P2P Foundation https://blog.p2pfoundation.net Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices Mon, 25 May 2020 11:17:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.14 62076519 The Pandemic as a Catalyst for Institutional Innovation https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-pandemic-as-a-catalyst-for-institutional-innovation/2020/05/26 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-pandemic-as-a-catalyst-for-institutional-innovation/2020/05/26#respond Tue, 26 May 2020 08:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75816 The following essay is adapted from a talk given on May 5 at Radical May, a month-long series of events hosted by a consortium of fifty-plus book publishers, including my own publisher, New Society Publishers. My talk — streamed and later posted on YouTube here — builds on two previous blog posts. As the pandemic continues, it... Continue reading

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The following essay is adapted from a talk given on May 5 at Radical May, a month-long series of events hosted by a consortium of fifty-plus book publishers, including my own publisher, New Society Publishers. My talk — streamed and later posted on YouTube here — builds on two previous blog posts.

As the pandemic continues, it is revealing just how deeply flawed our societal institutions really are. Government programs reward the affluent and punish the poor, and are often ineffectual or politically corrupted. The market/state order is so committed to promoting market growth and using centralized hierarchies to control life, that the resulting systems are fragile, clumsy, and non-resilient. And so on. It is increasingly evident that the problems we face are profoundly systemic.

After dealing with emergencies, therefore, we need to pause and think about mid-term changes in how we can redesign our economy and governance institutions. We need second responders to help emancipate ourselves from archaic, ineffective institutions and infrastructures. We must not revert to old ideological patterns of thought as if the pandemic were simply a temporary break from the normal. “Normal” is not coming back. The new normal has already arrived.

The pandemic is not just about rethinking big systems; it is also about confronting inner realities that need to change. We need to recognize and feel the suffering that is going on around us. We need to understand our interdependencies so that we can build appropriate institutions to rebuild and honor our relationships to each other. Our inner lives and external institutions need to be in better alignment.

Our years of leisurely critique of neoliberal capitalism are over. Now we need to take action to escape from its pathologies and develop new types of governance, provisioning, and social forms. Fortunately, there are many new possibilities for institutional change – in relocalization, agriculture and food, cities, digital networks, social life, and many other areas.

Why this conversation now?

There are several reasons why this conversation is needed now.  First, it’s clear that the pandemic has opened up our minds. Now that the failures of existing institutions are so obvious, people are more willing to entertain alternatives that were dismissed only a few months ago. Amazingly, the Financial Times of London has actually endorsed the idea of a Universal Basic Income and wealth redistribution. Congressional Republicans have shown themselves willing to create trillions of dollars for unemployment insurance and social services, without considering it public debt. It’s been the equivalent of “quantitative easing” for people instead of banks.

All of this confirms the saying that there are no neoliberals or libertarians in a pandemic. This is not entirely true, as we’ve seen with armed militia defying state authorities so barber shops can open.  But the general point remains: such ignorant defiance of scientific realities is properly seen as anti-social and wacky.

At a deeper level, the pandemic is reacquainting us moderns with something we have denied:  that we human beings actually depend on living, biological systems. We human beings are profoundly interdependent on each other despite our presumptions to be autonomous, self-made individuals. A recent essay by ecophilosopher Andreas Weber, “Nourishing Community in Pandemic Times,” puts it nicely:

The corona pandemic makes us understand that the earth is a commons, and that our lives are shared. This insight is not a rational concept, but springs from an emotional need. Individuals accept hardships by restricting their contacts in order to protect community. The understanding that we need to protect others has been able to override economic certainties within days.  Humans choose to put reciprocity first. Reciprocity – mutual care – is neither an abstract concept nor an economic policy, but the experience of a sharing relationship and ultimately of keeping the community of life intact.

The reality of mutual aid as a deep human impulse has been showcased recently in a column by George Monbiot in The Guardian and an excellent piece by Gia Tolentino in The New Yorker.

There are two other, more hard-bitten reasons that we need to talk about institutional innovation right now. The pandemic is causing a decline in the market valuation of many types of businesses and assets, and even bankruptcies. This means that it may be easier to acquire land, buildings, and equipment to convert them into commons infrastructure. For this, we will need to develop a whole class of “convert to commons” strategies, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

And finally, this is a time when lots of top-flight talent is eager to innovate and contribute to the common good. During major economic recessions, especially those affecting the technology industries, we have seen remarkable surges of innovation. Talented coders and engineers who otherwise would be designing systems to serve business models and maximize profit-making, can instead design what they really want to design. That’s one reason that we saw such an effusion of tech innovations following the 2002 recession, with blogs, wikis, social media, and other great leaps forward in software design. Similarly, the New Deal under FDR was a time of grave necessity driving breakthrough innovations in government and economics.

In a crisis, it is necessary to innovate, or at least we have “permission” to deviate from standard business models and to reinvent the state. I worry about mutual aid systems withering away as old commercial systems struggle to get back on their feet. I don’t want mutual aid to be merely a transient rescue system for the weaknesses of capitalism and state power. I want it to become a distinct institutional and power sector of its own! To do that we need to self-consciously develop institutional innovations to sustain commoning.

The Commons

I come to this talk as a long-time scholar/activist of the commons. I’ve studied the theory, practice, and social life of the commons for the past 20 years, currently as Director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. I’ve encountered hundreds of commons in my travels and studied them closely. I’ve concluded that they have great promise in addressing the challenges of this moment.

Eight months ago, I published a book called Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons with my German colleague Silke Helfrich. The book distills and synthesizes our twenty years of study of commoning as a social and economic alternative.

I’ve come to conclude that the commons discourse is not only a fantastic way to critique capitalism. It helps us talk about creative, constructive alternatives as well. It points to functional alternatives that meet needs in non-capitalist ways with the active participation and creativity of commoners.

The truth is, we can and must leapfrog over tired debates about socialism versus capitalism. Both of these options rely on centralized, hierarchical, state-based systems, after all. The point of the commons is to open up new vistas for distributed, peer-organized initiative. It’s to honor the countless Internet-friendly options that empower us to take charge of our own governance and provisioning as much as possible.

