June 29, 2005

Bottomed Up

"Bottom up", if there is one intellectual theme to this moment in time, buttom up it is. The Wired magazine hyper-capitalists chew it up, as do the neomarxist empire theorists. In science it takes the form of complexity theory and its more pop predecessor chaos theory. In politics its Howard Dean, MoveOn and Michael Moore, but more importantly John Kerry and the Democratic powerbase got hip to the kool aid quick and stole as many of the techniques as they could. In the media its weblogs and "long tails". On Wall Street and in neoclassical economics its about markets and believing in them. A lot of motherfuckers talking about "bottom up" thinking, as opposed to top down of course.

This post is likely the first in a series, I kept on reading books that begged to be tied together in a "buttom up" post, but it soon became clear there where far to many books, the post would need to become posts. Is that a top down decision, me deciding to break up the posts into sections, or is a bottom up decision, the multiplication of books forced me to change tactics? Or maybe, just maybe its sort of dumb to try and look at everything that way...

I'm not sure where the concept and phrase first emerged, but I'm guessing politics or management theory. In these contexts, in places where formal organizational hierarchies are the norm, it actually makes sense. A top down decision comes from the top of the hierarchy, and bottom up emerges from the "workers", from the depths of collective action.

The party line is that bottom up is good, top down is bad. Freedom versus control, collective intelligence versus ego driven power moves, markets versus central planning, linux versus microsoft. The reality is that it makes no sense. Bottom up is a catch phrase for a half formed idea. You can find the idea fully formed in a multitude of manifestations, and they ain't all good, and they sure as hell are not all the same either.

The plan then, the maneuver, is to bob, weave and parse through the bottom up landscape and emerge with some genuinely useful concepts, stay tuned and we'll see how it goes...

Posted by William Blaze at June 29, 2005 12:27 AM | TrackBack

FWIW, in all of the case studies in my college political campaign class, campaigns with top down organizing won against bottom up organizing. Could just the cases.

Posted by: Klintron on June 30, 2005 04:43 PM

the first I heard of the term was in cognitive psyche. not sure if that is where it originated though.

Posted by: peter Markatos on July 3, 2005 10:31 PM
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