Science As a Self-Organizing Institution

Science As a Self-Organizing Institution

Nothing is as confusing and confused as institutions are in Sociology. Are they rules? Who creates them? Why do autonomous agents follow them? Who enforces them? Do they emerge spontaneously? Or deliberately? Are they organizations? What are organizations, if not a mere set of rules? The more questions, the more confusion!

1. A preliminary thought experiment

My metaphor for institutions is that of a tunnel. It could very well be a natural tunnel emerging from millions of years of rock erosion but considered a purpose-built two-way traffic tunnel, yet which way the traffic should follow is not indicated – at least at the end of the tunnel where I am waiting in my Tata.[1] If you are like me – from Pakistan, you know from experience that outgoing traffic flows on the left and incoming traffic flows on the right. The only information I am sure of is that I am in the USA, and the traffic rules might differ. I can act bold, but my gut feeling is I will run into an accident. An additional hindrance is that the tunnel is dark, and my car has no headlights. I wait for someone else to go first, and lucky me, someone in a Buick does show up and enters the tunnel like they know something. I follow their lead.

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Erdogan’s Survival amidst the Earthquake

The earthquake that devasted Turkey (and Syria) on 6 February 2023 also coincided with an election year where Erdogan is struggling to maintain his grip on power amidst mounting discomfort over his government’s increasing authoritarianism, economic mismanagement, and rampant allegations of corruption at the municipal level. The recent Twitter outage suggests that the Turkish government is not feeling secure at the moment. Could this disaster be the last nail in his coffin or a respite for his dying regime? I’ll answer this question based on existing research on natural disasters’ effects on incumbent survival.

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Karl Mannheim / Ideology and Utopia

“ The concept ‘ideology’ reflects the one discovery which emerged from political conflict, namely, that ruling groups can in their thinking be come so intensively interest-bound to a situation that they are simply no longer able to see certain facts which would undermine their sense of domination. There is implicit in the word ‘ideology’ the insight that in certain situations the collective unconscious of certain groups obscures the real condition of society both to itself and to others and thereby stabilizes it. Continue reading “Karl Mannheim / Ideology and Utopia”

Civilizations vs. Barbarians

“… even when the great civilizations developed, they set their bound aries somewhere.

…. the Chinese Empire had no Foreign Affairs Department, since it was civilization, and all else barbarism – they recognized the existence of life beyond the lines, but only barbarian life.

The line where civilization ended was patrolled by armed men, guarded by Roman and Chinese walls. As to what lay beyond, they were not too interested…”

— Worsley, Peter. (1967). The Third World.

Fascism as a state of mind

Shahzeb Khanzada presented a cogent and historically informed analysis of fascism in his program on April 22, 2022, which provoked an immediate reaction. Interestingly, he did not name any (Pakistani) names, but it was immediately understood on both sides to whom he was referring. There is one man whose politics fits the bill – and we all know who he is. Some folk protested Khanzada’s mordant analogy citing their leader never committed the mass atrocities fascists did in the past. They are wrong. Fascism should not be reduced to Nazism. Fascism is far broader than a single historical case; fascism is a state of mind

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On Baudrillard and “Impossible Burgers”

“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” – Ecclesiastes*

* (this is not a direct quote from Ecclesiastes but something invented by Baudrillard to stands as a strong metaphor to idea of simulation – that it is not real!)

“Burger” is a pejorative term that entered Pakistani popular discourse in the recent decade to denote young, westernized, affluent, urban elite, who study at expensive private schools, speak English rather than Urdu in their social circle, and prefer eating burgers over the local cuisine. They are constantly derided for being out of touch with mainstream Pakistani politics and society. “Impossible Burgers” are the vegetarian substitute for beef-based hamburgers created by Impossible Foods and introduced by the fast-food chain, Burger King, that became immensely popular with the ‘conscious’ consumers for being an environmentally friendly product, which not only simulates the real meat but also tastes better than it. Burger King even offers a promotion to try both products out and find any difference. To make it real – or surreal or in Baudrillard’s definition of the situation, hyperreal – the Impossible Burger patties ‘drip blood’, which happen to be just beetroot juice. Impossible Burgers, hence for the sake of thought experiment, are a milestone simulacrum in our journey towards a total simulated reality in which the sovereign difference between the simulated and the real will gradually disappear – turning us into “burgers” who will no longer be able to distinguish between the real and the simulated. 

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