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Everything written by Michel Bauwens

Disagreeing with Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz: the rise of land values is the chief culprit of inequality

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
9th January 2015


Excerpted from an interview conducted by LYNN STUART PARRAMORE:

“* LP: What’s new in your recent work on the distribution of income and wealth among individuals?

There are several things. There’s some debate about this, but I think most readers of Thomas Piketty’s book (Capital in the Twenty-First Century) get the impression that the accumulation of wealth — savings —is responsible for the rise in inequality and that there is, therefore, in a way,a link between the growth of the economy — the accumulation of capital— on the one hand and inequality and wealth. My paper begins with the observation that in fact, you cannot explain what has happened to the wealth/income ratio by that analysis. A closer look at what has gone on suggests that a large fraction of the increase in wealth is an increase in the value of land, not in the amount of capital goods.

* LP: When you say “land,” you’re not talking about land in the Jane Austen sense, that is, agricultural land under the ownership of the lord of the manor, right?

JS: It’s not agricultural land, it’s the value of urban land. I would include in that, broadly, rents associated with natural resources (“rent” is an economic term for unearned revenue). It’s the value of existing assets. As a footnote, some of what has gone on, in addition to an increase in the wealth/income ratio, is a capitalization of the increase in other kinds of rents, like monopoly rents. If monopoly rents get increased, if the market power of firms relative to workers gets increased, as when you have the ability of a few, like the banks, to get government guarantees — the value of that is increased and gets capitalized. That increases wealth but it doesn’t increase capital. So it’s that distinction between wealth and capital that turns out to be critical. That’s the first idea.

The reason that’s important is that you then begin an inquiry into the explanations of why the value of the land or other sources of the value of rents would have gone up. A lot of my book,The Price of Inequality, is about why there has been an increase in rent-seeking. But the other part is more external in terms of the value of land or the value of assets. That, I suggest, is very closely linked with the credit system.

* LP: How do you explain this link between credit and inequality?

JS: If you get a flow of credit increasing, as we’ve seen in the last few years —that flow of credit didn’t go to more wealth accumulation as we normally use the term in economics, as capital goods. What you got is an increase in bubbles of one kind or another.

What has happened repeatedly in recent years is that we’ve had monetary authorities allowing — through deregulation and lax standards —banks to lend more. But this lending has not gone for creating new business, not for capital goods. Disproportionately it has gone to increase the value of land and other fixed resources (buildings, real estate, etc). And that’s what everybody was worried about. So in that sense, in that discussion that occurred with quantitative easing—nobody linked that with inequality or linked it with the overall macro growth. The links with inequality are twofold: one is that at a very, very macro level, if more of the savings of the economy leads to an increase in the value of land rather than the stock of capital goods, then worker productivity won’t go up. Wages won’t go up. So some of what is going on is that we haven’t been doing the kind of investment that we should be doing.

But the other part that’s probably more important is that when you deregulate, you allow more lending against collateral. Then those who have the assets that can be used for collateral see those assets go up in price, like land. And so those who hold wealth become wealthier. The workers, who have no wealth, don’t benefit from that expansion. So the link is that credit affects land prices and fixed asset prices, and those go disproportionately to the rich. And that is a major part of the increase in the wealth. That’s one strand of my paper.

The other strand of the paper was an attempt to lay out a general theory of the transmission, you might say, of wealth and other advantages across generations, and trying to identify, very broadly, forces that would lead to a more unequal distribution and forces that would lead to a more equal distribution. You could almost say it’s a taxonomy — it’s a framework for thinking through things. And when you start to think about it, you see that there are many more forces going on right now for increasing inequality. And that’s also a framework for policy prescriptions. So if we have more economic segregation in a world in which we have local schools, locally financed schools, we’re going to get inequality in education, and therefore the children of rich parents are going to get more human capital.

This model actually provides a very robust general theory explaining inequality. There are many other wrinkles in the paper, but the final insight is that when you think of policies that are going to address inequality of wealth, you have to be very thoughtful about what economists call “incidence of taxes.” If most of the savings is being done by capitalists, and you tax the return on capital, then they will have less to invest. That would mean, over the long run, that the rate of interest would go up. That would therefore undo some of the intent to lower the income of capitalists.”

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Posted in Economy and Business, P2P Hierarchy Theory | 1 Comment »

Self-government in Rojava: interview with Janet Biehl

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
9th January 2015


Excerpted from an interview with Janel Biehl interviewed by Cesur Milusoy upon the return from a study trip in the Rojava region:

“* You went to Rojava to see whether the self-government functions along libertarian principles. What did you find? To what extent are the principles of Murray Bookchin present?

Rojava’s system is similar to Bookchin’s ideas in the most crucial way: power flows from the bottom up. The base of Bookchin’s system is the citizens’ assembly. The base of Rojava’s is the commune. One of my questions before arriving was whether Rojava’s communes were assemblies of all citizens or rather meetings of their delegates or representatives in a council. But I found out that the communes are made of up a neighborhood’s households, and that anyone from those households may attend and participate in a meeting. That’s an assembly.

Another similarity is that in both systems power flows upward through various levels. Citizens’ assemblies can’t exist in isolation—they have to have a mechanism by which they interconnect with their peers, yet one that remains democratic. Rojava’s solution is the people’s council system that rises through several tiers: the neighborhood, the district, the city, and the canton. Bookchin, by contrast, spoke of towns and neighborhoods confederating. Murray called the broader levels “confederal councils,” where as in Rojava they are called people’s councils at every level, or even “house of the people.” In both cases they are made up of mandated delegates, not representatives as in a legislature. Rojava’s delegates—called co-presidents—convey the wishes of the people the next level up–they don’t act on their own initiative. So that’s another similarity. In Rojava, the people’s councils aren’t made up only of co-presidents from the lower levels; they also comprise people elected to enter at that level. The councils seem to be quite large. I think that’s a good idea.

In addition to the council system, Rojava has a transitional government in place as well, a built-in dual power. The council system is separate from it but also carries the wishes of the people into it, through various mechanisms.

* You have also spoken about the revolutionary process there.

Bookchin wrote extensively about the revolutionary process, in his histories of revolutionary movements. You can’t make a revolution just any day, he would point out; history has to be on your side; only at times does a “revolutionary situation” develop, when it’s possible to change the system. He lamented that all too often, when a revolutionary situation came around, the revolutionaries weren’t ready for it. They longed for an opportunity to make change, but they did not organize in advance, and so when the revolutionary situation developed, they missed their chance.

