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The coming financial crisis: a harbinger of world renewal?

photo of Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana
28th November 2014


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As the prospect of global financial crisis beckons once again, will our elected leaders finally accept the need for an entirely new economic approach that breaks away from the primacy of growth and profit – or will their hand be forced by a resurgence of mass public protest?


A full six years after the global financial crisis, not only have governments failed to rethink the way we organise our economic systems, but politicians across the world have pressed forward with an obsolete political agenda that has paved the way for yet more financial chaos. The failure of our elected representatives to adopt a just and sustainable alternative to neoliberal capitalism has also set the scene for years of increased hardship and popular unrest that will inevitably follow any future economic crash.

The very real prospect of a repeat of the 2008 meltdown is now widely accepted in the mainstream media, and the many possible factors that could trigger it are readily discussed in policy circles. As the International Monetary Fund makes plain in its latestWorld Economic Outlook report, for example, the risk of a worldwide recession is of particular concern – especially as the Holy Grail of achieving respectable levels of economic growth is becoming ever more elusive.

Of particular concern is the Eurozone where five countries, including Spain and Italy, are already experiencing economic deflation. All eyes are currently on Germany, which is teetering on the brink of recession as its economic activity continues to contract over consecutive months. The implications for the Eurozone as a whole if Germany enters a contractionary cycle will be far-reaching, since Germany is widely regarded as the main engine for growth in Europe and often props-up neighbouring states when they experience financial hardship. The overarching concern is that this entire currency block could soon succumb to a deflationary spiral, which would plunge it back into a full blown Euro crisis.

The expansion of the shadow banking industry, especially in Europe, has also been flagged by senior officials within the banking industry and the IMF as a threat to global financial stability. This shrouded sector of finance is far less regulated than mainstream banking, partly because they make use of tax havens and complex speculative instruments. Assets managed by investment funds operating within this sector, which include hedge funds, have risen by 30% in the past two years alone.

Global debt and other tipping points

Mounting levels of debt, largely fuelled by historically low interest rates that encourage excessive borrowing, are another potential cause of future crisis. According to the latest Geneva Report, global debt has reached a staggering $158.8 trillion, which sets a new debt-to-GDP record. China has been the real engine driving this indebtedness – their external debt has risen by 50% in the last year alone, making them particularly vulnerable to financial crisis at a time when their economic growth rate is also stagnating.

The impact of debt will, of course, be most keenly felt in developing countries. According to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, reckless lending to a set of 43 developing countries has surged by 60% since 2009 – raising the prospect of a new debt crisis in the developing world. Undoubtedly, this will leave many governments with crippling debt repayments over the next decade, which will further thwart government efforts to reduce poverty and provide essential public services.

As James Medway of the New Economic Foundation explains, the real problem arises when high levels of debt (as are currently evident across the globe) combine with low rates of growth, which will almost certainly decline further in the period ahead. If there is not enough economic growth to repay these debts with interest, then the entire system will inevitably come to a grinding halt.

On top of this already lethal cocktail of stagnant growth, excessive debt and burgeoning speculative activity, we can also add the recent drop in oil prices, which will have dramatic implications for oil exporting countries. Venezuela, Iran and Russia, for example, are all heavily dependent on their income from this commodity to finance government spending or maintain the strength of their currency. And these economic concerns do not even take into account the financial impact of Ebola, the economic consequences of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, or the cost of climate change if we fail to reverse our current trajectory of inaction.

From any angle, the world financial outlook can only be regarded as rapidly deteriorating, and this starkly reflects how little policymakers have done to address the root causes of the 2008 crisis. Instead of dramatically overhauling the global economy and safeguarding the needs of the majority, governments have chosen to resuscitate a discredited economic ideology that preaches more of the same deregulatory, consumption-driven, austerity-backed neoliberalism. As the social and environmental impacts of the ongoing economic crisis become ever more apparent, how long will concerned citizens be willing to tolerate a political elite that is largely self-serving and neglects the needs of ordinary people?

The road towards system change

Despite the palpable frustration being expressed everywhere since the current cycle of public protest began, our leaders have failed to listen to the voice of the people, preferring instead to continue pandering to the same corporate interests they are so closely allied with. Consequently, the top 1% of the world’s population are richer now than they were before the financial crisis and this tiny minority own almost half of all available wealth. Meanwhile, half the world’s population now share a mere 1% of the world’s combined wealth, a staggering 2 billion people remain undernourished, and global income inequality has returned to 1820 levels.