If we truly want a world of democratic sovereignty and freedom, this option is arguably imperative.  After all, electoral politics in modern politics, especially in the US, has been captured and corrupted by capitalism. The nation-state has become so closely allied with capital that it’s virtually impossible to effect transformational change. Political ideology and power have triumphed over serious ideas and debate. Even though economic growth is biophysically impossible over the mid-term, as climate change makes clear, the state continues to prop it up with huge subsidies and legal entitlements.

So unless we confront these tendencies of state power – which the commons helps us do — we will remain entangled in the web of neoliberal capitalism and its structural constraints.

The grim reality is:  Covid-19 is the most powerful political actor of our time. It is disrupting countless premises of modern life and forcing us to acknowledge a fork in the road: Shall we try to restore brittle, tightly integrated global markets based on neoliberal fantasies of unlimited economic growth and technological progress? Shall we re-commit to this vision even though this system requires horrific extractivism from nature, racism, inequality, and neocolonialism – and even though small local perturbances like a virus can bring the system down?

Or shall we build a more distributed, resilient, eco-mindful, place-based system that places limits on the use of nature?  Shall we build a system that invites widespread and inclusive participation, and nurtures place-making cultures that assure a rough social fairness for everyone?

This is the race we commoners are in – to articulate a positive, progressive vision of the future before reactionaries and investors restore a shabby version of the Old Normal, an unsustainable capitalism that may easily degenerate into authoritarianism or fascism. This direction is already being staked out by Trumpism and its attacks on the rule of law, the rise of the capitalist surveillance state, and armed protests against shelter-at-home policies.

The Old Paradigm is indeed falling apart – but new ones are not yet ready.  Since politicians and economists are not going to develop any new paradigms, the burden falls to us to step up and sketch a new societal vision. Beyond expressing a new worldview and set of social practices and norms, we will need to build new types of infrastructures and institutions revolving around the commons. While state power and capital-driven markets will not disappear, it won’t be enough to hoist up a Green New Deal or cling to a timid Democratic Party centrism.

In this essay, I leave aside the complicated macro-policy discussion that we might have. Here, I want to focus on the institutional innovations that could move us in the right directions. In any case, it’s very hard to implement macro-policies without underlying support at the micro-level – the realm of everyday experience and culture. So I’d like to focus on institutions that we can build ourselves, right now, without having to persuade politicians or courts. That, in fact, is the beauty of the commons. We generally don’t need permission to move forward.

Commons-based Institutions

Pre-pandemic, it was very hard to get any traction for expanding the commons, or even talk about it, because the neoliberal vision of “development” was so pervasive and powerful. It was seen as the only credible template for policy, politics and economics. Of course, the moment has changed. The veil has been ripped off of the neoliberal capitalist narrative and it is now quite obvious that we are actually biological creatures whose well-being depends upon a living Earth. We are social creatures who depend on each other.

Fortunately, there are, in fact, many functional models for change that recognize these realities. It’s only a little bit of an exaggeration to say that the problem is more one of our internal consciousness than external institutions. But the effect of the pandemic is to push the “microbial destruction of the Western Cognitive Empire,” as Andreas Weber puts it, referencing a great book, The End of Cognitive Empire, by Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Weber’s point is that the Hobbesean vision of society as governed by a social contract and a world composed of dead things misreads the human condition. The conceit that we are ahistorical, decontextualized, isolated individuals – that we are rational, utility-maximizing materialists — is a modernist, libertarian, capitalist fantasy.

The Enlightenment conceit that we can separate humanity from nature, that the individual is utterly separate from the collective, and that the mind and body can be separated, is empirically wrong. It is, frankly, ridiculous. So it’s a bit misleading to say that the coronavirus is destroying the capitalist global economy. It’s more accurate to say that it’s destroying the epistemological edifice upon which the economy stands.

We’re beginning to realize that the world is a pulsating super-organism of living agents. That’s why there is so much talk these days about the “new animism.” People are beginning to realize that the world is actually alive. Gaia really exists!

So rebuilding the world won’t just require new economic policies.  It will require an entirely new mindset about a living world and our own aliveness. We need to see that life is really about achieving organic wholeness and integration. It’s about relationality and reciprocity. We need new systems that are take this into account. They must be bottom-up and place-based  and embedded in local ecosystems. There must be opportunities for peer governance and local cultures to flourish.

As for “scaling” the commons, hope lies in federating diverse commons so that they can coordinate with each other and work at larger scales without becoming captured by the state or political elites. This requires that we demonstrate the feasibility of new forms of commoning, infrastructure, finance, and commons/public partnerships.

So let me share some of the institutional innovations that I think we need to develop.

Relocalization is vital to a resilient economy. Prime vehicles for relocalization include community supported agriculture, community land trusts, local import-replacement of goods, and local currencies.  The basic goal is to decommodify assets and recirculate value.

CSAs are a time-proven finance technique for upfront sharing of the risk between users and producers.  We know this as an agricultural finance tool, but in fact it can be used in many other contexts. In my region, many jazz fans subscribe to a series of jazz performances by paying upfront fees, CSA-style. This relieves the financial risks on concert producers and lets performers follow their creativity and not just hype their most well-known, marketable songs.

Community land trusts are also a great way to decommodify land, take land off speculative markets permanently, and mutualize control and benefits of real estate. CLTs help keep land under local control and allow it to be used for socially necessary purposes (e.g., organic local food) rather than for marketable purposes favored by outside investors and markets.

One adaptation of the CLT model developed by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics is “Community Supported Industry,” which applies the CLT model of collective ownership of assets – not just land, but buildings, manufacturing, and retail space – as a way to foster “import replacement.”  The idea is to substitute local production for the importing of products through global or national markets.

