conclusion of Our Inner Conflicts (1945) by Karen Horney

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24 Comments »

  1. I just found a thesis project I did about the importance of empathy to therapeutic growth and the clinical relationship. I’ve been re-reading it even though I wrote it many years ago. The main folks I focused on were Carl Rogers, Harry Stack Sullivan, and Heinz Kohut. I feel like in the past, things were so much easier to see. Maybe that’s just me. Now, there are so many people with so many writings in so many mediums- you no longer go to the library and pull out those delicious old books, you have to scour the internet and find the latest theories or studies that are getting attention and affecting things. This stuff is on my mind a lot now, and I can’t tell you how nice it was to see Karen Horney’s name, next to a real book title and a real year, on your page. Thanks! :)

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    Comment by Jennifer Stuart — 12 June 2012 @ 4:24 pm

  2. It’s a coincidence because I did a thesis based on Horney’s categorization of the ways in which people tend to resolve conflicts by moving toward, moving against, or moving away from the other. I still had my copy of the book, which I just lent to someone experiencing some serious and seemingly irresolvable conflicts. I flipped to the last two pages and found this tight summary of Horney’s realistically optimistic outlook. Here’s a remark she makes on the preceding page: “Life as a therapist is ruthless.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 12 June 2012 @ 4:52 pm

  3. You are offering the old time holus bolus.

    It never was” the most potent means of bringing about radical changes” because the sort of analysis that she represented professionally is the reserve of an elite who can afford it and moreover are not too damaged to reap its undoubted benefit. Religion, AA meetings, self-help groups, sport, art, literature, any of the many forms of activity which engage the spirit of the human being stretched to its limit can be agents of change for the good. Gardening works too.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 12 June 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  4. I’ve never undergone analysis so I can neither vouchsafe subjectively Horney’s contention nor refute it. I’d say that gardening doesn’t work for me personally. Would you say that any of these modalities offers the possibility of provoking “radical personality change”? I’m skeptical about the possibility, but maybe I’m just unamenable to treatment. Horney’s program is like Freud’s and also apparently Jung’s in the sense that she wants to see people achieve balance rather than neurotic skewedness toward a particular way of being or interacting. So if I decided on the basis of Horney’s schema that I was a “moving away” type, she wouldn’t encourage me to achieve whole-heartedness in my moving-awayness. Rather I should be learning to react appropriately in accord with the situation at hand rather than always to act “in character.”

    “engage the spirit of the human being stretched to its limit” — in television ads this is the purported benefit of joining the military. I’ve never done that either.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 12 June 2012 @ 6:59 pm

  5. At the top of the comments you will see that there are two people who “liked” this post. I just spent at least twenty minutes reading the blog of the “like” on the left: Clotildajamcracker. Click her avatar. Is what she writes fact or fiction?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 12 June 2012 @ 8:57 pm

  6. John:
    Join the military. My brother did that and went on peace keeping missions. He also worked in Rwanda in Kigali on famine relief. Other than on the firing range he never fired a shot. Retired now, he published the first book in the Irish Language to go Kindle and is finishing one or just finished one on the Ark of the Covenant/Ethiopia.

    I’ve looked at Clotilda. It’s true except for the recipes. That her husband cut down a tree and she buried him under the spot where it was, I believe. She gardens on an heroic scale given the arid climate. Her children belong/ed to a mother help group. Keep it going Clotilda, don’t stall the digger.

    Maybe a lot of personalities don’t need to radically alter. There are people who have found a niche where they can flourish and are not bewildered by the myriad opportunities of modern life. Growth for them is a slow, incremental, lifetime project. They have the reserves to meet tragedy without fragmenting. Karen Horney was dealing with the broken ones and from a quick view of the Wikipedia article maybe on a quest for self-knowledge. Finally I propose that, bleak though it reads, neurosis may be a serviceable strategy to avoid greater chaos.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 13 June 2012 @ 3:45 am

  7. Looking at Karen Horney’s Wikipedia page I just discovered that her mother’s name was… Clotilde! Is this synchronicity? Does the blogging Clotilda keyword Karen Horney because of the nominal connection? Did the blogging Clotilda adopt a pen name that specifically resonates with Horney’s persona and psychological theories?

