vendredi 17 avril 2015

Practice & Context.

Prof. Bourbaki, Inventing frames & diffusing overflows, 2015.
A logic of learning

One type of learning is 'learning by doing' in the sense familiar to economists as a downward shift of an average cost curve as a function of cumulative uninterrupted production (Yelle, 1979). There is also learning in the sense of (radical) innovation; Schumpeterian 'creative destruction' and 'novel combinations'. The challenge is to explain the latter type of innovation and learning. That is subject to uncertainty rather than risk. And the point of uncertainty is that it yields the problem of induction or, more precisely, the problem of 'abduction', as Peirce (1957) called it. Quite apart from justifying a novelty once it is achieved, in the 'context of justification', how do you go about the development of novelty, in the 'context of discovery'? How do you go from ('abduce from') and existing working modus operandi to a new one that in the future will turn out to be better but which now is not known? Of all the new things you could think of doing, how do you choose the correct one, or even one that is viable, and how do you know whether you know all the options (Holland et al., 1989)? The problem of uncertainty is precisely that you do not. This connects with and important issue in Austrian economics: how is it that an entrepreneur can be right s/he venture into new areas? In Herbert Simon's terms: if uncertainty precludes the 'substantive' rationality of choosing the best from available options, we need a 'procedural' rationality or heuristic, in the form of some modus operandi that is likely to succeed.

Of course, one possibility for a process of adjustment is random trial and error. This would make economic evolution as blind as biological evolution. And, indeed, the lack of rational evaluation by especially small firms injects an element of randomness that contributes to variety. But although rationality is bounded and entrepreneurship entails an element of gambling, people do think, make inferences and limit risk, and they are not always wrong. So how, as a firm, could one go about 'abduction', and maximize chances of survival? Usually, the answer in theories of abduction is to proceed via 'adjacent possibilities': to project an existing practice into a context that is sufficiently similar to have a chance of success, and allows for some prediction of likely results, while it is sufficiently different to yield novel experience and indications for further change with a chance of success. That principle is extended below into a few basic principles of a 'logic of development': principles that maximize the chance of survival in an economic selection environment. 

The first requirement for survival is ongoing production during adaptation: without it we starve even on the road to success. The second requirement is adaptation to novel opportunities and threats. How to do both? How to reconcile continuity and change? How to combine exploitation with exploration? How to go from utilization of existing resources to the development of new ones? The core principle here is that one should not surrender an existing way of doing things before both the motive and the opportunity for a replacement are evident. Before the need arises such a move would be wasteful, and before the opportunity arises it would be impossible. Thus a certain amount of conservatism is rational, but it can easily become excessive and block innovation. There is a trade-off between the need to adapt and the costs involved in terms of uncertainty of whether novelty will be successful, and uncertainty about the organizational repercussions (March, 1991). To make the step to novel practice, one must be prepared to 'unlearn' (Hedberg, 1981): no longer taking established procedures for granted. Thus a necessary (but not always sufficient) condition for innovation generally is that there is perceived need, mostly from external pressure, a threat to continued existence or a shortfall of performance below aspiration levels, as has been the dominant in the literature on organizational learning (see the survey by Cohen and Sproull, 1996).

The following heuristic principles of development and learning are now derived. The first principle of abduction is that one needs generalisation of a successful practice to novel but 'adjacent' contexts, where it is likely to succeed (so that it satisfies the requirements of ongoing production), while it is also likely to run into its limitations, so that we may discover the boundaries of its validity (so that it contributes to the requirement of exploration). Next, as the practice runs into its limitations, it should be adapted to the local context to solve them. This is the principle of differentiation. Again, attempts to adapt contribute to ongoing production as a condition for survival as well as adaptation. Typically, such adaptations are inspired by comparisons with similar, 'adjacent' practices, which in the given context are in some respects more successful, and elements from these more successful practices are imported into the local context at hand. This exchange of elements from different parallel practices, in a given context, is the principle of reciprocation. In language, reciprocation is the operation of metaphor or analogy. As the practice becomes more and more differentiated across contexts, efficiency losses appear owing to lack of standardization, economies of scale foregone, complexity of ad hoc add-ons. Novel elements inserted from outside often do not fit well in the structure of current practice, and for the full utilization of their potential require a more fundamental restructuring of practices in a novel practice. This is the principle of novel combinations or accommodation. This is where the previous preparatory steps lead to novelty. But then, at first, the novelty is indeterminate. Knowledge is partly or wholly tacit: to the extent that novelty works, it cannot yet be fully explained. Much experimentation is needed to find its best form(s), for the novelty to 'come into its own', and to become standardized in a 'dominant design' (Abernathy and Utterback, 1978). This is the principle of consolidation. After that has been achieved, one can move into the next cycle of development, starting with generalization. What feeds exploration while maintaining exploitation is an alternation of variety of practice and variety of context. The resulting cycle of learning is illustrated in Figure 1. The claim is that this procedure is the best answer to the problem of how to maintain continuity (exploitation) while preparing for change (exploration).

