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A BIT OF THE OTHER Why Scarcity Isnt All Its Cracked Up To Be

Michael Thompson

Economics, having been defined as the allocation of scarce resources to alternative ends, can say nothing about rubbish: the vast realm of the valueless. This means that, before economics can say anything about anything, it has to ensure that it is scarce. The result is an almost hegemonic discourse of scarcity. Rubbish theory offers a way out, in that it enables us to ask, and answer, the question economics should have started with but didnt: how many ways of economising are possible? There turn out to be five, each of which comports with one of the five forms of social solidarity that have long been familiar to social scientists and that have recently been systematized in terms of cultural theory. Since only two of these the markets and hierarchies that are central to institutional economics are bent on scarcityimposition, there is an urgent need to understand what the other three are bent on. The scarcity discourse, in other words, is silencing voices that need to be heard, and responded to.

Opened in 1903, the Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum (in Hagen, Germany) was the first museum of modern art in the world. It is also the only museum to be run explicitly on rubbish theory principles, which helps explain why, to mark its centenary, it republished my book Rubbish Theory (Thompson 1979) in a new German translation by the museums director, Michael Fehr. Rubbish Theory sets out to answer the question that economics, you might think, would have answered but hasnt: how does something second-hand become an antique; how does a rat-infested slum become part of Our Glorious Heritage? The basic idea is that there are two mutually exclusive cultural categories that are socially imposed on the world of objects: a transient category (the members of which have decreasing value and finite expected life-spans) and a durable category (the members of which have increasing value and infinite expected life-spans). If these two categories exhausted the material world then the transfer of an object from one to the other would not be possible (because of the mutual contradiction of the categories defining criteria). But, of course, they are not exhaustive; they only encompass those objects that are valued, leaving a vast and disregarded realmrubbishthat, it turns out, provides the one-way route from transience to durability (Figure 1). Hence Michael Fehrs nice insight: that there are just two destinations the rubbish tip and the museum. Once produced, a transient object will decline in value and in expected life-span, eventually reaching zero on both. In an ideal (for some, at any rate) world it would then, having reached the end of its usefulness, disappear in a cloud of dust. But often this does not happen; it lingers on in a valueless and timeless limbo (rubbish) until, perhaps, it

is discovered by some creative and upwardly-mobile individual and transferred across into the durable category.1

Value decreases with time

Value increases with time

No value, no time

Figure 1: Cultural categories of objects and the possible transfers between them (from Thompson 1979, p. 10).

There is, of course, a great deal more to rubbish theory than this, but already we can see some of the serious inadequacies of neoclassical economics. Thanks to its insistence on the notion of scarcity (it defines economics as the allocation of scarce resources to alternative ends 2 ) neoclassical economics restricts itself to the realm of value the transient and durable categories and turns its back on everything else. This, of course, is why it cannot account for something second-hand becoming an antique, or for all those Georgian terraced houses in inner-London that, far from having been swept away (as was the planners intention back in the 1960s) are now designated as Conservation Areas and statutorily listed as being of outstanding architectural or historical interest (and worth many millions of pounds each!). Neoclassicists, of course, will claim that they have not ignored the realm of the valueless, and that it is taken care of by their notion of waste. But waste is not the same as rubbish, because it is still under the thrall of scarcity: if it hadnt been scarce to start with it couldnt have been wasted! For instance, once fresh water has been defined as scarce, every drop of it that reaches the sea, and has therefore not been diverted to some productive end, is a drop wasted. In the same way, a recent World Bank review of urban infrastructure programmes in developing countries noted that many municipal water authorities were grossly inefficient and wasteful of scarce supplies (Black 1998, p. 52). And much the same scarcity-framing is evident in the notion of badsgoods, as it were, that happen

to have negative value. Neither waste nor bads equate to rubbish: to valuelessness and timelessness.3 Nor can neoclassical economics, with its utilitarian logic, cope adequately with the durable category. Turnover-maximisation can make little sense of objects that get more and more valuable by just sitting there doing nothing. Hence the strange labels economists attach to durable objects: non-use value, existence value, positional goods and so on. Some economists, of course, may seek to expand their territory by imposing scarcity where none existed before. Thus we find passengers on Londons Underground being reclassified as customers (as if they could take their custom to some other, rival Underground). And, turning to the developing world, we find water being defined as an economic good: the leitmotiv of the development community over the past decade or so (e.g. Garn [1998]; Briscoe [1996]). Indeed, one economist has even gone so far as to insist that the water that is brought to us by reservoirs and pipes is a product not a service! Furthermore, it must be kept scarce, if need be by increasing demand relative to supply. A programmes designers and managers must understand that they are selling a product, not providing a service. Where sufficient demand exists, the facilities and services offered must be tailored to that demand; where demand is not strong, it must be stimulated. [Cairncross 1992,v] This discourse of scarcity, if it becomes hegemonic, will drown out the contending water as a human right discourse (and the general well-being and public health discourse) as, for instance, happened for a while in Britain, where families that were not able to pay their water bills, were disconnected. If the disconnectees were living in high-rise public housing (and many were) the health risks were not just to themselves, since they resorted to hurling their excrement from their balconies in polythene bags that then burst open when they hit the ground. So neoclassical economics, thanks to its over-eager attachment to scarcity, is making a pigs ear of it all; what is needed is some sort of systems theory approach that can take in both the valued and the valueless and the dynamic relationship between them.4 And, in order to get some idea of what that systems approach might be, we need to return to Karl Ernst Osthauss remarkable museum.


At the time I was writing Rubbish Theory I was much involved with some early conceptual artists The Art and Language Group and so I was delighted to be offered the chance of another dabble5: this time as a curator of, and contributing artist to, the major exhibition-Museutopia that was mounted in celebration of the Karl Ernst Osthaus Museums centenary.6 What would life be like, ran Michael Fehrs invitation to his international stable of artists, in a situation where all our material needs have been met?. My exhibit was an outline for a play a one-act farce that, it was hoped, would be performed, in the Hagen museum, by the Bonn Shakespeare Players: a student theatre group. Unfortunately, getting from my idea to an actual performance would have required something akin to the intense and gruelling process by which a Mike Leigh play or film sees the light of day, and this was simply not feasible for the Bonn Shakespeare Players (for one thing, they had their exams to pass!). So my artwork ended up becoming part of the documentation for the exhibition (Fehr and Rieger 2003): a curious resource that I will now draw on to try to answer the question we are faced with: how do we make the neoclassical pigs ear into a systems theory silk purse? The farce, I should explain, has a dramatis personae of five, none of whom ever met any of the others in real life. William Blake (Visionary and utopianist) Po Chu-i (Retired mandarin and poet) John Maynard Keynes (Economist and would-be dentist) Jackie Onaissis (Insecurity advisory and slimming expert) Miss Piggy (Consumer and architectural critic)