    Blogging Clotilda seems to have crafted a persona that might not be balanced — that some might deem neurotic — but that is resolute. You refer to niches: the niche that Clotilda occupies seems neurogenic; it demands continually honing an unbalanced edge in order to persevere. Intentionally crafting oneself as a resolutely imbalanced self can be a political act or — and this is what I wonder in Clotilda’s case — an aesthetic one. In self-consciously crafting oneself as an embodied psychological art installation, one blurs the boundary between nonfiction and fiction.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 June 2012 @ 9:25 am

  8. I thought it was the generally agreed-on thing that personality is not very changeable, but then maybe it is. I posted yesterday this weird song by this woman who used to live at the artists’ residence over on West Street. Just found she had died in 2009 at 84, was older than I thought. I thought this an amusing turn she made:

    “Burch underwent a traditional four-times-weekly Freudian analysis before switching to marijuana and LSD in the early 1970s. She was a recreational marijuana user throughout her life.”

    There was mention of AA. One thing about AA is it is a strong warning not to become an alcoholic, because I think they are usually unbearable even when undrunk. I can’t stand my next-door neighbour, and haven’t spoken to him in 11 years. He’s just as rude as when he was drunk, and has those lovely habits of telling you ‘go ahead and have a drink’ and pours some disgusting cheap red that you can’t drink UNLESS you’re an alcoholic. The ‘religion’ aspect of AA is tedious, and I have even heard accounts of how they won’t talk about other substances. God knows, I used to see their intermissions to meetings, all of them on ciggies and coffee, which might be protested now, with cigarette police everywhere. I guess, though, that if one is truly drunkdrunkdrunk, you have to go to AA, and do that prayer about ‘serenity’, which my neighbour has taped in his bathroom. He still listens to Judy Garland for that wonderful ‘down-and-out’ feeling. I don’t think he knows he’s not very nice, but I don’t care either. It’s been much better since I stopped talking to him. And his wine was real shit.

    This Claire Burch was a real character though. Not at all surprised she would be that kind of ‘filmer’ of one hour of ‘daily reality’ for over 30 years and a packrat, and a filmer of homeless. My god, the apartment was totally surreal way back in 1973.

    Yeah, that ‘live it to the limit’ does ring a bell. What’s the ad? Live IT…to the LIMMMM-it…Live it to the limit with ?’ (Is it a car?)

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 13 June 2012 @ 11:55 am

  9. “In self-consciously crafting oneself as an embodied psychological art installation, one blurs the boundary between nonfiction and fiction.”

    But don’t some of the more theatrical performance artists do this even more so? Stelarc and Orlan, and the other various mutilants. Michael says ‘it’s all true except for the recipes’. Why aren’t the recipes true? Because they aren’t exactly mouthwatering? Thought it hilarious that she said don’t buy your own extracts, though, go and ” Find a neighbor and borrow from them. Say you just ran out and smile.” Sounds mad as a loon, and straight out of the 70s ‘back-to-nature’ movement. That crazed Leonard Orr, of the ‘rebirthing’ breathing exercises (which I did) and the ‘physical immortality movement’ used to send me a newsletter, and there were ‘organic names’ like this, like ‘Rosemary Broccoli’, etc., Some of her ‘hay-heightened’ berry beds were amusing though, although for organic types I naturally prefer Lars Kampmann, who did that big ‘live off the land’ place in Colorado and dropped a lot of acid with his Stanford buddies there, later had the Wild Mushrooms restaurant down here in the Village. I should have thought of him when I was sewing in that horrible motel in Birmingham recently, he liked to do things like that. I only did it because I was zombified. I wasn’t over it till today, though. He not only did organic gardening, and got out and really dug in the dirt, but also found time for large orgies of fucking and sucking in some of the East Village parks! A wonderful melange!