The hypothesis now is that these principles of abduction, being conducive to survival, constitute a fundamental 'logic' or heuristic of development which is applicable, with appropriate elaborations and enrichments, at all levels of learning/development/adaptation, and at the level of individual people, organizations, industries and national economies. Thus it should, among other things, serve to specify the relation between equilibrating (Walrasian, Austrian) entrepreneurship and dis-equilibrating Schumpeterian entrepreneurship. Furthermore, this 'logic' should also help to indicate how in processes of development the different levels of people, firms, industries and national or regional economic systems tie into each other. Of course, the hypothesis has to be argued more in detail and then tested extensively. The hypothesis has been inspired by the work of the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (1970, 1974; Flavell, 1967) on individual cognition. 

Note that, while in a procedural sense the heuristic is optimal, it need not yield a unique or optimal outcome. It allows for path-dependence and suboptimal outcomes, and the path taken depends on context and coincidence. Different economies can develop different structures. 'Logic' is put between quotation marks because it is a heuristic rather than a logic in the sense of indicating a sequence of stages that is logically or epistemologically necessary. It is a heuristic in the sense that it is generally the best answer to the problem of abduction; the best way of exploring while maintaining exploitation. However, stages will overlap: there is generalization during consolidation, differentiation during generalization, exploration of novel combinations during reciprocation. Stages may occasionally even be skipped, and innovation can occur less systematically, more randomly and spontaneously (Cook and Yanow, 1993), when an obvious opportunity presents itself without much exploration. But as a general rule one needs to accumulate failures to build up the need for change, as well as hints at what directions to look in: indications of what changes could be made with some chance of success.

Bart Nooteboom, Innovation, Learning and Industrial Organization, Camb. J. Econ. 23, 1999, pp.131-133.

vendredi 10 avril 2015

Exploration & Exploitation.

Procrastimotion, Ringworld, 2012.

A central concern of studies of adaptive processes is the relation between the exploration of new possibilities and the exploitation of old certainties (Schumpeter, 1934; Holland, 1975; Kuran, 1988). Exploration includes things captured by terms such as search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, innovation. Exploitation includes such things as refinement, choice, production, efficiency, selection, implementation, execution. Adaptive systems that engage in exploration to the exclusion of exploitation are likely to find that they suffer the costs of experimentation without gaining many of its benefits. They exhibit too many underdeveloped new ideas and too little distinctive competence. Conversely, systems that engage in exploitation to the exclusion of exploration are likely to find themselves trapped in suboptimal equilibria. As a result, maintaining an appropriate balance between exploration and exploitation is a primary factor in system survival and prosperity.

James G. March, Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning, Organ. Sci. 2, 1991, p.71.

vendredi 3 avril 2015

Fog of War.

Non attributed, UH-1, s.d.
#1: Empathize with your enemy
#2: Rationality will not save us
#3: There's something beyond one's self
#4: Maximize efficiency
#5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war
#6: Get the data
#7: Belief and seeing are both often wrong
#8: Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
#9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
#10: Never say never
#11: You can't change human nature

Robert S. McNamara, Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, 2003.

vendredi 29 août 2014

Instant Fragile.

Bruno Fortier, La Bibliothèque Royale, 1989 (via NDLR).

Quand je me suis levé, il était à peine six heures du matin. Il y avait des nuages, mais le soleil commençait à percer. Je savais déjà que nous aurions une de ces belles journées de septembre qui donnent envie d'abandonner son travail et de prolonger les vacances jusqu'à la fin du mois. Tu dormais encore, j'ai pris le vélo pour aller acheter du pain au village. La mer était calme, les bateaux étaient immobiles, accrochés à leur bouée comme des chiens sages. La boulangère m'a dit que nous étions parmi les derniers estivants. Le dimanche, son ne mari ne faisait plus qu'une trentaine de gâteaux.

