Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Illustrating a class theory

One of the occupational hazards of creating a class theory is that it brings the self-appointed experts on Marx out of the woodwork who are happy to explain how wrong you are for not agreeing with the "master" of class analysis.  Since I was never trying to be Marx and have long thought his class analysis hopelessly primitive, these folks usually don't bother me much and we can usually have a polite exchange of ideas.  On the other hand, since a Producer-Predator class analysis pretty much puts Marx in the role of just another Predator philosopher, doctrinaire Marxists usually wind up angry with me.

I've been tinkering with this class theory since the late 1980s when I decided to incorporate class analysis into an early manuscript of what would become Elegant Technology.  This early version was illustrated with a primitive draw program that came with the early Macintoshes called MacPaint.  This was barely an improvement over the sort of sketch one would scrawl on the back of a cocktail napkin, but it was sufficiently clear so that the first publisher of my book included it.  He thought it significant that I had divided the social order vertically along occupational lines rather than horizontally along income lines.  (The original book only contained the first five illustrations--3.1-3.5 in the page linked above.)

As illustration software improved and I got to learn some of it, so did my desire to refine my class theory.  By 1996, I had learned Adobe Illustrator and had been shown how you could fool it into creating a 3d-looking illustration.  I had been asked to present a paper at a Veblen conference on his business-industry dichotomy so decided the update both my thinking on class and the illustrations.

By the early 21st century, I had discovered real 3d illustration programs and in 2006, I cobbled together a movie to demonstrate my class theory.  It's on YouTube and it gets a few hits a week.  Occasionally, there is a major spike in viewership when someone assigns it to their students but mostly it remains deservedly obscure.
Recently, I got my hands on a SERIOUS and very intimidating 3d program which combined with my new infatuation with high-def video has caused me to revisit my class theory.  The other day as I was struggling with the problems of positioning textures and animating cameras, I said to myself, "Well, there is one thing for sure--Marx never had to learn how to use keyframes or tracking spotlights to illustrate HIS class theory."

So here is my latest attempt to describe how the social order should look in a modern well-ordered society.  It is obviously a work in progress.  Because the software is so sophisticated, I am tempted to do all sorts of wonderful things to make the Producer-Predator description even clearer.  In the meantime, this looks like something one might see in the lobby of a think tank devoted to promoting the ideas of Elegant Technology--make the Producer cone 20' high with an interactive set of lights that would locate various occupations within it.

1 comment:

  1. That's a nice diagram, but I prefer Alan Watts' idea of many spectral lines going through a common neutral point. For instance, left to right politics, male to female sexuality, producer to predator occupational range. That would produce a nice combination with your 3D program and some new visualization of Veblen.