J. Stephen Lansing

Perfect order : recognizing complexity in Bali

Princeton university press - Princeton studies in complexity

Princeton (New Jersey), 2006
bibliothèque insulaire
parutions 2006
Perfect order : recognizing complexity in Bali / J. Stephen Lansing. - Princeton (NJ) : Princeton university press, 2006. - XII-225 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. - (Princeton studies in complexity).
ISBN 0-691-02727-7
NOTE DE L'ÉDITEUR : Along rivers in Bali, small groups of farmers meet regularly in water temples to manage their irrigation systems. They have done so for a thousand years. Over the centuries, water temple networks have expanded to manage the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. Although each group focuses on its own problems, a global solution nonetheless emerges that optimizes irrigation flows for everyone. Did someone have to design Bali's water temple networks, or could they have emerged from a self-organizing process ?

Perfect Order — a groundbreaking work at the nexus of conservation, complexity theory, and anthropology — describes a series of fieldwork projects triggered by this question, ranging from the archaeology of the water temples to their ecological functions and their place in Balinese cosmology. Stephen Lansing shows that the temple networks are fragile, vulnerable to the cross-currents produced by competition among male descent groups. But the feminine rites of water temples mirror the farmers' awareness that when they act in unison, small miracles of order occur regularly, as the jewel-like perfection of the rice terraces produces general prosperity. Much of this is barely visible from within the horizons of Western social theory.

The fruit of a decade of multidisciplinary research, this absorbing book shows that even as researchers probe the foundations of cooperation in the water temple networks, the very existence of the traditional farming techniques they represent is threatened by large-scale development projects.

❙ J. Stephen Lansing is Professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, and Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.
The transition from myth to reason remains a problem even for those who recognize that myth too contains reason.

Marcel Detienne, The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece — cité en épigraphe

The water temples of Bali went mostly unnoticed until the Green Revolution in agricultural interfered with their role in the management of the rice terrace ecology. But even after their functional role became apparent, they proved to be difficult to comprehend from within the horizons of Western social science. Water temple networks depend on unprecedented levels of cooperation among farmers ; they actively manage the ecology of the rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds, and they appear to be organized as dynamical networks. Moreover, a great deal of what goes on in them falls into the Western category of « religion » or even « magic ». But from the perspective of Balinese farmers, these « magical » ideas and practices provide indispensible tools for governing the subaks 1, the rice paddies, and their own inner worlds. Water temple rituals draw on Hindu and Buddhist tradition of thought to create the preconditions for a robust system of self-governance. The wedding of these ideas with the managerial capacity of temple networks provides powerful tools for communities to impose an imagined order on the world. However, the farmers' recognition that such tools exist is coupled with an awareness of the ease with which they can fail. A certain kind of self-mastery, and awareness of interdependencies, is understood to be a prerequisite for governing both the social and natural worlds. These Balinese ideas about selfhood contrast with the celebration of the emergence of the autonomous subject in Western social thought. (A darker vision, perhaps most cogently expressed by the scholars of the Frankfurt School, associates the triumph of the unitary subject with rise of totalitarian rationality. But these two versions of the story of the emergence of the subject, which seem to us so far apart, draw similar connections between objective economic conditions and the subjective awareness of individuals.) The world of the water temples, I suggest, has different lessons to impart.

Introduction, pp. 18-19
1.Subaks are egalitarian organizations that are empowered to manage the rice terraces and irrigation systems on which the prosperity of the village depends. — Introduction, p. 5
  • « Evil in the morning of the world : phenomenological approaches to a Balinese community », Ann Arbor : Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan (Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia, 6), 1974
  • « The three worlds of Bali », New York : Praeger, 1983
  • « Priests and programmers : technologies of power in the engineered landscape of Bali », Princeton (NJ) : Princeton university press, 1991, 2007
  • « The Balinese », Fort Worth (Texas) : Harcourt Brace college publishers, 1995
J. Stephen Lansing

mise-à-jour : 13 décembre 2007