Another way to foster relocalization is through what I call “Convert-to-Commons Strategies.”  This refers to financial or policy mechanisms for converting private, profit-making assets into ones for collective use (preferably nonmarket uses rather than market exchange). Converting business assets into commons helps anchor them in a particular ecological place rather than making them mere commodities subject to the whims of external investors or markets.

A still-emerging Convert-to-Commons approach is finding ways to convert private businesses into collectively owned and managed projects. Activist/scholar Nathan Schneider called these “Exit-to-Community” strategies.  These are ways for entrepreneurs to allow communities to acquire their enterprises, avoiding the only two other options generally available to them — selling out to large companies or “going public” (i.e., selling to private investors) through Initial Public Offerings.

In Great Britain, there is a wonderful Assets of Community Value Law, which gives local communities a legal entitlement to be the first to bid on private business that is being sold or in danger of liquidation. This has been a way to convert privately owned pubs, buildings, and civic spaces into community assets.

Relocalization of food production and distribution systems. An important subset of the relocalization question is regionally based agriculture and food distribution systems. The pandemic has shown the precariousness of global and national supply chains, not to mention the atmosphere-destroying carbon emissions that such chains require. We need to develop food supply chains that are more place-based, cheaper in their holistic operations, respectful of ecosystems, and resilient when disruptions do occur.

The activist/academic Jose Luis Vivero Pol has done a great deal of thinking about treating food as a commons and what this would entail. By this, he means that food should not be regarded just as a market commodity that should fetch the highest price, but something that is affordable to everyone, nutritious and not just profitable, and rooted in local economies. This will require that we re-imagine food systems that favor local agriculture, agroecological practices, and more equitable value-chains than we currently have.

An example is the Fresno Commons in California, a community-owned food system in the San Joaquin Valley. Among other mechanisms, the Fresno Commons uses a stakeholder trust to assure that locally grown produce is accessible and affordable. What would otherwise be siphoned away as “profit” is instead mutualized among farmers and field workers, consumers, community businesses, restaurants, and other participants in the food value-chain.

The relocalization of food should also look to innovative data analytics so that farmers themselves can start to build new sorts of cooperative supply systems.  If they don’t, the big players who can own and manipulate agricultural data – Monsanto, etc., — will come to control local agriculture. Along the same lines, farmers need to look to open-source designs for agricultural equipment to assure that they can modify and update the software on their tractors, prevent price-gouging and copyright control of data and software, and take charge of their own futures.

This brings me to the idea of cosmo-local production. This is a system in which global design communities freely share and expand “light” knowledge, open-source style, while encouraging people to build the “heavy” stuff — physical manufacturing – locally.

There are already a number of exciting examples of cosmo-local production arising for motor vehicles, furniture, houses, agricultural equipment, electronics, and much else. In agriculture, there are the Farm Hack and Open Source Ecology projects. For housing, there is the WikiHouse model. For furniture, Open Desk. For electronics, Arduino.  To help deal with environmental problems, by providing monitoring kits, for example, Public Lab is a citizen-science project that provides open source hardware and software tools.

Like local food chains, the point here is the importance of developing more resilient local production that can be customized to meet local needs. Innovation need not be constrained by the business models that Google and Amazon or other tech giants depend on; the small players can actually make a go of it! Production costs can be cheaper using nonproprietary, non-patented design that rely on open-source communities of innovators.  And transport and carbon costs can be minimized.

Imagine what could happen if this approach were applied to the development of a Covid-19 vaccine! Once a new vaccine is presented to the world, we are poised to see a major fight among proprietary drug developers, rich and poor nations, and various international bodies. Some people won’t be able to afford to vaccine, and others will make a fortune off of the pandemic – without actually vaccinating everyone, as needed.  That’s why we need to look to organizations like the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative, which organizes international partnerships to develop high-quality, low-cost medicines for everyone.

There are two serious problems that will need to be addressed if cosmo-local production, however: finance and law. If there is no intellectual property for cosmo-locally produced products – and thus no property to serve as collateral — lenders will be less inclined to finance new drugs or cosmo-local products. So these problems will need to be solved to help cosmo-local production scale.

Platform cooperatives are another institutional model of commoning. They use Internet platforms as vehicles for cooperative benefit – to empower workers and consumers, to spur creativity, to reduce prices, to assure quality of life. The point of a platform coop is to empower the people who own and run them – workers, consumer, municipalities – rather than investors who extract money from a community in the style of Uber and Airbnb. Platform coops mutualize market surpluses for the benefit of participant-owners.

There are now platform coops for taxi drivers in Austin, Texas (ATX Coop Taxi), for food delivery workers in Berlin (Kolymar-2), for delivery and messaging workers in Barcelona (Mensakas), and for freelance workers in Brussels (SMart), among many others. Recently a new platform for independent bookstores in the US — Bookshop.org – has made some headway against Amazon.  While not a coop but rather a B-Corporation, it shares 75% of its profits with bookstores.

One variant of platform cooperatives is known as DIsCO, the Distributed Cooperative Organization, which is a digital platform, sometimes using distributed ledger/blockchain technologies, to build working communities that prioritize mutual support, cooperativism, and care work, while avoiding the exclusionary, techno-determinism of typical networked platforms.  DIsCOs and other network platforms need not be market-driven.  They can be mutual aid platforms of the sort we’ve seen in response to the pandemic…..or timebanking platforms that enable people to share services through a credit-barter system…or freecycle platforms for giving away and sharing things.

It’s important to build commons-based infrastructure so that any individual commoner doesn’t have to be heroically creative and persistent. Infrastructure – physical, legal, administrative – provides a structure that makes it easier for individual commoners to cooperate and share more readily. It’s a standing, shared resource.

Some examples: Guifi.net, a WiFi system in Catalonia, Spain, has more than 30,000 nodes that functions as a commons.  It provides high-quality, affordable service that avoids the loathsome prices and business practices of corporate broadband and WiFi systems. Another interesting infrastructure project is the Omni Commons in Oaklanda collective property for artisans, hackers, social entrepreneurs, and activists. The project consists of nine member collectives who make decisions together, and provides meeting spaces, programming, community-outreach, and more.