- Autrement, ils nous restent sur les bras.

Je n'avais pas emporté mon maillot. Je m'en suis passé pour piquer une tête entre les rochers. On aurait pu nettoyer un de ces blockhaus que les vagues inondent les jours de tempête. On y aurait dormi certaines nuits pour oublier le bruit des voitures, comme dans ces cabanes que construisent les enfants et où ils se prennent pour des naufragés. Certaines nuits, celles où nous faisons l'amour. L'amour sauvage, l'amour comme une guerre, dont nous finissons par sortir vainqueurs tous les deux.

- Le naturisme est interdit sur l'île.

Une vieille femme qui me regarde fixement pendant que je me rhabille. Elle me crie des insultes en breton, avant de s'en aller sur ses jambes courtes dont l'une boite et lui donne de loin l'allure d'une grosse danseuse qui expérimenterait un nouveau pas.

- Réveille-toi, je viens de faire le café.

Tu continues à dormir, et quand je te secoue tu restes en position fœtale. J'ai peur que tu sois morte, on peut mourir dans son sommeil quand un vaisseau se fâche dans le cerveau. Mais, tu t'étires, tu bâilles, et en me regardant tu souris. Il me semble qu'on en se disputera pas aujourd'hui, qu'on se laissera glisser en pente douce jusqu'au soir. Depuis quinze ans, nous avons connu l'insouciance et la paix.

- Rarement, c'est vrai.

Nous ne sommes pas de ces goinfres que le bonheur finit par écœurer à force de s'en empiffrer. Nous l'apprécions comme un grand champagne qu'on ne boit pas plus d'une ou deux fois par an. Tu prends ton café en silence. J'éteins la radio. Je me tais.

- Il y a des instants si fragiles, que le moindre mot les déchire. 

Régis Jauffret, Microfictions, Éditions Gallimard, coll. Folio, 2007 (2008), p.357-358.

Merci à M.J.

vendredi 22 août 2014

Entrepreneur Pantouflard.

Bruno Latour, The whole is always smaller than the parts, 2011.

"Si tu veux imposer un changement, conseillait Milton Friedman à ses Chicago Boys, déclenche une crise." Le capital, loin de redouter les crises, s'essaie désormais à les produire expérimentalement. Comme on déclenche des avalanches pour se réserver le choix de l'heure et la maîtrise de leur ampleur. Comme on brûle des plaines pour s'assurer que l'incendie qui les menace viendra mourir là, faute de combustible. "Où et quand" est une question d'opportunité ou de nécessité tactique. Il est de notoriété publique qu'à peine nommé, en 2010, le directeur de l'Elsat, l'institut grec de statistiques, n'a eu de cesse de falsifier pour les aggraver les comptes de la dette du pays, afin de justifier l'intervention de la Troïka. C'est donc un fait que la "crises des dettes souveraines" a été lancée par un homme qui était alors encore un agent officiellement rémunéré du FMI, institution censée "aider" le pays à en sortir. Il s'agissait d'expérimenter grandeur nature, dans un pays européen, le projet néolibéral de refonte complète d'une société, les effets d'une bonne politique d'"ajustement structurel".

Avec sa connotation médicale, la crise a été durant toute la modernité cette chose naturelle qui survenait de manière inopinée ou cyclique en posant l'échéance d'une décision, d'une décision qui mettrait un terme à l'insécurité générale de la situation critique. La fin en était heureuse ou malheureuse, selon la justesse de la médication appliquée. Le moment critique était aussi le moment de la critique - le bref intervalle où était ouvert le débat au sujet des symptômes et de la médication. Il n'en est plus rien à présent. Le remède n'est plus là pour mettre fin à la crise. La crise est au contraire ouverte en vue d'introduire le remède. On parle dorénavant de "crise" à propos de ce que l'on entend restructurer, tout comme on désigne comme "terroristes" ceux que l'on s'apprête à frapper. La "crise des banlieues", en France, en 2005 aura ainsi annoncé la plus grande offensive urbanistique des trente dernières années contre lesdites "banlieues" orchestrée directement par le ministère de l'Intérieur.