Rojavans did not make the common mistake. They prepared for decades before the revolutionary situation happened,building counterinstitutions, creating a structured counterpower. The Qamislo massacre of 2004 taught them that they had not prepared sufficiently, so they intensified their preparations. So when the revolutionary situation came in 2012, they were ready. When the regime collapsed, leaving a power vacuum, the counterinstitutions were in place to take the power, and they did.
Rojavans understand something else Murray argued too, about power. The issue is not to abolish power—that can’t be done. The issue, is rather, to define who has the power: will it be a regime, or will it be the people? Rojavans understood when the moment arrived that the power was theirs for the taking, and they took it. He would have applauded heartily.

And finally, I think he would have commended the work of Tev-Dem, a movement of civil society organizations established in order to create the council system—communes and other institutions of democratic self-rule. I think he would have commended Rojavans’ imagination in inventing a movement whose purpose is to creat democratic self-government.

* You speak of creativity that Bookchin would have praised, but the creativity is essentially Abdullah Öcalan, head of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who was inspired by some writings of your partner, as was the Syrian branch of the PKK, the PYD. The PKK as originally based on Marxist-Leninist ideology. Did you observe any signs of this in Rojava?

In the past decades Öcalan and the PKK have renounced Marxism-Leninism. Their goal is now to create a base democratic, ecological, cooperative, and gender-equal society. I saw no gulags there, not even close. I saw a place that seemed genuinely committed to creating that society, even if it’s still al work in progress.

* The equality between men and women is an important issue for you. In the Middle East women have a difficult role. Has that changed in Rojava?

Misogyny is deeply rooted in the Middle East. Women have fewer rights there than almost anywhere else in the world. Their intelligence end value are denigrated. They may be married while still girls. Their husbands can beat them with impunity, and husbands can have plural wives. And when a woman is sexually abused, her male relatives blame her and may commit an honor killing or even coerce her into committing an honor suicide. She is often excluded from education and from working outside the home, and she is certainly forbidden to participate in public life.

In Rojava this grim condition is undone, as the whole society is committed to creating equality for the sexes. Girls are educated along with boys. They can choose any profession. Violence against women is forbidden. A woman who experience domestic violence can bring the problem to a public meeting, where it is discussed and investigated. Above all they may participate in public life. In Rojava’s democratic self-government, a meeting must consist of 40 percent women. The institutions have no individual heads—they must always have two co-presidents, one man and one woman. An elaborate series of women’s councils exists alongside the general councils. Women’s councils have veto power over decisions that affect women. Rojava’s defense forces consist of units for men and units for women.

* Do women play a large and more important role in the revolution, without which these structures would not be possible?

Yes. In many places we were told that Rojava’s revolution is a women’s revolution; that a revolution that does not alter the status of women really isn’t a revolution at all; that transforming the status of women transforms the whole society; that freedom for women is inseparable from freedom of society; and even that women are “the main actors in economy, society, and history.” Such ideas are taught not only in the women’s academies and the Mesopotamian Academy but also in, for example, the academies that train the defense and security forces. At the Asayis academy in Rimelan, we were told that half the educational time is dedicated to equality of the sexes.

* One cause of conflict in the Middle East is the oppression of ethnic groups. In Rojava many cultures and religions exist alongside each other. How freed o you think the minorities are in the self-government? Did you have an opportunity to speak to any of the remaining Christians?

It seems to me that Rojava’s Kurds understand very well the importance of this question, since they very well know the experience of being an oppressed minority. Today as the majority in Rojava they know that it would be unacceptable for them to impose on others the kinds of exclusions that they experienced in Syria and that they still experience elsewhere.
Moreover, they consider diversity to be a positive good. Rojava’s social contract affirms the inclusion of all minorities, by name. When we met with Nilüfer Koc, co-president of the KNK, she defined Democratic Autonomy not in terms of democracy but expressly as “unity in diversity.”

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Posted in P2P Governance, P2P Movements | No Comments »

Video of the Day: Trebor Scholz on Digital Labor

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
8th January 2015


Stanislas Jourdan writes: Good talk on the exploitative effect of the digital labor

Watch the video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52CqKIR0rVM

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Posted in Featured Video, P2P Labor, Videos | No Comments »

Social mobilization vs. the power of disruption

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
8th January 2015


Interesting debates on what makes social movements successful: their capacity to mobilize resources vs. the power to disrupt.

Excerpted from Mark Engler and Paul Engler:

“Today social movement theory is a well-established area of focus within sociology and political science. In the 1970s, however, it was just barely gaining a foothold in the academy. Stanford professor Doug McAdam tells the story of how, as a student activist in the late 1960s, he sought out classes on social movements at his university, searching the catalogue of the political science department. None were listed. When he finally did find discussion of movement activism, it took place in a very different setting than he had expected: namely, in a course on Abnormal Psychology.

At the time, McAdam writes, “movement participation was seen not as a form of rational political behavior but a reflection of aberrant personality types and irrational forms of ‘crowd behavior.’” Post-World War II theorists, adherents of the “pluralist” and “collective behavior” schools, believed that the U.S. political system was at least reasonably responsive to all groups with grievances to voice. Thus, any sensible person could advance their interests through the “proper channels” of representative politics. Most influential academics, McAdam explains, regarded outside movements as “typically unnecessary and generally ineffective;” when protests did appear, they represented “dysfunctional responses to the breakdown of social order.” As Piven and Cloward put it in a 1991 essay, movements were seen “as mindless eruptions lacking either coherence or continuity with organized social life.”

In the 1970s, this view began losing its hold. Graduate schools became infused with a generation of New Left scholars who had direct ties to civil rights, antiwar and women’s liberation movements. Coming from a more sympathetic standpoint, they sought to explain social movements as rational forms of collective action. Protests would now be seen as politics by other means for people who had been shut out of the system. A leading strain of thought that emerged in this milieu was known as resource mobilization theory.
Scholars in the resource mobilization school put social movement organizations at the center of their understanding of how protest groups affect change. As McAdam and W. Richard Scott write, resource mobilization theorists “stressed that movements, if they are to be sustained for any length of time, require some form of organization: leadership, administrative structure, incentives for participation, and a means for acquiring resources and support.” This view synced with the experience of organizers outside the university. In many respects, resource mobilization served as an academic analog to Alinsky’s vision of building power through the steady, persistent creation of community organization. It was also consistent with the structure-based organizing of the labor movement.