The Plot In Outline

"Keynes", his biographer Robert Skidelsky (2000: p. 478) concludes, "was not a socialist. But like Blake he strove to realise a utopia beyond the economics of industrialism ". If we take "beyond the economics of industrialism" as synonymous with the state of affairs where all our material needs have been met (as in Michael Fehr's invitation) then Keynes's and Blake's and our Museutopia are essentially one and the same (and different from the socialist utopias that champions of liberal democracy now see as things of the past).7 Keynes, true to his early mentor, the Cambridge philosopher G.E. Moore8, always looked forward to the time when economists would be "like dentists"9: a time when, as he put it,

we shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin. [Keynes, as quoted by Skidelsky (2000:p.478)] Keynes, though perfectly serious, is being deliberately outrageous ("impish" is the word that those who knew him well used); he has to be outrageous because what he is saying contradicts the non-satiety requirement that underpins pretty well all of economic theorising and analysis: the insistence that, as the very careful wording has it, a person will always prefer a larger bundle of goods to a smaller one.10 More than a thousand years before Keynes and his beloved Bloomsbury Group, and on the other side of the globe, the retired mandarin Po Chu-i said much the same, the title of his famous work -- "A Mad Poem Addressed to My Nephews and Nieces" -- indicating that he too was well aware of the outrageousness of this utopia: a utopia in which, in gentle but firm defiance of the non-satiety requirement, a smaller bundle of goods is consistently preferred to a larger one11: What I shall need are very few things. A single rug to warm me through the winter; One meal to last me the whole day. It does not matter that my house is rather small; One cannot sleep in more than one room! It does not matter that I have not many horses; One cannot ride on two horses at once! And more recently, and almost half a world away again, the best-selling book, Your Money Or Your Life (Dominguez and Robbin, 1992) has become a bible to all those North Americans who have decided to downshift and, in the process, to radically redefine The American Dream. Here, the defiance of the non-satiety requirement is rather more strident than it is in Keynes or in Po Chu-i: "Even if you win the rat-race, you're still a rat." And it is here, in this pithy one-liner, that we can detect the essence of my argument, which is that the denial of the non-satiety requirement entails its confirmation: that to downshift you have first to have something to downshift from. In other words, being one way is possible only when there is another, contradictory, way to define oneself against. Nor, of course, do we have to look far to find this other. The philosophy of plenitude (the term "plenitude" comes from another rejector of the non-satiety requirement, Lewis Mumford [1964: p. 400]) would never have cut much ice with Jackie Onassis, who famously declared 5

"You can never be too rich or too thin". And Miss Piggy, when she learnt about the aesthetic principle that underlay Mies van der Rohe's architecture -- "Less is more" -- was having none of that nonsense. "More is more", she insisted in her unstoppable way, and that was that!12 * * * The non-extinguishability of the other -- in this case, the Jackie Onassises and Miss Piggys who make our utopia unattainable in its totality -- far from being a set-back, gets us off a rather awkward hook: the end of technology. If we all agreed that all our material needs had finally been met then our technology would stop. But technology can't stop (or, at least, if it did stop it would not be able to stay where it was!). As Langdon Winner has observed, "We don't just use technology; we live it", which means that Keynes' utopian moment -- when ends are once more valued above means and the good above the useful -- may well be a long time in coming. The trouble is that we and our technology are simply not separable in this way. Like a bike and its rider, the whole thing is only viable if it is bowling along. People who can balance themselves on a stationary bicycle are found only in circuses! Worse still, if our technology stopped so would our utopian thinking. This is because the whole point of utopias is to mobilise and motivate actions of one sort rather than another: to sink costs into our preferred path of technological development -- small is beautiful, say (if our utopia is one in which all differences are equalised, like Pol Pot's) or bigger is better (if our utopia is one in which there is a place for everyone and everyone in his or her place, like Plato's Republic) -- and thereby prevent those costs being sunk into other paths that are preferred by those other actors to whom our utopia is distinctly dystopian. (Buckminster Fullers vision of an intercontinental electricity grid, which would enable North America to transfer its summertime excess of generated power to South America and vice versa, would be seriously at odds with the small is beautiful utopia that is espoused by, for instance, Norways deep ecologists). This crucial and unbreakable connection between the ideational realm and the material base also explains the otherwise bizarre attention given by utopianists (think of Speer's detailed drawings for the new capital of Europe at Linz -- Hitler's birthplace) to the physical forms that their New Jerusalems will take: Thomas More's capital city and its 53 satellite

towns, the farmers, the clothing of the men and the women, the absence of iron (and hence the need for external contact and trade) and so on. After all, if ideas were only ideas (as they would be if we were no longer concerned about our material needs) there would be no point in having them! So we should be grateful to the Jackie Onassises and Miss Piggys of this world precisely because, in preventing the attainment of our utopia, they actually make it possible. Striving, not arriving, as Blake was at such pains to stress, is the utopian essence!13 Nothing very farcical in all that, you might say, but the entertainment is mostly in the details: the high seriousness of the Bloomsbury Group (with their religion of timeless ecstasy and their shunning of Keynes unintellectual and non-upper class wife14) when it is brought face-to-face with Po Chu-is hermit peace15 or with Miss Piggys philosophy of more is more, and so on. So, in order to preserve the farcicality of it all, I have put these details into the rather copious endnotes. That way, the reader can have a chuckle or two at the expense of these diverse utopianists without interrupting the flow of my argument (and the justification for my title): that there is an essential contention16 between all these visions of the future, and that neoclassical economics, thanks to its blanket and unreflexive imposition of the notion of scarcity, has totally failed to recognize that. Instead, it has latched onto just one of those visions Miss Piggys and sought to wipe out the others. Not a sensible thing to do if your very life depends on their being there!


If people quite often transgress the non-satiety requirement and only Miss Piggy, among our five characters, does not transgress it17 -- then perhaps there are more ways of economising than neoclassical economics allows. So we can begin where economics should have begun: by asking how many ways of economising are logically possible. There turn out to be five, each of which recommends itself to the upholders of one of the five forms of social solidarity that have long been familiar to social scientists, and that have now been systematized by cultural theory.18 All this can be set out by summarizing the chapter Making Ends Meet in the book Cultural Theory (Thompson, Ellis and Wildavsky, 1990). Making ends meet is ordinary language for economising, and the ends in question are needs and resources. But needs and resources are not just given; to some considerable extent, we make the ends themselves before we make them meet. Cultural theory is built upon this social malleability; it gives formal expression to the everyday observations that some peo7

ple are more needy than others, and that some are more resourceful than others. Its basic hypothesis is that whether a person19 is able to manage his needs and his control over resources depends on the way in which he is caught up in the process of social life. Po Chu-i, for instance, was not able to prefer a smaller bundle of goods to a larger one until he had withdrawn from the sort of social involvements that went with his privileged yet demanding life as a mandarin in his case, a regional governor. There are, therefore, four logical possibilities: 1. You can manage neither your needs nor your resources. 2. You can manage your needs but not your resources. 3. You can manage your resources but not your needs. 4. You can manage your needs and your resources. As you go down this list of possibilities, needs and resources get more malleable. At Possibility One they are not malleable at all; they are frozen up. At Possibilities Two and Three there is one degree of freedom; one scope to manage needs in the first case, to manage resources in the second has thawed out. And at Possibility Four there are two degrees of freedom; nothing is frozen up (Figure 2).