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 13 June 2012 @ 12:19 pm

  10. People often claim “addictive personality disorder” as a precondition leading to their alcoholism. I have no strong opinion on that, having never really investigated it, but there is a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. Plenty of people get drunk in order to override their endogenous shyness or restraint in hopes of getting lucky and so on. In high school and college there were times when I drank so much I had no recall whatever: I wonder what personality I had on those occasions. And I can see how the chronic ingestion of mind-altering substances might result in longer-lasting personality changes. Chemical brain damage. Meanwhile I’ve cut down to one drink per day from my habitual two and sometimes three because I’ve started experiencing occasional gout-like symptoms. The lab test showed normal uric acid levels so who knows. Anyhow, one drink is as pleasant as two.

    I’m not sure how many Americans join the military in hopes of being sent on peace-keeping missions, inasmuch as the US armed forces are largely “moving-against” rather than “moving-toward” operations. As I’ve mentioned before, I counseled Vietnam vets in the late 70s and early 80s. I didn’t know any of them before their military service, but I’d be surprised if their personalities had been radically altered by the war experience. My sense then as now was that the combat zone is a niche in which aggression, wariness, flat affect, hyperalertness, adrenal reactivity, and so on are the most adaptive reactions. Take those survival skills back home with you and other people think that you’re violent, paranoid, detached, hyper — in short, that you’ve developed a personality disorder.

    Take IT… to the LIMit — this is an Eagles song, I don’t know if it ever became a commercial jingle as well.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 June 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  11. ‘Take it to the limit’ has more of a ring to it than ‘take it to the mean’. That people can change is beyond question. Even national character, a dubious concept I know, is purported to change over time. Could there be neurotic nations? Oscar Wilde wrote an essay called The soul of man under Socialism. The Hindu sages speak of this age as the Kali Yuga, the iron age (as against gold, silver ages) , the age of mechanism. Was there an Irish golden age, an American one, a French one when there was more harmony; when Grandfather was a boy.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 13 June 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  12. In line with Wilde’s thesis, it is likely that in certain social milieus individuals cannot achieve full expression of their personalities. Wilde regards poverty and totalitarianism as stultifying influences on the individual, and that’s clearly true. “The age of mechanism” too Wilde reviles: “At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serve man.” Libertarian socialism aka anarchism: that’s the fertile soil in which individualism can thrive, says Wilde. It sounds good to me. I don’t think that Wilde the decadent lamented the loss of a golden age; he seemed to cast his gaze forward. Greece couldn’t achieve his ideal, or even its own, because slaves did the dirty work. So too with the Renaissance. What is needed, Wilde asserts, is to enslave the machines for everyone’s benefit. Then “each man will attain to his perfection. The new individualism is the new Hellenism.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2012 @ 11:14 am

  13. “Was there an Irish golden age, an American one, a French one when there was more harmony; when Grandfather was a boy.”

    There have been lots of golden ages, including when slaves have had to do the dirty work (some form of them always has, even if not officially, so you can have ‘no golden ages ever’). That’s an interesting sentence, though, because ‘when Grandfather was a boy’ does tend to suggest ‘harmony’ more for the U.S. of Ireland than for France, which is less sentimental.

    “What is needed, Wilde asserts, is to enslave the machines for everyone’s benefit. Then “each man will attain to his perfection. The new individualism is the new Hellenism.””

    Is this for real? Who can possibly take Oscar Wilde seriously? You can’t enslave machines beyond a certain point, otherwise don’t make them. He didn’t even know how to stay out of Reading Gaol, and if if there is ‘Wilde the decadent’, he probably doesn’t care that much one way or the other. Of maybe he did. Maybe he HATED everything about Lady Bracknell, even though that’s the only reason he’s really popular with most people.

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 14 June 2012 @ 11:21 am

  14. I remember an old yoga teacher for whom I have no respect talking about this ‘age of Kali’, and how ‘powerful Kali is’. You just have to be Hindu to take some of that seriously. And she went to India a fair amount, trying to get the South Indian Bharatya Natyam right, and it never was–she was always boldly outlining her movements, and was a real bitch too. Ended up when her husband could no longer peddle for Woolworth’s (because it went out of business in the 90s), she said they coudn’t afford their pied-a-terre in my NYC building, and made him settle down with her Lesbian-run ashram upstate where they have that ridiculous octagonal house with the octagonal windows, and espouse everything vegetarian, anti-intellectual, as well as ‘faeries’ and ‘devas’, who were supposed to be living in the woods.

