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August 26, 2004


Jon Husband

Thanks for the mention of wirearchy, Lenore. I'd like to go on record as ntoing that I don't think wirearchy (whatever it will come to be, such as network dynamics or principles and their application in real life with an interconnected populace, for better or worse) is "displacing" hierarchy, but rather is much more likely to render hierarchy much more accountable, if you will.

I'd like to quote Stan Davis (from his book Future Perfect), whom I regard as a very effective thinker/theorist (my emphasis added):

"Electronic information systems enable parts of the whole organization (here, we can read organization in the large sense, as a nation or society as well IMO) to communicate directly with each other, where the hierarchy wouldn't otherwise permit it. What the hierarchy proscribes, the network facilitates: each part in simultaneous contact with all other parts and with the company (see expanded definition above)as a whole. The organization can be centralized and decentralized simultaneously: the decentralizing mechanism in the structure, and the coordinating mechanism in the systems.

Networks will not replace or supplement hierarchies; rather the two will be encompassed within a broader conception that embraces both. We are still a long way from figuring out the appropriate and encompassing organization models for the economy we are now in. At the very least, it is clear that we will have to reconceptualize space, transforming it by technology from an impediment to an asset."

I believe (and it's beyonnd my resources alone to do the scholarship) that "wirearchy" will be that broader concept. And "wirearchy" is just a cute word that I thunk up ... but clearly something that the word helps to glimpse is growing, emerging. That much IS clear.

Thanks for helping me try to understand how the church is the body of Christ. I am woefully uninformed about the doctrines (and I sincerely beg you pardon if this is the wrong word) of Christian religions. Happily I can report that I am learning more and more, and you are indeed a great help with that.

Lenore Ealy

Thanks, Jon, for the clarification. That's how I understood you when we talked in Chicago. It fits better my own understanding of these things, which comes largely from reading Hayek and Michael Polanyi, among others, and reinforces what I was suggesting to Gerry--that there is an important role for authority (hierarchy) in our corporate, social, and even ecclesiastical institutions. The journal published by the Polanyi Society is called "Tradition and Discovery," which aptly captures this thought. The Enlightenment rationalists from about Comte on, especially the French, advocated the radical route of rejecting the authority of tradition. Such thinking culminated in the French Revolution and oddly informs a lot of bad political ideology today. The British, from which we draw more of our traditions here in No. America, were more modest in their repudiation of tradition.

I think what we are seeing now is a creative synthesis that's restoring balance to our understanding of man and society. We believe in the authority of reason, but don't enshrine it against the authority of tradition. We are better able to let our reason, humbled by an awareness of unintended consequences and the observation that complex systems exhibit their own dynamism and often move toward strange attractors, be tutored by the authority of emergent social institutions such as law, money, property, etc. Yet we retain the freedom to adapt these institutions to individual and collective purposes, to perceive the need for change, and to make such changes in our institutions and structures and the ways in which we learn from, operate through, and interact with them. And we are learning that dispersing that freedom from the centers to the peripheries (wirearchy), without eliminating centers altogher (hierarchy), has tremendous effect and potential. This is, essentially, what I mean by the phrase "ordered liberty," (and goes a good way to explaining in light of Chris' earlier question why I am not an anarchist!).

I think the term and concept of wirearchy is great, by the way!

Thanks for hanging in there with us through the ecclesiology detour. Yes, "doctrines" is on ok way to put it, even though there is wide denominational divergence on just what constitutes the "whole" set of authoritative Christian doctrine ( and from whence the authority emerges).

Your quote from Stan Davis, above, could aptly describe the Protestant Reformation. As a historian, I believe, in fact, that our ability to think in these ways about social organization in our age has a lot more to do with that ecclesiastical "revolution" of the 16th and 17th centuries--whether or not we each currently subscribe to a Reformed faith--than many might expect.

Jon Husband

Yeah ...

this ...

Yet we retain the freedom to adapt these institutions to individual and collective purposes, to perceive the need for change, and to make such changes in our institutions and structures and the ways in which we learn from, operate through, and interact with them. And we are learning that dispersing that freedom from the centers to the peripheries (wirearchy), without eliminating centers altogher (hierarchy), has tremendous effect and potential. This is, essentially, what I mean by the phrase "ordered liberty"

,the whole "ordered liberty" part, is the part I have trouble with. Right now, and for a long time ... most of history ... the deck has been stacked by "them" ... the would be plutocrats, oligarch, hierarchs, who create and sustain the instittutions annd laws, who get to say what stays and what goes. The history of the world, as far as I can tell, can be (vastlly oversimplified) described as a contiuous and continuing struggle of "the people" and "the little guy" for basic rights and sufficient property to house and feed a family in reasonably good health, against the acquisitive and exploitive purveyor of would-be "ordered liberty". Tell you what, little guy, we'll be in power and we'll call the game, OK ... and you'll work and we'll figure out how to keep it that way ... and don't worry your little head, it'll be good for you, you'll see.