4a Scope to manage overlap

Scope to manage resources


Scope to manage needs

Figure 2: The three degrees of freedom and the five need-and-resource managing strategies.

Reasoning in terms of degrees of freedom, though quite common in the natural sciences, is something of a rarity in social science, so I will have to go carefully. At Possibility 1 you cannot really develop a strategy. All you can do is try to cope, as best you can, with a situation over which you have no control. At Possibility 2 you can only increase your ability to choose by managing your needs down so that they lie more comfortably within your fixed resources. At Possibility 3 you can increase your ability to choose by managing your resources up, thereby lessening the risk of them being overwhelmed by your fixed needs. Possibility 4, because it involves two degrees of freedom, is more complicated and gives rise to two strategies. o Possibility 4a: depending on how you mix your two managements, you can gain a third degree of freedom. You can, if you are managing them both up or both down (and, of course, you can periodically switch back and forth between up and down),20 also manage the size of the overlap between them. As Mr. Micawber famously remarked: Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, chapter 12). So this strategy fits with what is sometimes claimed to be the benefit of a classical education: that it enables you to enjoy life without all the things it prevents you from getting! o The other strategic option 4b is to ignore overlap-management and, through energetic involvement in ego-focused networks, to manage both needs and resources up as high as possible. This, of course, is Miss Piggys strategy, and it is the one of the five that is countenanced by neoclassical economics, and enshrined in its non-satiety requirement. Only in this situation does the exuberant businessmans quip -- about being unable to reconcile his net income (command over resources) with his gross habits (ever-proliferating needs) make any sense. So this curious space (Figure 2) with its five corners or singularities as mathematicians call them each defining a quite distinct way of economising, is the basic framework for cultural theory.21 And, once we have that framework, we can see just how poverty-stricken neoclassical theory is: it has tucked itself into just one of the five corners, denied the other four, and then convinced itself that this little provincial niche is the universe!

But, of course, these five are the logically possible strategies, and we still have to satisfy ourselves that, as our essential contestation argument insists, they are all taken up in real life (indeed, that real life would not be possible if they were not all taken up!). In other words, what I have to do now is bring this five-cornered space alive by showing how it is that each strategy recommends itself to the occupants of a particular sort of transactional setting a particular form of social solidarity and how each of these settings, in its turn, is itself sustained by its occupants pursuit of that strategy.22 Of course, I have already done this (to a considerable extent) in my exploration of the contending utopias of Keynes, Blake, Miss Piggy, Po Chu-i and Jackie Onassis, but it is worth laying them out properly, together with the various social constructions of nature that render each of these five strategies rational and morally justifiable. Cultural theorists, I should stress, have no objection to the notion of rational choice, just to the addition of the word theory! Possibility 1. The person who has no scope to manage his needs and resources really cannot be said to have a management strategy. His concern is just to cope, as best he can, with an environment over which he has no control. In the book Cultural Theory we put Po Chu-i in this predicament by magically transporting him to modern-day Britain and then calling in the social workers (see endnote 15). These public officials carry out an assessment of the unfortunate poet and decide that he should be transferred to an old peoples home. He has been living below the poverty line: he doesnt have enough bedclothes, he is not eating enough, his mobility is inadequate and his small house contravenes the current housing standards. As he makes his involuntary transfer to his new home, the needs that he has managed down are brought back up, whether he likes it or not, until they reach the appropriate standard. At the same time, his modest resources are assessed, deemed inadequate, and brought up to their correct level by means of what are called Supplementary Benefits. In this way, the resources he is given exactly match the needs he is given; it is simply that he now has no control over either. However, for some who find themselves in this no control situation, needs and resources can be wildly out of line. In Susan Sheehans study of the social predicament (Sheehan 1975) a small-time and wondrously feckless New York drug-dealer, through none of his own doing, finds himself head of the whole ring, when those above him decamp to Puerto Rico to avoid murder charges just like winning the lottery! Often, however, it is a dearth of resources, rather than an excess, that has to be lived with. Either way, the rational response, for those who find themselves at Possibility 1, is to keep your fingers crossed and hope that Lady Luck smiles on you: survive by coping.


This response is justified by a view of nature as essentially a lottery-controlled cornucopia. Clearly, there are plenty of resources out there, but the horn-of-plenty only disgorges in your direction when it is your lucky day. A matching response to this environment can be achieved only by adopting an attitude of fatalism: If your numbers on it , Que sera sera, etc. Putting first things first, the upholders of this rather passive form of social solidarity dignify and sustain their shared lack of purposive action by viewing nature as something about which nothing can be learned, beyond the fact that it operates with neither rhyme nor reason. Possibility 2. If you can do nothing about your resources then your only available strategy is to decrease your needs choose a smaller bundle of goods rather than a larger one so as to ensure a comfortable (or, at any rate, a non-negative) overlap. However, if resources are fixed and finite then one persons gain will inevitably be anothers loss, and this means that, to be effective, this needs-reducing strategy will have to be followed by everyone. Little chance of that, you might think, especially if you have been brought up on prisoners dilemma games, tragedies of the commons, the free rider problem, and the certainty that man of his very nature is irredeemably self-seeking. But in an egalitarian and strongly collectivised setting that of the members of the Voluntary Simplicity Movement, for example people can readily see the advantages of such behaviour (not the least of which is the way it simultaneously keeps them all equal and unites them in their opposition to those, on the outside as it were, who do not adopt this behaviour). Man, it becomes easy to believe, is essentially caring-and-sharing, until corrupted by those nasty, inequitable and power-wielding institutions: markets and hierarchies. For this to be rational and justifiable behaviour, nature cannot possibly be cornucopian; it has to be strictly accountable. Here there is no possibility of the windfalls that sometimes land in the laps of those who find themselves at Possibility 1; nature is a zero-sum (or even a negative sum) game. Indeed nature is so precarious that the least inequality in the distribution of its resources will quite likely bring calamity. Here the talk is of fragile ecosystems, unsustainable levels of consumption, overloaded arks, no safe limits steady-state economics. With resources and raw materials defined as one and the same, the upholders of this egalitarian form of solidarity, are able to insist that all non-renewable resources are inevitably being depleted and that even the renewable ones must be drawn on frugally. Even so (and this is something economists, and indeed all those who do not belong to this particular solidarity, find hard to understand) those resources are not scarce. They are not scarce because the shared voluntary restraint of those who rely upon those resources ensures that there is always enough for everyone. If you have managed yourself to the point where you want hardly any11

