Sunday, February 8, 2009

I spent the evening filing a couple of months worth of household bills, reports, receipts, bank statements, pay stubs and so on.  

They used to view the Cold War as a great contest between opposing ideologies -- the capitalistic open society versus the communist closed one.  But in reality each Weltanschauung (such as it was) lost out to the reigning ideological practice of the 20th century -- bureaucratism.  It is the bureaucracy that won.

And now, the struggle for the soul of the 21st century is not really West versus jihad or state versus terror.  It's about the valences of bureaucratism: two extreme and contrastive versions of the praxis.  On the one hand there is the bureaucracy as a utilitarian construction for a rule of law, procedure and objectivity -- something that could conceivably serve to bolster equality and even the common good.  (This is the reason why bureaucracies are created in the first place -- so that people get treated "fairly," and according to the rules.)

On the other hand, there is bureaucracy's capacity to serve as a framework for cronyism, corruption and just another arena for Machiavellian power play.  

In the American version of this, the Bush administration exemplified the latter valence.  Their impatience with the rule of law and their co-opting  the offices and regulations of governing to enrich themselves and their cronies may pale in comparison to China or Nigeria, but they are radicals by our standards.  The EU is probably the mirror image of this, with all its elaborate institutional contortions meant to bleed politics dry.

In a sense, if Al Qaeda actually were to exist as they portray it, its true radicalism would be not in its tired Islamicist posturing, but in its frightening effort to bureaucratize the practice of international terror.  

Food for thought in any case.