With their newly established approach, resource mobilization scholars produced compelling research, for example, into how Southern churches provided a vital infrastructure for the civil rights movement. Their viewpoint gradually gained ground. By the early 1980s, “resource mobilization had become a dominant background paradigm for sociologists studying social movements,” writes political scientist Sidney Tarrow. Although other theories have since come into favor, McAdam and Hilary Schaffer Boudet argue that the biases and emphases of resource mobilization still guide “the lion’s share of work in the field.”

* * *

When Piven and Cloward published Poor People’s Movements in 1977, its ideas about disruptive power — which were not rooted in formal social movement organizations — represented a direct challenge to leading strains of academic theory. More than that, they also clashed with much of the actual organizing taking place in the country. As the authors wrote in an introduction to their 1979 paperback edition, the book’s “critique of organizational efforts offended central tenets of left doctrine.”

Piven and Cloward mounted their heterodox assault by means of four detailed case studies. These involved some of the more significant protest movements in 20th century America: the movement of unemployed workers early in the Great Depression, the industrial strikes that gave rise to the CIO later in the 1930s, the civil rights movement in the South in the 1950s and 60s, and the activism of the National Welfare Rights Organization in the 1960s and 70s. As Piven would later summarize their conclusions, the experience of these revolts “showed that poor people could achieve little through the routines of conventional electoral and interest group politics.” Therefore, what was left to them as their key tool “was what we called disruption, the breakdowns that resulted when people defied the rules and institutional routines that ordinarily governed life.”

A structure-based organizer such as Saul Alinsky would not disagree with the idea of using boisterous action to make a stink. After all, he was a great showman and tactician of disorderly troublemaking. But Alinsky would have sharply parted ways with Piven and Cloward on the need for organization to support change. Poor People’s Movements irked both resource mobilization theorists and on-the-ground activists by contending that not only did formal structures fail to produce disruptive outbreaks, but that these structures actually detracted from mass protest when it did occur.

Piven and Cloward’s case studies offered a take on past movements that was very different than standard accounts. Of the labor activism that exploded during the Great Depression, they write that, contrary to the most cherished beliefs of union organizers, “For the most part strikes, demonstrations, and sit-downs spread during the mid-1930s despite existing unions rather than because of them.” Their studies showed that “with virtually no exceptions, the union leaders worked to limit strikes, not to escalate them.” Likewise, in the civil rights movement, “defiant blacks forced concessions as a result of the disruptive effects of mass civil disobedience” — not through formal organization.

Piven and Cloward acknowledged that such conclusions failed “to conform to doctrinal prescriptions regarding constituencies, strategies and demands.” Nevertheless, they wrote, no doubt aware they were picking a fight, that “popular insurgency does not proceed by someone else’s rules or hopes; it has its own logic and direction.”

Poor People’s Movements offered a variety of reasons why, when people were roused to indignation and moved to defy authority, “Organizers not only failed to seize the opportunity presented by the rise of unrest, they typically acted in ways that blunted or curbed the disruptive force which lower-class people were sometimes able to mobilize.” Most centrally, the organizers in their case studies opted against escalating the mass protests “because they [were] preoccupied with trying to build and sustain embryonic formal organizations in the sure conviction that these organizations [would] enlarge and become powerful.”

Across the four different movements that Piven and Cloward examined, organizers showed similar instincts — and these instincts betrayed them. The organizers viewed formal structures as essential, seeing them as necessary for marshaling collective resources, enabling strategic decision-making and ensuring institutional continuity. But what the organizers did not appreciate was that, while bureaucratic institutions may have positives, they also bring constraints. Because organizations have to worry about self-preservation, they become adverse to risk-taking. Because they enjoy some access to formal avenues of power, they tend to overestimate what they can accomplish from inside the system. As a result, they forget the disruptive energy that propelled them to power to begin with, and so they often end up playing a counter-productive role. As Piven says of the labor movement, “Mass strikes lead to unions. But unions are not the big generators of mass strikes.”

Poor People’s Movements also made an argument about the pace of change, challenging the idea that gains for the poor were won through steady, incremental effort. Piven and Cloward emphasized that, whatever course of action they take, the ability of organizers to shape history is limited. Adopting a type of neo-Marxist structuralism common in the period — one that looked to find economic and political causes underlying social phenomena — they argued that popular uprising “flows from historically specific circumstances.” The routines of daily life, the habits of obedience people develop, and the threat of reprisals against those who act out all function to keep disruptive potentials in check most of the time.

Periods when the poor do become defiant are exceptional, but they also have a defining impact. Piven and Cloward saw history as being punctuated by disruptive outbreaks. Instead of change occurring gradually, they believed, it came in bursts — through “Big Bang” moments, as Piven calls them in her 2006 book, Challenging Authority. Such a period can erupt quickly, but then fade just as rapidly. While its reverberations within the political system have lasting significance, “insurgency is always short-lived,” Piven and Cloward explain. “Once it subsides and the people leave the streets, most of the organizations which it temporarily threw up… simply fade away.”

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Posted in Activism, P2P Movements, P2P Theory, Politics | No Comments »

P2P Agri-food Projectfest (2): FarmBot, open source automated farming machine

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
7th January 2015


* FarmBot is humanity’s open-source automated farming machine. Our vision is to grow food for everyone and allow everyone to grow food”.

The project describes its Mission as:

“Produce free and open-source hardware plans, software, data, and documentation such that anyone can build and operate a farming machine.

“Since time immemorial, farmers have benefited from sharing knowledge with one another, and The FarmBot makes that easier than ever to do. Designed by California engineer Rory Landon Aronson, this open-source farming machine allows hackers and agriculturalists to brainstorm. Similar to CNC milling machines and 3D printers, the FarmBot works on a scalable frame that employs X, Y and Z directions, and can be outfitted with anything from sensors and spray nozzles to plows and seed injectors. … Aronson created the FarmBot to harness economies of scale and modern technologies. The machine comes equipped with a web-based software package that be easily modified. Users simply design their farm (graphically) and upload their numerical specifications to the hardware.