That I truly hope will begin changing in massive and permanent ways in my lifetime because of the nature of interlinked networks of people, minds, hearts and information, and I think it must scare true conservatives, neoliberals and the current power structures to the core, even as they use the capabilities of netyworks themselves. Even though they have and use Tentacles of Rage (Lewis Lapham, Harper's August, 2004) my sense is that in the long term the jig is up. The fact that so much effort goes into control and manipulation has never been more evident, and with this damn interconnected info technology thing, it just doesn't evaporate, or go away, and you can't burn it like books.

Lenore Ealy

Ordered Liberty: Fascinating, isn't it, to discover that language that one uses with favorable connotations can have such different valences for others. What is instructive to me is that we are on the same page, essentially, and that much of our task is to learn how to talk with one another again across the ideological divides instantiated in our language.

We need to become fascinated again with one another--bound and spellbound. Fastened, though, by shared understandings and not mere witchcraft.

I'm willing to give up the term "ordered liberty" if it helps. What I can't give up is what I understand by all of that. But wirearchy could be as good a term for this confluence of ideas--and it's the beautiful flexibility of the English language at least that we can add new words when they become useful. No government-sanctioned Academy here to keep our language from being a living, evolving system that serves its authors and users!


You misunderstand my issue with authority. Leadership by those who are fit to lead is the mark of emergent social structures. A network friend of mine has a paper about the difference between the Linux development project and MS Windows. One thing that is clear is that there is a hierarchy, but it is one of merrit and engagement, not privilege. Linus Torvalds still leads the team, and from early on a team of "trusted lieutenants" emerged who had more responsibility and authority that the wider network who contributed code, bug reports and such. Many have remarked about the wonderful leadership style that Linus brought to the project, and the highly functional and effective self-organized process that emerged. This is a big success story about effective development and maintanance of a commons, well worth study.

Tell me, why do they need doctinal and scriptural referants for their authority? The ideas should stand for themselves, particularly as expressed in well lived lives guided by them.

There is no closed theory of quality and excellence, nor will there every be. Openness is a sign of strength and compassion, but you need to be vigilent against those who would take advantage of that openness and quickly deal with them.

It's much much more than a matter of terminology, Lenore. There is a flaw in the concept of "ordered liberty" in that it says you don't trust your fellow man to make the right choices without outside pressure. Are your teachings not compelling?

I do like what you said about blending reason and tradition, but then you disparage "mere witchcraft" thinking without realizing that practitioners of nature traditions were persecuted as "witches" in another day. Magical thinking precedes the age of reason. What you wrote in the lead post about God leaving the building is telling. The age of magic is done, but God is still here, within you, to call on in witness to the Truth. The Bible is not the last word, but lessons in how to contact the God within, and be Christ's witnesses on earth.

So, the church is in this age the body of Christ infused by the Spirit, equipped with the Logos, and the testimony to the kingdom to come.

There is little need for institutionally anounted authorities in any of this. This sort of authority only serves to keep the old order in place and supress what is emerging. I hope you will get Jane Jacobs' "Dark Age Ahead" it has a lot to say about this, and Jon and I would love to get into it with you.

Jon Husband

I'm tired, and have been working (thinking ?) muchtoo hard for the last week, so ...

... what Gerry said ;-)

I'm sure we'll have more of this and othert great conversations, and i want (at least us three) to promise to keep it as a dialogue amonst peers we respect, as opposed to underneath the surface trying to be "right". There's so very much i don't know well, and/or don't understand well, and I get a lot from you guys.

Lenore Ealy

Thanks, Gerry, for deepening your argument about authority. Before we I run off on that trail let me say that my "mere witchcraft" line was merely a play on words--as "fascinating" itself derives from the Latin for witchcraft, which by casting spells can bind a person... all derivative of the root, fasci-, which, is also the root of the term fascist. I like to play with etymology just to see what strange things happen. Your rejoinder about witchcraft per se, to wit!

As for "ordered liberty"--it's not flawed in my book, but clearly misunderstood in yours. I don't mean "ordered" by "the authorities," and my version has little to do with wanting to govern anyone else! It's more about trying to order my own life against a standard to which I subscribe conscientiously.

