Found in 7 comments on Hacker News
panic · 2018-05-22 · Original thread
"Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed" by James C. Scott (
hellbanner · 2017-08-07 · Original thread
For more on how legibility (through naming, street grids, single-crop farms etc) acts a prerequisite for manipulation, check out Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes To Improve The Human Condition Have Failed.

hellbanner · 2017-07-25 · Original thread
This reminds me of something from "Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed"[1], about Brazil's new capital [2].

The new order was "visually appealing" to the bureaucrats, with housing in one section, work in one section, government in the middle etc. A lot of vast open space made it so spontaneous markets & trading did not occur (due to enforced zoning and excessive sunlight instead of using shade from buildings), leading to a lower quality of life for its inhabitants.

[1] [2]

nerd_stuff · 2015-07-27 · Original thread
This book by James Scott has a very interesting perspective on the mapping of unmapped cities. The TL;DR is that an unmapped or unmappable city can't be managed from afar. In an unmapped city you must go there to manage it, in a mapped city you can sit at a desk a thousand miles away and know who's paid their taxes, etc. Paradoxically the act of mapping helps both outside help and outside exploitation.

wallflower · 2014-12-26 · Original thread
For management, it's not really about the process du jour per se. It is about standardization, frameworks, and control. Read 'Seeing like a state'

From Ruby Rogues 184 RR

"JESSICA: Alright. So, I am going to echo one of Greg’s picks because it was on my list but for a different reason. ‘Seeing like a State’ is an amazing book. And I think it’s drastically changed the way I look at software, not for the same reason as Greg talked about but because it shows why what we do is hard. ‘Seeing like a State’ talks about all the subtleties of human systems and human interactions at the local context level. It talks about all the improvisation that everyone does on a day-to-day basis and how in real human communities, we’re constantly changing the system to adjust to a slightly different reality, to corner cases we hadn’t seen before but now we have. It’s shifting and it’s not well-defined. And suddenly it makes complete sense that the hardest part of software is figuring out what we want to do. That’s it. It’s a great book."

kylemathews · 2012-02-14 · Original thread
And "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed" -
paganel · 2011-02-03 · Original thread
I particularly had the South-African photo in mind as a comparison when I made my statement. Don't get me wrong, I don't approve poverty, I've lived for a couple of years on less than $2 a day and my parents still do, it's just that the Danish photo is so devoid of life, of human interaction, that makes it so depressing for me.

Maybe I'm a little bit biased because right now I'm reading James C. Scott's "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed" (, which has a couple of chapters against modern, centralized, well-planed architecture that is designed "to look good from a plane" (he gives Brasilia as a negative example). Now, I know these suburbs weren't probably planned by the Government, but the main idea behind their design and planning is the same, i.e. to look good from a geometrical point of view.

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