I became aware of the terminology “high modernist” by reading Scott Alexander’s review of Seeing Like a State by James Scott. Scott A:
But the High Modernists were pawns in service of a deeper motive: the centralized state wanted the world to be “legible”, ie arranged in a way that made it easy to monitor and control. An intact forest might be more productive than an evenly-spaced rectangular grid of Norway spruce, but it was harder to legislate rules for, or assess taxes on.
Now I have no desire to be anyone’s pawn, but I desperately want to live in a world that is legible. It just occurred to me that that is the central reason I came up with the idea of pubwan, a central reason I came up with the idea of anagorism and, now that I think about it, probably what I really would most like to do for a living, to think of as not just a livelihood but a calling, is work to increase legibility of the world. I wouldn’t want to be a party to the kinds of scorched-earth policies described by J. Scott and Scott A., so it looks like I have to look elsewhere for a professional calling, which is sad, because I’m really fresh out of ideas as to how I might make something of myself.
I want to know why legibility enhancement has been as problematic as it has been. The following possibilities occur to me:
- legibility is inherently problematic, and therefore I am a bad person for wanting it
- legibility would have been good for humanity had its promoters not sold out and worked in service to the state