Yuval Harari on sortition?

“If you want power, at some point you will have to spread fictions. If you want to know the truth about the world, at some point you will have to renounce power.” Yuval Harari in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

Citizens’ assemblies are much more about truth, and not power. Harari seems to present a lot of reasons why we need CAs, but never mentions them. Has there ever been a connection between him and sortition / CAs?

12 Responses

  1. The quote at the outset seems rather questionable (and pretentious). Why does power have to be based on fictions? Why does knowing require renouncing power? Can you quote or paraphrase Harari’s arguments?


  2. I would also question the notion that allotted bodies are not about power. Without power to act on the truth there is very little reason to seek out the truth.


  3. “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” Abraham Maslow


  4. Ignore the quote for the moment. In his book Harari provides a vision of the future that is pretty dismal. His reasoning is well-researched, and unfortunately makes sense. Yet he does not identify how to change the course towards catastrophe beyond hope that those in power will finally get it.
    In a number of places in the book (the quote is only one of them) he comes close to sortition and citizens’ assemblies, but never reaches them. Has anyone seen a connection between Harari and CAs/sortition? He has a large following, and if he were to see that advantages of them ….


  5. > Yet he does not identify how to change the course towards catastrophe beyond hope that those in power will finally get it.

    This, unfortunately, seems to be the attitude of many in the sortition-milieu as well. They address themselves to those in power, hoping to convince them that they should set up allotted bodies because they would benefit them.


  6. Not all of us share Yoram’s view (derived from outdated Marxist dogma) that all choices can be reduced to socio-economic interests. It may even be the case that some elected politicians would like to do the right thing (“the truth about the world” in Hari’s terminology). The reason they can’t may be on account of lack of knowledge, the need to be re-elected (this means keeping voters happy, as well as rich ‘n powerful lobbyists), or a combination of the two. If this is the case then sortition will not provide a magic bullet (c.f my reference to Maslow’s hammer) as there’s no particular reason to believe that an allotted (national) assembly would be prepared to forfeit its immediate interests for the sake of future generations or the wider world.


  7. Not all of us, fortunately, share Sutherland self-admitted complete disregard for the truth.


  8. If everyone just acts out their interests, then what does “truth” mean? The interests of the “masses”?


  9. > If everyone just acts out their interests, then what does “truth” mean?

    Interesting point. So your carelessness with the truth is derived from a worldview that interests are all that exists. You are then simply projecting your own mindset onto others.


  10. Any carelessness on my part is because I have two full time jobs and try to squeeze in blog posts as and when I can.


  11. Lack of time (as I have pointed out before) is hardly an excuse for repeatedly asserting falsehoods.

    Since it turns out that your assertions are often without any basis in reality, you should simply avoid making factual assertions unless you verify that you can substantiate them with evidence. Continuing to make unsubstantiated factual assertions despite your dismal record of veracity is a clear indication that truthfulness is simply unimportant to you. That is the definition of habitual lying.


  12. No doubt this is a reference to some off-the-cuff remarks I made ten years ago. There is a difference in the evidential support required for a blog post and a PhD thesis, and the former is subject to instant rebuttal from other readers. Leftists like Yoram are prone to view any error by their intellectual opponents as an example of moral turpitude (“lying”), rather than just a mistake. I have never deliberately sought to mislead on this blog or anywhere else.

    As to the possibility of ascertaining “the truth about the world” that’s a difficult one. At heart I’m a Platonist, and believe that everything (ultimately) seeks the Good, but there are so many contingencies involved along the way that in practice it’s hard to know which good is the best approximation. But I do strongly resist the reductive notion that humans are machines programmed by their socio-economic interests and that ideology is just a confabulatory defence mechanism.


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