We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Perry de Havilland talks about Samizdata

Apologies for not flagging up sooner that I recently had a recorded conversation about Samizdata with Perry de Havilland. It took me over a week to edit the thing, by which I mean over a week to get around to stitching the two chunks it happened in together (I find everything involving computers to be hard until I know how to do it). And after posting about it on my blog, it has taken me another two days to mention it here. I had a busy weekend. But the mills of Samizdata grind small, and slowly. A week and a half’s delay will make no huge difference to the big picture, or to the meta-context as Perry likes to call it.

Anyway, click here to have a listen. It lasts about forty minutes.

Our conversation reminded me of something I first heard myself say to Madsen Pirie a long time ago, in the old Alternative Bookshop. What will this achieve? – said Madsen, waving some pamphlet I had just done in my face. I replied: “In the short run, nothing. In the long run, everything.” Samizdata is like that.

Jackie D liked it too.

Today, assuming the plan goes according to plan, I will be doing another of these things, with Alex Singleton, about… Gilbert and Sullivan. There is more to life than what governments do.

21 comments to Perry de Havilland talks about Samizdata

  • This coincided nicely with a day off. Interesting stuff, now we know that it was all sort of Dale Amon’s fault!

    I especially liked the bits about meta-context — which neatly explain why it’s always me against everyone during pub debates.

  • Stephen Daedalus

    My favourite meta-contextual assumption is that government ministers “spend” money on tax relief – as if they already own it all before they take it from you, and that not taking your money is just another clever allocative decision they’ve made.

  • Nick M

    Meta-context! I’ve hung around here for a while and the only reason I come back is I quite like some of you and I like the idea of less statist meddling in my affairs (and lower taxes) but I never really got the Samizdata “mission statement” and, in particular, I never really twigged what the fucking hell a “meta-context” actually is.

    Please forgive my ignorance because I know bugger all about political economy. I do know other things, mind. I know about Josiah Willard Gibbs’ Grand Canonical Ensemble. And while that might sound a hint baroque it’s got nowt on a “meta-context”.

  • Pa Annoyed

    I liked it. Both the discussion on the media, (and the new media,) and the parts about metacontext. I have a question though. Is it the aim to explore the range of alternative metacontexts in general regarding government, or to promote a particular alternative metacontext that happens to be outside the mainstream?

    I have a great love for the different way of looking at things, that challenges assumptions and draws counter-intuitive parallels. There are a lot of reasons I like this place, and your unconventional way of looking at society is one – but there are points where residents ocasionally have a predictable conventionality of their own, and that has led me into some arguments where I don’t quite agree with it. 🙂

    It won’t change the way I comment (I think debating such disagreement is good), but it would be a comfort to me to know I was fulfilling rather than challenging the purpose of the site. It has succeeded in the sense that I’ve found it educational, anyway.

  • RAB

    Hrrumph! I’m British you know
    You don’t really want me to comment on that
    Holmes, did you?
    Jolly good show and all that!
    Still havent the foggiest about Metacontext,
    apart from it being what I used to think of as mindset but with an extra layer or two.
    Still it will all come out in the Journals eh?

    Mid will be well chuffed with the mention.
    He is a genuinely very good guy.
    You Chose well there Perry!
    As you all can see, I am getting into the xmas spirit
    so I will bid you all happy christmas, and thanks Perry for doing this in the first place.
    I wont be gone for long however, heheh
    All I need is a bit of a lie down…

  • Pa Annoyed

    Mindset, paradigm, culture, unexamined beliefs; the stuff that nobody would even bother to prefix with “Of course, …” or “everybody knows that…” but just takes as so obvious that the question never arises.

    For example, many people (and not just you guys) will readily complain about the government having databases on everyone full of private and personal data, but nobody cares about banks having them. Because everybody knows that the government controls the nation and is full of faceless bureaucrats liable to abuse their power while banks just provide a service and run a business. On what basis do people distrust one and never even think about the information held by the other? Metacontext.

    Maybe you’ve thought about the issue and have reasons why you think the cases are different (or perhaps you distrust the banks too), in which case that isn’t metacontext but a foreground belief. But most people have never even thought about it, and would tend to dismiss the idea as silly if it was ever pointed out. The institutions you assume are benign are part of your mindset, in much the same way that statists assume that the government is benign.

  • Alice

    Nick M, you said it. What a charming illiteracy in economics ! The same goes for me.
    Same reasons to come back here + the Samizdatists’ sens of humor.

    Meta Christmas to you all.

  • Meta Christmas to you all.

    I’ll have to start putting that on my Christmas cards!

  • I eagerly await the Gilbert & Sullivan blog.

    – Josh

  • Alice

    Perry, I’d be very proud to see that !

  • RAB

    Happy Christmas Alice, if that is the Alice of In Texas. Uh, and also if it isn’t!!?
    Your lack of economic acumen may bode ill for my next question.
    Are you Duvet Queen of The Confederacy yet?
    If not , why not? I still think that was a going idea.
    As this is making no sense to the rest of you, perhaps I should go and have a further lie down….

  • Nick M

    Well, Perry quite obviously is the very model of a modern major-general! Bloody Hell RAB, I’m getting the Christmas spirit too. Well, happy Christmas one and all and cheers Perry and the rest of the Samizdatistas for putting on a very good blog which keeps the likes of me from burning domestic appliances in the backyard (Mid will know what I mean, but he’s in Arizona right now). And meta-context be damned.

    Right, I’d best go now before I get effusive.

  • Alice

    I’m not “Alice in Texas”, I live in Paris. But It’s a flattering confusion.

  • RAB

    Well, like I said
    A very happy Christmas to you.
    Last night, as Tim Buckley sang, in Happy Time,

    It was a happy time inside my mind….

    But bugger did it hurt this morning!

  • Johnathan Pearce

    All this Christmas spirit is making me giggly!

    I had a problem trying to upload the link but my laptop was running very slow.

  • I haven’t listened to the recording yet. I have a question.

    If I do, will I hear a precise definition of the term, “meta-context”?

    If not, I wonder if anyone has actually composed one, and where I might find it.

  • Addendum:

    I hit the link to Brian’s blog, and then the “meta-context” link that ran me right back to Samizdata search results, where I found this, in a February 2002 post by Perry:

    “A meta-context is not a philosophy or a political belief, but rather the way someone sees the world. It is a tradition of thought, a vibe, set of ‘givens’, the frame of reference in which questions are posed and answers found.”

    Since the first time I read it, I have never seen a better, more precise technical definition of “context” than the one written by Ayn Rand, and believe me: I’ve looked for it. Hers goes:

    “The sum of cognitive element conditioning the acquisition, validity or application of any item of human knowledge.”

    This is the essence of my question:

    How does Perry’s term differ importantly from that?

  • “Elements”. That’s a plural, dummy.


  • RAB

    Exactly Billy Beck!
    It’s all about the big and little bubbles we all exist in, and take for granted , or as a given.

    But it’s Christmas!
    Haul your Marshall stack over to my place
    and let’s jam!
    I still have some of the single malt left from last night.

  • Well, I’m a bourbon man, never in my life having tasted a scotch that I found remotely palatable. However, were we within reachable proximity, I might just pack up the 50w combo and we’d have a session. I’m always up for that. You could call it “promiscuous”, even. I’ll play anything with anybody.

  • RAB

    Ha! You think I didn’t know where you lived before
    I made the offer?
    Tight fisted Scrooganizdata that I am!
    Seriously though, if you were a drive away you would be more than welcome.