There can be little doubt that we are entering a prolonged period of economic hardship, which will be accompanied by a steady escalation in public protest as large swathes of ordinary people join activists and civil society organisations in calling for social justice, environmental stewardship and true democracy. As is happening right now in Hong Kong and London’s Parliament Square, it will be in iconic public spaces that these citizens will make their demands and thereby gain mainstream media attention and support from within the wider populace.

If governments across the world intend to avoid the inevitability of economic upheaval, social unrest and public protest, they need to finally accept that the existing economic model is wholly responsible for the current crisis. At the very least, any solution will require a decisive break away from the myopic pursuit of economic growth, the maximisation of corporate profit, and the relentless promotion of consumerist values. As campaigners have long been demanding in response to the convergence of crises we face, we urgently need a new economic paradigm – one in which wealth, power and resources are shared more equitably and sustainably within nations and internationally.

Will politicians make these changes willingly and in accordance with the many sane alternatives that are widely discussed among progressives? A transformative shift in public policy is certainly not on the cards any time soon. But with prolonged financial crises on the horizon and public protest intensifying across the globe, it will remain impossible for governments to ignore the voice of the people indefinitely.

Photo credit: wsilver - flickr creative commons

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Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Original Content, P2P Development | No Comments »

James Scott: The Art of Not Being Governed

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
28th November 2014


The author of several books including Seeing Like a State, Professor Scott’s research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism. We talk with Professor Scott about his newest book, The Art of Not Being Governed. It is the first-ever examination of the volumes of literature on state-making that evaluates why people would deliberately remain stateless.

James Scott, is Sterling Professor of Political Science, Professor of Anthropology, and Co-director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Featured Video, P2P Governance, Peer Property | No Comments »

Video of the Day: A Relevant Past for a Digital Age?

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Stacco Troncoso
27th November 2014


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Fourth of a series of videos from the New School on Digital Labor. You can find the whole series here.

A Relevant Past for a Digital Age?

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Featured Video, Networks, P2P Collaboration, P2P Labor, Videos | No Comments »

A brief history of contemporary “consumerism” and anti-consumerism

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David de Ugarte
27th November 2014


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What made us go from the kibutz to the eco-village, from the commune to co-living, and from cooperatives to collaborative consumption? Is it a bottom-up movement or a fashion? Is it enduring or a flash in the pan?


History books usually study social movements of the second half of the nineteenth century from the point of view of the split between anarchists and Marxists. Both theories played an important role in debates of the great workers’ movements of the following century, and for a long time, no one seemed to question the root they shared: the idea that the origin of the “social problem” was in the way in which the production of things was organized.

la huelgaIt’s normal for that powerful idea to occupy, almost without question, the center of historical stories: from the First International to the fall of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the story of European reforms and revolutions was written in terms of work stoppages, general strikes, “wildcat” strikes and factory occupations. In the world of alternatives in the same days, not much was different. For two centuries, to say “cooperative” in continental Europe or in South America automatically meant “worker cooperative,” and it was the most powerful community movement of the time. Israeli “kibbutzim” (communities) were founded to create a productive base in the wastelands of Jewish migration in Asia. Even when the Catholic Church started to develop its “social doctrine” with the encyclical Rerum Novarum, its focus was on the same starting point as the theoreticians of the IWA: the drama of proletarianization of the artisan and the peasant, the transition from the workshop and its culture to the factory and alienation.

Social Anglicanism

Principios cooperativos de RochdaleBut the Anglo-Saxon world was going the other direction. In Great Britain, a strong philanthropical tradition existed, linking both liberals and conservative social Christianity, which was afraid that unions would be “contaminated” by the radical ideas of the continent. At the end of the nineteenth century, this tendency had little influence on unions, but had a strong relationship with different experiments of workers’ stores and little mutuals, often linked to the social outreach of Anglican parishes. Little by little, from this effort there emerged a “friendly cooperativism.” The worker cooperative showed the possibility of a world where capitalists were not the owners of the businesses; however, a consumer cooperative can put in question the need for a shopkeeper-owner, but not owners as a group, so it didn’t question the social order.

These are the cooperatives that met in the “First British Co-operative Congress” in 1869. Wanting to create an “alternative” to the dominant workers’ movements, they will rewrite the history of cooperativism as it was then commonly understood, placing its origins in Robert Owens, a liberal philanthropist–rather than in Fourier–and will date the birth of cooperativism to “the Rochdale Pioneers,” an English consumer cooperative, ignoring the fishing, agrarian and artisan commons that had been modernizing and becoming modern [worker] cooperatives for at least sixty years prior.

