I have written a full draft of my little book, The Hit Man's Dilemma: on
business, personal and impersonal. It is available for reading and
possibly comment at


The essay is 25,000 words and will be published in the spring by Prickly
Paradigm through University of Chicago Press (www.prickly-paradigm.com)
and, after a year of being sold for $10, it will be posted on the
creative commons website. It is aimed at a general audience, rather less
sophisticated in most cases than members of this list when it comes to
the politics of the new media.

Table of contents

'Don't take this personal, it's just business'

The moral dilemma in politics, law and business

Impersonal society as a modern project

Private property: a short history

The digital revolution

Intellectual property

The crisis of the intellectuals revisited


Further reading

The Hit Man's Dilemma is an attempt to draw on the classical liberal
tradition to develop a critique of the neo-liberal world economy. The
figure of the gangster is used to show up the contradictions in
capitalism's moral economy. A minor theme is the shift of world
production from West to East and India's centrality to this movement.
Treading the thin line between profundity and banality, the concluding
remarks run as follows:

"The formal conclusions of this essay are consistent with the late
Durkheim of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Every human
being is a unique person who lives in society. We are therefore all
individual and social at the same time and the two are inseparable in
our experience. Society is both inside and outside us; and a lot rides
on our ability to tell the difference. Society is personal when it is
lived by each of us in particular; it is impersonal when it takes the
form of collective ideas. Life and ideas are likewise inseparable in
practice, but they need sometimes to be distinguished.

"It is therefore just as damaging to insist on a radical separation of
individuals and society or of life and ideas as it is to collapse the
difference between them. We have seen that modern capitalism rests on a
division between personal and impersonal spheres of social life. The
institution of private property initially drove a conceptual wedge
between our individuality and an active sense of belonging to society.
Indeed the latter was made invisible or at least unreachable for most of
us. But then private property assumed the form of public ownership by
large business corporations and even governments. It then became
convenient to collapse the difference between personal and impersonal
spheres, leaving the law and political culture in general unable to
distinguish between the rights of individual citizens and those of
abstract social entities wielding far more power than any human being
could. The consequences for democracy are disastrous.

"The latest stage of the machine revolution, the convergence of
telephones, television and computers in a digital network of
communications, has speeded up human connection at the world level.
Society now takes a number of forms =96 global, regional, national and
local. We need new impersonal norms to guide our social interactions in
such a world, but not at the expense of full recognition of our
individual personalities. The stage is set for a new humanism capable of
uniting these poles of our existence. We, the people, will make society
on our own terms, but only if we master the means of its expression,
machines and money. In the course of doing so, we will encounter immense
social forces bent on denying the drive for a genuine democracy. My
essay has aimed to clarify who the sides and what the stakes are in this
struggle for world society. "

Keith Hart

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