Scott 1998 (Professor of Political Science at Yale, Seeing Like a State )
Designed or planned social order is necessarily schematic; it al- /' ways ignores essential features of any real, functioning social order. This truth is best illustrated in a work-to-rule strike, which turns on the fact that any production process depends on a host of informal prac- tices and improvisations that could never be codified. By merely fol- lowing the rules meticulously, the workforce can virtually halt produc- tion. In the same fashion, the simplified rules animating plans for, say, a city, a village, or a collective farm were inadequate as a set of in- structions for creating a functioning social order. The formal scheme was parasitic on informal processes that, alone, it could not create or maintain. To the degree that the formal scheme made no allowance for these processes or actually suppressed them, it failed both its intended beneficiaries and ultimately its designers as well. Much of this book can be read as a case against the imperialism of high-modernist, planned social order. I stress the word "imperialism" here because I am emphatically not making a blanket case against ei- ther bureaucratic planning or high-modernist ideology. I am, however, making a case against an imperial or hegemonic planning mentality that excludes the necessary role of local knowledge and know-how.
Mass imperialism and environmental destruction results
Scott 1998 (Professor of Political Science at Yale, Seeing Like a State )
What has proved to be truly dangerous to us and to our environ- ment, I think, is the combination of the universalist pretensions of epis- temic knowledge and authoritarian social engineering. Such a combina- tion has been at work in city planning, in Lenin's view of revolution (but not his practice), in collectivization in the Soviet Union, and in vil- lagization in Tanzania. The combination is implicit in the logic of sci- entific agriculture and explicit in its colonial practice. When schemes like these come close to achieving their impossible dreams of ignoring or suppressing metis and local variation, they all but guarantee their own practical failure. Universalist claims seem inherent in the way in which rationalist knowledge is pursued. Although I am no philosopher of knowledge, there seems to be no door in this epistemic edifice through which metis or practical knowledge could enter on its own terms. It is this imperi- alism that is troubling. As Pascal wrote, the great failure of rationalism is "not its recognition of technical knowledge, but its failure to recog- nize any other."88 By contrast, metis does not put all its eggs in one bas- ket; it makes no claim to universality and in this sense is pluralistic. Of course, certain structural conditions can thwart this imperialism of epi- stemic claims. Democratic and commercial pressures sometimes oblige agricultural scientists to premise their work on practical problems as defined by farmers. During the Meiji Restoration, three-person techni- cal teams began by investigating farmers' innovations and then taking them back to the laboratory to perfect them. The construction workers who refused to leave Brasilia as planned or the disillusioned ujamaa villagers who fled from their settlements to some degree undid the plans made for them. Such resistance, however, comes from outside the paradigm of epistemic knowledge itself. When someone like Albert Howard, himself a meticulous scientist, recognizes the "art" of farm- ing and the nonquantifiable ways of knowing, he steps outside the realm of codified, scientific knowledge. Authoritarian high-modernist states in the grip of a self-evident (and usually half-baked) social theory have done irreparable damage to human communities and individual livelihoods. The danger was compounded when leaders came to believe, as Mao said, that the peo- ple were a "blank piece of paper" on which the new regime could write. The utopian industrialist Robert Owen had the same vision for the fac- tory town New Lanark, although on a civic rather than national level: "Each generation, indeed each administration, shall see unrolled before it the blank sheet of infinite possibility, and if by chance this tabula rasa had been defaced by the irrational scribblings of tradition-ridden ancestors, then the first task of the rationalist must be to scrub it clean."89 What conservatives like Oakeshott miss, I think, is that high mod- ernism has a natural appeal for an intelligentsia and a people who may have ample reason to hold the past in contempt.90 Late colonial mod- ernizers sometimes wielded their power ruthlessly in transforming a population that they took to be backward and greatly in need of in- struction. Revolutionaries have had every reason to despise the feudal, poverty-stricken, inegalitarian past that they hoped to banish forever, and sometimes they have also had a reason to suspect that immediate democracy would simply bring back the old order. Postindependence leaders in the nonindustrial world (occasionally revolutionary leaders themselves) could not be faulted for hating their past of colonial dom- ination and economic stagnation, nor could they be faulted for wasting no time or democratic sentimentality on creating a people that they could be proud of. Understanding the history and logic of their com- mitment to high-modernist goals, however, does not permit us to over- look the enormous damage that their convictions entailed when com- bined with authoritarian state power.