“Rather than making incremental changes to existing equipment, FarmBot takes a new approach at precision agriculture, tearing down everything from the past and starting from the ground up,” says Aronson. “By simply placing the tooling equipment on a a set of tracks, rather than a free-driving tractor,” he added, “the system has the ability to be extremely precise and reposition tooling in exact locations repeatedly over time.” ()
[edit]Interview

Simone Cicero of Open Electronics has interviewed Rory Aronson, the creator of the project:

* [Open Electronics] Hey Rory, could you tell more about you and the story before FarmBot? How did you actually arrive to design this project?

[Rory Aronson] I have always been interested in many fields, from transportation, to food production, to sustainable energies, to mobile technologies. So in 2010, while studying Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, I decided to take an organic agriculture class to fuel my interest in the food system. A guest speaker shared with our class about his new tractor, one that could selectively till the ground, destroying all of the weeds but not harming his lettuce plants. Upon seeing that idea, a spark went off in my head for a system that was better, and that was the humble beginnings of FarmBot.

Over my remaining two years in school, the project just sort of sat in the back of my head, waiting for me to find the time to put a good foot forward. I sketched every now and then, built a basic prototype for show purposes, and completed some research, but nothing too extraordinary.
Now, I am graduated and have found the time and motivation to move forward with the project. Things are beginning to move quickly, and it is exciting!

* [Open Electronics] Currently, is it only you behind this project or is there a team behind it? How did you fund working on design and prototyping?

[Rory Aronson] For a long time it was only me working on the project. I had attempted to get other students interested, but they were mostly turned away by the sheer scale of the project, the uncertainty, and the time commitment. It wasn’t until just a month ago after publishing the FarmBot white paper that others started to jump onboard the team. Now there are about four people on the team, but we are always looking for more, especially programmers.

* [Open Electronics] How would you describe FarmBot in a tweet (or in general in few words, for the average non-expert person)?

[Rory Aronson] FarmBot is an open-source automated farming machine. Picture it as a giant 3D printer outfitted with a seed injector, sprayer, plow, and sensors.”

* [Open Electronics] What use case and scenarios do you envision for this tool? Is designed to be used in small resilient communities searching to secure food supply or rather in large scale, intensive agricultural scenarios, like those related to food corporations? Is some of these players already showing interest towards the project?

[Rory Aronson] The best use cases for FarmBot have yet to be determined, but my hunch is that it can be used on all scales. I am building the first prototype on top of a 1.5x3m raised bed in my backyard, and I will optimize the hardware to be affordable on a scale this small. From here, I hope that the same design will scale to a backyard, a greenhouse, an urban rooftop, and even a small commercial farm! A large commercial farm or an industrial setting will likely need a different design, but I think the same design intentions will still apply.
Personally, I am not very interested in working on the project on a massive scale, but everything is open-source, so if someone else wants to apply it there, they can go right ahead.”

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Posted in Featured Project, Food and Agriculture | No Comments »

Policies for a grounded city (2)

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th January 2015


Follow up of our article on January 4.

Excerpted from Ewald Engelen, Sukhdev Johal, Angelo Salento and Karel Williams:

Here are two new directions and some recommendations for city policy:

1. Invest unshowily in improving the supply of foundational services in specific and locally relevant ways (instead of promoting the ostentation of iconic buildings and grand projects of regeneration which are the same everywhere for competitive cities).

Symbols are a constitutive element of the history of our cities. All major European cities have built self-images around symbols, mostly architectural symbols as with Haussmann’s Boulevards and the Eiffel tower which can together stand for Paris. The ideology of city competition has elevated the symbolic power of architecture to an extreme degree, but has damaged the symbolic heritage of our cities, filling their business and residential districts with “iconic buildings” by starchitects which reproduce the same styles in different places. The result is a developer-led spectacle of ambition and competition materialised with no sense of place and history.

More than 200 tower blocks of more than 20 storeys are presently in planning or under construction in London and three-quarters of them will be luxury flats; Manchester council has put millions into the Spinningfields office and financial district. How does the ordinary citizen benefit from such development? For citizens in present-day cities, the invisible and foundational economy is far more necessary and salient than highly visible, iconic additions to the cityscape which make money for developers and produce look alike cities that fit a generic template in the mind of city hall.

Rather than significant investments in the architecture of ostentation, we need investment and incremental innovations in what we usually take for granted: the infrastructure for sustainable transport, the treatment and distribution of drinking water, underground drainage systems, waste recycling, telecoms and broadband systems accessible to everyone everywhere, modest but energy efficient family housing in unremarkable districts with public spaces and services. And to see how all this can be done in a territorially responsible way by expanding local firm and workforce capability and improving quality of work.

The logic of this priority is that is that it requires us to engage with the specifics of infrastructural deficiencies in individual cities. Each city has a bundle of very specific needs, resources and opportunities: a different topography, a different history, different levels of income and inequality, a different provision of existing infrastructure. London is not Amsterdam, Milan is not Johannesburg.

Locally relevant improvements have to be defined without the one-size-fits-all assumptions of competition: dedicated bike lanes are not an issue in sprawling megacities or towns built on steep hills. In many low-income cities, access and pricing for basic utility services is an issue for edge-of-city informal settlements that lack utility infrastructure and/or require long-distance commuting; in a cold, high-income country with old housing stock, the priority might be short term measures that alleviated fuel poverty and longer term issues about financing necessary investments in secure, sustainable energy supply. In most cities, building or buying social housing and capillary transport improvement will be objectives which are interconnected physically and in terms of pricing decisions.

This kind of shift to specifics would not be intellectually or politically easy, because it requires priority setting and chain thinking about local connections and consequences; but the shift is attractive because it sidesteps the absurdities of the ranking game. If we are concerned with the foundational economy in one city, the measure of success is not primarily an external measure which involves ranking one city against others in meaningless cross section; the measure of success becomes primarily internal and temporal.

The question then becomes: to what extent is that city providing (reasonably priced or decommodified) material conditions of civilised life? For example, take five key domains of foundational security (housing, utility supply, food, health/social care and education) and then ask: to what extent are adequate and reasonably priced key services in each domain available to ordinary citizens and, specifically, how far down the income scale to median incomes or below does this provision extend? It should be clear that cities which rank high on global competitiveness often rank low on one or more basic foundational criteria, as London does on housing. Specifics and time are both crucial because the basic assumption is that policy is about cities doing do more and better in specific domains over time to improve the local offer of foundational goods and services.

