Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"The Long Road to Revolution" by David Graeber

The term “revolution” has been so relentlessly cheapened in common usage that it can mean almost anything. We have revolutions practically every week: banking revolutions, cybernetic revolutions, medical revolutions and an Internet revolution every time someone invents a clever new piece of software.
The commonplace definition of revolution has always implied something in the nature of a paradigm shift, a clear break, a fundamental rupture in the nature of social reality, after which everything works differently and prior categorizations no longer apply. It is this understanding of the concept that makes it possible for people to claim that the modern world is essentially derived from two revolutions: the French and the Industrial. The fact that the two have almost nothing in common, other than seeming to mark a break with what came before, rarely deters people from the theory. Political philosopher Ellen Meiksins Woods notes that we have fallen into the odd habit of discussing “modernity” as if it involved a combination of English laissez-faire economics and French republican-style government. We do this despite the fact that the two have really nothing to do with either revolution. The Industrial Revolution happened under an antiquated, largely medieval constitution and 19th century France was anything but laissez-faire.
The fact that the Russian Revolution appeals to the “developing world” is because it’s the one example in which both sorts of revolution did actually seem to coincide: a seizure of national power that then led to rapid industrialization. As a result, almost every 20th century government in the South that was determined to play economic catch-up with the industrial powers felt compelled to claim that it was a “revolutionary regime.”
If there is one logical error that underlies this system of thought, it rests on imagining that social or even technological change can take the same form as what Thomas Kuhn has called “the structure of scientific revolutions.” Kuhn is referring to events like the shift from a Newtonian to an Einsteinian universe, which was an instance when an intellectual breakthrough suddenly changed reality. But applying this structure to anything other than true scientific revolutions is to imply that the world really is equivalent to our knowledge of it and the moment we change the principles upon which our knowledge is based, reality changes too. This is the sort of erroneous logic that developmental psychologists say we’re supposed to overcome in early childhood. It seems few of us ever really do.
In fact, the world is not obligated to conform to our expectations and insofar as “reality” refers to anything, it refers to precisely that which can never be entirely encompassed by our imaginative constructions. Totalities, in particular, are always creatures of the imagination. Nations, societies, ideologies, closed systems – none of these really exist. Our belief in such things may be an undeniable social force, but reality is infinitely messier than that. For one thing, the habit of thought that defines the world as a totalizing system (in which every element takes on significance only in relation to the other elements) tends almost invariably to lead to a view of revolutions as cataclysmic ruptures. How, after all, could one totalizing system be replaced by an entirely new one other than by some cataclysmic event? Thus, we interpret human history as a series of revolutions: the Neolithic Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Information Revolution, et cetera, and the political dream becomes to somehow take control of the process. We strive to get to the point at which we can cause a rupture of revolutionary magnitude – a momentous breakthrough that will occur as the direct result of collective will. “The Revolution,” properly speaking.
It’s not surprising that when radical thinkers find themselves incapable of causing a rupture in their own political reality, they quickly try to identify examples of revolutions happening elsewhere. This phenomenon has grown to such a point that French philosopher Paul Virilio theorizes that rupture is our permanent state of being.
I’m not making an appeal for the flat rejection of imaginary totalities (assuming that such a rejection is even possible, which it probably isn’t); imaginary totalities are likely a necessary tool of human thought. Rather I ask that we bear in mind that these totalities are just that: tools of thought. For instance, there’s great value in being able to ask ourselves, “After the revolution, how will we organize mass transportation?” or, “Who will fund scientific research?” or even, “Do you think there will be fashion magazines once the revolution comes?” Our present understanding of the concept is a useful mental hinge, but we must also recognize that unless we are willing to massacre hundreds of thousands of people, the “revolution” will almost certainly not be the clean break with the past that our current definition implies.
So what will it be?
Revolution on a worldwide scale will unfold at a very slow pace. It is beginning to happen. What we need to do in order to recognize this fact is to stop thinking of revolution as a singular thing, as one great cataclysmic break. Instead, we should be asking ourselves what revolutionary action is. Revolutionary action is any collective action that rejects, and therefore confronts, some form of power or domination and, in doing so, reconstitutes social relations. Revolutionary action does not necessarily have to be so grandiose that it aims only to topple governments. Something so small as attempting to create autonomous communities in the face of opposing power would, for instance, be revolutionary acts. If we accept this definition, then we accept the fact that quiet revolutions have been occurring all over the world. Rural communities in Madagascar reacted to the depredations of French colonialism by gradually adopting the ethos that it is wrong for adults to give one another orders. The Malagasy then practiced sustained passive resistance to the point where the postcolonial state largely abandoned trying to govern them altogether. This slow-won, albeit imperfect, victory could easily be regarded as successful mass revolutionary action.
An example like the Malagasy exposes what lies beneath the grandiosity of totalities. All of them ultimately reflect the logic of the state, the ghostly presence of what Tronti called the “state form.” From the very beginning, states have been peculiar syntheses of utopian projects and forms of institutionalized raiding or extortion. As a result, there has always been a slightly embarrassing affinity between the forms of radical simplification of human experience that are promulgated by state bureaucracies and those forms that are imagined under “social theory.” (I don’t claim that there’s anything wrong with such imaginary forms – all theory must simplify reality. It’s only when these forms of simplification are backed by force that they become forms of radical stupidity.) It is important that we begin seriously thinking about how to reconsider the relation of social theory and revolutionary projects now that so many 21st-century revolutionaries are increasingly rejecting the idea of seizing state power. Instead they are drawing on the ethical and organizational legacy of the anarchist tradition (even if only a minority are presently willing to call themselves anarchists). If intellectuals do not constitute a vanguard then what, exactly, is their role?
Eventually it may become possible to imagine an entirely new grammar of revolutionary forms. Perhaps we could begin by defining a continuum. At one extreme we place all forms of revolutionary action that confront the state on its own terms (violence) so as to challenge the forms of inequality that the state guarantees. Call this the insurrectionary option.
At the other end we place all forms of revolutionary exodus – “engaged withdrawal” – and the creation of new communities. Call this the refusal of confrontation. Somewhere in the middle lies the logic of direct action – the work of creating a new society in the shell of the old. Or, more boldly, there lies the insistence, even in the face of state power, to act as though one is already free. Whatever the terms we finally decide on, whether they are these or something else, none can have exclusive purchase on truth or efficacy. Radical social change will only emerge through the endless interplay of confrontations, withdrawals, foundations and subversions.
David Graeber is the author of Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire and Direct Action: An Ethnography.