Michael Polanyi is the best on this issue I've ever read. Are you familiar with his work? You would find much to like there, such as his argument that "the transmission of beliefs in society is mostly not by precept, but by example."

But one of the most compelling statements he makes to me is this: "Morally, men live by what they sacrifice to their conscience..." this is embedded in a beautiful discourse on the meaning of a free society and the fundamentally different moral life possible in a free society than in a society not free. (essay in The Logic of Liberty) I would say it's Havelesque, but would more properly say that Havel is Polanyesque!

The remarkable text, though, is his little book, Science, Faith, and Society. Here he writes:

"Whether a free nation endures, and in what form it survives, must ultimately rest with the outcome of individual decisions made in as much faith and insight as may be everyone's share. Any power authorized to overrule these decisions woudl of necessity destroy freedom. We must have sovereignty atomized among individuals who are severally rooted in a common ground of transcendent obligations; otherwise, sovereignty cannot fail to be embodied in a secular power ruling absolutely over all individuals."

when I talk about "ordered" I'm not talking about top-down, command-and-control sovereignty over others. Far from it. I'm talking more about these common grounds of transcendent obligations. Participating in such a community of tradition and discovery requires in the first instance that I submit myself to the tradition, and then I learn by walking in the steps of those before me. This orders my being, in order that I can fully participate in the life of the community.

In terms of my faith, but yes, the Bible is the last Word (the Word too is Christ--but that's getting deep into Protestant mysteries). But apart from membership in a community of faith and a willingness to submit myself to instruction in the doctrines of faith, I am more likely to misread Scriptures than read them to my benefit. This submission in conscience -- knowing WITH--is what I mean by "ordered." And why I'm not an anarchist. [And, incidentally, why I believe Paul's writings are essential to Christianity and inspired parts of scripture. He was conscientiously committed to Christ--to the point of martyrdom--and a brilliant organizational theorist (a wirearchist?!), developing a dispersed yet united church, that, despite persecution, corruption, and the brokenness of the world has survived for over 2000 years. Hard to beat.

Lenore Ealy

By the way, I haven't ordered Dark Age Ahead, yet. But will do so. I like Jacobs' work. So it will be fun to come at something from a point of expected agreement!

Lenore Ealy

Thanks, Jon. Me, too! I hope it's clear from the above that my view of this is that I am compelled to be right in my own conscience, but that I aspire to humility about my own "rightness" and while I might like to persuade, I have no authority or desire to compel! Have to go back up to my earliest exchanges with Phil on Milton and the ideal described in his Areopagitica!

Get some rest!


I only know Polanyi indirectly, but not in any detail.

As far as ordered liberty, I understand that for you it is a personal commitment to chosen values, but it is a small step for many to begin to assert that they know the "right" set of values for all of us. That's why Jon and I, and Phil as well are suspicious of it. I don't acuse you of having made that step, but suggest that many who will endorse ordered liberty will make that step.

I'm talking more about these common grounds of transcendent obligations.

I like this conceptually, and I respect those who choose to conscientiously follow a particular tradition, but I suggest ordering ones life this way is only one path. The more challenging and dangerous path is to remain open to many traditions. Nothing is apriori in or out, all theories considered. Beliefs are useless, and strength resides in faith that the universe is fundamentally meaningful and good.

BTW, anarchy is not disordered, just free of impossed order.

My suggestion that the Bible is not the final word is based in the quote you closed the original post with:

As it leads us to see the church as the instrument of God's mission, it also forces us to recognize the ways in which the Western church has tended to shape and fit the gospel into its cultural context and made the church's institutional extension and survival its priority.

Although he doesn't quite say this, part of the "shaping and fittin" was no doubt the creation of the cannon that became the Bible. The way he continues is to suggest that these manipulations could not destroy the radical transformative nature of the original teachings. We know well that the original tradition was more oral than written, so I have a hard time seeing any claims that a written artifact is the complete and final word.

As we have used the tools of biblical scholarship carefully, we have begun to learn that the biblical message is more radical, more inclusive, more transforming than we have allowed it to be. In particular, we have begin to see that the church of Jesus Christ is not the purpose or goal of the gospel, but rather its instrument and witness.

To me, this clearly makes the living traditions of Christian practice primary. Living the life Jesus taught them to live by example and parable. In this process, the Bible is a secondary artifact. Christians were living by and spreading the traditions of the gospel for many decades if not centuries before the cannon was established.

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