For a long time, this reductionist interpretation was almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon. In 1895, when the first assembly of the “International Cooperative Alliance” took place, the delegates belonged almost exclusively to the British Empire: England, Australia, India, and Ireland. The Anglo-Saxon homogeneity was only broken by the participation of German Christian cooperativism, born of the Lutheran Church, a minority in an environment of overwhelming development of social democracy.

United States

consumersAfter the Second World War, “consumerism” took off in the United States. US unions spread consumer and housing cooperativism across the country as a way to protect their members from the economic crisis following the Japanese recovery. The idea that “conscious consumption” can not only relieve crises but transform the very international economic structure is made manifest in 1946, when the Committee Central Mennonite creates “Ten Thousand Villages,” the first “fair trade” association.

Meanwhile, society is stunned to discover the proportions of the Jewish genocide, and the media have to explain how “Hitler’s madness” could have led to electoral success and social consensus in enlightened Germany.

The attention of academics and creators of opinion turns to techniques of mass manipulation. There is a growing distrust of the power of the media and the effects of the then nascent television. The publicists of Madison Avenue (“Mad Men”) will soon become the epitome of the new industrialist fascism, which is able to use Goebbels’ mass techniques in a new way, to make us consume what we don’t need. Alternative consumption and what soon will be called the “counterculture” are then defined as a new form of resistance. And in ’59, when the Cuban Revolution demands an ideological response from the Kennedy administration, the model to export will be the consumer cooperativism of conservative unions, so that in the ’60s, the ground was already prepared in all possible places for the idea that “the system” would be renewed not by politics or the redefinition of forms of work, but by organized consumers.

Europe

Die Grunen/ WahlplakateIn Europe, during the ’70s, a good number of college kids–then much less numerous than today–discovered the radical Left. After failing again and again to convince the workers that they needed a revolutionary party, they wonder the same thing that, years before, Bordieu and Castoriadis had asked in the magazine Socialism or Barbarism: “Why is the proletariat no longer revolutionary?” Castoriadis’ answer, and above all, Bordieu’s, later followed by his Situationist disciple Guy Debord, will be very well developed intellectually. According to these authors, capitalism had entered a new phase, where the determining factor of the social order, including the control and the generation of identities, was carried out not in the direct relationship between capital and labor, in production, but rather in the system of reproduction of the labor force, consumption, where the new contradictions of the system were concentrated. More than capitalism, we would have to call the new mode of social production/reproduction “consumerism.”

The discourse is soon taken up by the non-parliamentarian German and Dutch Left: the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is no longer between capital and labor, as Marx described, but between capital, culture and natural resources. The enemy was no longer capitalism, but consumerism and industrialism. The discourse recovers the priority and urgency of an alternative: the dream of a world revolution–something that the people make, and would have to make–will gradually be substituted with a global ecological catastrophe, something that would be beyond people’s control if they don’t change their lifestyles and consumption habits. In that ideological framework, die Grünen, the Greens, are born, the first European political party to systematically organize campaigns of alternative consumption.

The fall of the Communist regimes of eastern Europe, with the consequent loss of influence of the parties of Marxist inspiration, gave even more relevance to anti-consumerism–and therefore to “consumerism”–in alternative discourse in a wide variety of forms and topical associations: from catastrophism and radical ecologism to the discourse of movements against climate change and a good part of the “sharing economy.”

Today

Sharing generationAnd in fact, it has been the development of a whole series of movements born in the English-speaking world over the two latest decades that has ended up establishing the argument of the “centrality of consumption” among new social sectors in Europe and Latin America. Alternative discourse has gone from the productive kibbutz, still a major point of reference in the ’70s, to “ecovillages” that only share ownership of common services, from cooperatives with houses to “co-living,” and even from consumer co-ops themselves to “collaborative consumption” platforms listed on the stock market. And if there is no belief that production is the center of social organization, it is difficult to understand the nature and distribution of property as the determinant institution of an era.

consumerismThe “consumerist” discourse, the idea that consumption patterns can modify the social structure through the market, has gained extraordinary strength. Paradoxically, it has fed and given legitimacy to a certain sense of “guilt” about consuming and enjoying doing so, a certain ascetic and degrowthist ideal, closer to Christian millenarianism than to the dream of abundance of the utopian and revolutionary movements of the nineteenth century. A new social consensus about how to change the world seems to have formed.

