From Manipulation to Configuration

| by Clive Dilnot |


Raymond Williams famously called ‘culture’ one of the two or three most complex words in the English language. ‘Manipulation,’ while not of the complexity or range of culture, is nonetheless more multiple in its array of meanings and connotations than we might at first imagine. A web-site immediately gives me an odd conjunction: ‘Manipulate 1831, “to handle skillfully by hand,” a back formation from manipulation. Of mental influence, from 1864. In mid-C20th, it served as a euphemism for “masturbation.”‘

Leaving aside the last note, four things are immediately apparent from this quotation.

The first is the obvious derivation from ‘hand’ and specifically from handling physically—here the synonyms of ‘manipulate’ are terms like maneuver, wield, form, mold and the like. This is manipulation as “handling,” in the literal sense, and the dexterity of so doing.

The second is the way in which, as the dates in the quotation given above suggest, the variegated modern meanings of the word begin develop in the first half of the nineteenth century. ‘Manipulation,’ in short, rises and extends as a term in direct relation with the extension of the manipulation of things in manufacture, industrialization and in the economy as a whole. As nature, things and persons are increasingly subject to action and organization—and increasingly, significantly, treated as objects—’manipulation’ becomes one of the key descriptive metaphors of this process.

The third is the extension, within this proliferation, from the physical to the mental. From the mid- to late- nineteenth onwards the meanings of the term are not only around the ‘dexterity of the hand,’ but increasingly to do with the artifice of mind. By the 1860s to ‘manipulate’ is to ‘contrive, invent, design; to come up with, to concoct, to construct, cook up, create, devise, dream up, engineer … ‘.

To manipulate in this sense is to do so in terms of succeeding against or with difficulty (to manipulate is overcome with skill) but the word very quickly, and this is the fourth development, extends to encompass also the manipulation of subjects.

Here, ‘to manipulate’ begins to be as we often immediately think of it today—’to beguile, to fool, to cheat, to con, to deceive, to delude, to dupe, to entice, to exploit …’. It is here where ‘manipulator’ and ‘manipulation’ become pejorative terms— always of course applied to others: ‘One of those cunning feats of manipulative skill peculiar to the Oriental’ (The Spectator, 1890).

The late nineteenth century or early twentieth century associations focus on the individual who manipulates—and this is the case even economically and politically: the ‘robber barons’ or the ‘tycoons’ who individually manipulate markets. But the rise, first of mass markets and communications and, then, from WWI onwards, of mass propaganda and ‘the culture industry,’ puts increasing weight on the manipulation of subjective consciousness not through individual manipulation by manipulation achieved through technical means.

Thus Adorno and Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment:

‘The technical contrast between the few production centers and the large number of widely dispersed consumption points is said to demand organization and planning by management. Furthermore, it is claimed that standards were based in the first place on consumers’ needs, and for that reason were accepted with so little resistance. The result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive need in which the unity of the system grows ever stronger. No mention is made of the fact that the basis on which technology acquires power over society is the power of those whose economic hold over society is greatest.’[1]

More sharply, and in accord with the experience of the period: ‘Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings. He knows them to the extent that he can manipulate them.’[2]

Some further lines echo what manipulation means at this point. The first insists that manipulation, at least politically, is as much, if not more, covert than overt: ‘Yet even the threatening collective is merely a part of the deceptive surface, beneath which are concealed the powers which manipulate the collective as an agent of violence.’[3]

The second and third reminds us that it is still rooted, conceptually, in the manipulation of things. In both cases manipulation is instrumental. In the second it extends into the conception of being itself. Manipulation becomes ‘metaphysical’ i.e., it describes both that which-is and the conception of ‘truth’ that is both product and underpinning of what-is.

