<CPOV> What's Up the Sleeve of the Invisible Hand?

Jon Awbrey jawbrey at att.net
Tue Jun 15 15:00:06 CEST 2010


Let me pick up another "fast and loose" thread in Nate's last post.

It's a natural human tendency, when faced with overwhelming complexity,
to wish it all away with some radically simplifying belief or mythology.
That would be my guess as to why the Myth of the Invisible Hand is every
bit as popular on the Internet today as Jolly Old Saint Nick and visions
of sugar-plums <feel free to insert your local color here> are in the
fantasies of pre-critical children.

That is probably why variations on the theme of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand"
are such frequent topics of discussion at The Wikipedia Review.  Against that
backdrop I personally find that the best resource for trying to understand the
conversion of ethical motives into economic motors lies in the work of Max Weber,
beginning with his analysis in ''The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism''.

Here's one more or less recent thread at WR:


Jon Awbrey

Nathaniel Tkacz wrote:
> hi all - some fast and loose thoughts...
> i don't think a marketplace and a battlefield are necessarily so far apart!
> players in market are involved in battles of sorts and also sometimes
> negotiate! there are terms in basic economics that gesture toward these
> different scenarios, like ideal markets and oligopolies.
> let's not also forget the wales himself describes the process of article
> creation as likened to a market.  the wiki ideology of article creation
> resonates with a market theory in at least two ways:
> - both claim that ideas come together and the best ones rise to the top and
> become successful,
> - both claim that there is no overarching, absolute body who determines the
> criteria of success, (once again, these are produced 'by the market'),
> it is this kind of thinking that connects wales to hayek and was also
> discussed by florian cramer. florian made the claim that npov is hayek's
> market theory translated into encyclopaedic policy.
> i do think that wikipedia functions in ways that often resonate with a
> "real" market, because i don't believe that real markets function like the
> ones described and taught in economic theory (that is something marx did a
> good job of critiquing). instead, like real markets, there is a gap between
> how markets are explained and how they operate. to think alongside a famous
> passage in Capital, what we need to do is leave the domain of policy (of
> rights, freedom and bentham) and look closely and critically at how things
> actually get made (that is, we need to enter the factory).
> thinking wikipedia through the frame of markets and political economy more
> generally might be very productive, especially if we look both at the theory
> of markets and the practice of markets.
> best
> Nate Tkacz
> Research Fellow,
> RMIT University
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/__nate__
> Homepage: www.nathanieltkacz.net
> Current project: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/cpov/about-2/


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