Mikayla Novak on civil society

My RMIT colleague Mikayla Novak has the lead article in the latest issue of Cosmos + Taxis. From the abstract:

I depict civil society as a complex and adaptive phenomenon. Individuals and groups within civil society interact with each other to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes, and this gives rise to identifiable spontaneous orders of economic, communal and political relationships. Civil society is not a mere aggregation of these sub-orders but a combinatorial ensemble of them in that a multiplicity of dispositions, interests and values, and relevant feedback mechanisms, co-exist tenuously, often contradictorily and in entangled fashion. This paper describes the general processes in which alternative perspectives within civil society continuously vie against each other for widespread support, and critically appraises the suggestion that certain aspects of economic, social or political evolution portend the “decline” of civil society itself. The distinct value of the civil society concept lies in the capacity of diverse individuals to arrange mutually agreeable adjustments in the absence of domination or subjection.

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38 Responses to Mikayla Novak on civil society

  1. pbw

    I suppose that Mikalya believes that this is, to a useful extent, a description of actual civil societies.

  2. Jannie

    Not exactly easy reading for an old bloke on Sunday morning. I think I can understand each sentence but cannot work out if I agree or not. The abstract alone has a Gunning Fog Index of 24.57.

  3. Muddy

    Domination or subjection is baaaad, mmmkay.

  4. Combine Dave

    Can a fructured balkanized society ever be civil?

  5. Muddy

    I’ve only read the abstract, so I might be way off here, but it seems to me that the common belief that human society with its myriad belief systems, values, philosophies etc., can exist harmoniously without any type of conflict, or without any one party dominating another, is somewhat unrealistic.

  6. RobK

     This paper describes the general processes in which alternative perspectives within civil society continuously vie against each other for widespread support, and critically appraises the suggestion that certain aspects of economic, social or political evolution portend the “decline” of civil society itself. 
    I think she maybe onto something here. Looking forward to reading the whole thing.
    The distinct value of the civil society concept lies in the capacity of diverse individuals to arrange mutually agreeable adjustments in the absence of domination or subjection.
    The distinct value is thereby limited to values that are not mutually exclusive…what about, say, belief in AGW or sceptic; AWG contends that spaceship earth has one ruling body. The affairs being mutual, agreeable and without domination will be hard to find. “Lets use nuclear power because it works.-no” “Lets use new coal because its much improved-no.”

  7. stackja

    Muddy
    #2664080, posted on March 18, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    As I remember, Menzies era Australia was harmonious. Then came Gough. And chaos has followed since.

  8. Entropy

    I’ve only read the abstract, so I might be way off here, but it seems to me that the common belief that human society with its myriad belief systems, values, philosophies etc., can exist harmoniously without any type of conflict, or without any one party dominating another, is somewhat unrealistic.

    Relax and “Imagine”.
    You might even break into song.

  9. stackja

    Entropy
    #2664091, posted on March 18, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Al Grassby brought ‘harmony’ to ‘fractured’ Australia.

  10. Stimpson J. Cat

    Civil society is not a mere aggregation of these sub-orders but a combinatorial ensemble of them in that a multiplicity of dispositions, interests and values, and relevant feedback mechanisms, co-exist tenuously, often contradictorily and in entangled fashion.

    Who talks like this, honestly?
    Just ridiculous.
    Give the girl a Bowtie.

  11. manalive

    Socio-economic factors have influenced but not determined interactions and interests in the past however a new phenomenon has emerged in the past twenty or so years and that is the tendency of the green-left to flock together in their own safe spaces like specific suburbs (Northcote in Melbourne for example) and to avoid stepping outside their own milieu altogether.

  12. Roger.

    Civil society is not a mere aggregation of these sub-orders but a combinatorial ensemble of them in that a multiplicity of dispositions, interests and values, and relevant feedback mechanisms, co-exist tenuously, often contradictorily and in entangled fashion.

    A highfalutin’ way of saying “You didn’t build that.”

  13. H B Bear

    A highfalutin’ way of saying “You didn’t build that.”

    And exactly the opposite of what would happen if a bunch of bureaucrats, academics, NGOs, unionists and politicians sat down with a wad of butchers paper at a 3 day conference.

  14. Gary

    Is this about intersexuality?

  15. OneWorldGovernment

    Mikayla Novak

    I actually love your work.

    But at some point someone with a sword is going to have to sweep through Europe and once again impose justice.

    I hope this time they also sweep through, in a co-ordinated way, the ME and the entire continent of Africa.

    You cannot cast pearls before swine.