‘The true nature of the schematism which externally coordinates the universal and the particular, the concept and the individual case … turns out, in current science, to be the interest of industrial society. Being is apprehended in terms of manipulation and administration. Everything—including the individual human being, not to mention the animal—becomes a repeatable, replaceable process, a mere example of the conceptual models of the system.’[4]

In both instances what carries over from the earlier meanings is the coldness of the operation. This applies at once to technology, but no less to social relations. (See for example, two sections of Adorno’s Minema Moralia, #19, ‘Do not knock’ (on technology) and #21, ‘Articles may not be exchanged’ (on gifts and giving)).

None of this is a surprise: the very definition of the ‘culture industry’ in Adorno and Horkheimer’s understanding is that it is manipulative. ‘Enlightenment as mass deception’ was after all the sub-title of the chapter. That what was applied to objects and nature should, as a process, also be also applied to subjects, and now consciously and precisely as the ‘manipulation’ of opinion and sensibilities, was a ‘natural’ development given both the logic of capitalism (then beginning to prepare, if embryonically, for the management, i.e., the manipulation, of mass demand: ‘consumer engineering’ in the language of the 1920s; ‘demand management’ post-1945) and that of power.

In the age of the mass power is obtained through its manipulation, rhetorical or technical and preferably both (Nuremberg) and always in terms simultaneously of the evocation of desire and (false) plenitude (and, by no means its opposites, by the intensification of resentment and frustration). It worth remembering here the historian’s observation that no programs were ever ‘spontaneous,’ organization, i.e. manipulation, lies underneath every recoded instance.

Three things are apparent here. The first is that the manipulation of the subject is manipulation of the subject-as-object: the obedient subject-as-object in the first instance (the subject ‘ready to hand’—the volunteering masses as the subjective ‘standing reserves’ of WWI) the persuadable subject-as-object in the second  (which, in WWII, involves a swathe of manipulation from moral invocation to the manipulation of notions of ‘duty’).

The second is the way in which, over time, manipulation moves from the (disposable) subject-as-object, ready to be processed even into death (the passive subject; the obedient subject) to the quasi-active subject (‘active,’ at least, as consumer) whose manipulation is bought through evocation and desire (after WWII, Mad Men, and Vance Packard’s Waste Makers (1960)—or, equally, Victor Papenek’s screed against industrial design in the introduction to Design For the Real World, 1974).

Mention of Papenek reminds of how close, after 1945, is design, at least in its majority aspects, to the forms that manipulation then takes. More accurately, in its modern incarnation never apart from the commodity world, design now becomes a direct, if subaltern, agency of social manipulation.

Jan van Toorn, the Dutch designer, provides suitable commentary on this (see Appendix I).

But underlying these developments is a third sense, already evident in the late nineteenth century, that manipulation is a kind of corruption, specifically the corruption of what is, or what would-be, naturally or innocently the case. This is Fagin corrupting the innocence of David Copperfield in Dickens—or, in terms of manufacture and labour it is the shift from that which was worked with honesty (craft) to the contrivance of artifice (‘There is truth in honest error, none in the icy perfection of the stylist’: J.R. Sedding).

The parallel is not an accident. Just as in older dictionaries (and as Herbert Simon famously noted in Sciences of the Artificial[5]) the synonyms of ‘artificial’ give expression to moral doubt (‘affected, factitious, manufactured, pretended, sham, simulated, spurious, trumped up, unnatural) while the antonyms return us to the virtues of the natural (‘actual, genuine, honest, natural, real, truthful, unaffected’) so too with manipulation.

That which is manipulated is ‘pushed beyond,’ i.e., it is forced out of its natural state, is bent into the unnatural (as one is manipulated into crime). So manipulation has a sense of deviancy just as, conversely, it is the devious who manipulate. But as artifice becomes the norm there are subtle shifts in how all this is seen. The disquiet of forcing nature into the impossible is balanced by the celebration of digital artifice.

But above all today it is collective opinions and collective sensibilities that are manipulated. The scale has shifted: from Fagin to Fox News.

While interests are private, and to them is assigned virtue, manipulation lies in the creating the illusory objectification of private interest as public good. Joseph Heller’s character from Catch-22, Milo Mindbender, anticipates the development—all the more so that, then as now, the manipulation Mindbender organizes, as that of Fox news and the like, occurs in plain sight.