Le discours de la crise est chez les néolibéraux un double discours - ils préfèrent parler, entre eux, de "double vérité". D'un côté, la crise est le moment vivifiant de la "destruction créatrice", créatrice d'opportunités, d'innovation, d'entrepreneurs dont seuls les meilleurs, les plus motivés, les plus compétitifs survivront. "C'est peut-être au fond le message du capitalisme: la "destruction créatrice", le rejet de technologies désuètes et des vieux modes de production au profit de nouveaux sont la seule façon d'élever le niveaux de vie (...) Le capitalisme crée un conflit en chacun d'entre nous. Nous sommes tour à tour l'entrepreneur agressif et le pantouflard qui, au plus profond de lui-même, préfère une économie moins compétitive et stressante, où tout le monde gagnerait la même chose", écrit Alan Greenspan, le directeur de la Réserve fédérale américaine de 1987 à 2006. De l'autre côté, le discours de la crise intervient comme méthode politique de gestion des populations. La restructuration permanente de tout, des organigrammes comme des aides sociales, des entreprises comme des quartiers, est la seule façon d'organiser, par un bouleversement constant des conditions d'existence, l'inexistence du parti adverse. La rhétorique du changement sert à démanteler toute habitude, à briser tous les liens, à désarçonner toute certitude, à dissuader toute solidarité, à entretenir une insécurité existentielle chronique. Elle correspond à une stratégie qui se formule en ces termes: "Prévenir par la crise permanente toute crise effective". Cela s'apparente, à l'échelle du quotidien, à la pratique contre-insurrectionnelle bien connue du "déstabiliser pour stabiliser", qui consiste pour les autorités à susciter volontairement le chaos afin de rendre l'ordre plus désirable que la révolution. Du micro management à la gestion de pays entiers, maintenir la population dans une sorte d'état de choc permanent entretient la sidération, la déréliction à partir de quoi on fait de chacun et de tous à peu près ce que l'on veut. La dépression de masse qui frappe présentement les Grecs est le produit voulu de la politique de la Troïka, et non son effet collatéral.

C'est de n'avoir pas compris que la "crise" n'était pas un fait économique, mais une technique politique de gouvernement que certains se sont ridiculisés en proclamant à la hâte, avec l'explosion de l'arnaque des subprimes, la "mort du néolibéralisme". Nous ne vivons pas une crise du capitalisme, mais au contraire le triomphe du capitalisme de crise. "La crise" signifie: le gouvernement croît. Elle est devenue l'ultima ratio de ce qui règne. La modernité mesurait tout à l'aune de l'arriération passée à laquelle elle prétendait nous arracher; toute chose se mesure dorénavant à l'aune de son proche effondrement. Lorsque l'on divise par deux le traitement des fonctionnaires grecs, c'est en arguant de ce que l'on pourrait aussi bien ne plus les payer du tout. Chaque fois que l'on allonge le temps de cotisation des salariés français, c'est au prétexte de "sauver le système des retraites". La crise présente, permanente et omnilatérale, n'est plus la crise classique, le moment décisif. Elle est au contraire fin sans fin, apocalypse durable, suspension indéfinie, différemment efficace de l'effondrement effectif, et pour cela état d'exception permanent. La crise actuelle ne promet plus rien; elle tend à libérer, au contraire, qui gouverne de toute contrainte quant aux moyens déployés.

Comité invisible, A nos Amis, La fabrique éditions, Paris, 2014, p.22-25.

vendredi 15 août 2014

Humane Scheme.

Jay Springett, Who owns the means of not dying?, 2013.

But instead of being confined to a resentment that destroys life in the act of hurling defiance, we can now act directly on the nature of the machine itself, and create another race of these creatures, more effectively adapted to the environment and to the uses of life. At this point, one must go beyond Sombart's so far excellent analysis. Sombart pointed out, in a long list of contrasting productions and inventions, that the clue to modern technology was the displacement of the organic and the living by the artificial and the mechanical. Within technology itself this process, in many departments, is being reversed: we are returning to the organic: at all events, we no longer regard the mechanical as all-embracing and all-sufficient.

