The increasing complexification of networks in our societies leads to a decreasing sense of responsibility due to our inability to map out the causal paths involved in the increasing number of risks taken, and so of more or less catastrophic outcomes, that characterises our society. Yannick Rumpala remarks: « Tracing and following the vast networks of the contemporary economic system would precisely allow a better understanding of causal pathways, and consequently avoid dissolving responsibilities or making them ascribable where they should not. »
This solution of mapping the networks of the economic system suggests two major questions:
Firstly, is this obfuscation of causal paths and thus of nodes of responsibility
1) systemic, ie intrinsic to the network once it attains a certain level of complexity or, on a more Althusserian note, inevitable in any social network given the inevitability of ideology in its practico-social functions (simplification, binary oppositions, imaginary constitution of “responsible” subjects)
2) tied to a particular vision of and management of networks, eg the argument of Zizek that capitalism is not necessarily tied to its liberal form where causality is veiled behind complexity and that an authoritarian form of capitalism is conceivable where causality could be more transparent without permitting a degree of resistance capable of destabilising the system?
Secondly, is the limiting of the problem to networks of the economic system a fruitful strategy? I think that the Deleuzian (and Latourian) objection is that the network is tied to the heterogeneity of its elements, and cannot be limited to one domain (here, the economy), but must involve psychic, social, technological, cultural and non-human elements if it is to be developped at the complexity necessary to engage with our real problems.
I am thinking of the example of global warming and Timothy Morton’s “theorisation” in terms of hyperobjects. I use the inverted commas as I think that this term is more a gesture at the scale and complexity of certain problems than a true conceptualisation of them. I think that this case shows that the determination of “degrees of responsibility”, while being important and necessary, is probably not a sufficient preparation for effective intervention.
Just a clarification. In fact, my original paper does not only deal with economic networks and the economic system was just an example for my blog post.
The entire article is still available at: http://yannickrumpala.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/rumpala-knowledge-and-praxis-of-networks-as-a-political-project-21st-century-society1.pdf
Thank you for the clarification. I was reacting to my re-reading of your blog posts and had quite forgotten to consult your article, which is in effect a contribution to a more general notion of mapping the networks of our reticular world in view of finding more appropriate ways of living and acting inside it. Your notions of unplugging from and refusing to connect to certain networks, of elaborating rival networks and tracing alternative paths are important for the description and implementing of reticular resistance to hegemonic paths and networks.
a problem with systems approaches is that there really aren’t natural/given limits to systems, so we have to draw them ourselves and then the boundaries and resulting senses/impressions of causality/responsibility are to a large degree social constructs and around we go, thus Pickering’s mangles of practices and such.
skip ahead from 1 to 3 as 2 is part of the Q&A