thing then it is not difficult to have everything that you want! These are the people who, to the exasperation of those who staff the offices of international aid agencies, define the opposite of development as hospitality. Possibility 3. If you cannot do anything about your needs then the only available strategy is to increase your resources, so as to make sure that the overlap does not become negative. At the same time, there is little point in going to an inordinate amount of resource-mobilisation trouble; if your needs are fixed you would not be able to make use of all those excess resources! All things in moderation, therefore, is likely to be the motto here. Po Chu-i in his old peoples home cannot fit this strategy because, though his needs are fixed, he is in no position to manage his resources. But what about those who put him there: the public officials? They are from different departments and different grades within the kind of complex hierarchical organisations that maintain themselves by imposing carefully ranked patterns of needs upon their constituent members. Those members, on their own, have little manipulative ability; it is by acting collectively (by working to rule, for instance, or by raising compulsory levies on grade members) that they are able to increase their share of the cake, but only as long as, in so doing, they do not overtake the group above them. Hence the collective disapproval of those who live above [or below] their station. If this collective strategy is being pursued at all the different levels of the hierarchy (and it will have to be if the hierarchy itself is to remain in existence) then the result is differential maintenance. Nature, in the eyes of those who make this sort of judicious and self-effacing response, is seen as bountiful but within accountable limits. Nature, as it were, holds up a mirror to society, and the various limits are the means by which this crucial isomorphism is kept in place. Differentials have to be maintained, and the reflection cannot be allowed to become blurred by levels merging or, worse still, changing places. Leopards, it is agreed, do not change their spots, nor do you keep a dog and bark yourself. Also taken for granted is that experts know best. If nature can be forthcoming, but only when not pushed beyond all kinds of ordermaintaining limits, then it is important that it be approached properly by certified experts. So there must not be an unqualified free-for-all; there will have to be a high-status collective body to determine the credentials of those who know how to control nature. This hierarchical form of solidarity, we have discovered, is the one that social scientists have most difficulty with; it is, for instance, accorded no standing in Habermass notion of an ideal speech situation.23 And many of our colleagues we have found, while they have little difficulty with the idea that you can manage your needs up or down, find it hard to accept that


some people are not in a position to do this. So let me resort, for a moment, to a little fieldwork: participant observation in the British army. A young subaltern (junior officer) in a smart regiment (cavalry or guards, that is) will find that his time, his dress, his social relations, his recreations, even his eating, his drinking and his sleeping (and who he sleeps with: the preferred marriage is to the sister of a brother officer) are almost totally imposed by virtue of his fairly lowly position within a complex hierarchical organisations. He has to wear a well-cut suit on an informal evening in the mess and he has to wear expensive mess dress on a dinner night. All sorts of compulsory items, ranging from donations to regimental charities to subscriptions to the Polo Loan Fund, are added to his mess bill. If he has little in the way of a private income, and therefore little scope to increase his resources, he may be tempted to try to decrease his needs. He will find it almost impossible to do so. The additional items on his mess bill are compulsory, the dinner nights are compulsory, even the excessive drinking of champagne on those occasions, and the marvellously idiotic and dangerous games that go with it, are compulsory. If he has a decent private income he may be tempted to veer the other way and increase his needs: hard drinking, hard gambling and hard riding are the traditional avenues. But if his bar bill, his bridge book debts or his stable charges rise above a quite low threshold he will be given a talking to by his superior officers and brought firmly back into line.24 Thanks to this six-years-worth of what I can now regard as fieldwork, I can readily understand how it is that a complex hierarchical organisation maintains itself by imposing equally complex and hierarchically-patterned levels of needs upon the individuals who compose it. The result is that, though the young subalterns level of needs may be set quite high, he can neither manage it up nor down. On the positive side, his lack of scope helps to sustain the collectivity to which he belongs. It also makes sense to him. It confirms him on his particular rank, defines the gradations between his station and those above and below him in the framework, enables those in these stations to recognize him and treat him accordingly, and impresses upon him the fact that he enjoys the privilege of holding a responsible position within a fine, disciplined body of men: so different from all those beetlecrushers (infantry regiments) and dropshorts (artillery) har-har. Sometimes, when I find myself depressed by the mean-spiritedness of Academia, I wish I was back there! Possibility 4a. Here both needs and resources can be managed, and the person is managing them in such a way that he also has the third degree of freedom: he can manage the size of the overlap between them. This means that, unlike our exuberant business and his gross habits, his needs will nestle comfortably inside his resources. If he is managing his resources up, his 13

needs can follow at a safe distance; if he is managing his resources down he can still maintain that safe distance by bringing his needs down too. Po Chu-i, before he is taken into the old peoples home, is in this situation. Though he could probably increase his resources, he elects not to. That way, he knows, leads to coercive social involvement, and he has had enough of that, as he explains in the second verse of his Mad Poem. People when they are old are often burdened with ties; But I have finished with marriage and giving in marriage. No changes happen to jar the quiet of my mind; No business comes to impair the vigour of my limbs. Hence it is that now for ten years Body and soul have rested in hermit peace This is the rational response to a nature that is essentially benevolent, provided that, like nature mystics the world over, you make yourself a part of it (like Keynes when he is considering the lilies of the field, plucking the hour and the day, and so on). Po Chu-i made himself an upholder of this somewhat detached and autonomous form of solidarity by choosing not to coerce others and, at the same time, successfully avoiding being coerced by others. Provided you do that, natures cornucopia will be freely available to you (and scarcity, as Keynes always insisted, a thing of the past: a temporary feature of the economics of industrialism). For those whose needs are slight and whose time horizons are short (Take no thought for the morrow, sufficient unto the day, etc) nature will always provide. Indeed, when Po Chu-i starts to take some thought for the morrow, and to worry about what will become of him in his failing years, he relies on the winter chrysanthemum to dismantle his lengthening time horizon.25 At this sad season why do you bloom alone? Though well I know it was not for my sake, Taught by you, for a while I will smooth my frown. Possibility 4b. Our exuberant businessman would consider himself to be in a bad way if he caught himself talking to chrysanthemums; they are for buying and selling. You dont waste your time talking to flowers; you talk to people: important people. Our businessman wades straight into all that social involvement that Po Chu-i has been at such pains to avoid. He clearly has the scope to manage both his needs and his resources, and he chooses to reject the overlapmanaging option and, like Miss Piggy, to manage both his needs and his resources


up and up, to the very limit of his entrepreneurial skills (Death, he may joke, is natures way of saying slow down).26 Unlike Po Chu-i, plenty of changes happen to jar the quiet of his mind. He is right in the middle of the turbulent stream of competitive individualism, where success comes to those who boldly and skilfully accept the risks the opportunities that present themselves there. Nature is cornucopian, but it is not a freely available cornucopia (as it is at Possibility 4a), nor is it controlled by lottery (as it is at Possibility 1); it is controlled by skill (as Arnold Palmer said when someone asserted that his winning of all those golf tournaments was just luck, Yes, and the funny thing is, the more I practice the luckier I get). It is a jungle out there; it is the survival of the fittest, the school of sharp elbows: nature red in tooth and claw.27 Time, in such a setting, is of the essence, and the cry is If I dont do it someone else will. More, in other words, is more! So neoclassical economics, we can now say, makes sense of one case in five (Possibility 4b) and nonsense of the other four.