2. Promote social innovation which meets basic social needs with a learning government in the leading role (instead of fixating on technical innovation which promises but no longer delivers diffused benefits from productivity and economic growth)

Technical innovation was the embodied aim of 20th-century industrial cities whose suburbs presupposed the motor car and electricity distribution systems; productivity gain and GDP growth were then measures of our national achievement, on the assumption that economic gains would be broadly distributed.
But this assumption is no longer valid in the high-income countries: as Thomas Piketty has demonstrated, the national macro-economic trends in high-income countries are to greater inequalities of wealth and income; as the UN concluded in its 2012-13 State of World Cities “cities generate wealth but it is not shared equitably”.

GDP growth has no rationale when the benefits are captured by the top 5% of the population, which in our cities means urban ecologies of residential segregation by income. We believe the emphasis needs to be shifted towards social innovation that promotes a civilised, inclusive city which performs fair outcomes in all its decisions. A city committed to making access to foundational goods and services more widely available to citizens; and does so, without restricting the privileges of citizenship to a narrow group, as in Gulf State urbanism.

The social problems we now need to solve in many cities are those such as adult care in an era of weakening family ties and ageing populations. To our knowledge, no world city has model arrangements for care of the elderly; their care is a challenge to our ingenuity and, like the quality of public school meals, a litmus test of our civilisation.
All of this requires financial innovation for social purposes which means not higher taxes but new forms of taxes to provide an adequate revenue base.
The competitive city is associated with the race-to-the-bottom, post-1979 incentive strategy of cutting tax rates (and allowing all kinds of general exemptions, especially in corporate tax) in the hope of attracting and retaining big business. Instead, the discourse should be about responsibility when business which draws private benefits from city expenditure (on everything from education to law and order) so that business should, in return, pay its fair share of the social costs; and the valuable businesses are those which are rooted in place and accept their social obligations.

But the answer at this point is not higher tax rates but new forms of taxes which tap the capital gains and incomes created by urbanism. Because taxation is a social technology where innovation in forms of taxation has come to a halt after a heroic century of achievements from 1850-1950 which gave us social insurance, sales tax and income tax deductions for weekly paid workers. The problem of our own time are not about financial innovation but about innovation applied for private purposes regardless of social consequences, as with sub-prime mortgages and other forms of long chain finance.

The argument must be about how to connect social obligation and fiscal innovation. There is then no escaping the point that the grounded city needs some kind of land value tax, for reasons which were familiar to radical Edwardians before 1914 but have subsequently been forgotten. Urbanism generates increases in the price of land and property: for the individual land owner, property renter and homeowner, these increases are an unearned increment arising from social development and the investments of others, especially public bodies which provide infrastructure. As the city creates the unearned increment, it is only sensible that the municipality should, through tax, take some of the value of the increment.

The precondition for mass welfare in the grounded city is a re-invented tax base intelligently spent on public goods and services which directly benefit the mass of the population. One implication is that there are limits to single-city policy because there are places, like Detroit or Liverpool, which have been set problems which cannot be solved from limited local sources. Cities do not, of course, have a full control of all the levers.
Another implication is that intelligent use of the levers depends on rebuilding proper expertise, especially within the tradition of town planning, globally represented by figures such as the late Sir Peter Hall. But this does not imply the idea that urban government is in some general sense for planned cities and against the market, only that the state and planning must take responsibility for some fundamental basics of city organisation.
This implies a shift from seeing the private sector as a source of enterprise and dynamism to seeing the public and third sectors as a source of initiative, experiment and legitimacy.

The grounded city is neither an insoluble city problem in the 1970s sense, nor a city black box in the 2000s sense delivering pleasant surprises. The grounded city is instead a site of diverse experiments and learning which could and should be publicly led.

Drawing on thinking from science and technology studies, government is about experimenting; experimenting is about learning; learning is about building on successes but also about making mistakes; and learning is also about recognising these as mistakes, and moving on.

We think these experiments have to be led by the public sector because only city and city region government has the tax revenue base, local knowledge and democratic legitimacy to require and sensibly lead large scale change. Public sector outsourcing so far, in sectors like rail operation in the UK, reveals a private sector which is risk averse, reluctant to commit investment and unlikely to experiment in socially desirable ways; while private sector capital is hardly necessary if governments at various levels can borrow and do so more cheaply than the private sector. Against this background, a new social contract is required, enforced as we have argued elsewhere by a social process of licensing which enforces corporate responsibility according to local and sectoral circumstances.

The point of fragility in all this is not the coherence and integrity of our vision of the grounded city; the question is about whether it is possible to put together a coalition of city government and civil society to get things done. We live in an era of post-democracy which has removed many of the pressures on city governments world-wide to act radically. Hence the lazy default pursuit of competitive success will continue for a little longer, though not without challenge by a new ideal.”

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Video of the Day: Sylvia Libow Martinez on Using Arduino for Education

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th January 2015


Facilitated by Howard Rheingold.

Watch the video here:

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Posted in Featured Video, Open Hardware and Design, P2P Education, Videos | No Comments »

On the tension between prefigurative and strategic politics

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th January 2015


The original article contains many interesting references to the lessons from the struggles of the 1960’s in the U.S.

Excerpted from Mark Engler and Paul Engler:

“It is an old question in social movements: Should we fight the system or “be the change we wish to see”? Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society?

Over the past 50 years — and arguably going back much further — social movements in the United States have incorporated elements of each approach, sometimes in harmonious ways and other times with significant tension between different groups of activists.
In the recent past, a clash between “strategic” and “prefigurative” politics could be seen in the Occupy movement. While some participants pushed for concrete political reforms — greater regulation of Wall Street, bans on corporate money in politics, a tax on millionaires, or elimination of debt for students and underwater homeowners — other occupiers focused on the encampments themselves. They saw the liberated spaces in Zuccotti Park and beyond — with their open general assemblies and communities of mutual support — as the movement’s most important contribution to social change. These spaces, they believed, had the power foreshadow, or “prefigure,” a more radical and participatory democracy.