Creative Commons licenses are a form of legal infrastructure that enables legal sharing and copying of information and cultural works. Again, this would be far too difficult for any individual to do, but as a collective enterprise, these free public licenses have opened up countless new, cheap and free opportunities to share information, creativity and culture.

Land is an important infrastructure – for regenerative agriculture, affordable housing, and community-based businesses. There is a whole frontier in making land a form of community-owned infrastructure, rather than a mere market or speculative commodity.

Stakeholder trusts like the Alaska Permanent Fund are another rich vehicle for treating public assets as infrastructures for sharing benefits. In his book Capitalism 3.0, Peter Barnes sets forth many examples for using stakeholder trusts to monetize and share the benefits of publicly owned land, forests, water, minerals, and more. The basic idea is to use trusts to manage these assets, which in turn can generate annual dividends for the ordinary citizen.

Finally, we need to explore new types of commons-based finance in the years ahead. There are already many hardy examples to build upon, such as mutual aid societies and insurance, crowd-gifting and crowd-equity pools of money, and – as mentioned earlier – community land trusts, CSA finance models, platform cooperatives, and Convert-to-Commons strategies.

The idea is to avoid the traps of conventional debt and equity, which generally colonize our future behaviors and options, and require enterprises to become growth-driven despite the ecological and community consequences.  We need to imagine finance as a diverse array of community-supported and -accountable pools of money that actively facilitate commoning.

The state may be able to play to creative role here, especially city governments, so long as they can get used to the idea of use-rights being as important as market exchange. One way of pursuing this goal is through commons/public partnerships, as Silke Helfrich and I discuss in our book Free, Fair and Alive. This is another, much larger topic – how the state — long allied with capital investors interested in economic growth — can become a constructive, non-intrusive partner with commoners in developing different types of infrastructures, legal regimes, and financing for commons.

*                      *                      *

At the dawn of neoliberalism in the 1980s, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once thundered in defense of her economic plans, “There IS no alternative!”  We now see that this idea is a ridiculous, bullying claim. The pandemic has revealed that neoliberalism is a fragile monoculture.  It is no match for the harsh biological realities of global viruses, the living dynamics of Gaia and climate change, and the governance and inequality problems of the market/state order.

The opportunities ahead are better defined by the acronym TAPAS: “There are PLENTY of alternatives.” But we need to find ways to work together to develop these institutional models and give them some public visibility as real options.  We need to communicate these ideas to other commoners and to the general public.

My bet is that the dysfunctionality of current systems and urgent social need will propel great interest in many commons-based models. Still, we have a lot of work to do in consolidating these ideas into a new vision of the future and in building them out. It is very early in the day!

Lead image by Alan L.

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Awakening to an Ecology of the Commons https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/awakening-to-an-ecology-of-the-commons/2020/05/25 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/awakening-to-an-ecology-of-the-commons/2020/05/25#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 10:36:08 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75812 What is the future of The Commons movement​? What are some of the pathways for a commons transition? How do we formulate an alternative political economy and livelihoods out of the ashes of neoliberalism and the covid-19 pandemic? ​And how do we understand ​all of​ this in ​the​ broader​ planetary context of the anthropocene​? ​Our... Continue reading

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What is the future of The Commons movement​? What are some of the pathways for a commons transition? How do we formulate an alternative political economy and livelihoods out of the ashes of neoliberalism and the covid-19 pandemic? ​And how do we understand ​all of​ this in ​the​ broader​ planetary context of the anthropocene​? ​Our book ​chapter ​​”​Awakening to an Ecology of the Commons​” ​(Michel Bauwens and Jose Ramos​) attempts to provide answers to the following questions. 

As any nuanced thinker will tell you, there are no easy answers in this world. However given the massive upheavals we are experiencing, it is incumbent on us to push forward through sense-making and connecting with our values and our visions. In this book chapter we offer three scenarios for the futures of the commons movement and social change. We argue that we need to build a meta language for commoning – a “protocol commons”. This will allow us to weave a broader movement across many different actors that are working for commons in their own way (even when they are not calling it commons or commoning). We call this an “ecology of the commons”. 

The book chapter is part of an ambitious anthology by Anne Grear and David Bollier titled ​”The Great Awakening: New Modes of Life amidst Capitalist Ruins​”  (​Punctum Books, Santa Barbara) ​​

​I​t is an ambitious ​anthology that brings together contributions from​ ​Sam Adelman, David Bollier, Primavera De Filippi, Vito De Lucia, Richard Falk, Anna Grear, Paul B. Hartzog, Andreas Karitzis, Xavier Labayssiere, ​and ​Maywa Montenegro de Wit​, as well as including our work.​ In their own words: 

“It is clear that the multiple, entangled crises produced by neoliberal capitalism cannot be resolved by existing political and legal institutions, which are imploding under the weight of their own contradictions. Present and future needs can be met by systems that go beyond the market and state. With experiments and struggle, a growing pluriverse of commoners from Europe and the US to the Global South and cyberspace are demonstrating some fundamentally new ways of thinking, being and acting…. We learn about seed-sharing in agriculture, blockchain technologies for networked collaboration, cosmo-local​ ​peer production of houses and vehicles, creative hacks on law, and new ways of thinking and enacting a rich, collaborative future. This surge of creativity is propelled by the social practices of commoning new modes of life for creating and sharing wealth in fair-minded, ecologically respectful ways.​” ​

The ​anthology will be available in September​ 2020 through Punctum Books here. A preprint of the book chapter can be seen here.