Once the organic image takes the place of the mechanical one, one may confidently predict a slowing down of the tempo of research, the tempo of mechanical invention, and the tempo of social change, since a coherent and integrated advance must take place more slowly than a one-sided unrelated advance. Whereas the earlier mechanical world could be represented by the game of checkers, in which a similar series of moves is carried out by identical pieces, qualitatively similar, the new world must be represented by chess, a game in which each order of pieces has a different status, a different value, and a different function: a slower and more exacting game. By the same token, however, the results in technology and in society will be of a more solid nature than those upon which paleotechnic science congratulated itself: for the truth is that every aspect of the earlier order, from the slums in which it housed its workers and to the towers of abstraction in which it housed its intellectuals, was jerrybuilt - hastily clapped together for the sake of immediate profits, immediate practical success, with no regard to wider consequences and implications. The emphasis in the future must be, not upon speed and immediate practical conquest, but upon exhaustiveness, inter-relationship, and integration. The co-ordination of our technical efforts - such co-ordination and adjustment as is pictured for us in the physiology of the living organism - is more important than extravagant advances along special lines, and equally extravagant retardations along other lines, with a disastrous lack of balance and harmony between the various parts.

The fact is then that, partly thanks to the machine, we have now an insight into a larger world and a more comprehensive intellectual synthesis than that which was originally outlined in our mechanical ideology. We can now see plainly that power, work, regularity, are adequate principles of action only when they cooperate with a humane scheme of living: that any mechanical order we can project must fit into the larger order of life itself. Beyond the necessary intellectual reconstruction, which is already going on in both science and technics, we must build up more organic centers of faith and action in the arts of society and in the discipline of the personality: this implies a re-orientation that will take us far beyond the immediate province of technics itself.

Lewis Mumford, Towards an Organic Ideology in Rethinking Technology, A Reader in Architectural Theory, Routledge, 1934 (2013), p.57.

vendredi 8 août 2014

Courtier & General.

Joseph Koudelka, Le regard d'Ulysse, 1994.

What had changed most definitively for Debord was not the possibility, or the need, for revolution but the fact that the idea of a collective enterprise had collapsed. Other forms of organizing and promulgating subversive activity had therefore to be found. It seemed, in the first instance, that the best way to channel this impulse was through Champ Libre itself, to which Lebovici seemingly offered a free hand to Debord as 'literary director'.

Although he assumed this role, Debord also preferred to keep himself at some distance both from the day-to-day running of the group and the authors themselves. Debord had long since believed in the importance of invisibility and invisible agitation as a key Situationist technique and principle (the terrifying events in Italy, in the wake of the Piazza Fontana bombing, had convincingly borne this theory out) and he saw his position as a way of furthering what Alexander Trocchi, now long disappeared from view, has called 'the invisible insurrection'.

Amongst the books which Debord was reading in Florence and in Paris were Baltasar Gracian and Baldassare Castiglione as well as, inevitably, Machiavelli. The importance of these books was that they offered social, philosophical and political theories which not only sought to provide a model of cultivated behaviour but also, no less importantly, an ideal of action and interaction which formed the basis of the model Renaissance society. Debord found here parallels with his own previous experimental notion of the Situationist International as a micro-society; in these texts he discovered a way of preserving the notion of micro-society which was defined less by its collective decision-making process but rather by forms of individual behaviour. Friendship, honour, and the practical uses of the classical ideals of reason and self-knowledge were now becoming central to Debord's thought, behaviour and ultimately his writings.

In Castiglione, Debord found justification for his emphasis on activity and writing which engaged directly with its time, but also looked beyond, to future readers who had not been born yet but who might find in his texts a constitution of philosophical ideas closely linked to the comple demands of real life. Castiglione's most important work was his book Il libro del Cortigiano ('The Book of the Courtier') written in 1528. This was translated into French in 1850 by Gabriel Chappuis and republished by Champ Libre in 1987 (it was also translated into English by Sir Thomad Holby, and apparently read by Shakespeare, as The Courtier). This book was not only a treatise on how to be a perfect courtier ('known for all men as someone who is excellent,' writes Castiglione) but also a historically accurate and detailed account of life at the court of Urbino, the representation of a perfect city-state. The perfect courtier, according to Castiglione, is one who is able to bring together military and literary skills and use them with equal facility. Most importantly for Debord, Castiglione is concerned with the individual and his action, rather than with society as a collective whole. In this sense Debord's reading of Castiglione marks a decisive shift in his thinking away from social analysis and towards an individualistic theory of behaviour. It was also important for Debord that Castiglione argues against the false idealism of the Christian doctrine, stating that all moral judgements are both subjective and reversible ('Truth it is, many things seeme at the first sight good, which are ill: and many ill, that notwithstanding are good'). Most crucially, the book celebrates a perfect age based on a political philosophy which gives equal importance to the full measured enjoyment of the material aspects of life as well as theory or speculative thought.