Once an obscure term, prefigurative politics is increasingly gaining currency, with many contemporary anarchists embracing as a core tenet the idea that, as a slogan from the Industrial Workers of the World put it, we must “build the new world in the shell of the old.” Because of this, it is useful to understand its history and dynamics. While prefigurative politics has much to offer social movements, it also contains pitfalls. If the project of building alternative community totally eclipses attempts to communicate with the wider public and win broad support, it risks becoming a very limiting type of self-isolation.

For those who wish to both live their values and impact the world as it now exists, the question is: How can we use the desire to “be the change” in the service of strategic action?

Coined by political theorist Carl Boggs and popularized by sociologist Wini Breines, the term “prefigurative politics” emerged out of analysis of New Left movements in the United States. Rejecting both the Leninist cadre organization of the Old Left and conventional political parties, members of the New Left attempted to create activist communities that embodied the concept of participatory democracy, an idea famously championed in the 1962 Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. In a 1980 essay, Breines argues that the central imperative of prefigurative politics was to “create and sustain within the live practice of the movement, relationships and political forms that ‘prefigured’ and embodied the desired society.” Instead of waiting for revolution in the future, the New Left sought to experience it in the present through the movements it created.

Current discussion of prefigurative politics has been rooted in the experience of U.S. movements in the 1960s. However, the tension between waging campaigns to produce instrumental gains within the existing political system, on the one hand, and creating alternative institutions and communities that more immediately put radical values into practice, on the other, has existed for centuries. Unfortunately, there is no universal agreement on the vocabulary used to describe this split. Various academic and political traditions discuss the two differing approaches using overlapping concepts including “cultural revolution,” “dual power,” and theories of “collective identity.” Max Weber distinguished between the “ethic of ultimate ends” (which roots action in heartfelt and principled conviction) and an “ethic of responsibility” (which more pragmatically considers how action impacts the world). Most controversially, some scholars have discussed aspects of prefigurative action as forms of “lifestyle politics.”

Used as an umbrella category, the term prefigurative politics is useful in highlighting a divide that has appeared in countless social movements throughout the world. In the 1800s, Marx debated utopian socialists about the need for revolutionary strategy that went beyond the formation of communes and model societies. Throughout his life, Gandhi wavered back and forth between leading campaigns of civil disobedience to exact concessions from state powers and advocating for a distinctive vision of self-reliant village life, through which he believed Indians could experience true independence and communal unity. (Gandhi’s successors split on this issue, with Jawaharlal Nehru pursing the strategic control of state power and Vinoba Bhave taking up the prefigurative “constructive program.”) Advocates of strategic nonviolence, who push for the calculated use of unarmed uprising, have counter-posed their efforts against long-standing lineages of “principled nonviolence” — represented by religious organizations that espouse a lifestyle of pacifism (such as the Mennonites) or groups that undertake symbolic acts of “bearing moral witness” (such as the Catholic Workers).

With regard to the 1960s, Breines notes that the form of prefigurative politics that emerged in the New Left was “hostile to bureaucracy, hierarchy and leadership, and it took form as a revulsion against large-scale centralized and inhuman institutions.” Perhaps even more than advancing traditional political demands, the prefigurative concept of social change was about prompting a cultural shift.

Indeed, those who embraced a most extreme version of prefigurative practice in that period did not identify with the social movement “politicos” who organized rallies against the Vietnam War and were interested in directly challenging the system. Instead, they saw themselves as part of a youth counter-culture that was undermining establishment values and providing a vigorous, living example of an alternative.

Tension between prefigurative and strategic politics persists today for a simple reason: Although they are not always mutually exclusive, the two approaches have very distinct emphases and present sometimes contradictory notions of how activists should behave at any a given time.

Where strategic politics favors the creation of organizations that can marshal collective resources and gain influence in conventional politics, prefigurative groups lean toward the creation of liberated public spaces, community centers and alternative institutions — such as squats, co-ops and radical bookstores. Both strategic and prefigurative strategies may involve direct action or civil disobedience. However, they approach such protest differently. Strategic practitioners tend to be very concerned with media strategy and how their demonstrations will be perceived by the wider public; they design their actions to sway public opinion. In contrast, prefigurative activists are often indifferent, or even antagonistic, to the attitudes of the media and of mainstream society. They tend to emphasize the expressive qualities of protest — how actions express the values and beliefs of participants, rather than how they might impact a target.

Strategic politics seeks to build pragmatic coalitions as a way of more effectively pushing forward demands around a given issue. During the course of a campaign, grassroots activists might reach out to more established unions, non-profit organizations or politicians in order to make common cause. Prefigurative politics, however, is far more wary of joining forces with those coming from outside the distinctive culture a movement has created, especially if prospective allies are part of hierarchical organizations or have ties with established political parties.

Countercultural clothing and distinctive appearance — whether it involves long hair, piercings, punk stylings, thrift-store clothing, keffiyehs or any number of other variations — helps prefigurative communities create a sense of group cohesion. It reinforces the idea of an alternative culture that rejects conventional norms. Yet strategic politics looks at the issue of personal appearance very differently. Saul Alinsky, in his book Rules for Radicals, takes the strategic position when he argues, “If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair.” Some of the politicos of the New Left did just that in 1968, when Senator Eugene McCarthy entered the Democratic presidential primary as an anti-war challenger to Lyndon Johnson. Opting to “Get Clean for Gene,” they shaved beards, cut hair and sometimes donned suits in order to help the campaign reach out to middle-of-the-road voters.

* Taking stock of prefiguration

For those who wish to integrate strategic and prefigurative approaches to social change, the task is to appreciate the strengths of prefigurative communities while avoiding their weaknesses.

The impulse to “be the change we wish to see” has a strong moral appeal, and the strengths of prefigurative action are significant. Alternative communities developed “within the shell of the old” create spaces that can support radicals who chose to live outside the norms of workaday society and to make deep commitments to a cause. When they do take part in wider campaigns to change the political and economic system, these individuals can serve as a dedicated core of participants for a movement. In the case of Occupy, those most invested in prefigurative community were the people who kept the encampments running. Even if they were not those most involved in planning strategic demonstrations that brought in new allies and drew larger crowds; they played a pivotal role.
Another strength of prefigurative politics is that it is attentive to the social and emotional needs of participants. It provides processes for individuals’ voices to be heard and creates networks of mutual support to sustain people in the here and now.

Strategic politics often downplays these considerations, putting aside care for activists in order to focus on winning instrumental goals that will result in future improvements for society. Groups that incorporate prefigurative elements in their organizing, and thus have a greater focus on group process, have often been superior at intensive consciousness-raising, as well as at addressing issues such as sexism and racism within movements themselves.

