The Permaweird

Venkatesh Rao argues that there is no polycrisis, only nostalgia for an imagined present.

Crisis theories (and names) are popular. Adam Tooze’s term polycrisis currently seems to be winning. Adam Elkus, coined a similar term, the omnicrisis. Then there is perma-crisis, which I think was coined by John Robb, but I’m not sure.

I suspect, though, that crisis theorizing is barking up the wrong tree. In its anxiety to inspire an actionable sense of generalized collective urgency about the overall state of the world, crisis theorizing misses the essence of what is going on: there is no default (hyper-?) object for a sense of collective crisis to be about. At the scales of complexity where these crisis theories apply, the object of the crisis must to some degree be constructed by the collective sense of urgency it induces. But it appears that no such coherent consensual object can be constructed in the regimes we are talking about.

The pandemic came close for a bit, but it was merely a regular sort of crisis. Not the kind of meta-prefixed crisis the terms evoke. In general, we have not been in a state of continuous crisis, poly, omni, or perma. We have merely been convinced we ought to be. That the stream of bewildering events ought to add up to something we can collectively get worked up about, and do something about together.

I think we are experiencing an end-of-history subversion of the possibility of a collective sense of urgency at the largest social scales. Coordinated action at such scales, to the extent it is needed, must originate somewhere other than in a shared sense of urgency.

Read More at Ribbonfarm Studio

Read the rest at Ribbonfarm Studio