Lead image:  CityTree עץבעיר 

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How Contact Tracing Apps Can Foil Both COVID-19 and Big Brother https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/how-contact-tracing-apps-can-foil-both-covid-19-and-big-brother/2020/04/28 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/how-contact-tracing-apps-can-foil-both-covid-19-and-big-brother/2020/04/28#respond Tue, 28 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75796 Do we really need to sacrifice privacy for health in the fight against covid-19? The DP-3T protocol can save lives without furthering surveillance capitalism. Originally published at n.case.me. Download this comic as a .zip! Sources: DP-3T, TCN Protocol, Ferretti & Wymant et al

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Do we really need to sacrifice privacy for health in the fight against covid-19? The DP-3T protocol can save lives without furthering surveillance capitalism.

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We Are Not the Virus. We Are the Kamikazes. https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/we-are-not-the-virus-we-are-the-kamikazes/2020/04/28 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/we-are-not-the-virus-we-are-the-kamikazes/2020/04/28#respond Tue, 28 Apr 2020 08:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75792 I understand why environmentalists have concluded that Covid-19 is nature’s way of repelling human activity. If we’re going to keep mucking around with Earth’s biodiversity, climate, topsoil, oceans, and air, eventually nature’s going to respond. In this view, the virus is nature’s own antibodies, repelling human invasion. I sympathize with the systemic style of this... Continue reading

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I understand why environmentalists have concluded that Covid-19 is nature’s way of repelling human activity. If we’re going to keep mucking around with Earth’s biodiversity, climate, topsoil, oceans, and air, eventually nature’s going to respond. In this view, the virus is nature’s own antibodies, repelling human invasion.

I sympathize with the systemic style of this perspective, but I think they’re looking at it the wrong way. No, we are not being attacked by nature for our sins — but this is a shared, collective illness. Covid-19 is an opportunistic infection, attacking the human organism as a whole.

I don’t look at it as a good thing — not at all — but it reminds me of how we get sick as individuals in real life. We get run down from too much work and stress. We don’t take any downtime for family and friends. We don’t have enough laughter in our lives. Or we do shift work, alternating days and nights with little regard for our biological clocks. We start drinking coffee or taking speed to keep going and then more medicine to deal with the depression.

We get the warnings: bad sleep, bad moods, and bad sex. We experience less satisfaction in general; our relationships decline. Then our body tries to warn us, too: We start feeling run down and get headaches that Advil won’t take away. Then something else stressful hits, and bam, we get sick. Does that mean germs and viruses aren’t real? That illness is entirely psychosomatic? Of course not. But the bacteria or virus is just the figure. It’s always there — or something like it is—ready to take advantage.

More important, though, surrendering to illness is our body’s last-gasp effort to resist the greater, environmental stresses. Getting sick is the last thing we do before either withdrawing from the stressors or collapsing altogether.

I’ve begun seeing the Covid-19 virus this way. It’s not a pretty thought, but what if this virus is our last-gasp resistance to the ravages of techno-capitalism? It’s not a good thing in itself — no. But it is addressing a real problem. Think of the virus as more like the President Trump phenomenon — an illness that reveals much bigger systemic woes and forces us to confront them. Only in this case, the virus is a weapon generated by life itself against the repression and exploitation of humanity by the market, technology, and other unchecked forces of death and destruction.

We were like a person working so hard and for so little nourishment in return that we had to take steroids to keep going. The market demanded growth from us collectively—more growth so that shareholders could passively extract more value from us. But they were taking our jobs and social safety nets away at the same time. We need to work more while earning less, patching together an income from three or four different gig jobs, each one with less support and security than the last.

This growth mandate — the one we’re supporting — has nothing to do with our survival or meeting human needs. The only ones who need the economy to keep growing—and for us to keep accelerating — are the bankers and shareholders passively extracting value from our labor, the people who are not on the ground working or creating value. But those of us on the ground have no way to push back. We have no way to slow the economy or to challenge its acceleration. China’s slaves keep making more cheap tech for America to keep deploying more surveillance and disaster capitalism.

The only way we humans could slow down the economy was to get sick. Just like the person whose body can’t take any more stress. It says “no more.” That’s what our collective body is doing. We couldn’t crash the market back in 2007, so now we are crashing ourselves.

The Chinese are in the same position. No, the transition of China from a farming nation to an urban slave metropolis didn’t work. Those colossal wet markets — where hundreds of species of living and dead animals fester all over each other and mutate new pathogens — that’s not some cultural tradition. It’s an artifact of rapid industrial expansion. And the transition of America from a worker/craftsperson economy to one of global digital extraction doesn’t work, either. It has decimated every other aspect of commerce and community. We’re dying here.

But if our conscious, political, social mechanisms are not capable of arresting this — if we can’t elect a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren, develop sustainable local economies, or even bake bread profitably in a society dominated by the interests of corrupt global supply chains, then our corrective measures are going to come from somewhere else: the subconscious, like Trump. Or our biology itself, like Covid-19.

Remember when you’d get sick, and your parent or your partner would say, “You’ve been working too hard. I told you to take better care of yourself.” That’s your body revolting, saying “enough” — even if it does so in a self-destructive way. Well, in that sense, Covid-19 is our collective body saying “enough” and trying to do for us what our activism and politics and community organizing have failed to. Yes, some of us will die. That’s how desperate we’ve become. It’s a kamikaze attack of human biology against systems that threaten our very survival.

This is the intervention.

Lead Image: Lego DNA by mknowles

The post We Are Not the Virus. We Are the Kamikazes. appeared first on P2P Foundation.

https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/we-are-not-the-virus-we-are-the-kamikazes/2020/04/28/feed 0 75792
Double Edge Theatre: Art & Commoning https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/double-edge-theatre-art-commoning/2020/04/27 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/double-edge-theatre-art-commoning/2020/04/27#respond Mon, 27 Apr 2020 14:35:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75778 Matthew Glassman and Carlos Uriona, co-artistic directors of Double Edge Theatre in western Massachusetts, explain how commoning informs the performances and stewardship of their artist-owned ensemble theater company. About Double Edge Theatre Double Edge Theatre, an artist-run organization, was founded in Boston in 1982 by Stacy Klein as a feminist ensemble and laboratory of actors’... Continue reading

The post Double Edge Theatre: Art & Commoning appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Matthew Glassman and Carlos Uriona, co-artistic directors of Double Edge Theatre in western Massachusetts, explain how commoning informs the performances and stewardship of their artist-owned ensemble theater company.