And that indeed is the emblem of contemporary manipulation, that it is wholly transparent, wears its manipulation on its sleeve and does so so boldly, and in many ways so outrageously, that it paradoxically disappears from consciousness. It is indeed the fact that it is so apparently in sight that disarms the charge.

Great wealth is not manipulative in secret but in its display (as implicit power). Inequality cowers as display emboldens. The manipulation is in the confidence that wealth displays; in the self-assurance that its own interests are (will be made) paramount; that it can carry forward the mix of domination and dependency that alone assures sufficient continuity of economic relations for its own maintenance.

But inequality also secures itself in continuity because it alone possesses sufficient resources to manipulate. To manipulate in plain sight is expensive: yet we know it can also be profitable. Wall Street and Silicon Valley are only the most obvious examples.

Manipulation in the early nineteenth century was the manual (and mental) dexterity that was the essential complement to still (relatively) primitive machinery. Developing and controlling manipulative skill—directing it, at times reducing it (Fordism)—became a crucial task of management. In spite of technical transformations perhaps little has decisively changed in this respect.

Manipulation is now systemic and is ‘about’ the control of (global) flows. It is concerned less with the object than the systems that operate at once algorithmically and ideologically to secure what-is (all that is partly conveyed in Agamben’s notion of the  “apparatus”[6] for example) but in another sense less has altered than we might think. For while manipulation rapidly moved, in little more than 30 years in the C19th, from ‘hand’ to ‘mind,’ what did not shift, and what has not shifted since, is that manipulation is always manipulation of the object or of the subject and of relations treated as an object or as relations reducible to an objective datum.

Even ideologically, calculation remains the basis of manipulation. What this betrays is that despite its origin in ‘handling,’ manipulation as a term is not transitive, not a language of acting, but intransitive; a second-order terminology that describes what is done without fully understanding what is done.

That which appears to describe activity, actually describes passivity.

This is the sense of the unknown present in the quotation from the Spectator given above. Manipulation is always ‘cunning feats of manipulative skill’ because the manipulated (or the spectator) never quite understands how the manipulation happens.

So ‘manipulation’ is a word that describes without understanding.

While ‘manipulation’ stands for an act (or more accurately a series of acts) undergone by the subject-now-treated-as-object the word gets neither at these acts at their agency.

In use it is always reductive. It is operative: this is its economy. But it operates only within a single dimension. This is its force, and its destructiveness. This permits the word to be taken up, incessantly, on both sides, as myth.

Its critical force is thus nil. On the contrary, ‘manipulation’ is reactionary to the core. The deviousness of the dexterity of manipulation is that the object that is subjected to ‘cunning feats of manipulative skill’ is made passive to the will of the other. Popular use of the term has always felt this. That to be manipulated is to be subjected to the other. It is to experience the ‘extinction of ego.’

‘Manipulation’ belongs to the same class of terms such as representation.

Representation is also a manipulation of objects (and of subjects treated as objects) albeit categorical[7]. Both are terms that describe political and economic actions (literal, classificatory) that reduce living phenomena to ciphers. But when deployed descriptively both are reflections of political impotence. To concede manipulation is to concede that one is acted upon: but it is also to come close not simply to conceding power to, but to deifying that which manipulates: one accedes to manipulation even more than one accedes to power.

All conspiracy theories work on this logic. Much politics, especially the politics of resentiment, is little more. The actions given to manipulation remove action from the putative subject. The inability to gain distance on the fact of manipulation is the inability to see the act (and the object/subject of that act) dialectically, to see it in its non-identity, its partiality, its history.

Manipulation as complaint is therefore passive in the extreme. Not even critique shifts the agenda, unless, that is, critique gets inside the internal logic of the manipulative act. Only this might begin to restore the dialectical relation between subject and object.

