Monday, 1 January 2018

Transition to a new society ... a new economy ... a new way of life

'Transition' to more sustainable societies is being taken very seriously in many parts of the world - including Ecuador:
Futures Forum: Transition to the knowledge commons
Futures Forum: Towards a commons-based society

And a group helping out with these societal experiments is the P2P Foundation:
Futures Forum: P2P: working beyond the system

And there are several practical ideas coming out of the P2P project - much of them about transition:
Futures Forum: Relocalisation
Futures Forum: Small-scale, locally-controlled power generation
Futures Forum: We are all truck-drivers now ... The free movement of goods, increased carbon emissions and the destruction of manufacturing industry
Futures Forum: "Another economy is possible" >>> 'orthodox' vs 'heterodox' economics
Futures Forum: Decentralized Manufacturing
Futures Forum: Local currencies: getting radical: a P2P perspective
Futures Forum: Local currencies: getting radical: a P2P perspective >>> "The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution"
Futures Forum: "The emergence of peer-to-peer lending, fintech and new forms of currencies mean people and businesses can act on their dissatisfaction with the big banks"
Futures Forum: Transitioning to a post-scarcity world
Futures Forum: Developing an alternative economy >>> 'stimulated by a climate of changing technology and increasing individual power'
Futures Forum: Transitioning to a new economy
Futures Forum: Transition and the Commons

Michel Bauwens, founder and president of the P2P Foundation wrote a piece some time ago looking at the 'phases' of transition: 
Three Times Exodus, Three Phase Transitions | P2P Foundation

And Paul Mason, former Economics Editor at BBC Two's Newsnight, wrote a book looking to 'postcapitalism':
Futures Forum: Transitioning to an economy based on sharing information
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.
Futures Forum: The promises of information technology >>> or, spinning fables of info-liberation
Futures Forum: A post-work society >>> transitioning to a fully-automated economy

These writers are referenced in a current work-in-progress looking at how we might 'transition' to a new society, a new economy, a new way of life - from Kevin Carson, senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society c4ss.org:

Exodus: General Idea of the Revolution in the XXI Century 
– “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” –Arundhati Roy

Paul Mason also sees post-capitalism as something emerging primarily through an evolutionary process similar to the emergence of the feudal from the classical political economy and the capitalist from the feudal, rather than the revolutionary models of the twentieth century:

Capitalism... will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which breaks through, reshaping the economy around new values, behaviours and norms. As with feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism's demise will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started. 20

The socialists of the early twentieth century were absolutely convinced that nothing preliminary was possible within the old system. 'The socialist system,' Preobrazhensky once insisted categorically, 'cannot be built up molecularly within the world of capitalism.'

The most courageous thing an adaptive left could do is to abandon that conviction. It is entirely possible to build the elements of the new system molecularly within the old. In the cooperatives, the credit unions, the peer-networks, the unmanaged enterprises and the parallel, subcultural economies, these elements already exist. 21

Michel Bauwens and Franco Iacomella of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives have worked out a sophisticated theoretical model of how such a transition will take place. Commons-based peer production is a post-capitalist mode of production that will succeed capitalism, growing out of it in a matter analogous to how the manorial economy emerged from the collapse of the slave economy of classical antiquity and capitalism emerged from late feudalism. And like the previous transitions, peerproduction will evolve as a solution to the crisis tendencies of late capitalism when the latter reaches its limits.

Hypothesis of a third transition: capitalism to peer to peer

Again, we have a system faced with a crisis of extensive globalization, where nature itself has become the ultimate limit. It’s way out, cognitive capitalism, shows itself to be a mirage.

What we have then is an exodus, which takes multiple forms: precarity and flight from the salaried conditions; disenchantement with the salaried condition and turn towards passionate production. The formation of communities and commons are shared knowledge, code and design which show themselves to be a superior mode of social and economic organization.

The exodus into peer production creates a mutual reconfiguration of the classes. A section of capital becomes netarchical and ‘empowers and enables peer production’, while attempting to extract value from it, but thereby also building the new infrastructures of cooperation.

