Sep 13, 2008

interesting, weber, and enchantment

occasionally, anyway. i went down to ny today, mostly for the interesting nyc conference and also partly to scope out a few galleries. i thought it would be a bit like sci foo (more here; yet more here), but interesting turned out to be mostly an ad industry event (at least, so it seemed): at the risk of throwing stones while living in a glass house, there were a couple of software presentations -- including one about php ("i just learned about recursion a few days ago!") -- at a level so low it was actually strenuous and a memorable talk in which the audience was characterised repeatedly as leviathans of cultural consumption and synthesis, each on the brink of cognitive self-destruction.

in any case. about the only major takeaway was from a lecture by gaurav mishra. mishra is a marketer who's part-way through a year of abandoning consumption. (naturally, like everyone else who spends an entire year doing anything noteworthy, the plan is to write a book about it. cf: cooking like julia child, eating locally, living by the dictates of the bible, and -- my favourite -- living in the south of france.) he showed a slide partway through his lecture with a curve showing pre- and post-materialist states:

the curve is a little disingenuous or, at least, does him a disservice in not clearly representing the point of the transition from pre- to post-materialism, which is that the process of transition changes the valence of the objects possessed. while pre- and post-materialist individuals could be at the same level of material possession, there's an ontological change in the meaning of the possessions -- they are elevated now such that, presumably, post-materialist man is happy with them where pre-materialist man was not.

we see the same pattern in the weberian cycle of enchantment > rationalisation > re-enchantment (through the engines of bureaucracy and charisma). a re-enchanted sphere of life looks the same, but is dramatically different, is elevated from its origin state. a curve describes only one dimension of the trajectory of the return to enchantment by way of rationalisation; the best way to show it is probably as a upward spiral that looks, from the top at least, like a circle. (click on the image for much clearer diagram.) obviously, this defies easy axial labeling.

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