We should be careful not to demonize scarcity. Scarcity, after all, is a wonderful quality; if things some things were not scarce we would not be able to get markets to work, nor would hierarchical actors be able to step in and set prices in those situations where markets (perhaps because of spiralling transaction costs) have failed. But markets and hierarchies the standard duo in institutional economics (and in much political science theorising) are only two out of the five forms of social solidarity: the five ways of economising. And it is important that the other three not be squeezed out of the picture, which of course is precisely what happens when the notion of scarcity becomes hegemonic. So it is not scarcity per se that we need to worry about; it is when scarcity-based arguments and policy decisions go uncontested when the voices of the likes of Po Chu-i, Keynes, Blake and the Deep Ecologists and Voluntary Simpletons and silenced that the little red warning lights should start blinking.28


Arthur, W.B. (1989a) Self-reinforcing mechanisms in economics. In P.W. Anderson and K.J. Arrow (eds) The Economy As An Evolving Complex System. Santa Fe Institute Studies in Complexity, Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. Arthur, W.B. (1989b) Competing technologies, increasing returns and lock-in by historical events. Economic Journal 99: 116-31. Awh, R (1976) Microeconomics: Theory and Applications. New York:: John Wiley. Black, M (1998) Learning What Works: A 20 Year Retrospective View on International Water and Sanitation Cooperation. UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). Briscoe, J. (1997) Managing water as an economic good: rules for reformers. In M. Kay, T. Franks and L. Smith (eds) Water: Economics, Management and Demand. London: Chapman and Hall. Cairncross, S. (1992) Sanitation and water supply: practical lessons from the decade UNDPWorld Bank Water and Sanitation Discussion Paper No. 9, UNDP-World Bank: Washington DC. DBB [Thomas R. Can you help? It's from the big Blake catalogue] Dominguez, J and Robin, V (1992) Your Money Or Your Life. New York: Penguin. Fehr, M. and T. Rieger (eds) (2003) Museutopia: Schritte in andere Welten. Hagen: Neuer Folkwang-Verlag im Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum. Fehr, M. and T. Rieger (eds) (2005) Thinking Utopia. Oxford: Berghahn. Forster, EM (1956) Marianne Thornton. London: Edward Arnold. Gallie, W.B. (1955) Essentially contested concepts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56, 167-198. Garn, M. (1998) Managing Water As An Economic Good: The Transition From SupplyOriented To Demand Responsive Services. Washington DC: The World Bank. Gilmartin, G. (2003) Water and waste: nature, productivity and colonialism in the Indus Basin. Economic and Political Weekly 38, 48:5057-5065. Haston, D (1972) In High Places. London: Cassell. Hirsch, F (1977) Social Limits To Growth. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Holling, C.S. (1986) The resilience of terrestrial ecosystems. In W.C. Clark and R. Munn (eds) Sustainable Development of the Biosphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Keynes, JM (1931) Essays in Persuasion. London: Macmillan. Keynes, JM (1949) "My early beliefs". Two Memoirs. Village Station, NY: Kelly. Lekachman, R. (1966) The Age of Keynes. Hammondsworth: Penguin. McCarthy, T. (1978) The Critical Theory of Jrgen Habermas. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Mumford, L (1964) The Pentagon of Power. London: Secker and Warburg. Prigogine, I. and I. Stengers (1984) Orders Out Of Chaos: Mans New Dialogue With Nature. New York: Bantam Books. Rsen, J., M. Fehr, and A. Ramsbrock (eds) (2004) Die Unruhe der Kultur: Potentiale des Utopischen. Gttingen: Vebrck Wissenschaft. Sagoff, M (1993) Ethical Dimensions Of Consumption and Stewardship (unpublished research proposal submitted to the Pew Charitable Trusts by the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland). Sheehan, S. (1975) A Welfare Mother. New York: Mentor. 16

Skidelsky, R (2000) John Maynard Keynes Vol. 3: Fighting For Britain 1937-1946. :London: Macmillan. Soros, G. (1997) The capitalist threat. The Atlantic Monthly, 279, 2:45-58. Stewart, I. (1979) Review of Rubbish Theory. New Scientist, 23 August, p. 605. Summerson, J (1945) Georgian London. Harmondsworth: Pelican (1962 edition). Thom, R. (1972) Stabilit Structurelle et Morphognse. Paris : Benjamin. Thompson, M. (1971) Category and action. Art Language, 1, 2. Thompson, M. (1979) Rubbish Theory: The Creation And Destruction of Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Re-published (2003), in a new German translation by Michael Fehr, as Mlltheorie: ber die Schaffung und Vernichtung von Werten. Essen: Klartext-Verlag. Thompson, M, Ellis, RE and Wildavsky, A (1990) Cultural Theory. Boulder, Colorado: Westview. Thompson, M. (1998) Waste and fairness. Social Research, 65, 1:55-73. Thompson, M. (2002) Man and nature as a single but complex system. In Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, vol. 5: Social and Economic Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, ed. P. Timmerman. John Wiley: Chichester, 384-398. Thompson, M. (2003) Times square: deriving cultural theory from rubbish theory. Innovation, 16, 4:319-330. Thompson, M., R. Ellis and M. Verweij (2005) Why and how culture matters. In R.E. Goodin and C. Tilly (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming). Thompson, M., R. Ellis and A. Wildavsky (1990) Cultural Theory. Boulder, Colorado: Westview. Thompson, M. and P. Tayler (1985) The surprise game: an exploration in constrained relativism. Working Paper of the Institute of Management Research and Development. University of Warwick. Veblen, T (1899) Theory of the Leisure Class. Verweij, M. and M. Thompson (eds) (2006) Clumsy Solutions for a Complex World (forthcoming). Wildavsky, A. (1981) Rationality in writing: linear and curvilinear, Journal of Public Policy, 1:125-140. Williamson, O. (1975) Markets and Hierarchies. New York: Free Press. Winner, L (1977) Autonomous Technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Wolfe, T (1987) The Bonfire of the Vanities. New York: Jonathan Cape.