    So what if it is an ‘age of Kali?’ That’s why she was emphasizing it so much–Kali is good as an Age of Feminism. How could such a thing exist outside an age of Mechanism. All the p.c. crap goes right with it, but they’re beginning to lose a little ground now.

    But if it’s an ‘age of Kali’, that’s still just a religious thing, like the ‘Judgment Day’. I’ve deciced on Idolatry as the best religion, it always seems to give off more temporary truth than anything else, and temporary is the best any ‘individual’ gets anyway. Otherwise, it survives you, and you can only care about it while you’re conscious. On the other hand, Toni Bentley wrote that the ballet stars usually are ‘believers’, and this probably goes hand in hand with a sense of success. I can see that, because you always revert back to idolatry anyway=–of some sort, whether food, sex, or money, these are all gods. Sages are all right, although a lot of eunuchoid types among them. It’s for certain types of people, just like Marxism-spouting is a good hobbyhorse for a number of out-of-control Twitterers.

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 14 June 2012 @ 11:32 am

  15. “You can’t enslave machines beyond a certain point.” Fine, but automation should make people’s jobs less onerous without reducing their buying power, freeing up more of their time to pursue what they love to do and what they’re good at. But in the present economic situation automation results in elimination of jobs and of pay, increasing poverty rather than alleviating it.

    Wilde was happy to have financial security; he wanted everyone to have the same benefit. He published this essay in 1891 when he was in his ascendancy, which was also the paradigmatic era of unregulated industrialism. He presents himself as an outside agitator intervening rhetorically on behalf of the poor:

    “Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralyzing effect over the nature of man, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering… That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance toward civilization. Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who began the whole thing.”

    But Wilde is no supporter of state socialism:

    “It is to be regretted that a portion of our community should be practically in slavery, but to propose to solve the problem by enslaving the entire community is childish. Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. Now as the State is not to govern, it may be asked what the State is to do. The State is to be a voluntary association that will organize labour, and be the manufacturer and distributor of necessary commodities. The State is to make what is useful. The individual is to make what is beautiful. And as I have mentioned the word labour, I cannot help saying that a great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labour. There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labour at all, and most of it is absolutely degrading… To sweep a slushy crossing for eight hours on a day when the east wind is blowing is a disgusting occupation. To sweep it with mental, moral, or physical dignity seems to me to be impossible. To sweep it with joy would be appalling. Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt. All work of that kind should be done by a machine.”

    Certainly Wilde’s life didn’t end well, his having been reduced to penury on the streets of Paris. It seems clear that his reduced position diminished his productivity, his creativity, his joy, his personality.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2012 @ 12:01 pm

  16. automation should make people’s jobs less onerous without reducing their buying power, freeing up more of their time to pursue what they love to do and what they’re good at.

    Fine, as you say, but has little to do with reality. If you can live on ‘shoulds’, then do so. Automation is to make certain activities less onerous, so the worker can be made to do more labour, not less.

    “Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who began the whole thing.”

    Do you really believe this? It’s got interesting points, but he has no foundation to say that the slaves themselves (even if there were no ‘actions’ as surely the Haitians did) he no ‘express desire on their part that they should be free’. If they didn’t (which he absolutely does not know), then they might as well remain slaves, if it’s just a bunch of fool moralizers like the ‘abolitionists’, no different from today’s Marxist moralizers Twittering and donating money to the indolent (I think THAT is an assumption too, but one that can be safely assumed.) If it was only those glorious Abolitionists, it was like some fool religious zeal. Obviously, the slaves DID want to be free, or it could never have happened that, as Blanche Dubois once said ‘Some progress hay-az been may-de..”

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 14 June 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  17. Of course, the slaves, as more hardcore enslaved then than today’s labourers, couldn’t make any ‘action’ toward their freedom to speak of, because they were weakened by this strict slavery. It happens.

    “The State is to make what is useful. The individual is to make what is beautiful.”

    That stinks. They can both do both.