And yet, we realize that something substantial is diluted when we ignore production. Maybe it’s because our empowerment as consumers, by definition, has a ceiling. Perhaps because we realize that unemployment and poverty can’t be addressed by changing only our purchases, or only distributing production another way. Perhaps because consuming “less,” or “even less,” is the immediate result of the crisis (economic “degrowth”), and we see that it means nothing but poverty. Or simply because, inside, we know that, for as valuable and important as sharing culture is, our sovereignty and that of our communities continues to depend on our ability to satisfy the needs of our loved ones, and that that, beyond cultural change, in the end has to do with capacity and the mode of production of goods, both material and cultural, that satisfy them.

Translation by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

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Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Original Content | No Comments »

Anne Marie Naylor on Reclaiming Community Assets

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
27th November 2014



Community, and specifically the empowering and distribution of assets within communities, has long been the driving force for Anne-Marie Naylor’s work. In 2008, she established the government-funded Asset Transfer Unit, working with over 30 partners to promote and support a nationwide community asset transfer environment. In 2013, this has become a new enterprise. Naylor is now the Associate Director of Locality, a new and innovative approach to delivering publically-owned assets to communities. Land and buildings, as well as entire institutions such as hospitals and ports, can benefit greatly from community ownership, and Naylor seeks to give people the tools to do this. Social inclusion, spatial and economic regeneration and working with the public, private and third sectors are all high on Naylor’s agenda, and she is turning her attention to technological and intellectual ownership as she continues to inspire and empower.

See Also – http://commonfutures.eu/

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Videos | No Comments »

Challenging corporate power in a not-for-profit world

photo of Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana
26th November 2014


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As businesses increasingly embrace a not-for-profit culture, an end to overconsumption on a finite planet could finally be in sight. But given the huge lobbying power of vested interests, it will remain impossible to create a truly sustainable world until the illegitimate power of corporations is held in check.


Does changing the way we do business hold the key to creating a world where resources are shared more equitably and consumed within planetary limits? According to Professor Donnie Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute, the answer is a definitive yes – but only if we can fully embrace a business model that doesn’t require profits to be distributed to shareholders, and works instead to reinvest revenues back into the company. Increasingly, socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs are adopting not-for-profit (NFP) business practices across the whole spectrum of traditionally for-profit sectors. Maclurcan, whose book ‘How on Earth’ co-authored with Jennifer Hinton is due out next year, firmly believes that the NFP model presents an alternative macroeconomic framework with the potential to revolutionise how we produce goods and services, and thereby pave the way for an ‘economics of enough’.

Maclurcan argues that the fundamental flaw inherent in socially-oriented forms of commerce that are not strictly NFP (such as B-corps in the US, or social enterprises and Community Interest Companies in the UK) is that they all potentially allow profits to be given to shareholders as dividends. Since this is impossible to do within a NFP framework, the company can focus entirely on job creation as well as its positive ecological and social impacts, without the pressure to maximise returns every quarter regardless of any damaging externalities that might result. Maclurcan suggests that this approach enables businesses to adopt a new triple bottom line of ‘people, planet and not-for-profit’.

Speaking at London South Bank University as part of a UK tour to promote his upcoming book, Maclurcan highlighted some of the additional benefits that are inherent to the NFP model. Apart from the statutory advantages afforded by NFP status (such as tax exemptions and the ability to receive donations and employ volunteers), NFP businesses tend to have inherently horizontal operational structures that can enable decision making and revenue to be shared more equitably among stakeholders. Unencumbered by the profit motive, these businesses can also provide services that are truly tailored to meet social needs, and products that are environmentally sustainable and long lasting – potentially doing away with the need for planned obsolescence. Given this more enlightened approach to commerce, Maclurcan argues that ‘purpose-driven motivation’ is far more common among those working for NFP organisations than among those in the traditional for-profit sector.

Although the NFP model has its roots in charitable, educational and religious organisations that can be traced back thousands of years, there has been a steep rise in the number of businesses adopting the framework in recent decades – a popularity that has paralleled the steady growth in the number of NGOs, foundations and charities that operate in the third sector. For example, according to Maclurcan’s research the majority of enterprises in the cooperative sector, which now represent over 1 billion members and employ 20% more people than multinational corporations, are run on a NFP basis. In the US alone, approximately 44% of those who are economically active already use banking services provided by credit unions that are governed by both cooperative and NFP principles.

With every year that passes, an increasing share of new business start-ups are adopting a NFP governance structure, which suggests that the insatiable pursuit of profit might be starting to mellow – at least within small business that are newly established. If these trends continue, Maclurcan estimates that NFP enterprises could outcompete for-profit companies across all sectors by 2050.