But what works well for small groups can sometimes become a liability when a movement tries to scale up and gain mass support. Jo Freeman’s landmark essay, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” makes this point in the context of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Freeman argued that a prefigurative rejection of formal leadership and rigid organizational structure served second-wave feminists well early on when the movement “defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising.” However, she contends, when the movement aspired to go beyond meetings that raised awareness of common oppression and began to undertake broader political activity, the same anti-organizational predisposition became limiting. The consequence of structurelessness, Freeman argues, was a tendency for the movement to generate “much motion and few results.”

Perhaps the greatest danger inherent in prefigurative groups is a tendency toward self-isolation. Writer, organizer and Occupy activist Jonathan Matthew Smucker describes what he calls the “political identity paradox,” a contradiction that afflicts groups based on a strong sense of alternative community. “Any serious social movement needs a correspondingly serious group identity that encourages a core of members to contribute an exceptional level of commitment, sacrifice and heroics over the course of prolonged struggle,” Smucker writes. “Strong group identity, however, is a double-edged sword. The stronger the identity and cohesion of the group, the more likely people are to become alienated from other groups, and from society. This is the political identity paradox.”
Those focused on prefiguring a new society in their movements — and preoccupied with meeting the needs of an alternative community — can become cut off from the goal of building bridges to other constituencies and winning public support. Instead of looking for ways to effectively communicate their vision to the outside world, they are prone to adopt slogans and tactics that appeal to hardcore activists but alienate the majority. Moreover, they grow ever more averse to entering into popular coalitions. (The extreme fear of “co-optation” among some Occupiers was indicative of this tendency.) All these things become self-defeating. As Smucker writes, “Isolated groups are hard-pressed to achieve political goals”.”

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David Korten and David Graeber on the origins of the modern corporation

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th January 2015


Two interesting excerpts to show that the corporation is not an eternal form.

Excerpted from David Korten:

“Buccaneer is a colorful name for the pirates of old who pursued personal fortune with rules of their own making. They were, in their time, an iconic expression of “free market” capitalism.

Privateers were buccaneers to whom a king granted legal immunity and safe harbor in return for a share of the booty. Their charge was to extract physical wealth from foreign lands and peoples by whatever means—including the execution of rulers and the slaughter and enslavement of native inhabitants.

Hernán Cortés claimed the Mexican empire of Montezuma for Spain. Hernando de Soto made his initial mark trading slaves in Central America and later allied with Francisco Pizarro to take control of the Inca empire based in Peru.

Some privateers operated powerful naval forces. In 1671, Sir Henry Morgan (yes, appreciative British kings granted favored privateers with titles of nobility in recognition of their service) launched an assault on Panama City with thirty-six ships and nearly two thousand brigands, defeating a large Spanish force and looting the city as it burned to the ground. As with the buccaneers and privateers of days past, Wall Street’s major players find it more profitable to expropriate the wealth of others than to find honest jobs producing goods and services beneficial to their communities.

Eventually, the ruling monarchs turned from swashbuckling adventurers and chartered pirates to chartered corporations as their favored instruments of colonial expansion, administration, and pillage. The sale of public shares enabled a single firm to amass virtually unlimited financial capital and assured the continuity of the enterprise beyond the death of its founders. Limited liability absolved the owners of personal liability for the firm’s losses or misdeeds.

Corporations chartered by the British Crown established several of the earliest colonial settlements in what later became the United States and populated them with bonded laborers—many involuntarily transported from England—to work their properties. The importation of slaves from Africa followed.

The East India Company (chartered in 1600) was the primary instrument of Britain’s colonization of India, a country the company ruled until 1784 much as if it were a private estate. In the early 1800s, the East India Company established a thriving business exporting tea from China, paying for its purchases with illegal opium.

The Dutch East India Company (chartered in 1602) established its sovereignty over what is now Indonesia and reduced the local people to poverty by displacing them from their lands to grow spices for sale in Europe.

It is no exaggeration to characterize these forerunners of contemporary publicly traded limited liability corporations as, in effect, legally sanctioned and protected crime syndicates with private armies and navies backed by a mandate from their home governments to extort tribute, expropriate land and other wealth, monopolize markets, trade slaves, deal drugs, and profit from financial scams.

Wall Street hedge fund managers, day traders, currency traders, and other unlicensed phantom-wealth speculators are the independent, unlicensed buccaneers of our day. Wall Street banks are modern day commissioned privateers who ply a similar trade with state backing and safe harbor. The economy is their ocean. Publicly traded corporations serve as their favored vessels of plunder, financial leverage is their favored weapon, and the state is their servant-guardian.

As with the buccaneers and privateers of days past, Wall Street’s major players find it more profitable to expropriate the wealth of others than to find honest jobs producing goods and services beneficial to their communities. They walk away with their fees, commissions, and bonus packages and leave it to others to pick up the costs of federal bailouts, gyrating economic cycles, collapsing environmental systems, broken families, shattered communities, and the export of jobs along with the manufacturing, technology, and research capacities that go with them.

They seek self-enrichment by plundering wealth they had no part in creating, enjoy substantial legal immunity, and acknowledge no duty or accountability other than to themselves. Legal or not, taking the property of another through deception, fraud, and expropriation is theft. Only tyrannies guarantee the liberty of the few to plunder the wealth of the many.”

2. David Graeber

Excerpt – “municipal corporations”

from: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber ; Chapter Ten THE MIDDLE AGES (600 – 1450 AD)

“The striking thing is that the Confucian condemnation of the merchant, and the Islamic celebration of the merchant, ultimately led to the same thing: prosperous societies with flourishing markets, but where the elements never came together to create the great merchant banks and industrial firms that were to become the hallmark of modern capitalism. It’s especially striking in the case of Islam. Certainly, the Islamic world produced figures who would be hard to describe as anything but capitalists. Large-scale merchants were referred to as s?hib al-m?l, “owners of capital,” and legal theorists spoke freely about the creation and expansion of capital funds. At the height of the Caliphate, some of these merchants were in possession of millions of dinars and seeking profitable investment. Why did nothing like modern capitalism emerge? I would highlight two factors. First, Islamic merchants appear to have taken their free-market ideology seriously. The marketplace did not fall under the direct supervision of the government; contracts were made between individuals—ideally, “with a handshake and a glance at heaven”— and thus honor and credit became largely indistinguishable. This is inevitable: you can’t have cutthroat competition where there is no one stopping people from literally cutting one another’s throats. Second, Islam also took seriously the principle, later enshrined in classical economic theory but only unevenly observed in practice, that profits are the reward for risk. Trading enterprises were assumed to be, quite literally, adventures, in which traders exposed themselves to the dangers of storm and shipwreck, savage nomads, forests, steppes, and deserts, exotic and unpredictable foreign customs, and arbitrary governments. Financial mechanisms designed to avoid these risks were considered impious. This was one of the objections to usury: if one demands a fixed rate of interest, the profits are guaranteed. Similarly, commercial investors were expected to share the risk. This made most of the forms of finance and insurance that were to later develop in Europe impossible.