    “And as I have mentioned the word labour, I cannot help saying that a great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labour. There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labour at all, and most of it is absolutely degrading…”

    Well, there’s the sissy Oscar coming out, because there is definitely ‘dignity’ in some manual labour. Of course not forced labour, or sweeping mud in streets, but not only Michael, but this other bleuger now just uses his bleug to show off his carpentry work. As for gardening, ‘decadent’ as I seem, I did a great and rigorous amount of it for at least 10 years, and it can be one of those in Michael’s list that is therapeutic. Mainly, I don’t think the essential personality changes that much. Criminal offenders have to try not to keep offending, but they often do return immediately upon release to more ‘offending’. I used to be very idealistic about fairness and civil liberties and all sorts of things like that, but it’s mostly within the context of finance and the rest of exchange, and the loudest screamers on the net, at least, have the most money (and spend it on their pleasures. I just decided to espouse my pleasures and get over all guilt about them, and am delighted there’s more and more guilt to get rid of. In that way, you don’t even have to feel guilty about idolatry. All these things are idols, it’s obviously just that male organs are considered the most offensive; nobody gets upset about female organs being worshiped, or cults around them, etc.–that’s part of the p.c. that’s so sweeping these days, so you have to hide you Phallic Worship, if you dare have any. I guess Toni, as a woman, and having worshipped Phallus with her ass, did the most ‘legal version’ of that particular idolatry, and really believed she ‘found God’ that way. Would have to be an intelligent person to believe this, even if it weren’t true. Wilde probably had the same tendency, what with Douglas being the obvious butch.)

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 14 June 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  18. I’m giving you quotes of what Wilde wrote, and what he may also have believed.

    Automation enhances worker productivity; i.e., the amount of value added per unit of hour worked. If automation could double the productivity of a particular group of workers, should they keep working at the same rate in order to produce twice as much as before, or should the existing workforce cut its hours in half and keep the amount of output steady, or should half the workers be let go while keeping output steady? They’re all real options; i.e., implementable, with measurable cost-benefit trade-offs. The question Wilde addresses is whether certain kinds of societies stifle full expression of individual personalities, and whether automation could enhance the full expression of individuality by alleviating the burden of demeaning slave-like labor. I say yes. How about you?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2012 @ 1:53 pm

  19. I just don’t see anything original about anything Wilde said, except that the slaves ‘didn’t revolt’, he doesn’t point out that they ‘couldn’t revolt’, so these lovely abolitionists came in like saints.

    All those things he brought up were only interesting because he also said some of them. They don’t seem original. What was original about Wilde is his plays, and his quips, his quotes, and yes, his faggotty decadence. His ideas on ‘individuality’ are not original.

    “The question Wilde addresses is whether certain kinds of societies stifle full expression of individual personalities, ”

    Of course. Anybody knows all Communist societies are by now even overtly anti-individual, with phrases like ‘personhood’. It’s all about guilt-giving, and appeals to the physically ugly and untalented, for the most part. It is definitely also true that the slave-owning states like Greece and formerly the U.S. have developed some of the greatest individual expressions. And imperialist nations like UK and France were definitely exploiting with their colonizing, which is about the same as slave-owning. And some countries were involved with the slave trade.

    Ruling classes ARE interested in individuality and developing it. The argument comes up because they don’t always give it precedence over everything else, and want to even limit it. And that’s what they’ll continue to do. This, of course goes unnoticed by all Communists, who don’t know that the ruling class wants art and entertainment beyond bimboes too, but they do not ever care about individuality (including their own, which is defined primarily by their wealth) more than they do just gigantic accumulation. The Communists squelch all individuality, and incidentally, in the successful ‘capitalistic-socialistic’ rich European countries, like Switzerland and Scandinavia, you have far less individuality than you do in the less fair countries. So I guess my answer is finally ‘Whatevah…’ (sorry)

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 14 June 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  20. Totalitarianism stifles individuality, but so does poverty. Two years ago I put up this post summarizing recent empirical work on the interaction between genetic and economic factors in IQ scores. The gist was this: For kids above a certain economic threshold, genetics accounts for half of the variation in IQ scores, with environment accounting for the rest. For poor kids it’s nearly all environment. Why? The explanation best supported by the evidence is that poverty suppresses whatever genetic predisposition a kid might have to do well on IQ tests. I suspect this is the case for any number of other individual differences: poverty suppresses the full expression of whatever innate talents or traits a person might have been born with.