Transforming the private sector

In recent years there has been an intense focus among progressives on the need for agreat transition in society away from neoliberal capitalism – a debate that even broke through to the mainstream media for a short time in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The Occupy movement did much to further highlight the need for ‘system change’, particularly through their enduring reference to the trickling-up of wealth from the 99% to the richest 1% of the populace. More recently, Naomi Klein has powerfully reignited this debate in her latest book, which dissects the stark choice we face between saving capitalism and protecting the planet – options that she rightly argues are wholly incompatible within the current political-economic paradigm.

There can be little doubt that the NFP proposal put forward by Maclurcan aligns closely to many post-capitalist and new economy perspectives that have long been proposed by progressive thinkers and activists. Indeed, the notion that businesses can thrive without making a profit for shareholders clearly challenges a central tenet of modern capitalism: the privatisation of wealth into the hands of a minority. As Bill Blackwater explains in an insightful essay (pdf), it is widely accepted that re-investing money to make ever-more profit is the core feature of capitalism today. He goes on to highlight how the relentless pursuit of profit is one of the main reasons why capitalist economies are predicated on the need for continual expansion and economic growth – all of which is facilitated by access to cheap credit, energy and natural resources, and inevitably results in the mass production of (mostly unnecessary and highly wasteful) consumer goods.

Maclurcan’s solution is also entirely compatible with his other paradigm-shifting projects that emphasise the need to move beyond economic growth and promote forms of sharing and gifting. Instead of focusing on the production of goods and services for the sake of endlessly expanding profits, NFPs have the option to focus exclusively on socially and ecologically beneficial goods and services that need not create any profit at all – they only require a robust business model that can ensure the company’s ongoing viability. Maclurcan also argues that wealth redistribution is inherent to NFP enterprises, and that if such models are scaled up to predominate in the private sector in decades to come, this process of economic sharing within the workplace could help counter the growing divide between rich and poor, which is now widely recognised as a structural consequence of capitalism.

Overall, Maclurcan presents a convincing argument that a combination of socially and environmentally useful commerce alongside the elimination of the profit motive has potentially revolutionary implications for the business world of tomorrow – if it can be widely adopted. The impact of the NFP model is likely to be even more transformative when combined with forms of peer-to-peer production, collaborative consumption, and the revitalisation of small businesses serving local communities. Maclurcan’s statistics detailing the ongoing rise of NFPs also points to an encouraging shift in cultural attitudes in a world that has been dominated by the profit and growth paradigm for far too long.

Beyond the profit and growth imperative

Maclurcan’s vision offers great promise for those thinking about how to make the transition to a steady-state economy that operates within ecological boundaries. However, in order for the NFP model to present a comprehensive macroeconomic solution to the whole gamut of social and environmental problems we face, it should also be explored within a much broader political context. For example, the NFP model naturally pertains to the role that the private and charitable sectors can play in an economy, rather than the public realm and government policy. But as citizens in Hong Kong and other countries have bravely highlighted in recent years, democratic governance systems are central to the transformative economic reforms that are urgently needed across the world. This more extensive macroeconomic perspective is particularly important in relation to social justice and environmental stewardship, since the root causes of injustice and ecological degradation are firmly embedded in the policies and institutions that underpin our economies – they are clearly not confined to our business practices alone.

It is also important to note that the failure of policymakers to regulate the drive for profit-at-all-costs is part of a broader neoliberal consensus that goes far beyond individual business ethics and influences policy decisions at the highest levels of government. Moreover, this same political ideology has an enormous influence over global economic policy such as trade rules and international financial arrangements, which then set restrictive parameters on how individual governments can manage their economies – the alarming implications of the ‘TTIP’ free trade agenda being a case in point.

If we want to create lasting progressive change and a sustainable economic model that includes both private and public sectors, we must therefore also consider the potential of NFP companies from the angle of government regulation and public policy. This could mean, for example, pushing for better government incentives for those setting up NFP enterprises. But even if the vast majority of new businesses adopted NFP practices, the positive trend would do little to address one of the most proximal causes of inequality and climate change: the small number of powerful multinational corporations that drive consumerism and encourage unsustainable patterns of extraction and production around the globe.

Loosening the corporate stranglehold

Across all the major fields of commerce such as pharmaceuticals, insurance, agriculture and energy production, our world is already dominated by well-established and financially powerful for-profit businesses – and a mere 10 of these corporationsown the vast majority of brands most people are familiar with. Not only do these companies overshadow the marketplace, but the financial power afforded to them through their pursuit of profit enables them to wield tremendous influence over government policy. This has been a perennial issue for activists and concerned citizens, with ongoing campaigns and petitions to get ‘big money’ out of politics; to institute publicly funded election campaigning; and even to end corporate influenceover the United Nations. The importance of this problem for post-capitalism theorists cannot be underestimated. Given the huge lobbying power of dirty energy companies, for example, it is difficult to see how it will ever be possible to create a truly sustainable world until the illegitimate power of big corporations is held in check.