Even more it is clear—and forty years of analysis of the ideology of what was then still called ‘publicity’ should have taught us this [8]—that in the end only active intervention into the process, i.e., reconfiguration, matters. After all, a century of critique (of manipulation) has achieved little. Certainly it has not dented the power and force of manipulation. Not for nothing did Agamben recently characterize us (collectively) as ‘the most docile and socially cowardly body that has ever existed in human history’ [9].

Alain Badiou recently put his finger on this when he argued in an aside in Philosophy in the Present for the limitations of pure critique and the necessity for philosophy (aka all thought and action) to think (active) intervention.

But if you do this, says Badiou, if you move from critique to intervention, you must also learn to affirm:  ‘Why? …. Because if you intervene with respect to a paradoxical situation, or if you intervene with regard to a relation that is not a relation, you will have to propose a new framework of thought, and you will have to affirm that it is possible to think this paradoxical situation, on condition, of course, that a certain number of parameters be abandoned, and a certain number of novelties introduced’[10].

Affirmation means here the active re-configuration of relations. This is the opposite of manipulation. Manipulation forces relations.

Today, drafting this note, I watch the manipulation of the British election. Petty nationalisms pathetically victorious with scant regard for consequence. But the manipulation is active only on the surface—and deliberately so. The structure remains un-thought.

Indeed, the entire point of this manipulation is to preserve the underlying structure and to construct or achieve opinion to that end (while at the same time undermining and eroding, to the greatest possible extent, what is left of the genuinely public sphere). (On the latter see the short text by Bonsiepe reproduced in Appendix 2).

‘Affirmation’ in Badiou’s sense is the opposite of this, and not only in its political direction.

Critical philosophy, politics and design, despite their differences, have in common that they begin in situations where relations are not; where incommensurabilities are incompletely resolved; where gaps between what is said to be the case (reductively, ideologically, instrumentally, operationally) and (the multitudinous and multivalent relations of) what is the case produce a hiatus. Whether as affirmation or design (the two are in many ways coterminous) the condition of intervention into such situations demands, either overtly (thought) or tacitly (design) a new framework of thought, a new way of thinking the situation that is encountered. But Badiou was right also on his second count. Such intervention, such deployment of a new ways of thinking the situation, necessitates also that indeed ‘a certain number of parameters be abandoned, and a certain number of novelties introduced.’

This re-working of the limits and structures of what is given is not optional. It is objectively required because the requirements and demands that rule or which constitute the paradoxical situation are not only in unresolved tension but are structurally incompatible with one another.

The only way to resolve these tensions is by re-configuring their relation, by abandoning certain parameters of the situation and by introducing ‘novelties.’

It is from structural incompatibility that the necessity for radical re-configuration becomes seen to be the case.

For example, this is Henry Beck re-configuring the London Underground Map as the London Underground Diagram in 1931 because he realized that the aspirations maintain in the format of the existing maps, at once geographical accuracy, clarity, systemic comprehensiveness and persuasiveness was impossible. To allow for any three of these to succeed, one of these four factors had to be abandoned. Since clarity was the ‘scarce factor’ and clarity and geographical accuracy where, for objective reasons of scale, incompatible, then Beck realized, taking his courage into his hands, that he must abandon the major parameter, i.e., “map,” geographical accuracy. The compensating agency was the  ‘novelty’ of the introduction of geometry and the diagrammatic.

Conversely, from the other side, it is the denial of affirmative possibility (i.e., the denial of the possibility of structural reconfiguration) that leads to the attempt to force compatibility through manipulation.

Fascism is the most acute historical example—and is so precisely because it attempted to achieve manipulated compatibility (plenitude) via creating a myth of incompatibility—no need to attest to whom “incompatibility” was addressed.