This process will take time but there is one crucial difference: the biosphere will not allow centuries of transition. So the maturation of the new configuration will have to consolidate faster and the political revolutions come earlier. 24

The systemic crises of capitalism driving the post-capitalist transition are much like those of the previous two transitions. Late capitalism, according to Bauwens and Iacomella, is beset by two main structural irrationalities: artificial abundance and artificial scarcity:

1. The current political economy is based on a false idea of material abundance. We call it pseudo-abundance. It is based on a commitment to permanent growth, the infinite accumulation of capital and debt-driven dynamics through compound interest. This is unsustainable, of course, because infinite growth is logically and physically impossible in any physically constrained, finite system.

2. The current political economy is based on a false idea of “immaterial scarcity.” It believes that an exaggerated set of intellectual property monopolies – for copyrights, trademarks and patents

– should restrain the sharing of scientific, social and economic innovations. Hence the system discourages human cooperation, excludes many people from benefiting from innovation and slows the collective learning of humanity. In an age of grave global challenges, the political economy keeps many practical alternatives sequestered behind private firewalls or unfunded if they cannot generate adequate profits. 25

Paul Mason, who comes from an autonomist background, takes a similar view of capitalism's contradictions in Postcapitalism. The technologies and institutions of post-capitalism are unleashing productive forces that cannot be contained within the productive relations of capitalism, and therefore must eventually "burst out of their capitalist integument" and become the basis for a fundamentally new system:

...[T]he technologies we've created are not compatible with capitalism—not in its present form and maybe not in any form. Once capitalism can no longer adapt to technological change, postcapitalism becomes necessary. When ehaviours and organizations adapted to exploiting technological change appear spontaneously, postcapitalism becomes possible. 34

Today, the main contradiction in modern capitalism is between the possibility of free, abundant socially produced goods, and a system of monopolies, banks and governments struggling to maintain control over power and information. That is, everything is pervaded by a fight between network and hierarchy. 35

His view of the nature of the technological changes within the capitalist system that doom it to extinction have a lot in common with the autonomists and with Bauwens and Iacomella:

First, information technology has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages.

Second, information goods are corroding the market's ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system's defense mechanism is to form monopolies on a scale not seen in the past 200 years -- yet these cannot last.

Third, we're seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organizations that are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. 36

Paul Mason sees the new social forms as a new system arising "within the shell of the old," that will first build local counter-institutions within the interstices of capitalism, coalesce and finally supplant it:

Almost unnoticed, in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swathes of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, and often as a direct result of the shattering of old structures after the 2008 crisis.

New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past ten years, which the media has dubbed the 'sharing economy'.

Buzz-terms such as the 'commons' and 'peer-production' are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this means for capitalism itself. 53

Michel Bauwens's primary focus, likewise, is on institution-building rather than capture of the state:

A first step is to become aware of the isomorphism, the commonality, of peer to peer processes in the various fields. That people devising and using P2P sharing programs, start realizing that they are somehow doing the same thing than [sic] the alterglobalisation movement, and that both are related to the production of Linux, and to participative epistemologies. Thus what we must do first is building bridges of cooperation and understanding across the social fields....

...[T]he second step is to "furiously" build the commons. When we develop Linux, it is there, cannot be destroyed, and by its very existence and use, builds another reality, based on another social logic, the P2P logic. Adopting a network sociality and building dense interconnections as we participate in knowledge creation and exchange is enormously politically significant. By feeding our immaterial and spiritual needs outside of the consumption system, we can stop the logic which is destroying our ecosphere. The present system may not like opposition, but even more does it fear indifference, because it can feed on the energy of strife, but starts dying when it is shunted. This is what is being expressed by Toni Negri's concept of Exodus, and what other call 'Desertion' . These commentators note that it was 'the refusal of work' in the seventies, with blue-collar workers showing increasing dissatisfaction with the Taylorist/Fordist system of work, that lead to the fundamental re-arrangement of work in the first place. In the past, the labor movement and other social movements mostly shared the same values, and it was mostly about a fairer share of the pie.

But the new struggles are mostly about producing a new kind of pie, and producing it in a different way. Or perhaps an even more correct metaphor: it is about the right to produce altogether different kinds of pie.