One way to combat the profit-driven business ethic in established institutions is to wrestle key public services away from corporate control so that they can be managed in the interests of stakeholders instead. An inspiring recent example is the re-municipalisation of energy infrastructure in many parts of Germany, which was kick-started by citizen efforts in Hamburg to facilitate a transition to renewable energy. As austerity measures and privatisation continue to take their toll on government services,similar initiatives across healthcare, social housing, transport and other traditionally ‘public’ sectors are finally on the rise, but must be urgently scaled up in countries across the world.

The various causes and initiatives highlighted above are among many that are directly linked with the problem of profit maximisation, and therefore warrant consideration among those working towards the creation of a not-for-profit world. But a macroeconomic model that functions within a post-growth framework must also consider other critical issues that fuel the relentless expansion of capital, all of which demand a sharp reversal of neoliberal government policies. These include, for example, access to cheap credit and natural resources, as well as the culture of consumerism which continues to be given pride of place in society. Numerous proposals by progressive thinkers and NGOs have outlined additional aspects of what a sustainable macroeconomic model should include, such as public control over money creation, a shorter working week, a green new deal, social protection for all, and an international framework for cooperatively managing natural resources – to name but a few examples. Alongside a transformation of the private sector that Maclurcan advocates for, such public policy measures must play a fundamental role in the creation of a sustainable and equitable future for humanity.

The urgent need for wholesale systemic change presents an unprecedented challenge to concerned citizens and policymakers alike, partly due to the diverse economic, social and political issues that are implicated in the interconnected global crises we face today. Undoubtedly, for-profit business models have played a central role in creating these intractable problems, and a profound transformation within the private sector is therefore long overdue. As such, there is no doubt that Maclurcan’s upcoming book could play a crucial role in the search for a sustainable alternative to neoliberal capitalism, and it has the potential to inspire a whole generation to embrace a NFP culture. If those working within non-profit organisations also engage politically in the battle to end excessive commercialisation and limit the influence of established corporations, the possibility of achieving an economics of enough could finally become a blessed reality.

Photo credit: Dr Motte – flickr creative commons

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Cooperatives, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Original Content, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

Video: Eden Medina on the first historical experiment with economics based on democratic mutual coordination

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
26th November 2014


Professor Medina presents material from Cybernetic Revolutionaries, her book that tells the history of Chile’s Project Cybersyn.

Watch the video here:

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Posted in Economy and Business, P2P Books, P2P Theory, Videos | No Comments »

CO-Mantua : International Collaborative Governance Model for the Commons

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
25th November 2014


The local Chamber of Commerce, the City of Mantua, the Province, local ONGs, SMEs and knowledge institutions, such as the Mantua University Foundation and some local schools are glad to support the two days event that will take place in Mantua.

The main objective of the  Festival will concerns the conception of a prototype of an institutionalizing process to run the city as a collaborative commons and therefore as a “co-city”. A co-city should be based on  international collaborative governance of the commons whereby urban, environmental, cultural, knowledge and digital commons are co-managed by the five actors of the collaborative governance – social innovators, public authorities, businesses, civil society organizations, knowledge institutions through an institutionalized public-private-people/community partnership. This partnership will give birth to a local p2p physical, digital and institutional platform with three main aims: living together , growing together, making together. The cooperative model endorsed by “Tavolo della Cooperazione e dell’Economia Civile” is based on the innovative features of open dialogue, cooperative system design and mutual sharing. Thanks to the effort of Labsus – Laboratory for subsidiarity the city of Mantua was able to produce a concrete institutional experiment based on the principle of co-working. The call for ideas “Culture as a Commons (La Cultura come bene Comune), launched by the initiative of the city of Mantua, Fondazione Cariplo and Chamber of Commerce of Mantua, gathered a series of brilliant ideas and prospects for the cultivation of a long lasting project: install a permanent structure for a model of collaborative governance. The underlying conviction is that such renewed institutional framework could activate and liberate the positive energies of the urban circuit, including the talents and resources of citizens, associations, administrations and social innovators. The new model for collaborative governance is the technological content that the current society needs for promoting growth and sustainability, both in economic terms and as social determinants.

Among the participants during the two-days event, there will be Sheila Foster, Michel Bauwens and Neal Gorenflo, which represent all together the legitimized source for the ignition of an international debate.

