on patchwork

given the recent interest in patchwork (1, 2, 3, 4), i think it’s important to complement a few things – especially to the extent that, from all the cited, i’m probably the one who sticks the closest to Moldbug’s original formulation.

i do so to the extent that Moldbug’s formulation – contrary to panarchy, atomic communitarianism and (this i’m less sure) D+G’s views – emphasizes what i deem to be the most definitive feature of patchwork: independence or sovereignty, the ability to act without permission or interference on a given space.

yes, this last word is what complicates things a little from Moldbug’s somewhat idealized territorial city-states. nonetheless, patchwork depends inherently on skins, i.e., distinctions among organisms inside a system, and on the persistence of such distinctions.

thus, Patchwork is also inherently competitive. the “Business Ontology” Moldbug uses to define neocameralism (which is a theory of how to govern, and possibly a theory on how to think about government, but not a theory of competitive systems) is not necessarily all that any given patchwork includes, but it’s a useful language because entrepreneurial competition is the closest we have to a competitive social system. trade “profit” for “self-sufficiency” and you still have the same basic dynamics.

of course, any given patch might choose differing governance schemes (and to a large extent i think networked groups are likely to be separated from most sovereign services), but some will work, and others won’t. which are which is something that can only be decided inside the playing out of the system itself.

another question that stood out for me is “how we’re going to get to patchwork”. as i’ve argued here, i think divided sovereignty is the perennial state of the world, and so patchwork is as old as any “membrane” (very old). what makes the patchwork imagined by Puydt, Alexander and Moldbug any different from the current system of sovereign nation-states? the technological trends driving fragmentation (just like the previous technological trend driving centralization from the more fragmented feudal patchwork produced the current system, etc). so, “here to there” depends largely on communicational, energetic and military technologies.

finally, and possibly supremely, the question of guarantees of exit always arise. people want to know if the Wizard will save the poor children from oppressive parent-environs. this question has been also answered repeatedly, so i’ll just quote it:

As a prefatory note: Like the Misesian praxeology from which it is cladistically descended, the Moldbuggian System is a transcendental political philosophy, which is to say that it deals with ultimate or unsurpassable conditions. You have reached the transcendental when there is no higher tribunal, or court of appeal. This is the socio-cosmic buffers. If you don’t like what you’re seeing here, there’s still no point looking anywhere else, because this is all you’re going to get:


Suppose a realm unilaterally abrogates this right of emigration? It has just converted its residents into what are, in a sense, slaves. It is no longer Disneyland. It is a plantation. If it’s any good with cinderblocks, barbed-wire and minefields, there is no escape. What do you say if you’re stuck on this farm? You say: “yes, Massa.” A slave you are and a slave you will be forever.

This is terrible, of course. But again, the mechanism we rely on to prevent it is no implausible deus ex machina, no Indian rope-trick from the age of Voltaire, but the sound engineering principle of the profit motive. A realm that pulls this kind of crap cannot be trusted by anyone ever again. It is not even safe to visit. Tourism disappears. The potential real-estate bid from immigrants disappears. And, while your residents are indeed stuck, they are also remarkably sullen and display no great interest in slaving for you. Which is a more valuable patch of real estate, today: South Korea, or North Korea? Yet before the war, the North was more industrialized and the South was more rural. Such are the profits of converting an entire country into a giant Gulag.

there is no Wizard.


11 thoughts on “on patchwork

      1. “How come can any of this still be in the *Left*? It defends equality of power, i.e. freedom. This radical understanding of liberty is deeply rooted in leftist tradition and has been consistently abhored by the Right.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. right after that paragraph, there’s some doubt about the possibility of the sovereignty of individual human beings. and if you refer back to the post immediately prior to this one, you’ll see my current understanding of “individual sovereignty” talks about cities


    1. you don’t really have to get keep them outside the gates, if they can pay taxes. also:

      “Modern technology makes it easy for Elbonia to destroy any Morlock subcultures the former management may have inflicted on it. A trivial database query can identify the set of humans in the country who are either (a) productively employed, (b) independently wealthy, or (c) a well-supervised dependent of (a) or (b). Everyone else, including all minors, gets the tag. This inconspicuous device fits on your ankle and continuously reports your position to the authorities. If no crimes are committed near your location, you have nothing to worry about.”

      (from here: http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com.br/2008/06/olx-simple-sovereign-bankruptcy.html)


      1. you gather what militaries/militias have meant to sovereign entities right, especially in the face of the implosions of modern states? these fantasies of some sort of orderly/contratual decentralization have no historical basis, pure scifi…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. okay, you positing there isn’t sovereign entities at all. it’s a fair point to make, but it isn’t patchwork anymore, the model begins from the existence of sovereign entities, in the terms defined.

        now, if we are to argue the feasibility of patchwork in world of modern states ceasing to exists, we can do that. of course, i seriously doubt that small enough territories cannot provide a basic amount of security, especially to the extent that they cease to be the kind of large centralized business that modern nation-states are. but i’m definitely open to being convinced otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

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