  16. RobK

    Ah, i have now read the piece. The author is obviously well read and writes well. I note the conclusion is good in that it highlights its own weakness;
    The twin-marvels of civil society concern its accommodation of human diversity and its evolutionary attributes. To the extent to which these qualities are diligently and vigilantly well maintained, without extirpating individual liberties, the chances are civil society will continue to serve as that indispensable arena in which we look to accommodate mutually beneficial economic, social and political changes together.
    She deserves a bow-tie. Well done😊.
    There are significant riders in the conclusion such that utopia will remain beyond our grasp.

  17. RobK

    “Evolutionary attributes” when applied in freely competative increments (as i expect is intended)is a good thing. In reality evolution, revolution and chaos all live in the same bag. You dont always know which it is you have until it’s too late.

  18. Frank

    Civil society is not a mere aggregation of these sub-orders but a combinatorial ensemble of them in that a multiplicity of dispositions, interests and values, and relevant feedback mechanisms, co-exist tenuously, often contradictorily and in entangled fashion.

    Sounds like someone is trying to filch a bit of jargon from the maths department in order to appropriate a bit of intellectual heft. It missed this time and has a long way to go before approaching the levels of fraudulent pseudery that are exemplified by “radical cyber-feminist” Carolyn Guertin. Presented for anyone with a strong gag reflex:

    Quantum Feminist Mnemotechnics: the Archival Text, Digital Narrative and the Limits of Memory.

  19. JB of Sydney/Shanghai

    Thank you for the terrific post, Frank!

    For those of an idle nature, here is an example of a site that will enable you to write like an Academic.

    One of the many BS generators.

    http://bocktherobber.com/2010/05/post-modernism-generator/

  20. mem

    The author might care to define what she means by “civil society” for starters. But that given, my overall assessment is that the author is espousing shear nonsense. But I’m not an academic.

  21. Michael

    I was expecting to see “programmatic specificity” somewhere

  22. mem

    I missed this sentence at the end which I believe is an attempt to describe the author’s concept of civil society. “The distinct value of the civil society concept lies in the capacity of diverse individuals to arrange mutually agreeable adjustments in the absence of domination or subjection.” Now I’ve got it, it’s back to the commune. Nimbin here we come.

  23. Bruce in WA

    Civil society? I remember too well the concept of “civil society” and “social contract” which saw my legal property forcibly seized and destroyed. There was nothing “mutual” about it. And it was all about “domination”.

  24. struth

    He he…
    When the specifity of cultural amenity is preferenced to institutionalized myopathy, the resultant crypto specific diasma of centrific duopolies tends to aggregate toward thrombotic retardation of endo clyismic dilettante reactivities.

    There, can I get a grant now?

  25. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    “The distinct value of the civil society concept lies in the capacity of diverse individuals to arrange mutually agreeable adjustments in the absence of domination or subjection.” Now I’ve got it, it’s back to the commune. Nimbin here we come.

    No, not really, Mem. That is opting out of civil society. Civil society is being able to live and let live within a common set of agreed principles of interaction. Democracy is one of these principles. So is co-operation in non-state organisations, like the CWA and the local footie club. It’s all been discussed before under terms such as “open society vs closed society”, “gemeinschaft vs gesselschaft”, ‘contract vs client relationships’ and a host of other depictions of the change from localised peasant systems to specialized and role-divided industrial social orders. Except the ‘order’ is idealised and often lacking, in both cases if we examine closely enough.

    Life is a struggle. We make the best of it in whatever way we can. We reach out to find the common elements in our shared experiences. We disagree as little as possible within the reasonable hope of attaining our goals. We dislike killing and we don’t want to be killed. We hate oppression.
    That’s how we try, however ineffectually, to create civil societies of common discourse.

    When we lose, the way is open to thugs of all varieties.

  26. DrBeauGan

    It’s bullshit. Some people love it. It gives them the chance to produce more of the stuff and try to fool themselves and others that they are being profound.

    There are different kinds of sentence. If I say “Your fly is undone”, you know from hearing it exactly what to do to decide if the statement is true or false. All hard science statements are like this, although the process of deciding whether they are true or not can be long and laborious. The statements in the abstract are not of this type. What you can do is devise other statements which are roughly congruent.

    Thus the bullshit can grow unchecked. It’s a very silly game played by bogus intellectuals.

  27. DrBeauGan

    If you can’t make statements that are sufficiently clear for the reader to know what he needs to do to confirm or refute them, it is better to shut up. There are statements so specialised that a lot of prior knowledge is required to understand what exactly is required to confirm or refute them, eg E=mc^2, but if one is prepared to spend a long time learning the terms, it can be done.

    Struth is right.

    Mikayla needs to have higher standards. She is only marginally better than Struth’s random bullshit generator.