Professor Christian Iaione will moderate the debate during the second day.

Further info at:

http://www.promoimpresaonline.it/default.asp?idtema=1&idtemacat=1&page=news&action=read&idnews=195  Brochure festival

SOURCE – http://www.labgov.it/co-mantua-international-collaborative-governance-model-for-the-commons/

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Posted in Commons, Culture & Ideas, Open Government, P2P Legal Dev., Politics | No Comments »

Video of the Day: Alternative Forms of Labor Organizations: Union Substitutes or Something Else?

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
25th November 2014


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Third of a series of videos from the New School on Digital Labor. You can find the whole series here.

Alternative Forms of Labor Organizations: Union Substitutes or Something Else?

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Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Featured Video, P2P Labor, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

Green Grangers – Movement for Relocalisation and Community Resilience

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
24th November 2014


“The Order of Patrons of Husbandry, generally known as The Grange, was a radical populist movement from the 1870s that formed in opposition to both monopolistic corporations and their middlemen. This detrimental concentration of resources and the power it creates they reasoned, would result in a society that degraded the producer, violated the public good, and undermined the republic.

Over a century later, this situation not only persists, it thrives – fueled by dwindling supplies of non-renewable and toxic fossil fuels. To survive, society needs to transition to a sustainable, re-localized civilization. Many of us feel that the Grange should accept this challenge, and become a major player and even leader for rural communities in transition.”

http://greengranges.org

Declaration of Purpose of the National Grange
Adopted by the St. Louis session of the National Grange, February 11, 1874

Preamble

Profoundly impressed with the truth that the National Grange of the United States should definitely proclaim to the world its general objects, we hereby unanimously make this Declaration of Purposes of the Patrons of Husbandry.

General Objects

  1. United by the strong and faithful tie of Agriculture, we mutually resolve to labor for the good of our Order, our country, and mankind.
  2. We heartily endorse the motto: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Specific Objects

  1. We shall endeavor to advance our cause by laboring to accomplish the following objects:

To develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves; to enhance the comforts and attractions of our homes, and strengthen our attachments to our pursuits; to foster mutual understanding and cooperation; to maintain inviolate our laws, and to emulate each other in labor, to hasten the good time coming; to reduce our expenses, both individual and corporate; to buy less and produce more, in order to make our farms self-sustaining; to diversify our crops and crop no more than we can cultivate; to condense the weight of our exports, selling less in the bushel and more on hoof and in fleece, less in lint and more in warp and woof; to systematize our work, and calculate intelligently on probabilities; to discountenance the credit system, the mortgage system, the fashion system, and every other system tending to prodigality and bankruptcy.

We propose meeting together, talking together, working together, buying together, selling together, and, in general, acting together for our mutual protection and advancement, as occasion may require. We shall avoid litigation as much as possible by arbitration in the Grange. We shall constantly strive to secure entire harmony, good will, vital brotherhood among ourselves, and to make our Order perpetual. We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry, all selfish ambition. Faithful adherence to these principles will insure our mental, moral, social and material advancement.

Business Relations

  1. For our business interests we desire to bring producers and consumers, farmers and manufacturers, into the most direct and friendly relations possible. Hence, we must dispense with a surplus of middlemen, not that we are unfriendly to them, but we do not need them. Their surplus and their exactions diminish our profits.

We wage no aggressive warfare against any other interests whatever. On the contrary, all our acts, and all our efforts, so far as business is concerned, are not only for the benefit of the producer and consumer, but also for all other interests that tend to bring these two parties into speedy and economical contact. Hence, we hold that transportation companies of every kind are necessary to our success, that their interests are intimately connected with our interests, and harmonious action is mutually advantageous, keeping in view the first sentence in our declaration of principles of action, that “Individual happiness depends upon general prosperity.”

We shall, therefore, advocate for every state the increase in every practicable way, of all facilities for transporting cheaply to the seaboard, or between home producers and consumers, all the productions of our country. We adopt it as our fixed purpose to “open out the channels in Nature’s great arteries, that the lifeblood of commerce may flow freely.”

We are not enemies of railroads, navigable and irrigating canals, nor of any corporation that will advance our industrial interests, nor of any laboring classes.

In our noble Order there is no communism, no agrarianism.

We are opposed to such spirit and management of any corporation or enterprise as tends to oppress the people and rob them of their just profits. We are not enemies to capital, but we oppose the tyranny of monopolies. We long to see the antagonism between capital and labor removed by common consent, and by an enlightened statesmanship worthy of the nineteenth century. We are opposed to excessive salaries, high rates of interest and exorbitant profits in trade. They greatly increase our burdens and do not bear a proper proportion to the profits of producers. We desire only self protection and the protection of every true interest of our land, by legitimate transactions, legitimate trade, and legitimate profits.