But the Jewish population of Germany (0.87%!) was in no manner incompatible with Germany. They were said to be so. The calculation that made them so was entirely political. To be sure, Nazi ‘anti-semitism’ built on real and nascent anti-semitism. It could not have operated otherwise. But Fascism, as par excellence a politics of manipulation, did not particularly care what it seized upon. Like all manipulation it seized on the available object[I]. Historic anti-semitism provided a basis, but little more. The calculation of incommensurably was entirely political. Fascist manipulation, no less than any other, constructs a myth. Here, that of a plenitude which depends, politically (at extreme) on expelling the other, the ‘incompatible.’ But for all the frenzy of action, fascism is, in the end, curiously passive. It is obedient to what-is. And it serves it. It is not in the end, power—except destructively.

Affirmation, which means the active re-configuration of situations, is the opposite of this. It is the active formulation of the situation and engagement with relations, first in mind (‘a new framework of thought’) and then in taking the risk and the responsibility of translating such frameworks into realizable transformative acts. Here we are back to Simon’s famous formulation (no need to state it again).

So affirmation (design) is in this sense manipulation against manipulation. But manipulation against manipulation is not manipulation, it is (re-)configuration. Re-configuration is qualitatively—and politically—other to manipulation.


The use of etymology, i.e., history, now reveals itself.

Manipulation is quintessentially a concept that belongs to the industrial period; to what I increasingly call the short industrial period, which begins around 1775 and ends, 2005 with the onset of the Anthropocene. By ‘end’ I mean here its end as formative with respect to the global economy. The turn had occurred 40 years earlier when the gradual crisis of profitability of the industrial sector, and the precipitating event of the oil price shocks of 1974-5, begin, and very rapidly, to encourage wholesale changes in the mode of accumulation. Industrialization, exported, ceases to be formative for the global economy which now depends almost entirely on financial flows and induced debt (even consumption simply serves the function of debt and thus interest).

Manipulation, of course, does not vanish. On the contrary, it intensifies. Through control, a tiny financial sector is able to exert influence out of all proportion to its numbers (but not out of proportion to the financial assets which it deploys). Nor is manipulation absent from technology. On the contrary, technology, as in digital technology, is the very site of manipulation (see here the works of Jaron Lanier from within and Evegny Morozov from without the industry).

But what nonetheless changes in this situation is the status of ‘manipulation.’

In the industrial epoch manipulation describes, or rather it is the term adopted to describe, even metaphorically, what is done to and with things and persons. In its varying shifting forms it becomes the de facto descriptor we have of acting in relation to things and subjects. Thus even when (as in Horkheimer and Adorno for example) the term is subject to critique it is still so within the logic of term. More, the word crowds out other formulations. Thus, in relation to manipulation ‘design’ is merely a weak subaltern moment. Like Liberals in a Tory (Conservative) coalition its role is theoretically to soften. In practice (as van Toorn has already told us) it merely preserves what-is, ‘with the edges rounded.’

Today, the intensification of ideological manipulation (which goes along with intensified manipulation of the natural world) does not slacken. On the contrary, to “persuasion” is now added fear.[11]

What does change however is the position of configurative action. Manipulation means the change in state of something, yet that something retains an objective core. Manipulation is to objects.

But in the artificial there are no ‘objects’ per se. The reduction of natural phenomena to the representational status of an ‘object’ reduced complex (living) phenomena to a cipher that could be regarded as simply a ‘standing reserve,’ passively awaiting (as a stand of timber in the most obvious analogy) action, i.e., manipulation.

The violence done to the notion of the ‘thing’ was no less that done to nature.

But in the artificial, there are, strictly speaking, no ‘objects.’ In the artificial, everything could be other (this is the definition of the artificial). Thus nothing has the apparent simplicity (banality) or passivity of the ‘object.’ Things, in the artificial, are revealed as propositions. No Law determines their configuration. Each thing is thus instance-as-proposition. In Latour’s useful throwaway proposition, matters-of-fact translate into matters-of-concern. The object is no ‘so’ but an assemblage: in a word, a configuration.

What applies to objects applies even more to situations. A situation is a constellation of forces and circumstances; ‘organized’ more (or often less) it is both itself encounter and the site of encounter. As a situation it is never (completely) closed. On the contrary, it contains, structurally, constitutively, possibility (potentiality).