    The issue of automation is personally relevant for me. I worked in this field for years, computerizing and standardizing work practices. My interest in this work was fourfold: to do something I found interesting, to improve the outcomes of work, to make the products/services less expensive to produce, to minimize routine shitwork so workers could devote more time to innovation. I became terminally demoralized with my work when, finally seeing beyond my own fantasies contributing to what I deemed a better world, I came to the inescapable conclusion that my work was being used to lower wages and eliminate jobs not so that prices would be reduced, making the products more readily available, but so that profit margins would go up and the owners could pocket the profits. That’s when I quit.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  21. Patrick you’ll be delighted to hear that Boysie became a religious nut at the end and even, in 1916, brought a case against George Moore for blasphemy. I would keep automation entirely out of the garden if I could and though I admire the man who mows his lawn with a scythe I can’t manage that with the lumpish tool that I have. The line strimmer must occasionally be plied but the previous one having expired I discovered that it is possible to get along without it. I like manual labour and have even been known to cut carpentry joints by hand.

    Automation has not been a boon. It has taken the skill out of work for the masses but for some craftsmen it has given the chance to differentiate their product from the mass produced and charge more. Morris and his Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the 19th. century catered to an elite but that tradition is still going strong.

    John: I remember reading The Social Psychology of Industry by J.A.C. Brown when I studied sociology and I thought that it was an operational manual for alienation. Everything was about manipulation of the workers. It was brave of you to give up work which was probably very well paid. Brown was very keen on the idea of giving grand titles to people to keep them faithful. You abdicated so to speak. From Lord of Time and Master of Motion you became a commoner. Bye the bye I believe that it’s not true that the Chinese are making everything but that this a convenient fiction to ensure a sprightly level of fear in workers. I expect the Chinese are being told that the Americans are planning to turn Borderland into a free trade area.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 14 June 2012 @ 4:46 pm

  22. I worked exclusively on standardizing and automating non-manual labor: financial analysis, diagnostics, etc. Maybe some of those workers could have used their extra free time for gardening, carpentry, cooking, and other crafty pursuits.

    I’ve seen data on job migration in US corporations, though I’m going by memory rather than documents here. Over the past ten years something like 3.5 million jobs in the US have been axed, with 3.0 million outsourced. So that’s a net loss of half a million jobs worldwide. On average there was economic growth of say 5% annually, which suggests that total jobs would have been expected to have increased by 60% over that time span; i.e., a total of about 3 million jobs should have been added. Where did those jobs go? Automation mostly.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  23. I did a lot of work in healthcare, where the results of standardization have been rather the opposite of worker alienation. To the extent that physicians have been able to standardize many of their routine activities, they are able to assign this work to nurses and technicians. These lower-status, lower-paid jobs are thereby made more interesting. They might even get pay raises. Still, here is work that’s now being performed by people making perhaps a fifth of what the doctors are paid for doing the same thing. But did the prices of medical services decrease? They did not. By outsourcing work to lower-paid staff the doctors could double their patient load and thus double their billings. Only a small fraction of the increase went into the paychecks of the upgraded tech support people; the rest became profit. Often enough the doctors owned their own practices, so they got direct financial benefits of this redivision of labor. But in the long run they too probably alienated themselves from their work, spending shorter and shorter amounts of time actually interacting with their patients. And they still bitched about not making as much as the futures trader down the street.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 June 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  24. John:
    That was worthwhile work and in a proper socialised medical system would have translated into better service from the front line people. There is a constant barrage of complaints about waiting lists here and it can be bad. Personally I’ve never had to wait and had excellent care in a teaching hospital, all free. It’s the parallel private system that tries in my perhaps paranoid opinion to put the wind up people by salting the media with stories. They are shameless. My 91 year old father, obviously dying had a pacemaker fitted. But he had a good plan. The private hospital where he had it done had a gigantic foyer like a hotel with a sculpted carpet and a grand piano in the middle. The hell where they have earned will be a waiting room with farm machinery mags and a ticket with 3004 on it. As they enter the attendent will shout 4.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 15 June 2012 @ 2:22 pm


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