Refactor Camp 2016: Weird Political Economy

Since 2012, we’ve been holding Refactor Camp as an annual offline event in the Bay Area. This year, we’re trying a new format. Refactor Camp 2016 will be an online-only event, in the form of four 2-hour evening sessions, spread over the last 2 weeks of July. You can register here. We will be using the Zoom videoconference system, which has a limit of 50 participants.

The theme this year is Weird Political Economy (tagline is inspired by this great post). Over four sessions, each structured as a short introductory talk (~30 minutes) followed by a discussion (~90 minutes) we will cover four major themes. All 4 sessions will be 8:00 to 10:00 PM US Pacific Time, on the listed dates.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 15.52.57

Session #1: Tue July 19: The Weird State of the State (Venkatesh Rao)
Session #2: Thu July 21: The Weird State of Capitalism (Mick Costigan)
Session #3: Tue July 26: The Weird State of the Crowd (Megan Lubaszka and Renee DiResta)
Session #4: Thursday July 28: The Weird State of the Earth (Jordan Peacock and Sam Penrose)

The idea is to have well-prepped discussions about the general sense that “things are getting weird” in global affairs with a meaningfully broad/rich context. Are we really not in Kansas anymore, or do we just lack the context to grok the patterns in things going on right now? Is it time to apply the principle, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”? Hopefully we’ll generate some interesting, situated thinking.

The four session topics: state, capitalism, crowds, and earth, will hopefully serve as four good overlapping global canvasses for discussion.

A slide deck overview of the theme will be posted a few days before each session, as required pre-read. The idea is for ALL participants to actually review these pre-read decks (should take maybe 30min each) so we can have a discussion where everybody is better prepared than usual in these sorts of symposia.

If you are interested in doing reading beyond these upcoming decks, here are some anchor references the session leaders will be using.  Though session leaders will be drawing on multiple sources, and we expect many participants will be coming from other perspectives, these should give you an idea of the level of discussion we’re hoping to hit.


  1. Adam Fletcher says:

    Will you be putting up the videos after for those of us who were too late? It’s full already…

  2. For those wondering if you should read Fukuyama, especially if you read The End of History, this series is a stunning case of intellectual development. He went from highly theorized history as a single story, with way too much reference to Hegel and sometimes Nietzsche and too little history, to a true workmanlike historian, drawing conclusions only after a thorough empirical case has been made. IMO, he has spent the last several years doing penance for The End of History, and his uncomfortable brush with the adulation of the Movement Right — although people continue to praise it, and he doesn’t seem to discourage them.

    This work by Fukuyama and Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail (which is almost equally about why they succeed) seem to me to represent grand comparative history in the style of Barrington Moore, and I suppose Samuel P. Huntington, FF’s mentor, who I haven’t read, but far more convincing and potentially (I believe) useful than Moore, and probably the same for Huntington. I think FF gets to the highest level of abstraction that the facts (of a great deal of institutional history) can support, and no higher, and he and A&R are the only ones I’d say that about.

  3. I’ve been reviewing the Fukuyama reading and w.r.t. “FF gets to the highest level of abstraction that the facts (of a great deal of institutional history) can support, and no higher” the early parts of the book are something of an exception; the attempt to “start at the very beginning” with anthropological primatological, etc. stuff; interesting points, but he speaks too confidently about some highly disputed things. Once he gets on truly historic and less murky ground, the observation holds, IMO.

  4. Angela A says:

    Darn: the event is sold out! Are there any attendees willing to host a “viewing party” wherein I might join? (I live locally in Capitol Hill.)