‘Could be broken’ and ‘is broken’

In the last couple of posts, I have been examining this argument:

2.) Because the world is broken or out-of-order, it needs to be fixed or restored.

Let me set the stage for the next post about the view that the world (or some large sections of it anyway) is already broken. So far, I have considered the thought that some system could break or is susceptible to breaking. If this is the case, then one would devise a set of common responses. Let me mention the three most prominent responses. One would be to be on the lookout for whatever it is that could break and is within one’s ken. Another would be to troubleshoot, repairing some part that isn’t working with an eye to avoiding the total breakdown of the system. And a third would be to keep upgrading a system to ensure that whatever could most likely break down does not break down or apart. One can observe these strategies being employed in everything from security to engineering to hospital care.

I am interested, of course, in the assumption that the things we make and commonly use are inherently unstable and are taken to be inherently unstable. I take it the industrial world produces whole suites of objects, systems, platforms, and devices that we come to rely upon and yet that we cannot, without a certain vigilance or worry or bewilderment, trust or depend upon. In light of our bewilderment, we train up a set of workers whose job it is to ensure that the potentially breakable things do not break down for good. Upon these people, we rely. These are the workers who become disposed to being hyper vigilant (think of US Customs agents) or to becoming worriers–or both.

In all this, I am parsing the distinction between ‘could be broken’ and ‘is broken.’ So, the first part of the argument is concerned with people tasked with ensuring that our systems, which could break down, do not break down. The second part targets those who believe that some system or other is already broken (and here I am thinking specifically of those claiming social injustice), and they see it as their life project to go about fixing it. I am not so sure about this wholesale view of the world.

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