Chinese thought on strategy has it like this: that in any encounter what matters is the play that is set in motion between ‘on the one hand, the notion of a situation or configuration (xing) as it develops and takes shape before our eyes (as a relation of forces); [and] on the other hand, and counterbalancing this, the notion of potential (shi), which is implied by that situation and can be made to play in one’s favor [12].

Acting in relation to a situation, in this view would be that where

(i) we acted to realize that which has potential: or better,

(ii) we acted so as be able to realize  the potential latent in a situation,

or even better,

(iii) we acted so that what we configured has the propensity to realize to the maximum all that the situation is capable of.

In case this last formulation should read as simply an exhortation to the maximization, say, of the yield of something, the other side of ‘situation’ is that, in the artificial all situations are essentially nothing other than encounters of social relations, however mediated by artifice (which is of course a prime agency, and the ultimately and not-so-ultimately the overarching horizon, medium and condition of existence). But this means that all situations (including natural situations) are subject—and this means radically subject, without exception—to ethics (and thus politics).

Badiou, again, offers the singular and significant formulation when he says (I paraphrase): ‘There is no need for an ‘ethics’ but only for a clear vision of the situation. To be faithful to the situation means: to deal with the situation according to the rule of maximum possibility; to treat it right to the limit of the possible. Or, if you prefer, to draw from the situation, to the greatest possible extent, the affirmative humanity that it contains.’[13]

In this context “Manipulation” evaporates as force. ‘Manipulation’ becomes merely the instrumental moment within a wider mode and moment of ethical action: ‘positing’ in the model of ethical action that Gillian Rose was exploring before her untimely death [14]; configurative action in language that closer to design.

We could posit that, in so far as we can measure the redundancy of ‘manipulation’ we can measure the onset of a humane world.


[1] This may mean that the Nazi use of ‘anti-Jewish’ sentiment has less to do with anti-semitism than we imagine. This is perhaps the political mistake that almost every work on the Holocaust still makes. Was the Holocaust only ‘accidentally’ Jewish?

Appendix I
Quoting from and paraphrasing the Dutch designer Jan van Toorn: ‘Coinciding group interests of clients and the [design] disciplines’ has meant that the ‘practices and notions of [professional] design have been introduced into society on an ever larger scale. This has … fostered the acceptance of the images and doctrines of design, … [and] strengthened the position of design in relation to economic, social and political intercourse.’ But of course no such (Faustian) bargain comes without a quid pro quo. As van Toorn again notes (in a critique that has only gained increased force in the fourteen years since it was first offered), what suffers in this process is the relation to those whom, ostensibly, design serves, for while design still wishes to ‘claim responsibility for the interests of users’ and presents its ‘professional and private concerns as a public interest’, ‘under the pressure of neo-liberalism and the power relationships of the free market’, it has been ‘forced to dilute the public wine with a large dose of private water’. Thus despite the remnant of the ideology of public service that still accrues to design, in practice we encounter only its almost complete replacement by the concerns and values of the market. Public interest today occurs at the margins – or it occurs through and as a consequence of the private. The latter, and not the former, sets the overall agenda. In this process not only is the designer’s individual freedom, purportedly still existing within a space of its own, infiltrated by the client’s way of thinking, but design ends up discovering that, for all its attempted accommodation with these interests, it has become little more than a handmaiden to market concerns. Small wonder then (as van Toorn puts it in his most incisive criticism) that even at best design serves today as little more than a ‘theatrical substitute for [missing] essential forms of social communication’ – whilst at worst, ‘drawing on its roles in the organization of production and in helping to stimulate consumption’, it is at once hand-in-glove with the intensifying creation of a fundamentally unsustainable world (a role it is incapable of acknowledging with any honesty) and part of the ‘extensive disciplining of the general public’ in the terms of the market – a disciplining ‘whose most far-reaching consequence’ (even beyond the inflation of unsustainable consumption) ‘is … a political neutralization that is at odds with the functioning of an open and democratic society’. On van Toorn’s criticism see his papers and commentary in two books: And Justice for All, edited by Ole Bouman, in 1994 and design beyond Design, edited by Jan van Toorn, in 1997 (Maastricht, Jan van Eyck Akadamie). Both sets of essays pushed at the limits of design thinking as it was then circumscribed. Van Toorn in particular gave a force to these discussions, bringing to them his identification with the perspectives of the Frankfurt School, and his considerable experience of the realities (and possibilities) of communicative practice. I am quoting here from my own text, ‘The Critical in Design: Part One,’ Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, Vol. I, #2, 2008, pp. 177-189.