Today, the new ethic says that 'to resist is in the first place to create'. The world we want is the world we are creating through our cooperative P2P ethos, it is visible in what we do today, not an utopian creation for the future. Building the commons has a crucial ingredient: the building of a dense alternative media network, for permanent and collective self-education in human culture, away from the mass-consumption model promoted by the corporate media.

Thus, if there is an 'offensive' strategy it would look like this: to build the commons, day after day, the process of creating of a society within society. In this context, the emergence of the internet and the web, is a tremendous step forward....

Regarding the commons such an approach would entail:

1) a defense of the physical commons and the development of new institutions such as trusts to manage the environment;

2) an end to exaggerated private appropriation of the knowledge commons;

3) a universal basic income to create the conditions for the expansion of peer production;

4) any measure that speeds up the distribution of capital.

In the field of the gift economy: the promotion of reciprocity-based schemes, using alternative currency schemes based on equal time (Time Dollars and the like)

Finally, peer to peer also demands self-transformation. As we said, P2P is predicated on abundance, on transcending the animal impulse based on win-lose games. But abundance is not just objective, i.e. also, and perhaps most importantly, subjective. This is why tribal economies considered themselves to live in abundance, and were egalitarian in nature. This is why happiness researchers show that it is not poverty that makes us unhappy, but inequality. Thus, the P2P ethos demands a conversion, to a point of view, to a set of skills, which allow us to focus ourselves to fulfilling our immaterial and spiritual needs directly, and not through a perverted mechanism of consumption. As we focus on friendships, connections, love, knowledge exchange, the cooperative search for wisdom, the construction of common resources and use value, we direct our attention away from the artificial needs that are currently promoted, and this time we personally and collectively stop feeding the Beast that we have ourselves created. 54

Mason also sees the state playing a vital role in managing the transition, certainly to a greater degree than in Holloway's model, or in Negri and Hardt's horizontalist vision. All the individual elements—cooperatives, peer-networks, and the like—will only coalesce into post-capitalism if "we... promote them with regulation just as vigorous as that which capitalism used to drive the peasants off the land or destroy handicraft work in the eighteenth century."55 Post-capitalism may offer an "escape route”—

but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a massive change in what governments do.

...Collaborative production, using network technology to produce goods and services that work only when they are free, or shared, defines the route beyond the market system. It will need the state to create the framework.... 56

Nevertheless Mason is in the general autonomist tradition, insofar as he envisons putting the primary emphasis on the spontaneous rise of new institutional forms like peer networks, and treating state action as simply a way to run interference for or help along these institutional forms, rather than (as with the Old Left) the primary instrumentality for actually creating the new society.

In fact what Mason calls the "wiki-state" 57 is a lot like the "Partner State" that Bauwens advocates.

It's in keeping with a long line of visions that fall under the general heading of (in Saint-Simon's's phrase) "replacing the domination of man over man with the administration of things." The wiki-state, much like the Partner State, is more a support platform than an issuer of commands.

3. The Age of Exodus.pdf - Google Drive
Exodus: General Idea of the Revolution in the XXI Century – “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” –Arundhati Roy

These ideas are central to the Transition Town movement:
Futures Forum: Open Source Ecology >>> Homebrew Industrial Revolution >>> Do-it-yourself sustainable development

And these ideas are central to decentralised development:
Futures Forum: "Small plus small plus small equals big" >>> 'There is a blind spot about economic regeneration in most local authorities'

And to what's been happening beyond:
Futures Forum: Solidarity, the DIY-aid movement and civil society >>> transitioning to a sustainable society, a resilient economy
Futures Forum: Experimentation in Catalonia

However, these ideas are not just of 'the left'...

Jeffrey Tucker is director of content for the Foundation for Economic Education, research fellow at the Acton Institute and policy adviser of the Heartland Institute:

Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World - freedomnode.com
Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World - Kindle edition by Jeffrey Tucker, Roger Ver, Patrick Byrne. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Bitcoin: The People's Money with Roger Ver and Jeffrey Tucker - YouTube
The Economics of Life Itself : Beautiful Anarchy is the writing platform of Jeffrey Tucker, in which he covers economics, art, popular culture, and politics from a pro-liberty, anti-state point of view. - Liberty.me
How Far Can the P2P Revolution Go? - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world

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