CasP Dialogue 2017.01: Fix's work on Energy and Institutions

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CasP Dialogue 2017.01: Fix's work on Energy and Institutions

Postby jmc » Wed May 17, 2017 9:27 am

*** This post is part of a new initiative for ongoing dialogue in political economic research. We wish to engage in open, autonomous and creative communication whose purpose is to elucidate various viewpoints, find their similarities and differences, and hopefully make them the basis for higher forms of understanding and action. Please follow this website forum for updates and new posts ***


CasP Dialogue 2017.01: Fix's work on Energy and Institutions

The dialogue involves reading and discussion of the following work:
Energy and Institution Size
Fix, Blair. (2017). PLoS ONE. Vol. 12. No. 2. 8 February. pp. 1-22.

Download PDF and/or data by going here: http://www.capitalaspower.com/2017/02/fix-energy-and-institution-size/


How to participate:
1. Register an account on the forum. If you are having difficulty doing this, please use the contact form below.

2. The thread will be unlocked around two weeks after the paper is selected for dialogue. For Blair's paper, this thread will be unlocked on June 1, 2017. This gap between post and dialogue will give everyone time to read and think about the publication.

3. Make a contribution – be it a comment, question or critique. A dialogue develops, and we let it run its course. If the discussion is substantial enough, its main participants can edit it into a Working Paper on Capital as Power and post it on http://www.capitalaspower.com/category/working-papers/ (for an example of such edited dialogue, see “Imperialism and Financialism: An Exchange” http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/278/). The resulting paper can then be titled “(Original title): A Dialogue” and submitted to the journal where the publication originally appeared (NPE in this case), or to any other journal if the focus is a book.
jmc
 
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Re: CasP Dialogue 2017.01: Fix's work on Energy and Institut

Postby jmc » Thu Jun 01, 2017 9:09 am

This thread is now unlocked. Discussion on Fix's paper is open.
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Re: CasP Dialogue 2017.01: Fix's work on Energy and Institut

Postby jmc » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:48 am

Fix's paper is thought provoking, in part because each theoretical assumption is supported with detailed evidence. I have a longer post in the works, but I thought it would be good to get discussion going with two talking-points:

1. A thermodynamic theory of economics / society
I might be pushing the thermodynamics towards the realm of metaphors, but Fix's paper made me curious about dissecting the manner in which a society deals with non-equilibrium. This plays with the thermodynamics perspective, but energy use can be categorized by use. The same measure of energy use per capita can have different political meaning when, for example, bigger and bigger industrial technologies are being used to pump out wasteful consumer products rather than for infrastructure projects that alleviate suffering but that would, by their very size, require lots of energy use.

2. The "social brain" hypothesis
I don't think it is possible to disagree with the basic premise of the argument--human brainpower creates a finite limit to how many relationships each individual can maintain. "Maintain"--it is the word Dunbar uses and I am curious what he means by that (not familiar with the literature). Because if "maintain" denotes agency and control, a persons relationship network would be very small and hierarchy is a "necessary" solution to our limitations. But this verb takes on new meanings all the time, especially in light of changes in digital communication. My approach seems to hinge on one word, but it also makes me wonder if the evidence in Fix's paper can be used for alternative perspectives about social order and power. He rightly uses the assumption to model a system that uses hierarchy to greater and greater degrees, but can nations with their current population sizes coordinate without such large institutions?
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Re: CasP Dialogue 2017.01: Fix's work on Energy and Institut

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:32 am

Shimshon and I have written a new article:

Growing through Sabotage: Energizing Hierarchical Power, Working Papers on Capital as Power, July 2017 (No. 2017/02) http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/512/

The impetus for writing this paper came from reading Fix's path-breaking work on energy and institutions. Fix's research emphasizes the role of hierarchy as the most effective way of coordinating the capture of energy. Our work accentuates the reverse link: the fact that hierarchy is a technology of power; that erecting and maintaining it requires strategic sabotage; and that sabotage demands plenty of energy.

Both views explain the correlation between energy and hierarchy, but their causal chains are opposite.
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