Saturday, April 7, 2018

Power Down

Adults-only event at Legoland, Tempe, AZ, via TempeTourism.

Shorter David Brooks, "The New Power Structure", New York Times. 5 April 2018:

Shorter in the first place because it's missing the obligatory opening four paragraphs in which Brooks pretends that he is writing an opinion column rather than a publisher blurb for New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—And How To Make It Work For You, which was released on Tuesday, and tries to suggest that he's seen some other inferior "windows into this new world" to compare this one to:

....We have seen an explosion of new social organisms that don’t look like the old ones: Airbnb, Etsy, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Blockchain. If power in the Greatest Generation looked like Organization Men running big institutions, and power for the boomers looked like mass movements organized by charismatic leaders like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama, power these days looks like decentralized networks in which everyone is a leader and there’s no dominating idol.
Power structures are in serious flux. The best window I’ve seen into this new world is a book called “New Power,” by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms.
As you see, they immediately incorporated his money quote into the blurb, so there's no real reason to look at the column at all.

I might try to pull something out of the concept of the book, by Jeremy Heimans, CEO of Purpose, which Moves People to Remake the World, and Henry Timms, founder of Giving Tuesday, a Global Day of Giving Fueled by the Power of Social Media and Collaboration (he's also executive director of the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan's East Side), organizations that, in their way, also represent the New Power. I should say I don't have anything against these goodhearted and effective efforts to do things on a large scale, though I don't quite get how putting them together in the same box with Etsy and Airbnb and #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter and the Ice Bucket Challenge and Adult Fans of Lego (AFOL) add up to a category of something that you'd want to call "the New Power".

I think you want to call it The Internet, which has greatly facilitated some forms of power exercise, some forms of cooperative commerce, some forms of eleemosynary activity, etc. (not to mention all the art activity, exchange and cooperative, visual and musical and literary). And some forms of just having fun. AFOL sounds great, I'm not even kidding, but it isn't a power movement, and I don't see what the authors achieve by calling it that, other than a sound of excitement for their old-medium book project. The thing they've noticed, the democracy with which these phenomena operate, the freedom of the humble to contribute, is kind of the opposite of power, a deconcentration of the apparatuses of power into many autonomous hands, that benefits the whole thing.

Also, speaking of movements, what was that mass movement Steven Jobs organized?

I am glad in an odd way that it made Brooks cheer up for a change:
I realize my column these days is bipolar, wildly optimistic or pessimistic. But I guess that’s appropriate, since the forces tearing society apart are powerful and the people bringing it together are, too.
It may not make a lot of sense, but it's refreshing.

And it is true, for what it's worth, that people are always inventing institutions, silly temporary ones like Ice Bucket and valuable and durable ones like BLM, and the Internet really does facilitate them in new and surprising forms. The thing Brooks always laments—the loss of the mainline churches and bowling leagues of the decade before he was born, destroyed by the suburbanization in which they had seemed to fit so perfectly—isn't nearly as important as the endlessness and daring of human social invention.

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