Education

We shall advance the cause of education among ourselves, and for our children, by all just means within our power. We especially advocate for our agricultural and industrial colleges, that practical agriculture, domestic science, and all the arts which adorn the home, be taught in their courses of study.

The Grange Not Partisan

  1. We emphatically and sincerely assert the oft-repeated truth taught in our organic law, that the Grange – National, State or Subordinate is not a political or party organization. No Grange, if true to its obligation, can discuss partisan or sectarian questions, nor call political conventions, nor nominate candidates, nor even discuss their merits in its meetings.

Yet the principles we teach underlie all true politics, all true statesmanship, and, if properly carried out, ‘Will tend to purify the whole political atmosphere of our country. For we seek the greatest good to the greatest number.

We must always bear in mind that no one, by becoming a Patron of Husbandry, gives up that inalienable right and duty which belongs to every American citizen, to take a proper interest in the politics of his country.

On the contrary, it is right for every member to do all in his power legitimately to influence for good the actions of any political party to which he belongs. It is his duty to do all he can to put down bribery, corruption and trickery; to see that none but competent, faithful and honest men, who will unflinchingly stand by our interests, are nominated for all positions of trust; and to have carried out the principle which should always characterize every Patron that

The Office Should Seek the Man, and Not the Man the Office

We acknowledge the broad principle that difference of opinion is no crime, and hold that “progress toward truth is made by differences of opinion,” while “the fault lies in bitterness of controversy.”

We desire a proper equality, equity, and fairness; protection for the weak; restraint upon the strong; in short, justly distributed burdens and justly distributed power. These are America ideas, the very essence of American independence, and to advocate the contrary is unworthy of the sons and daughters of an American Republic. We cherish the belief that sectionalism is, and of right should be, dead and buried with the past. Our work is for the present and the future. In our agricultural brotherhood and its purposes, we shall recognize no North, no South, no East, no West. It is reserved by every Patron, as the right of a free man, to affiliate with any party that will best carry out his principles.

Outside Cooperation

  1. Ours being peculiarly a farmers’ institution, we cannot admit all to our ranks. Many are excluded by the nature of our organization, not because they are professional men, or artisans, or laborers, but because they have not a sufficient direct interest in tilling the soil, or may have some interest in conflict with our purposes. But we appeal to all good citizens for their cordial cooperation and assistance in our efforts toward reform, that we may eventually remove from our midst the last vestige of tyranny and corruption.

We hail the general desire for fraternal harmony, equitable compromises, and earnest cooperation as an omen of our future success.

Conclusion

  1. It shall be an abiding principle with us to relieve any of our oppressed and suffering brotherhood by any means at our command.

Last, but not least, we proclaim it among our purposes to inculcate a proper appreciation of the abilities and sphere of woman, as is indicated by admitting her to membership and position in our Order.

Imploring the continued assistance of our Divine Master to guide us in our work, we here pledge ourselves to faithful and harmonious labor for all future time, to return by our united efforts to the wisdom, justice, fraternity, and political purity of our forefathers.

Preamble to the Constitution of the National Grange

Human happiness is the acme of earthly ambition. Individual happiness depends upon general prosperity.

The prosperity of a nation is in proportion to the value of its production.

The soil is the source from whence we derive all that constitutes wealth; without it we would have no agriculture, no manufactures, no commerce. Of all the material gifts of the Creator, the various productions of the vegetable world are of the first importance. The art of agriculture is the parent and precursor of all arts, and its products the foundation of all wealth.

The productions of the earth are subject to the influence of natural laws, invariable and indisputable; the amount produced will consequently be in proportion to the intelligence of the producer, and success will depend upon his knowledge of the action of these laws, and the proper application of their principles.

Hence, knowledge is the foundation of happiness.

The ultimate object of this organization is for mutual instruction and protection, to lighten labor by diffusing a knowledge of its aims and purposes, to expand the mind by tracing the beautiful laws the Great Creator has established in the Universe, and to enlarge our views of creative wisdom and power.

To those who read aright, history proves that in all ages society is fragmentary, and successful results of general welfare can be secured only by general effort. Unity of action cannot be acquired without discipline, and discipline cannot be enforced without significant organization; hence we have a ceremony of initiation which binds us in mutual fraternity as with a band of iron; but, although its influence is so powerful, its application is as gentle as that of the silken thread that binds a wreath of flowers.

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