Appendix 2
I cannot resist re-producing here, as the corrective to what now passes for politics in this respect in Europe (and the US) Gui Bonsiepe’s paragraphs, from his splendid essay “The Virtues of Design,”[15] on his concern for the Public Domain to be established as the third virtue of design for the future.

‘The Netherlands possesses a great tradition in civic virtues that manifests itself in the care for the public domain. A foreigner visiting the Netherlands is struck by the attention given to detail in such simple everyday objects as an address label for post parcels or a time table for trains. Moreover he is struck by the apparent Selbstverstandlichkeit with which caring for the public domain is taken for granted and considered one of the noble tasks and outright obligations of public administration. This care for details and quality of public service is a result of a political commitment that might be traced back to the civic history of The Netherlands. Certainly it is not the result of a single short-term action, but rather the outcome of a steady practice rooted in the political body of Dutch society. Politics is the domain in which the members of a society decide in what kind of society they want to live. Politics therefore goes far beyond political parties. Care for the public domain, though a profoundly political commitment, is at the same time transpolitical insofar it exceeds – or better should exceed – the interests of the government in turn. As the third design virtue in the future I would like to see maintained the Concern for the Public Domain, and this all the more so when registering the almost delirious onslaught on everything public that seems to be a generalized credo of the dominant economic paradigm. One does well to recall that the socially devastating effects of unrestricted private interests have to be counterbalanced by public interests in any society that claims to be called democratic and that deserves that label. The tendency towards Third-Worldization even of richer economies, with a programmatic binary system of a small group of haves and a majority of excluded have-nots, is a phenomenon that casts shadows on the future and raises some doubts about the reason in the brains of the people that find utter wisdom and desirability in such a delacerating scheme of social organization.’

[1] Horkheimer, Max, Theodor W. Adorno, and Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, Dialectic of enlightenment: Philosophical fragments, Stanford University Press, 2002, p.95
[2] ibid, p.6
[3] ibid, p.22
[4] ibid, p.65
[5] Simon, Herbert A., The sciences of the artificial, Cambridge, MA, 1969
[6] Agamben, Giorgio, What Is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella, 2009
[7] Heidegger, Martin, “The age of the world picture”, The question concerning technology and other essays, 1977, p.115-54
[8] Berger, John, Ways of seeing, London, British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, 1972
[9] Agamben, Giorgio, What Is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella, 2009, p.21
[10] Badiou, Alain, and Slavoj Žižek, Philosophy in the Present. Polity, 2009. p,81
[11] See Baumann, Zygmunt, Liquid Fear, Cambridge, Polity, 2006
[12] Jullien, Francois, A treatise on efficacy: Between Western and Chinese thinking, University of Hawaii Press, 2004, p.17
[13] Badiou, Alain, Ethics: An essay on the understanding of evil, Verso, 2002, p.15
[14] Rose, Gillian, Mourning becomes the law: Philosophy and representation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996
[15] Bonsiepe, Gui, “Some virtues of design”, Vortrag auf dem Symposium „Design beyond Design…” zu Ehren von Jan van Toorn, Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, 1997b, Quelle: http://www. kisd. de/~ bonsiepe/(am 06.05. 2003), 1997


Clive Dilnot is professor of design studies at New School University and Parsons School of Design in New York. Design and the Question of History (2014), co-authored with Tony Fry and Susan Stewart is his latest book.