System effects and commodification

click on images for full-size:

A weekly market: economic norms in a wider context

A dying mall's directory: economic norms with no further concerns

There is a connection from the distinction between system and place to the commodification critique: we worry that our normative frameworks have become too dominated by the systemic pressures to measure everything in terms of the efficiency and velocity of exchange. "Economic viability is not a new need; not much ever happened without it; but somehow it has become the purpose, rather than the means, of civilization." (McCullough 1997, 71)

Efficiency and velocity are systemic parameters, not social norms. Their translation into values and norms does not happen automatically; it comes about through social processes. "We" should resist letting those systemic parameters become the dominant values.

The problem is to assemble a "we" that can make such decisions. One way to counter oppression, either from underlying systemic pressures or from groups that have managed to control some systemic resources and processes, is to further democratize social and political arrangements, since democracy tends to increase the number of factors that need to be considered, and so complicates judgments of efficiency. Democracy also encourages repressed populations, repressed values, and ignored parts of ourselves to find their voices. The more voices, both socially and within ourselves, the less will any simple optimizing function be able to dominate social priorities.