Monday, June 1, 2009

inspiring stories.....

It is one of the biggest consumer electronics and Software Company, best known for products like Macintosh, iPod and iphone. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne had together setup Apple in 1976, to sell their hand-built computer Apple I. They had offered their product to HP first but were declined by them. I think HP would still be regretting this today.
The road to success wasn’t easy for Apple, and Wayne liquidated his share in the company for a mere $ 800. After the launch of Apple II in 1977, things started to look up for Apple and we all know what heights the company has reached since then.
Apple II was successful mainly because it had colored graphics. Great and simple design, has always been the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for Apple, and their logo is no exception. When Apple was started, the logo was a complicated picture of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. This had been designed by Jobs and Wayne, with the inscription: “Newton … A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” Frankly, I don’t think it was just a coincidence that Apple had slow sales during this period. However, Steve Jobs hired Rob Janoff to simplify the logo, which turned out to be a great idea. Rob created the ‘Rainbow Apple’ which was the logo for company till 1998. There are many rumors as to why Rob had chosen to create such a logo. One of them says that the Apple was a tribute to Newton (discovery of gravity from an Apple), and since the USP for Apple at that time was colored graphics, it had the rainbow colors. Another explanation exists that the bitten apple pays homage to the Mathematician Alan Turing, who committed suicide by eating an apple he had laced with cyanide. Turing is regarded as the father of computers. The rainbow colors of the logo are rumored to be a reference to the rainbow flag, as homage to Turing’s homosexuality. Janoff, however, said in an interview that though he was mindful of the “byte/bite” pun (Apple’s slogan back then: “Byte into an Apple”), he designed the logo as such to “prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato.”
When Apple launched the new iMac in 1998, they changed their logo to a monochromatic apple logo, almost identical to the rainbow logo. Now, the Apple logo comes with nice gradient chrome silver design. It is one of the most recognized brand symbols in the world today, and the shape is what identifies the company more than the color.

