3 Dec 2010

Technology and Hierarchy - A Metaphor

"...the allegorical use of the Reformation and the church [in terms of technology]
generates all kinds of clever comparisons. A typical description of
such comparisons might go like this: the Catholic Church stands in
for large, publicly traded corporations, especially those control-
ling large amounts of intellectual property (the granting of which
might roughly be equated with the ceremonies of communion and
confession) for which they depend on the assistance and support
of national governments. Naturally, it is the storied excesses of the
church—indulgences, liturgical complexity, ritualistic ceremony,
and corruption—which make for easy allegory. Modern corpora-
tions can be figured as a small, elite papal body with theologians
(executives and their lawyers, boards of directors and their law-
yers), who command a much larger clergy (employees), who serve
a laity (consumers) largely imagined to be sinful (underspending
on music and movies—indeed, even “stealing” them) and thus in
need of elaborate and ritualistic cleansing (advertising and law-
suits) by the church. Access to grace (the American Dream) is medi-
ated only by the church and is given form through the holy acts of
shopping and home improvement. The executives preach messages
of damnation to the government, messages most government of-
ficials are all too willing to hear: do not tamper with our market
share, do not affect our pricing, do not limit our ability to expand
these markets. The executives also offer unaccountable promises of
salvation in the guise of deregulation and the American version of
“reform”—the demolition of state and national social services. Gov-
ernment officials in turn have developed their own “divine right of
kings,” which justifies certain forms of manipulation (once called
“elections”) of succession. Indulgences are sold left and right by
lobbyists or industry associations, and the decrees of the papacy
evidence little but full disconnection from the miserable everyday
existence of the flock."

From Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software by Christopher M. Kelty.

The entire book (should you wish to read it) is here.

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