About Double Edge Theatre

Double Edge Theatre, an artist-run organization, was founded in Boston in 1982 by Stacy Klein as a feminist ensemble and laboratory of actors’ creative process. The Double Edge Ensemble, led by Artistic Director Klein, along with Co-Artistic Directors Carlos Uriona, Matthew Glassman, Jennifer Johnson, and Producing Executive Director Adam Bright, creates original theatrical performances that are imaginative, imagistic, and visceral. These include indoor performances and site-specific indoor/outdoor traveling spectacles both of which are developed with collaborating visual and music artists through a long-term process and presented on the Farm and on national and international tours. In 1994, Double Edge moved from Boston to a 105-acre former dairy farm in rural Ashfield, MA, to create a sustainable artistic home. Today, the Farm is an International Center of Living Culture and Art Justice, a base for the Ensemble’s extensive international touring and community spectacles, with year-round theatre training, performance exchange, conversations and convenings, greening and sustainable farming initiatives. DE facilities include two performance and training spaces, production facilities, offices, archives, music room, and 5 outdoor performance areas, as well as an animal barn, vegetable gardens, and two additional properties: housing in the center of town for resident artists and DE’s Artist Studio, giving primacy to African American and Latinx artists; and a design house, with design offices, studios, costume shop, and storage for sets, costumes, and props.

The post Double Edge Theatre: Art & Commoning appeared first on P2P Foundation.

https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/double-edge-theatre-art-commoning/2020/04/27/feed 0 75778
Commons-based peer production at the edge of a chaotic transition https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/commons-based-peer-production-at-the-edge-of-a-chaotic-transition/2020/04/25 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/commons-based-peer-production-at-the-edge-of-a-chaotic-transition/2020/04/25#respond Sat, 25 Apr 2020 10:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75783 Interview by Simone Cicero and Stina Heikkilä. Originally posted at Platform Design Toolkit. Michel Bauwens believes that because societies are complex adaptive systems, the only way to move towards a new, stable system is through a chaotic transition. The current pandemic shock will serve as a wake-up call, exposing the fallacies of our current systems. What we need... Continue reading

The post Commons-based peer production at the edge of a chaotic transition appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Interview by Simone Cicero and Stina Heikkilä. Originally posted at Platform Design Toolkit.

Michel Bauwens believes that because societies are complex adaptive systems, the only way to move towards a new, stable system is through a chaotic transition. The current pandemic shock will serve as a wake-up call, exposing the fallacies of our current systems. What we need forward are strong commons-based institutions that can provide a complimentary, counter-balance to powerful nation-states and existing multilateral organisations.

Podcast notes

In this with Michel Bauwens, we explore both the epistemological and political/regulatory layers of the transition from the “old” to the “new” ways of organising society. We dig into concepts like “trans-national institutions” and explore the changes we could expect in both regional and international governance of the economy and society.

Michel Bauwens is founder and director of the P2P Foundation, research director of CommonsTransition.org (a platform for policy development aimed toward a society of the Commons) and a founding member of the Commons Strategies Group.

Michel is a real lighthouse when it comes to collaborative, commons-based production models and works tirelessly since more than a decade in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property.

Here are some important links from the conversation:

> Michel Bauwens, Corona and the Commons http://liminal.news.greenhostpreview.nl/2020/03/23/corona-and-the-commons/

> Michel Bauwens and Jose Raomos, “The pulsation of the commons: The temporal context for the cosmo-local transition” (Draft), https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sHhuecKxfB8HRH8o9aOfdlKNqaPQ8lc91502FXXv8e4/edit#heading=h.99i7fcsrn7tf

> Bologna regulation for the care and regeneration of the urban commons, https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Bologna_Regulation_for_the_Care_and_Regeneration_of_Urban_Commons

> P2P Accounting for Planetary Survival — Commons Transition, https://commonstransition.org/p2p-accounting-for-planetary-survival/

> REPORTING 3.0, https://reporting3.org/

> Robert I. Moore (2000), The First European Revolution: 970–1215, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/712195.The_First_European_Revolution

> Bernard A. LietaerThe Mystery of Moneyhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8198838-the-mystery-of-money

> Material flow accountinghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Material_flow_accounting

> Resources, events, agents (accounting model), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resources,_events,_agents_(accounting_model)

> David Ronfeldt, Tribes, Institutions, Markets and Networks, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/papers/2005/P7967.pdf

> Jamie Wheal in Rebel Wisdom: War on Sensemaking 3, the Infinite Game, https://youtu.be/mQstRd7opv4

> French land trust “Terre des Liens”, https://terredeliens.org/

> Bernard Stiegler, The Neganthropocene, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40203892-the-neganthropocene

Key insights

1. There are two main layers of the transition from the “old” to the “new”: Epistemological and Political/Regulatory:

– The epistemological layer needs a new educational approach, since the current one is largely reductionist and rooted in the “old” system.

– The political and regulatory space need stronger commons-based institutions and governance protocols, where the nation state becomes a “partner state” and you have a public commons protocol, like for example in the Bologna regulation for the care and regeneration of the urban commons in Italy.

– We will also see the emergence of trans-national institutions that connect local constituencies globally and virtually and which are able to protect planetary boundaries.

2. We’re moving towards a mutation of consciousness where Western countries are increasingly questioning modernity/progress paradigm, while many Asian countries still think they can get capitalism right (modernity-nature). Nonetheless, the fact that we’re currently consuming five times our planetary resources to maintain the capitalist economic model might indicate that we’re moving towards a next “pulsation”, or regenerative reaction, to a period of unsustainable extraction.

3. There’s a need of coherence driving decision-making mainly based on accounting using energy flows, which go beyond double-entry accounting — creating winners and losers — making transparent the three-dimensional, real impact of activities.