Baltasar Gracian, writing a hundred years or so after Castiglione, offers a vision of the world which is slightly darker that that of his predecessor, probably the result of his education at the hands of Castilian Jesuit priests and his early career as a writer of chronicles in Zaragoza and Madrid. For this reason he is often quoted as an influence on Schopenhauer. For Debord, Gracian's most important work was El oraculo manual y arte de prudencia, which was translated into French by Amelot de Houssaie in 1684 (and reissued by Champ Libre in 1972) as L'Homme de Cour, or The Courtier. In this book Gracian presents 300 maxims which aim to instruct in the proper ways of conduct those who live alongside princes and men of power. Gracian emphasises above all the specifically Spanish qualities of desengano and agudeza. The first of these is to be translated as 'disillusion', but to be understood as a refusal to be fooled by the world and its appearance. The second, agudeza, is a term most often used in relation to the conceptista poetry of Gongora and Gracian himself. The term conceptista is generally understoof in Spanish as meaning 'witty, allusive or involved' and conceptista poetry is distinguished by an extreme for of concision, lack of similes and an essentially medieval approach in which the poet established an occult relationship with the universe.

What mattered most for Debord in the writings of Castiglione and Gracian was that they defined rules of moral and political action in a society which had not yet lost the sense of itself as a unified entity and in which the individual could therefore still influence great events. So, although the turn to an individualistic philosophy seemed a retreat, and to this extent was symptomatic of the introspective mood of the post-68 Left in the 1970s, it was also however, at least on Debord's own terms, a way of seeking to clarify present and future strategy in 'the society of the spectacly' in which the individual had been reduced to a mere spectator.


The architecture of the Auvergne reflects both the uncompromising landscape, of extinct volcanoes, inacessible ravines and grassy upland hills, and its political instability. It was not until the eighteenth century that the Auvergne lost its reputation as a land of brigands, insurrectionists, and anti-monarchist agitation. Many houses were constructed as a defense against roaming bands and private armies as well as the elements. The weather changed constantly and almost instantaneously from calm to wild and savage storms. The house of Champot seemed at times under siege from the elements, a factor which made the house feel like a fortress. This provided the perfect metaphor for the way in which Debord, the retired revolutionary general, was now beginning to conceive of himself and his relation to the outside world.


During the long winter days and nights in Le Minour, when there were no guests or they were exhausted from conversation and entertaining, Guy and Alice spent many hours drinking and playing war games. Games of strategy had always fascinated Debord; it was an interest which long preceded his discovery of Johan Huizinga and could indeed be traced back to childhood when, to escape Manou, his mother or his siblings, he would retreat to the back of the house in Cannes and obsessively plan campaigns with his lead soldiers. In 1975, in a second-hand shop in Paris, Debord had come across and old ware game which he had renovated. A brass plate, made by René Viénet, was attached to the side of the game. It read: 'Kriegspiel Clausewitz Debord'.

The rules of the 'game of war' were entirely based on the theories of Clausewitz and on the basis of eighteenth-century warfare, that is to say wars which were fought across territories not yet fully defined by nationhood or empire. Each territory in the game was divided into arsenals, fortresses, a mountain pass and nine mountains, which were untraversable, blocking fire and communications. The aim was the complete destruction of the military potential of the adversary, to be achieved by destroying all combat units or taking all the enemy's arsenals.

In this the game was also faithful to Huizinga's notion, for so long a central part of Situationist strategy, that the essence of war is also the essence of art. As in art, it is the lightning strike of the bold gesture, unpredicted and unpredictable, which is most likely to destroy an enemy's positions and clear the field for new manoeuvres. The war game was also most poignant, as Debord was assuming a new status as a thinker rather than a revolutionary participant in his age, a poetic suspension of the passage of time as in the poetry of Mallarmé or the paintings of Malevitch. 'In the unfolding of this Kriegspiel,' Debord wrote, 'all time is equal: the solstice of war where the climate never varies and night never falls before the invitable conclusion of the conflict'.

Andrew Hussey, The Game of War, Jonathan Cape, 2001 (various excerpts).