In this sense the Buddhist monasteries of early Medieval China represent the opposite extreme. The Inexhaustible Treasuries were inexhaustible because, by continually lending their money out at interest and never otherwise touching their capital, they could guarantee effectively risk-free investments. That was the entire point. By doing so, Buddhism, unlike Islam, produced something very much like what we now call “corporations”—entities that, through a charming legal fiction, we imagine to be persons, just like human beings, but immortal, never having to go through all the human untidiness of marriage, reproduction, infirmity, and death. To put it in properly Medieval terms, they are very much like angels. Legally, our notion of the corporation is very much a product of the European High Middle Ages. The legal idea of a corporation as a “fictive person” (persona ficta) — a person who, as Maitland, the great British legal historian, put it, “is immortal, who sues and is sued, who holds lands, has a seal of his own, who makes regulations for those natural persons of whom he is composed”166—was first established in canon law by Pope Innocent IV in 1250 ad, and one of the first kinds of entities it applied to were monasteries—as also to universities, churches, municipalities, and guilds.
The idea of the corporation as an angelic being is not mine, incidentally. I borrowed it from the great Medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz, who pointed out that all this was happening right around the same time that Thomas Aquinas was developing the notion that angels were really just the personification of Platonic Ideas.168 “According to the teachings of Aquinas,” he notes, “every angel represented a species.”

Little wonder then that finally the personified collectives of the jurists, which were juristically immortal species, displayed all the features otherwise attributed to angels … The jurists themselves recognized that there was some similarity between their abstractions and the angelic beings. In this respect, it may be said that the political and legal world of thought of the later Middle Ages began to be populated by immaterial angelic bodies, large and small: they were invisible, ageless, sempiternal, immortal, and sometimes even ubiquitous; and they were endowed with a corpus intellectuale or mysticum [an intellectual or mystical body] which could stand any comparison with the “spiritual bodies” of the celestial beings.

All this is worth emphasizing because while we are used to assuming that there’s something natural or inevitable about the existence of corporations, in historical terms, they are actually strange, exotic creatures. No other great tradition came up with anything like it.170 They are the most peculiarly European addition to that endless proliferation of metaphysical entities so characteristic of the Middle Ages—as well as the most enduring.

They have, of course, changed a great deal over time. Medieval corporations owned property, and they often engaged in complex financial arrangements, but in no case were they profit-seeking enterprises in the modern sense. The ones that came closest were, perhaps unsurprisingly, monastic orders — above all, the Cistercians — whose monasteries became something like the Chinese Buddhist ones, surrounded by mills and smithies, practicing rationalized commercial agriculture with a workforce of “lay brothers” who were effectively wage laborers, spinning and exporting wool. Some even talk about “monastic capitalism.”

Still, the ground was only really prepared for capitalism in the familiar sense of the term when the merchants began to organize themselves into eternal bodies as a way to win monopolies, legal or de facto, and avoid the ordinary risks of trade. An excellent case in point was the Society of Merchant Adventurers, charted by King Henry IV in London in 1407, who, despite the romantic-sounding name, were mainly in the business of buying up British woolens and selling them in the Flanders fairs. They were not a modern joint-stock company, but a rather old-fashioned Medieval merchant guild, but they provided a structure whereby older, more substantial merchants could simply provide loans to younger ones, and they managed to secure enough of an exclusive control over the woolen trade that substantial profits were pretty much guaranteed.172 When such companies began to engage in armed ventures overseas, though, a new era of human history might be said to have begun.”

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P2P Agri-food Projectfest (1): Growstuff in Melbourne

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th January 2015


* 1. Growstuff is “an open source social network for gardeners. Includes a tool to record and share our harvests, and to show how much food is being grown in urban and suburban gardens.”

John McKenzie from Permaculture Melbourne writes:

“We want to find what the best gardeners can produce on their plots of land. This becomes a benchmark for their area. The benchmarking project is hoping to indicate the power of urban gardening. If 20% of households could grow at the benchmark rate, then how much food could an urban community produce? We think it’s a huge amount. We think there’s an urban food production industry waiting to be recognised.” (John McKenzie from Permaculture Melbourne lays out the vision – quoted at )

Chris Watkins explains:

“The aggregated data will tell us about the capacity of our communities to feed ourselves, broken down by area and crop type. This is the first time data has been collected and made available in this way – a milestone for urban food growing and urban resilience.

Growstuff is the platform – an open source, collaborative, community-oriented gardening site and social network. They’re building a database of crops, harvests, planting advice, seed sources, and more, that anyone can use for free for any purpose under a Creative Commons license. (If you can handle more adjectives, it’s also open data, with an API, independent, ad-free and operated as a social business.)

Growstuff is headed up by ex-Google coder and food grower, Alex Bayley. I’ve doing pair programming on the harvest tool with Alex, and learning much – her coding skills are so far ahead of mine that I’m pretty much watching her code, but that’s the collaborative and inclusive approach of Growstuff. I can vouch for Alex, who could be earning big money in the tech industry, but is instead following what she believes in, and does much of her coding at a kitchen table, looking out on a vegetable garden.

Think how motivating it will be to know that gardeners are producing not just a few tomatoes, but hampers and buckets full of delicious, fresh food, in our own neighborhoods. This will be a real boost to urban food growing and local resilience, to have this knowledge and data about local food production – for our own knowledge, for our communities, and in our dealings with our local governments. Knowing what successful gardeners can produce on their own land and mapping this by area, we can discover the potential of urban gardening.”

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