🌐 Boundaryless Conversations Podcast is about exploring the future of large scale organising by leveraging on technology, network effects and shaping narratives. We explore how platforms can help us play with a world in turmoil, change, and transformation: a world that is at the same time more interconnected and interdependent than ever but also more conflictual and rivalrous.

This podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsSoundcloudStitcherCastBoxRadioPublic, and other major podcasting platforms.


This episode is hosted by Boundaryless Conversation Podcast host Simone Cicero with co-host, Stina Heikkilä.

The following is a semi-automatically generated transcript which has not been thoroughly revised by the podcast host or by the guest. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Simone Cicero:
Michel, is such a pleasure to have you on this podcast! We know each other I think from, you know, the early 2010s, probably something like that. So it’s almost 10 years, maybe more. And, you know, when we started this podcast, we really wanted to have the conversation on the on the commons and P2P commons based production into this conversation into this podcast. And, you know, as you know, I am also personally very much passionate about this idea of open source, for example, and open collaboration, based on the commons. So my question for you as a starting point, say to explore the world of P2P commons based production is is much more related to try to understand with you why this is not as big a deal as it should be, you know. And so, what are the structural issues that, as for your understanding, are harnessing the further development of these paradigms in the world?

Michel Bauwens:
Right. Well, I guess to start with, I’d like to basically maybe even challenge what you just said. Because, you know, you have to remember where it came from right, where basically we just had open source movements in the early 2000s. Now we have urban commons — and I did a study in Ghent which show the tenfold increase in urban commons from 50 to 500 in just one city — that’s one thing. Then we have the makerspaces, the fab labs and something that’s called a multi factory. There’s about 120 of them in Europe right now already and this is like real production, where craftspeople mutualise their you know, production in a common space using open source principles. And also, I would like to say that there’s already a lot more political expression of this, right, there is the regulation in Italy in 250 different cities, there is a whole plank of activity in France around the municipal elections, and you know, with a real commons political program at the local level. So, of course, we’re not where we want to be, but I just want to stress that we also have been growing at the same time. So I just want to make sure that that is said.

Simone Cicero:
For sure.

Michel Bauwens:
Yeah, yeah. But so I, you know, I think of course one of the issues and that’s one of the statements we wanted to discuss is, is about the value regime, right? So my analysis is that we live in a world that only recognizes extracted value. So in other words, in order to create value, you either work with people or with natural resources and you extract a surplus. And that surplus is translated in financial wealth. And then we are going to do philanthropy or we’re going to do taxation. And so we’re doing redistribution. And this, this has a number of paradoxical effects. And one of the profound effects is that if you do generative work, if you do care work, you don’t get funded unless you get this redistributive money. So a typical example would be, you have in France a community land trust called Terre des Liens. They have 775 million Euro in capital and you know, they buy land from the markets and put it in a trust and then they give cheap rent and ecological contracts with organic farmers. They have already in 2016 published a report showing that the fact that they don’t use toxic pesticides in their form of agriculture means that they’re saving the French state 300 million euros per year. So that’s, you know, amount of money in water pollution, depollution that is not spent, because they do this generative activity. And I hope you can see the problem there. Right. So if you’re a farmer, and you’re destroying your soil year after year, and some studies say there’s like 60 harvests left in Western Europe, you know, if we continue with this, de-substantiation of minerals in our soils. You’re going to be basically getting, you know, billions in European funding from the agriculture program, but if you’re an organic farmer you’re not going to get this. So I want to say this is important because the common in some ways and an alternative to capital, but you still need capital. So capital privatizes the commons, that’s how capitalism emerged. And so what people are doing right now, I would say is using the commons as an alternative to capital because they don’t have capital. Right? So if you don’t have capital, then you’re going to use mutualization as an alternative. This combined idle sourcing, combined many, many, many small contributions to try to, to get at a substantial amount of infrastructure. And so, why is this important because as long as the current system works, as long as the extractive system works even if it is destructive, it kind of creates a structural situation where generative activity is marginalized. And this is just, you know, a fact of life. Right? And now, if you agree with me — or maybe don’t agree with me — that we are reaching a point of no return in the current system. In other words, continued extraction at this scale, an overuse of the planetary resources at this scale, creates resource issues, creates future problems with food and water, creates climate change and — as we see nowadays — creates a huge issue around pandemic distribution. So, I would say that it might be that the time you know before these alternatives, you know, become more important is not so far away as we think. Now, so the first argument would be around structural weaknesses for me is the value regime, right? In which value regime are we operating? And what is it favoring? And what is it de-favoring?The second issue, though, I think, is that we live in a hybrid economy, in a hybrid society. So we have different ways of exchanging value. We have the pricing system, which you know, only is dominant for the last two centuries. It wasn’t before; it was a it was itself marginal until two centuries ago. You know, we have maybe 10% people in the cities and 90% people in the countryside were almost not affected by the pricing system. We have the gift economy, which is, I think, quite marginal. Then we have commoning, which is working on a shared resource, and then we have redistribution. So those are four different ways of exchanging value. And I think one of the critiques you know, like self-critique we could make of the commons movement is the idea that it’s a, it’s a totalistic alternative, right? So what I would argue differently is that the commons on its own is not sufficient, just as the market on its own is not efficient, sufficient. And the states on its own is not efficient. Even more so, I would argue that believing this is a form of totalitarianism, so you’d have fascism and communism as an absolutism of the state. We have a bit of right wing libertarianism and neoliberalism as a absolutism of the market. We also could have commonism as some kind of absolutism of you know, of horizontality. And so I think it’s much more fruitful to think of combinations. In other words, if you’re a market player, you could start thinking, you know, how can we use the commons. And actually, of course, we see that capitalists actually doing that, right. I mean, all the new — the things you do with your platforms and, you know, normally most of the platforms are capitalistic, what I call net article platforms — that’s exactly what they do. And they have become commons extracting economic systems. They directly,you know, get value from cooperating humans, right? So if you look at Uber, Airbnb, they no longer just hire people to produce, they actually let us exchange and then they get taxed from our exchanges, broadly speaking. So capitalism is certainly doing that. And so what I’ve been suggesting for the last 10 years is that commoners should do the same. One of the historical theories about capitalism is that it emerged in Europe because we had, you know, medieval cities, free medieval cities where the merchant guilds had autonomy, which didn’t happen in any other region in the world, because always the market forces were subsumed and dominated by the Empires and the Royal, the monarchic forces. But in Europe, we had a distributed system, fragmented system, of power in the Middle Ages and that allowed the merchant classes to slowly create a world that worked for them. And so basically, what I’ve been suggesting is that commoners should do the same; that we should be thinking not about, you know, doing on our own 100% pure way, but we should be thinking: what kind of markets work for commoners? What kind of state form works for the commons?

