Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chapter 16 - "Binding Time": Part 6 - Consequences

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

With his behavioral definition of humanity and his exponential formula of progress in hand, Korzybski sought to draw out the social-cultural implications of time-binding. For one thing, he now had an answer to the second question that had bothered him for so long: “Why do our social institutions collapse while bridges mostly don’t?” (Except for some rewriting for brevity, form, and order, most of his analysis in the first draft found its way into the published book.) Our social institutions continued to collapse because of the growing gap between our increasing knowledge of and power over the ‘physical’ world (exemplified by bridge-building technology) and our inadequate and/or inadequately-applied knowledge of ourselves and our social relationships. According to Korzybski, this growing gap accounted to a significant degree for the continuing cycle of wars and revolutions, as humans unsuccessfully attempted to cope with the effects of increasing technological progress. He predicted that more and greater disasters would ensue—collapsing social structures—until humans somehow managed to narrow the divide between science and the rest of human affairs. 

A major step in narrowing the gap would occur, according to Korzybski, when we abandoned theological and zoological definitions of ourselves. He insisted that humans could not understand themselves adequately if they continued defining themselves as some additive combination of supernatural (‘soul’,‘spirit’, etc.) and ‘animal’. To Alfred, this view (man as an animal plus a divine spark) appeared to make a comprehensive scientific study of humanity impossible. Neither could humans understand themselves adequately if they insisted on viewing themselves simply as ‘animals’ destined to play out brutal competitive games for goods and territory. This view—“man is an animal”—diminished humanity and could justify the worst kind of behavior as “survival of the fittest”. Rather, viewing ‘Man’ as a time-binder would naturally include altruism:
…“survival of the fittest” for human beings as such––that is, for time-binders––is survival in time, which means intellectual or spiritual competition, struggle for excellence, for making the best survive. The-fittest-in-time—those who make the best survive––are those who do the most in producing values for all mankind including posterity. (13)  

Korzybski spent considerable effort elaborating on the economic implications of time-binding. In terms of time-binding, wealth consisted of
...those things––whether they be material commodities or forms of knowledge and understanding––that have been produced by the time-binding energies of humanity, and according to which nearly all the wealth of the world at any given time is the accumulated fruit of the toil of past generations––the living work of the dead. (14) 

Economically, money represented but didn’t constitute wealth. Korzybski warned “...against confusing the “making” of money by hook or crook, by trick or trade, with the creating of wealth, by the product of labor.”(15)

Clearly, for Korzybski, knowledge constituted the basis of wealth. Later on in the 1930s, Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek—following in the free market tradition of Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, et al—wrote about the role of knowledge in human social-economic life. However, I’ve seen little indication that Hayek or his colleagues had any awareness of Korzybski’s formulation of time-binding. And Korzybski didn’t pursue a connection with their work. Indeed, in 1920, Korzybski seemed to tilt toward socialistic views and denounced Adam Smith as an apostle of selfishness and greed (his animus against Smith got somewhat toned down in the journey from manuscript to published book). After writing Manhood, Korzybski’s interests shifted from the political-economic applications of time-binding and he never made any major study of economics. 

From his time-binding view of wealth, Korzybski criticized both capitalists and socialists in the pages of the book:
There are capitalists and capitalists; there are socialists and socialists. Among the capitalists there are those who want wealth––mainly the fruit of dead men’s toil—for themselves. Among the socialists there are those—the orthodox socialists—who seek to disperse it. The former do not perceive that the product of the labor of the dead is itself dead if not quickened by the energies of living men. The orthodox socialists do not perceive the tremendous benefits that accrue to mankind from the accumulation of wealth, if rightly used. (16)  
...“capitalistic” lust to keep for SELF and “proletarian” lust to get for SELF are both of them space-binding lust––animal lust––beneath the level of time-binding life. (17) 

A different political-economic approach must result from a time-binding perspective. He did not elaborate its details, but at its base he conceived it to involve a political-economic order, neither ‘socialist’ nor ‘capitalist’ as many people understand those terms, but focused on cooperation which would benefit all humans.

In his related political-economic analysis of the causes of the Great War, Alfred placed major, but not sole, responsibility on Germany. He noted the Germans’ first rate ability to maintain group cohesion and apply their time-binding energies, i.e., scientific/technical prowess, in concerted mass effort towards narrow national aims. The Allies had barely won the war with great difficulty. Apropos German and other forms of nationalism, to the extent that members of different nations could not extend their views beyond their narrow group interests, further conflicts seemed inevitable.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
13.  Korzybski 1950 (1921), pp. 147-148. 

14. Ibid., p. 115. 

15. Ibid. 

16. Ibid, pp. 132-133. 

17. Ibid., p. 198. 

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