  28. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    It’s bullshit. Some people love it. It gives them the chance to produce more of the stuff and try to fool themselves and others that they are being profound.

    Dr. BG, I’ve often has similar feelings to yours expressive above, being a practical sort of nappy-changer, getting on with the real business of life. However, trying without too much angst to reflect upon the nature of the interactive systems that we all live within is sometimes necessary as a part of being human; like speculating on the physics of motion or the stars was for early man. How did we get to this, and what is the experience of our life lived within these systems, within cities for example? How can we avoid being drawn into the worst of human excesses, the banality of everyday evil, or the Year Zero of the Cambodian killing fields. Philip Adams in this week’s Oz is a miserable old curmudgeon who won’t accept invitations and lives as a hermit regurgitating leftist bile. What a terrible way to end up.

    A rose smells sweet and we savor the experience. We don’t try to test it. Unless we’re making money out of perfumery, that is. We live in a social world. Obviously we think about that.

  29. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    ‘had’ and ‘expressed’. Some problem with my ‘d’s. 🙂

    Going through a Russian period right now. Listening to 4th movement of Tschaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony. Tremendously self-indulgent for both him and me. He was dying, travelling across Russia in a train I seem to recall, when he wrote it. You can’t scientifically test everything, Dr. BG.

  30. Stimpson J. Cat

    There, can I get a grant now?

    Buy a copy of my new book “How To Write Sentences To Amaze and Astonish – by Dr Stinpy” and I’ll see what I can do, my friend.

  31. OneWorldGovernment

    Forgive me Mikayla Novak.

    I still believe in what you said.

    And I read the rest of your submission.

    But truly, I will cut the head off anyone that does not believe in you.

  32. DrBeauGan

    A rose smells sweet and we savor the experience. We don’t try to test it. Unless we’re making money out of perfumery, that is. We live in a social world. Obviously we think about that.

    Lizzie, when you say that a rose smells sweet, you make a statement. I know what to do to decide if it is true, it involves finding a rose and sniffing it. Since I’ve already done that, I agree with you. So I have successfully decoded your statement and understood it.

    I am happy to look at statements about the social world. I shall use the same tests as to whether they have meaning as I did with your statement about roses. If I can figure out what I have to do to decide if it is true, then I understand it. If not, not. If I don’t understand it, I ask why not? A tenable explanation of why I have not been able to extract meaning is that there wasn’t any there to extract.

    The statement “Sometimes men and women trade in mutual affection” is a bit fluffy but I have a fair idea of the kind of observations needed to decide if it’s true. So the statement has meaning and is about the social world.

    Not all statements convey meaning, but when you get some that don’t, you ought to ask yourself what exactly they are for. What do they accomplish?

    Statements like “It’s a beautiful day!” for example convey good will. The speaker isn’t planning to kill you today. This is worth knowing, but it’s a different kind of statement than “A rose smells sweet.”
    If Mikayla is reassuring us that her heart is in the right place, then I am prepared to take that for granted. If she is trying to tell us anything about how the doc world works, it’s a failure.

  33. DrBeauGan

    Going through a Russian period right now. Listening to 4th movement of Tschaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony. Tremendously self-indulgent for both him and me. He was dying, travelling across Russia in a train I seem to recall, when he wrote it. You can’t scientifically test everything, Dr. BG.

    Perhaps it’s the time of night that allows you to confuse a symphony with an essay, Lizzie. They are different. One is a collection of assertions, the other a collection of noises that may evoke sentiment. Or not.

  34. DrBeauGan

    OWG, you are drunk. You spend most of your evenings that way. I hope you like the consequences.

  35. OneWorldGovernment

    DrBeauGan
    #2664385, posted on March 19, 2018 at 1:20 am

    OWG, you are drunk. You spend most of your evenings that way. I hope you like the consequences.

    Love your work Doctor.

    Must be awesome to be so clever.

  36. OneWorldGovernment

    DrBeauGan
    #2664385, posted on March 19, 2018 at 1:20 am

    OWG, you are drunk. You spend most of your evenings that way. I hope you like the consequences.

    And a doctor he supposedly is!
    I actually like this song

  37. md

    Individuals and groups within civil society interact with each other to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes, and this gives rise to identifiable spontaneous orders of economic, communal and political relationships.
    Meaning they are like-minded on certain things.

  38. Arky

    I depict civil society as a complex and adaptive phenomenon. Individuals and groups within civil society interact with each other to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes, and this gives rise to identifiable spontaneous orders of economic, communal and political relationships

    ..
    Sorry. I didn’t get past the first para.
    Meaningless gibble gabble.
    Time to close all universities.
    Sinc is actually the most non-autistic prof?
    God help us all.

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