Friday, November 12, 2010

[1.5 Человека] Джон Н. Грей О Социалдарвинизме.

Спонсор месяца - ВотИменно.Ру, первый в России безрисковый нейминг-сервис.

Before the run on Northern Rock, practically nobody imagined that the banking system could crash. Financial institutions had been showing signs of strain ever since Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), a highly leveraged hedge fund, blew up in September 1998, nine years before lines of desperate savers began to form outside the offices of the former Tyneside building society. Debt of all kinds had risen to levels beyond anything in living memory. Even so, anyone who suggested that the type of ­turbocharged capitalism released by financial deregulation might be dangerously fragile was dismissed as a doom-monger. Like a successful species that had driven out its evolutionary competitors, hypercapitalism was advancing inexorably throughout the world. How could this Darwinian winner possibly self-destruct?

The failure to perceive the mounting risk of systemic crisis had several sources. Human beings learn too much from the recent past. Despite the meltdown of LTCM, the previous two decades had been a time of apparent calm in the markets. Inevitably, theories emerged - the "long boom", the "end of history" - in which this uneasy interlude was represented as a permanent state of stability. Such theories reinforced the tendency to extrapolate from the near past, but they did more than that. Operating as an ideology, they persuaded many that the unfettered market was not only irresistibly powerful, but also socially benign.

Three years after savers began queuing outside Northern Rock, western finance capitalism is in a worsening crisis, with the bailing out of an insolvent banking system leading to insolvency in government. At the same time, the ideology that legitimated this breed of capitalism is as powerful as ever. As non-executive chair of Northern Rock in the years leading up to its collapse, Matt Ridley can hardly have failed to reflect on the crisis; but there is no sign of him having learned anything from it. He devotes less than a page of The Rational Optimist to the crisis, blaming it on "government monetary and housing policy". The implication is clear: if only governments had not tampered with the market, all would have been well.

As the subtitle of his book indicates, Ridley sees free markets as part of the evolutionary process. This is not evolution of the kind bio­logists understand, however. "Humanity is experiencing an extraordinary burst of evolutionary change, driven by good old-fashioned Darwinian natural selection," he writes. "But it is selection among ideas, not genes." Like Rich­ard Dawkins, another neo-Darwinian missionary, Ridley is a believer in memes - units of meaning that supposedly explain human development. Applying the idea to economics, he writes that "whole economies evolve by natural selection". Just as biological evolution works by bringing together the genes of different individuals, cultural evolution occurs "when ideas meet and mate" in market exchange. “Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex is to biological evolution," he writes. The history of humankind is no more than the working out of this simple equation.

There is nothing new in this kind of thinking. It was the eccentric Victorian sage Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who coined the expression "survival of the fittest" and promoted the idea that laissez-faire capitalism was the final stage of social evolution. Impressed by Spencer's work, Sidney and Beatrice Webb adopted his idea that economic systems evolve in competition with one another, but nominated Stalinist collectivism rather than the free market as the final winner. Laissez-faire was reinstated as the winning system towards the end of the 20th century, when Spencer's ideology was resurrected in the later writings of Friedrich Hayek. Ridley is doing little more than recycle some of the aged Hayek's dafter ideas.

Whatever political goals it is used to promote, the idea of cultural evolution is not much more than a misleading metaphor. Laissez-faire was not the result of any spontaneous process of social evolution; it was imposed on society through the use of state power. Memes are just a pseudo-scientific way of talking about ideas, not actually existing physical entities. There is nothing in society that resembles the natural selection of random genetic mutations; even if such a mechanism existed, there is nothing to say its workings would be benign. Bad ideas do not evolve into better ones. They tend to recur, as racist memes are doing at present in parts of the world where economic dis­location is reviving hatred of minorities and immigrants. Knowledge advances, but in ethics and politics the same old rubbish keeps on piling up. The idea of social evolution is rubbish of this kind, a virulent meme that continues to reproduce and spread despite having been refuted time and time again.

The best evidence against Ridley's claim that ideas evolve is the existence of this book, which reproduces some of the most pernicious myths of social Darwinism. Spencer and his disciples thought evolution was ...читать дальше.

Спонсор месяца - ВотИменно.Ру, первый в России безрисковый нейминг-сервис.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

об чём пиздит?

10:02 AM  

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