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Rhizomatics for the People: from the meshworked mind to the meshworked civilization

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
1st March 2013


“Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.” – Michel Foucault

Trevor Malkinson, of the left integral action and discourse community Beams and Struts, has written a longish blog essay putting many strands of ‘networked’ ‘p2p’ change together.

Here, we excerpts the parts on consciousness change:

“As Jurgen Habermas has pointed out, “The emergence of new structures of consciousness can be explained with reference to the developmental logic of the pattern of previous structures and to an impulse given by problem generating events” (5). As humans we often evolve when we’re forced to by “problem generating events” that we’ve often created ourselves. The deficiencies of the modern mind/worlview (referenced above) has prompted an immense amount of creative response in the past two hundred years, going back to the German Idealists and the Romantic movement, down into the many tributaries of postmodernism and beyond. Out of this has emerged a new kind of mind with new understandings of self, society and world. I attempted to outline and track this new cognitive realm across many disciplines in an article entitled The Rise of the Synthesizing Mind in the Planetary Age.

I’ll let that piece stand as my evidence for such a growing networked type intelligence (6), but I want to highlight a point Molz and Benedikter make in their paper The Rise of Neointegrative Worldviews (quoted in the article). This is that there’s a planetary context to this shift; an increasingly integrated globalized and quite often unstable world is creating a pressure cooker demanding cognitive responses that can adequately respond to the complexity of the situation. This is akin to the “heating up and intensification of consciousness” that Teilhard de Chardin saw happening, and that Jeremy Johnson suggests is escalating due to the internet and other communication technologies. The movement towards decentralization and the local is not happening in a vacuum but is a response to current life conditions, and I think this is an important context to keep in mind in when trying to grasp the overall situation.

I would add one more piece to the cognitive shift side of the story and that is a recent RSA Animate video called ‘The Power of Networks’ featuring Manuel Lima. In an article at Brain Pickings, Manuel is quoted as saying- “Networks are really becoming a cultural meme in their own right. We could even argue, is this the birth of a new movement, is this the birth of‘networkism’”? Lima’s lecture is a powerful distillation of the many contours of this gestalt shift in awareness.

In the comment section to original article in question, Eight Perspectives on Integral Trans-partisan Politics, Joe Corbett writes- “There needs to be a radical transformation of the social relations to accommodate or to be the new vessel, temple, or collective body of the underlying potentials that so desperately need to be developed”. It’s my view that a substantial and continued orientation towards networks and decentralization (as well as a simultaneous global solidarity and action) will create the conditions for these new social relations. It will help us to “form the new society within the shell of the old” as the old IWW slogan put it. It’s through this mutual creation of a new planetary civilization together in common that we’ll experience what Hannah Arendt called “public happiness”, the deep joy that humans feel when we get to actively participate in co-creating our world (14).

When I discussed this notion of ‘public happiness’ with Joe Corbett in another thread, he had this to say in response, and I’ll leave the last words of this mini-section to him:

- trevor, i think you are right-on about the potential of fulfillment through public happiness in civic engagement for the greater good as an alternative to late capitalist consumer fulfillment and the modern pursuit of self-interest. communal connection and participation is precisely the post-postmodern antidote we need (in combination with the new cosmology and evolutionary theory) to modern and postmodern alienation, fragmentation, and disenfranchisement.

- i would say that this is also the intersubjective (cultural) and interobjective (institutional) element of sangha that is needed to make us spiritually whole, and which others like cohen have termed the evolutionary spirituality of ‘we’, michel bauwens has phrased it as the ‘collective buddha’, and marx as communism. with any luck and a whole lotta lovin’ socio-political work and sacrifice, perhaps the kingdom of heaven is near and the meek shall inherit the earth after all.

And lastly is a point that might be so obvious that it doesn’t need saying, but I’ll go ahead anyway just in case. And that is that this whole conversation has been taking place within a decentralized, networked form. Kaine is in Michigan, Jeremy in New York, Joe in China, other authors of the 8 Perspective article are in Europe, and I’ve personally never met any of them in person! Yet we, and many other readers and commenters, have been able to collaborate here on the Internet and together envision (and try and locally enact) a future world that we’d all like to live in. As I’ve said before, Beams and Struts has been a conscious attempt to experiment with collective intelligence and the networked form. It’s time as a unique assemblage has now come to a close, but there’ll be many more rhizome shoots to surf down in the years to come to be sure. So thanks to all who’ve taken part on this tiny node in the wider growing network, and we’ll see you on some other parts of the web real soon.”

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