Though not without resistance. There are many powerful actors social scientists often call them gatekeepers who are intent on preserving what is sometimes referred to as the canon. See Thompson (2003). 2 Economics was formalised, and given this explicit scarcity focus, in the 1920s and 30s, most notably at the London School of Economics. Before that, it was much more grounded in production processes (Adam Smiths pin factory, for instance) and in the dynamics of industrial organisation (Engels work in the Manchester area, for instance). And Alfred Marshall, though one of Britains leading mathematicians, refused to mathematize his economics, on the grounds that that would divert him from his ultimate goal: to understand the forces that cause movement. The re-definition, in its original form, went as follows: Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses. (Robbins, Lionel (1932) Essay On the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, chapter 1, section 3. 3 For more on how waste and bads have been uncritically employed in economics see Gilmartin (2003) and Thompson (1998) respectively. 4 This, as was pointed out by an eminent mathematician (Stewart 1979), is what rubbish theory is trying to do, and I have recently returned to that task by showing how cultural theory (which I set out in the second half of this paper) can be derived from rubbish theory (Thompson 2003). 5 An instance of this first dabble was an article (Thompson 1971) in the journal Art Language. There were only two issues of this pretentious and hilarious publication (it was modelled on the journal Mind and aimed to overthrow the tyranny of the art object by producing art that was impossessable a sculpture, for instance, in the form of a vast and gently widening square-sectioned column of air, rising vertically from an arbitrarily-selected one-kilometre grid-square in an ordnance survey map of Oxfordshire, and extending all the way to the upper atmosphere). I was intrigued, 30 or so years later, to see a copy of one of these issues of Art Language displayed as an art object in Londons Whitechapel Gallery (in a retrospective exhibition of early conceptual art). Proof that even the most impossessable of art can be made possessable, if that is what the art market demands. 6 The exhibition, as befits conceptual art, was only a part of it. It was preceded by an international seminar on Utopian Thinking and this, in turn, led to the museum being asked to develop a major international conference on a related theme for the Nord-Rhein Westfalia Institute for Advanced Studies (see respectively, Fehr and Rieger 2005; Rsen, Fehr and Ramsbrock (2004). 7 An American academic who attended one of our Museutopia meetings told us he had had to lie to his colleagues about the purpose of his trip to Europe. Utopias, he told us, was considered so pass that his career would have been in danger if he had told the truth! 8 G.E. Moore, it is probably fair to say, has not worn well, perhaps because, as has often been argued, the Edwardian world in which he flourished (his Principia Ethica -- the formal enunciation of the doctrine around which the Bloomsbury Group formed itself -- was published in 1902) was so completely swept away by the First World War. At the time, however, Moore's teachings were, as one of Keynes biographers observes, "exceptionally appealing to the spirited young" (Lekachman, 1966, p. 17). Keynes himself has bequeathed us a marvellous summary of this doctrine. Nothing mattered except states of mine, our own and other people's of course, but chiefly our own. These states of mind were not associated with action or achievement or with consequence. They consisted in timeless, passionate states of contemplation and communion, largely unattached to `before' and `after'. Their value depended, in accordance with the principle of organic unity, on the state of affairs as a whole which could not be usefully analysed into parts. For example, the value of the state of mind of being in love did not depend merely on the nature of one's own emotions, but also on the worth of their object and on the reciprocity and nature of the object's emotions, but it did not depend, if I remember rightly, or did not depend much, on what happened, or how one felt about it, a year later, though I myself was always an advocate of a principle of organic unity through time, which still seems to me only sensible. The appropriate subjects of passionate contemplation and communion were a beloved person, beauty and truth, and one's prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge. Of these love came a long way first. (Keynes 1949). The doctrine, Lekachman continues, was "highly aristocratic and highly personal", and it "assumed a society sufficiently stable and satisfactory in its social, financial and practical arrangements to enable the practitioners of Moore's ethics to devote all their time to the acquisition of desirable states of mind" (Lekachman 1966, p. 17). In other words, like our Museutopia project, it assumed a world where all our material needs have been met. Since this, clearly, is not how the world was back in 1902, the doctrine, it has always been assumed, was accessible


only to a privileged few: those, like the writer E.M. Foster and the other, rather more firmly attached, members of the Bloomsbury Group, who had substantial private incomes. Forster, for example, had 8,000 left to him by his great aunt, Marianne Thornton: the equivalent today of something around 1 million (not a bad cushion for a young single man of fairly modest tastes). However, it was not well invested and diminished to almost nothing after the First World War. But, as Forster observed when looking back in 1956, "by then my writings had begun to sell, and I was able to live on them instead" (Forster 1956). Keynes, though well aware that this was an odd faith for an economist (especially an economist ceaselessly occupied with public affairs), and despite having had to amass a personal fortune by his own unaided efforts, remained true to it throughout his life. This religion of ours was a very good one to grow up under. It remains nearer the truth than any other that I know It was a purer, sweeter air by far than Freud or Marx (Keynes 1949). Yet this religion, despite having been dismissed as hopelessly utopian, unacceptably aristocratic, and accessible only to a privileged few who were willing (and financially able) to exist in what Keynes himself called a "timeless ecstacy" (1949), far from dying out, has continued to flourish. And, as the following anecdote makes clear, in some unlikely places! Dougal Haston -- Scotland's greatest mountaineer (and, since he was in the summit pair on both the 1970 Annapurna South Face Expedition and the 1975 Everest Southwest Face Expedition -- in Reinhold Messner's estimation the two greatest achievements in mountaineering -- quite possibly and quite simply the greatest mountaineer) -- was famously hard to get to know. Some have said that this was because there was no one there to get to know, but that is not true. Much of the trouble stemmed from people looking for him in the wrong place, as it were. Knowing that he had studied philosophy at Edinburgh University and given it up for a lifetime of action (see Haston 1972) they naturally assumed that it was the likes of Nietzsche who had inspired him. True, there was something supermanic about Dougal but this sprang, first, from his simple and obliging attitude (put a 60 pound pack on his back and he would carry it all day up slopes on which other stars were hanging -- gasping and load-less -- from the fixed ropes) and, second, from his technological illiteracy (he and I spent a memorable night, high on the Southwest Face of Everest, sleeping, we thought, on oxygen from a shared cylinder that he had rigged up for us but, as we discovered in the morning, forgotten to switch on. We slept quite well, sucking the thin outside air through a whole series of tubes, filters and face-masks). Back in Base Camp, after the ascent of the Southwest Face, Dougal and I escaped for a few days and wandered back through the Khumbu villages, stopping off for a night here and a night there in the farmhouses of old Sherpa friends. In the course of one of these relaxed evenings, and before the consumption of chang became too excessive, the conversation turned to philosophy and Dougal, breaking his many years of silence on the topic, explained that Nietzsche had always struck him as a bit of an arsehole, and that the only philosopher he had any time for was G.E. Moore! So there you have it: a man of awesome action, almost to the exclusion of anything else, and not a penny of private income. But aristocratic, certainly. Since Keynes' utopian religion can be traced back to William Blake and projected forward to Dougal Haston, neither of whom are easily visualised as paid-up members of the Bloomsbury Group, we must conclude that that religion, far from having died out with the onset of the First World War, is something that springs eternal. Timeless ecstacy, we must conclude, is just that: estatic and inextinguishable! 9 Even, or perhaps especially, in the depressed years of the 1920s Keynes looked forward to that not-far-off day when the problems of scarcity that so exercised economists (and so elevated their skills, not least in their own eyes) would disappear: the time when, as in our Museutopia, all our material needs have been met. Do not let us overestimate the importance of the economic problem, or sacrifice to its supposed necessities other matters of greater and more permanent significance. It should be a matter for specialists, like dentistry. (Keynes 1931) "Possibly", as Lekachman (1966 p. 42) has wryly observed, "displeasing both professions at a stroke", Keynes spelt out his idea of the economist's role in this utopian scheme of things: "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists, that would be splendid." 10 Economists are careful not to deny the truism that you can have too much of a good thing. People, they argue, can become pig-sick of smoked salmon, say, and they are careful to stress that the insatiability applies to things in the plural, not to this or that particular thing. Hence the bundle of goods form of words (see Awh 1976): We should also note that if people were not insatiable they would not have to prioritize their ever-proliferating needs so as to bring them within their more limited resources, and if they didnt do that the whole edifice of neoclassical economics would collapse. So it is the theory that requires the non-satiety.


