Seeing Like a State

How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed
James C. Scott

L 197:

L 450: The story of forrest management is quite interesting. I wonder that the century that it took to reveal the problems with monoculture did not sap the memories of the diverse forests.

L 660: The recounting of the politics of measures is amusing but I think not relevant to the book’s aim. Commerce needs standard units even when one bolt of cotton is not equivalent to another. Scott soon makes this point.

L 100: beginning to skim

L 1600: The author now begins to consider the psychology of the planners. These planners brook no opposition; for they have no doubt about their plans. Many among them are as certain about their plans are Euclid was about his theorems.

L 1773:1824: Scott portrays the civil engineering achievements of the 20th century as if they were all by the state. Those achievements were indeed grand and delivered vast improvements to our standard of living. The state was only indirectly involved, however, and there were not so many sacrifices. By L 1843 Scott nearly admits as much.

L 3050: Quoting Lenin’s “State and Revolution”

Lenin seems to think that running a factory is simple. He goes on to conclude that no status is due to whoever runs a factory. They say that Marx never visited a factory. I now suspect the same for Lenin.

L 1959-3403: This long chapter shows Lenin (often quoted) and Trotsky (not quoted) to be top down planners who are sure that experience to come from below will never be relevant. Rosa Luxemburg & Aleksandra Kollontay each demurred foreseeing things yet to be learned from experience. These latter two foreshadowed Jane Jacobs insights about society being organic. Lenin was as sure about what should and what would come as computing a Keplerian orbit. Of course they were right but Lenin left a real dictatorship in place for 25 years.

Scott is often redundant. The book could be much shorter.