The company had always wanted a global perspective, and the logos reflected the same as early as 1934. A specialized advertising designer had created the logo which included typeface never seen before in Europe or North America. The first camera launched by the company in 1934, was named as Kwanon, after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The logo included the wordings and a picture of the goddess with 1000 arms and flames. As the years went by, like all other logos we have seen above, the company strived to make the logo as simple and memorable as possible. The logo had only been trademarked in 1935, and after that a lot of designing work went into making the logo more balanced. After 1956, the logo hasn’t been changed, but the designing effort is clearly visible in their simple but classic logo.

As you would observe from the logos above that IBM was earlier known as The International Time Recording Company (ITR), whose major products were mechanical time recorders, invented and patented by Willard L. Bundy in 1888. So in the earlier periods the logo of the company had ITR inscribed on it. Later in 1911, ITR was merged with the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which is why you will see that both ITR and CTR are there in the 1911 logo.
In 1924, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company adapted the name International Business Machines Corporation. The ornate, rococo letters that formed the “CTR” logo were replaced by the words “Business Machines” in more contemporary sans-sarif type, and in a form intended to suggest a globe, girdled by the word “International.”In 1947, IBM decided to drop the globe from its logo, which was by then quite familiar amongst the people. The logo was not the only change in 1947; it was accompanied by a change in business from the punched-card tabulating business to computers. The typeface of this logo was called Beton Bold.
In 1956, before Thomas J. Watson, Sr died he appointed Tom Watson, Jr. as the CEO. Tom Watson, Jr. decided to project the beginning of a new era in the company, for that he changed the company’s logo as well as the actions. Paul Rand designed the new logo which represented that the changes in the company would be subtle and will not disrupt the continuity. Also, the new logo looked more solid, grounded and balanced.
Another change in the logo was designed by Paul Rand which had stripes instead of the solid font. It depicted ‘speed and dynamism’. Since, then the logo has more or less remained the same, and the design has been recognized and replicated all over the world.

Volkswagen means ‘People’s car’ in German. The history of the company is tied with Adolf Hitler.Before the rise of Hitler, the German economy was in a very bad shape; as a result people couldn’t afford to buy cars. In 1933, Hitler raised the idea of an inexpensive car in the Auto show.
In 1934, Ferdinand Porsche met with Hitler to design the car. Hitler gave him all the specifications of the car and Porsche promised to deliver the design. In 1937, the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH was created (it became simply Volkswagenwerk GmbH a year later). In 1938, Hitler opened a state funded Volkswagen factory in Walburg. It was suppose to produce commercial cars, but it was used to churn out military cars. It was only later found that Hitler had intended to use the Porsche car as a military vehicle only, which could carry 3 men and a machine gun.
After the WWII, Britishers took over the company. They renamed the car as Beetle. Surprisingly all the car makers like Fiat and Ford declined to take ‘free control’ of the Volkswagen factory. So, it was returned to the German government, and went on to become one of the world’s bestselling cars ever.
The first logo was designed by Franz Xavier Reimspiess, a Porsche employee during an office logo design competition. The main part of the logo hasn’t changed much, but understandably after the WWII, they got rid of the design around the circle which seems to be inspired from the Nazi flag. I love the colors that were added in 2000, to the logo which was built after WWII, it depicts a positive change in the company and the ability to adapt to the new millennium.

BMW or Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Bavarian Motor Works) was originally founded as an aircraft company. The aircrafts manufactured were painted with the colors of the Bavarian flag, which is the color of BMW logo. Another explanation is that when the pilot used to sit in the plane he would see alternating segments of white and blue due to rotation the plane propeller (blue being the sky). The major business of BMW was to supply planes to the German army during World War I. But after the war they were forced to change their business. It made railway brakes, before making motorized bicycle, motorcycles and cars.
The logo itself hasn’t changed a lot during the years, but now has a more stylish look due to the different gradients. The unchanged logo has made it easier for people to remember and has given the company more recognition.

shadows at work

Sometimes some impulsive photography gives ideas for design explorations. A day ago, I was blank about how to explore the shape...these compositions are quite ordinary but has led me to ideas.