Agile and UX are immanent critiques of capitalism

An immanent critique of capitalism is one that demonstrates that capitalism derives its legitimacy from something more fundamental, something which can be found within any capitalist system.

Agile and UX are immanent critiques of capitalism because they treat relations of recognition between persons as more fundamental than system efficiency.*

Both Agile and UX place people above process – as a value, but also as a methodological principle.

Both have practices and techniques, but no real process. These practices are not “solutions” that control behaviour, they are hacks designed to keep a set of core values in view. In this sense, they are more like prayer rituals than they are like recipes or algorithms.

Agile exposes relations of recognition by focusing on the concept of commitment. If you like, Agile’s fundamental insight is that systems of resource allocation depend upon the possibility of making and keeping promises, and so any system that undermines the human relationships that make promise making possible are inherently self-contradictory.

The incredibly fluid concept of a sprint only makes sense as that unit of duration in which the team believes that reliable commitments can be made.

In UX, the master concept is value. UX’s fundamental insight is that all systems of exchange are dependent on agents recognizing each other as arbiters of value. So any system that places itself above its agents as the sole arbiter of value is inherently self-contradictory, and will fail whenever it isn’t supported by some sort of imposed dominance (like a monopoly).

The very fluid concept of a persona that is core to UX represents what the team regards as the minimum level of empathy at which genuine exchange can take place.

*All of this is quite directly inspired by Axel Honneth’s work on recognition, especially Ch4 of The I in We: Studies in the Theory of Recognition (2012)

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Agile and UX are immanent critiques of capitalism