Imperialism causes extinction and an unending cycle of global war
William Eckhardt, Lentz Peace Research Laboratory of St. Louis, February 1990, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 27, No. 1, jstor, p. 15-16
Wright looked at the relation between modern civilization and war in somewhat more detail, based on his own list of 278 modern wars from 1480 to 1941, plus 30 more ‘hostilities’ from 1945 to 1964. Modern war was not especially different from other civilized wars in its drives or motives of dominance, independence, and rivalry, but it was quite different in its geographical scope (the world) and in its technologies (from the hand gun to the atom bomb, from the printing press to the mass media). Modern Western Civilization used war as well as peace to gain the whole world as a domain to benefit itself at the expense of others: The expansion of the culture and institutions of modern civilization from its centers in Europe was made possible by imperialistic war… It is true missionaries and traders had their share in the work of expanding world civilization, but always with the support, immediate or in the background, of armies and navies (pp. 251-252). The importance of dominance as a primary motive in civilized war in general was also emphasized for modern war in particular: ‘[Dominance] is probably the most important single element in the causation of major modern wars’ (p. 85). European empires were thrown up all over the world in this process of benefiting some at the expense of others, which was characterized by armed violence contributing to structural violence: ‘World-empire is built by conquest and maintained by force… Empires are primarily organizations of violence’ (pp. 965, 969). ‘The struggle for empire has greatly increased the disparity between states with respect to the political control of resources, since there can never be enough imperial territory to provide for all’ (p. 1190). This ‘disparity between states’, not to mention the disparity within states, both of which take the form of racial differences in life expectancies, has killed 15-20 times as many people in the 20th century as have wars and revolutions (Eckhardt & Kohler, 1980; Eckhardt, 1983c). When this structural violence of ‘disparity between states’ created by civilization is taken into account, then the violent nature of civilization becomes much more apparent. Wright concluded that ‘Probably at least 10 per cent of deaths in modern civilization can be attributed directly or indirectly to war… The trend of war has been toward greater cost, both absolutely and relative to population… The proportion of the population dying as a direct consequence of battle has tended to increase’ (pp. 246, 247). So far as structural violence has constituted about one-third of all deaths in the 20th century (Eckhardt & Kohler, 1980; Eckhardt, 1983c), and so far as structural violence was a function of armed violence, past and present, then Wright’s estimate was very conservative indeed. Assuming that war is some function of civilization, then civilization is responsible for one-third of 20th century deaths. This is surely self-destruction carried to a high level of efficiency. The structural situation has been improving throughout the 20th century, however, so that structural violence caused ‘only’ 20% of all deaths in 1980 (Eckhardt, 1983c). There is obviously room for more improvement. To be sure, armed violence in the form of revolution has been directed toward the reduction of structural violence, even as armed violence in the form of imperialism has been directed toward its maintenance. But imperial violence came first, in the sense of creating structural violence, before revolutionary violence emerged to reduce it. It is in this sense that structural violence was basically, fundamentally, and primarily a function of armed violence in its imperial form. The atomic age has ushered in the possibility, and some would say the probability, of killing not only some of us for the benefit of others, nor even of killing all of us to no one’s benefit, but of putting an end to life itself! This is surely carrying self-destruction to some infinite power beyond all human comprehension. It’s too much, or superfluous, as the Existentialists might say. Why we should care is a mystery. But, if we do, then the need for civilized peoples to respond to the ethical challenge is very urgent indeed. Life itself may depend upon our choice.