11 Translated (ca. 1918) Arthur Waley, Chinese Poems (London: Allen & Unwin, 1918). [We may need the permission of Unwin Hyman Ltd if we publish excerpts from this.] Po Chu-i flourished around the first half of the ninth century. For a more extensive treatment of him, particularly of how his way of economising relates to the other four ways that are socially possible (only one of which is consistent with the non-satiety requirement) see Chapter 2 of Thompson, Ellis and Wildavsky (1990). Po Chu-i's needs, far from spiralling ever onwards and upwards, are non-proliferating and, moreover, so undemanding that they fit comfortably within his quite modest resources. No need, therefore, for all the prioritizing that is so central to economic theorising. Indeed, were Po Chu-i to start prioritizing his needs he would scupper his distinctive management style, which depends on him maintaining the comfortable gap between his needs and his resources by all the time re-defining the former in relation to the latter. But is Po Chu-i a full-blooded utopian? I think not, because his concern is simply to explain and justify his hermit peace; not to struggle, Blake-like, his sword never sleeping in his hand, until everyone (whether they like it or not) is in the same condition. Nor is he utopian in the way Keynes was: confident that, the moment our society moves beyond the "economics of industrialism", we will all make the switch of our own volition, and there will simply be no need for all the Blakean paraphernalia: arrows of desire, bows of burning gold, chariots of fire and so on. So Blake, Keynes and Po Chu-i, though they do all contradict the non-satiety requirement, have very different commitments. Blake, you could say, is the "muscular utopian": determined to bring everyone to his Jerusalem, whatever the cost in mental fight. Keynes is a "languid utopian": assured that, when the conditions are at last right, we will all make the transition of our own enlightened choice. And Po Chu-i is neither muscular nor languid: concerned only with achieving that utopian condition for himself and, in a very quiet way, letting other people know that such a transition is possible. It is my argument that only the Po Chu-is of this world will avoid disappointment; the others have set their hearts on a universal state of affairs that is achievable only in part. 12 Here I am indebted to the distinguished Miss Piggy scholar, Mark Sagoff, who also alerted me to the nonsatiety requirement, and to its crucial importance for modern economic theory (see Sagoff 1993). Just as there are important differences between Blake, Keynes and Po Chu-i, even though they all contradict the non-satiety requirement, so Jackie Onassis and Miss Piggy, though they are both in line with that requirement, are not quite the same. Jackie Onassis is insecure, in that she has an elevated social status to maintain, while Miss Piggy, being unconcerned (unaware, even) of the potential "falls from grace" (nicely depicted in Tom Wolfe's (1987) The Bonfire of the Vanities) that so exercise Jackie Onassis, is wondrously self-assured. Miss Piggy's money is not old, nor is she at all interested in making it old, which, of course, explains why, unlike Jackie Onassis, she loses no sleep over her ample girth. Economists would be more pleased with Miss Piggy, and would have to wheel in Thorsten Veblen and his Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) or Fred Hirsch (1977) and his notion of "positional goods", in order to cope fully with Jackie O. 13 Blake, DBB (19xx) stresses, was careful not to show us "Jerusalem complete as a rebuilt city". Rather (and here we see the common strand in his and Keynes' utopianisms) it is a "state of mind, to be built by all of us at all times -- ongoing work, contingent, provisional, and always under threat". (DBB 19xx, p. 282) The threats, however, were there alright, and Blake was not reticent about showing us those; most famously, perhaps, in his depiction of three miserable little figures -- they turn out to be Bacon, Newton and Locke -framed by a trilithon from the reconstructed Stonehenge. His three archetypal scientists, we learn, are mutations/combinations of Albion's twelve sons, and Blake is here associating "the corrupting influence of Reason and Science with the Druids' perversion of patriarchal religion towards oppressive laws and human sacrifice" (DBB p. x). Greek and Roman art were likewise demonised, and Blake asserted, in direct contradiction of the orthodoxy of his day, that "Rome & Greece swept Art into their maw and destroyd it".. "Mathematic Form", which Blake saw as being embodied in "The Classics", had to be replaced by "Living Form"-- Gothic (and half a century or so later, with what Summerson (1945, p. 292) has called "The Revolution Against Taste", and the consequent ascendancy of Pugin's "pointy architecture", it was). Gothic, of course, was eventually dislodged by modernism, by which time the Bloomsbury Group (Keynes included) were merrily making themselves at home in the classical Georgian architecture that had so incensed Blake. All of which just goes to show how sensible Blake was not to provide us with any pictures of his Jerusalem! 14 Lady Keynes -- Lydia Lopokova, the lead ballerina in the Diagalev Ballet -- inherited her husband's collection of modern art (though it was destined for King's College, Cambridge, on her death -- they are now on permanent loan to the Fitzwillian). This included Seurats, Cezannes and Picassos (a drawing of herself, among them -- the original, though promised in 1950, never in fact arrived, though Picasso did send her the photograph, inscribed "pour Lydia en attendant l'original") along with the now less highly regarded Duncan Grants (Grant was Keynes' lover he, Keynes, being enthusiastically bi-sexual -- and, in later years, his appointee to the Arts Council, which itself was Keynes' creation). "Cezanne", Lady Keynes said, refusing to be overawed by the spiralling value of the canvases that hung on the wall of her Sussex farmhouse, "painted hundreds of apples, and I have five of them." (All this, and much more about her life after her husband died in 1946, is affectionately set out in a section headed "Lydia's World" in Skidelsky (2000, p. 481-491


15 In Endnote 4 I distinguished Po Chu-i's "hermit peace" from both Blake's "Jerusalem" and Keynes' "timeless ecstacy". Where Blake and Keynes saw everyone eventually arriving at their utopias, Po Chu-i was content just to arrive there himself, and to then quietly let people know that such a destination existed and was reachable. Even so, the threats were still there for Po Chu-i, just as they were for Blake (and also for Keynes, though he managed to keep them at bay with a combination of intellectual brilliance and startling rudeness. (Also, there were many who, whenever he mounted his utopian hobby-horse, simply refused to believe he was being serious. Had they realised he was they might have been moved to do something about it.) The main threat for Po Chu-i was from the almost hegemonic hierarchical social order of China at that time: an order that he was challenging (very quietly, admittedly) by taking it on himself to define his needs and his resources where they, in an hierarchical order, are determined for him by his rank and station. In the book Cultural Theory (Thompson, Ellis and Wildavsky 1990, p. 41) we made this threat real by magically transporting Po Chu-i into present-day Britain.

