Redundancy Cushioning

Most Westerners hold mass society as the self evident highest virtue.

Yet mass society is a force of nature independent of human needs and desires.

Mass society can be considered independent from these human desires in part because of what I call ‘redundancy cushioning‘.

That is:
Any mass society is protected from deliberate human implemented change because against millions, a single person or handful of people can make no significant impact.  In other words, the system is massively backed up; social protocols are proliferated across gigantic populations.  A reigning social system persists not because of any inherent virtue but because it is impossible for any one person or group to cause meaningful change. Like collective checkmate, it is a phenomenon that arises from community in aggregate; a situation in which each individual ironically holds every other individual prisoner.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Redundancy Cushioning appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

related:  Collective Checkmate

on 05/16/11 in featured, Society | 3 Comments | Read More

Comments (3)


  1. Mark Stairwalt says:

    It bears noting, I think, that this entry’s author is and has been actively involved in implementing change, if not in society per se, then by building safe harbors online, most recently the nascent forum at Kingdom of Introversion. Redundancy cushioning seems accurate and insightful as a snapshot description of one mechanism by which inertia is maintained, but like other networks society can be hacked, sometimes from strongholds established from within, and mostly, I think, by successive generations of “new people” bringing fresh eyes to old situations.

    There are of course the words (probably not) first spoken by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” As I’ve written here recently though, I’m not all that big on heroic triumphs of the will, which is one reason I like this that was passed on to me some time ago by a correspondent:

    “… from reading the science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. In case you haven’t read it, I won’t give you any spoilers; but one of the alien characters, a politician called Estraven, recognizes a pivotal moment for his world and says that he has a natural gift ‘to know when the great wheel gives to a touch; to know and act.'”

    Society too then has its zero-day vulnerabilities; a snapshot on any given day shows it invulnerable to even the most dedicated efforts, and then one day, opportunity presents itself and the trick, maybe, is just to be awake to and prepared for those moments.

  2. Zygmunt says:

    I suppose I do come across as something of a doomsayer in this particular post.

    I would clarify by saying this:

    A few curious people will outdo millions who are just going through the motions.

    If we are foolish, though and insist on direct confrontation, we are very like insects trying to stop a speeding car.
    We must recognize that brute efforts to shift the inertia of the mass society will fail
    We must understand why things work as they do so we may know exactly where and when to exert leverage.

    Mainly, I wish to to show the habitual misfit that there is nothing sacrosanct about the predominant ideas.
    That there is not even a person or committee who makes all these conventions. It all just emerges from a state of nature.

    Thus, there is no reason why the values of an individual ought to be inherently subordinate to those of the mass society.
    Those who disparage us speak from no source of legitimacy. All they have is force.

  3. Mark Stairwalt says:

    What Zygmunt said.

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