But then comes a knock on Po Chu-i's door. It is a small deputation of public officials come to tell him that he has been living below the poverty line; he does not have enough bedclothes; he is not eating enough; his mobility is inadequate; his small house is in contravention of current housing standards. He is to be moved into an old people's home where he will be properly clothed, fed and housed. As he makes this involuntary transition to the old people's home, his needs are expanded for him until they reach their "correct" level. Poor old Po! Completely off his chump, obviously: thinking he, of all people, could know what his needs were! 16 An essentially contested concept, following Gallie (1955) is one that can never be pinned down in a single way but can be clarified only through regular argument, that is, through discourse. 17 Jackie Onassis almost satisfies the requirement, but her concern for status lets her down (see endnote 12). 18 See Thompson, Ellis and Verweij 2005. 19 Strictly speaking, a dividual, since most of us live different parts of our lives in different solidarities -- workplace and home, for instance. 20 The Lord Buddha, before he discovered the Middle Way, omitted to do this switching, and found himself living on just one hemp seed a day. Fortunately, he was stumbled across, in the nick of time, by some kindhearted milkmaids. 21 There is a great deal at stake here, in that cultural theory, in taking us from the neoclassicists one component system to a five-fold interplay, takes us from simplicity (in the technical sense of the word) to complexity. This is something that institutional economics (e.g. Williamson 1975) does not do, even though, to its credit, it recognises the existence of two of the five singularities markets and hierarchies. Such a twofold system, however, is still simple, because, like neoclassical economics, it is still deterministic: if youre tipped out of markets youll end up in hierarchy and vice versa. But go beyond two and the dynamics become unpredictable. Indeed, if we take our freezing and thawing-out metaphor literally, we can see that the heat in this system is defying the second law of thermodynamics. It is flowing from the cold bodies to the hot bodies, in that those dividuals who are able to create freedoms for themselves are doing so largely at the expense of those who are not able to do this. There is, in other words, a breaking of symmetry, in which tiny random imbalances, far from cancelling one another out, are magnified into mutually sustaining differences of kind. It is this sort of disequilibrating mechanism the more, the more; the less, the less (To those that have shall be given; from thou that have not shall be taken away, even that which they have) that is at the centre of theories of selforganisation generally. For the breaking of symmetry see Thom (1972). For self-organisation see Prigogine and Stengers (1984). For non-ergodicity (the failure of small historical events to cancel one another out) see Arthur (1989a) and (1989b). 22 This way of setting out cultural theory allows us to side-step much of the outrage that tends to be provoked by cultural theorys impossibility theorem that there are these five solidarities and only these five. This assertion (and, worse still, the claim that it has been proved) is like the proverbial red rag to the bull so for as many social scientists are concerned, and the dismissive (and totally unsubstantiated) response is that, human variability being what it is, it cannot possibly be true. Five, it is asserted, is ludicrously inadequate. Well, the nice thing about the five need-and-resource managing strategies is that these are all that are logically possible. In other words, there cant be more than five, but just because they are logically possible it does not follow that they will all be taken up in real life. However, as we will see, they are, and in exactly the ways cultural theory predicts. The curvy, five-pointed space (Figure 2) also clarifies some of the sometimes confusing differences among the forms of solidarity. The passivity of the fatalist solidarity, for instance, is graphically apparent in its being located at the origin, where there are no degrees of freedom at all. All the others, being away from the origin and having at least one degree of freedom, are each, in their different ways, active. And Possibility 4a, being high


above the four points that constitute the base, nicely depicts the hermits detachment from what is sometimes called the fourfold fray. 23 See McCarthy (1978, pp. 305-310). 24 I had this confirmed to me quite recently when a brother (and now, of course, quite aged) officer, Edward Stenhouse, told me how he had been given a rather stern talking to by our then commanding officer, Jackie Harman, who, on casting his eyes over the bar bills, had discovered that he (Stenhouse) had slipped into the habit of drinking seven or eight gins-and-tonic every lunch-time (since Stenhouse was the pilot of one of our four precious and expensive helicopters, you can appreciate Jackie Hs sternness!). 25 Po Chu-i, The Chrysanthemums in an Eastern Garden, in Wiley, Chinese Verse (see endnote 4). Death, in the hierarchical solidarity is what the whole of life is (or, at any rate, should be) a preparation for; and life, the upholder of the egalitarian solidarity may opine, is a sexually-transmitted terminal disease. The upholder of the fatalist solidarity, for her part, may wonder whether there is life before death! 26 Is nature really like that? It is, we would reply, drawing on the work of C.S. (Buzz) Holling (1986), sometimes like that. And, if it is more like that than it is any of the other ways then our competitive individualist will do well. But only if. The same holds for the upholders of the other solidarities and for the natures they make for themselves. Indeed, it is by bringing these stipulated and actual worlds together, in the form of a matrix, and by then filling in the different kinds of surprises that will arise in all those boxes where the world is not in fact the way it is being asserted it is, that we can move to the sort of systems theory framework that is needed. (See, for instance, Thompson 2002, and Thompson and Taylor 1985.) 27 The short answer to the question why should we heed these warning lights? is that, if we do, we can avoid an awful lot of what Aaron Wildavsky (1981) called curvilinearity. Curvilinearity is when, as you are doing something that is giving you more and more of what you wanttrust, say, or profit or even hermit peace you cross some invisible threshold and start getting less and less of what you want and eventually, if you persist, the exact opposite of what you want. George Soros argument that if you were somehow able to get rid of anticapitalism you would destroy capitalism (Soros 1997) rests on this notion of curvilinearity, and we sometimes see it lampooned in that common bureaucratic response Hierarchy isnt working; we need more hierarchy!. Curvilinearity cuts in, so the cultural theory argument runs, when some of the solidarities voices become so loud that some of the others are drowned out. And that, of course, is what has happened in all those situations in which the scarcity notion goes unchallenged. For a number of worked policy examples both elegant failures (where voices are being drowned out) and clumsy successes (where each of the voices is heard, and responded to, by the others) see Verweij and Thompson (2005).