Simone Cicero:
Yeah, that’s, sorry I’m interrupting you, but I want to bring you some first reflection that reconnects with some older interviews that we’ve been recording the last few days. So, for example, when you say that the commons doesn’t need to be totalistic, you know, not approach that somehow like we need to do it alone outside of the society of markets, but more something that can appear on top of existing markets. It reminds me about David Ronfeld’s tribes, institutions, markets and networks. So this idea that essentially they evolve on top of each other and this is something that we also had the chance to discuss quickly with John Robb a few few days ago. And if I connect with your remarks at the start, that it’s a value issue and also you say, you know, as long as we have extracted value, it’s hard to imagine that, you know, something different comes up as long as society somehow praises this kind of extractive approach. And this is really interesting, I think. I mean, when you say for example, care work is not funded, it makes me think about Bernard Stiegler’s Neganthropocene idea, that care needs to become central. And, and so somehow this brings us this reflection that if we don’t see more commons based production, you may also be an epistemological problem. We may also be dealing with to this idea of, you know, as Heidegger’s said we face the world as standing reserve that we just want to consume or basically we just can think about consuming. So it’s these big, these huge epistemological issues related to science and rationalism. And so this is one of the big issues. And on the other hand, that is a political issue. Because when you say, you know, basically, if this information needs to come on top of existing institutions and markets, it means that we need to take it politically, we need to have a political discussion on how we run our markets and what kind of production we, I would say we encourage with our policies. So there are these two topics. And you also mentioned the point of no return so at some point, we were going to figure it out that if it doesn’t change, we’re gonna have very hard times and we are already living through hard times. You mentioned the pandemic. It’s crazy, today we are all three of us at some level of lockdown, you know, you’re locked down in a room because you’re finishing your quarantine, and me and Stina we’re locked in our houses in Paris and Rome. So I feel like the point of no returning somehow is already here, for some reasons, but so the question is: how do you see that happening? Is the epistemological transformation really key? And is this aspect of cosmology and integrating the technology and the cosmological vision as we are seeing for example in China somehow, something needed? Is it something that you see happening? How do you see that unlocking? Is it a political procedure? Epistemological? That sort of thing.

Michel Bauwens:
Let me give you some examples. So I just finished writing an essay, which I really happy about is called “The pulsation of the commons”. And so I’ve been looking at different schools of thought like biophysical economics and cliodynamics, which is a historical school, and the cognitive cycles and the movement of Karl Polanyi. And they all come to a very similar conclusion, which is basically saying that history moves In waves, in pulsating pulsation, so you have extractive moments in history and then you have regenerative reactions, and typically for regenerative reaction is the revival of the components. So in, you know, 10th century 11th century Europe in 12th century Japan in 15th century China, what you see is that the extractive regime has done so much damage that there is a huge popular revolt that in that time takes on a religious and spiritual language. And so, basically, you know, we can take Japan also in the 16th century and happen again. So, you have like a completely deforested country, which will be subject to civil war and then, you know, so many people have died and then the Shogun takes power. And for three centuries, Japan has succeeded in creating it’s called the Tokugawa period, a nation that lives within its regional planetary boundaries. And it has a stable population. So it can be done right, it’s actually possible to have a civilizational form that lives within natural boundaries with a stable population. It’s been done in the past. And so that’s that’s like something that you see happening all the time. So for example, I was reading a book is called the first European revolution, it’s in 975, after the period of capitalization and you know, all these feudal lords are fighting and killing each other and raping their the women in their population and everything and stealing the gold from the churches. You have the monks and the people organizing demonstrations and within 70 years, the whole of European Society has changed. And so this kind of pulsation between extraction and regeneration is not unusual. It’s actually I would say the rule now with capitalism because of technology, because of oil, you know, we kind of thought we were out of it, right? We thought we escaped this, but this is no longer the case. We can’t escape it. We, you know, we use four or five planets, use five times more resources than the earth can regenerate. We have climate change. So basically, I believe we have now reached that point on a global scale. Now there is a difference between Asia and Europe, in Asia, in Europe, we already have at least one third of the population in Europe that questions all the ideals of modernity. So there’s already kind of a mutation in consciousness, I would say. In Asia, they are still much more believing in the system, and they think finally they can get there. So they, so that I would say that the the majority of the people in Asia believe in capitalism, and that a majority of the people in Europe are losing their faith in capitalism. And so you see all these people changing how they do health, how they do, you know, think about young people in work today. I mean, this is a real issue, where most young people cannot find meaning in a traditional job, or they they want something else, they want to live other values. So I would say in general, that we actually see mutation of consciousness. And let me end with one example because I think it’s important. So mutation in consciousness is not just a continuation of the old. So when we have the Christians coming after the Roman Empire, in the Roman Empire workers or slave work is something bad, is something that a free person doesn’t have to do. But in the Christian world, in a feudal world, Ora Labora, so you have to pray and work at the same time. So actually working is transforming the world, is making the world a better and more divine place. So that’s a complete complete shift in consciousness. And I think today, a lot of people want to care for the earth, want to be at the surface of the planet. And the system hasn’t yet changed to make that possible. But I think the desire is already there.

Simone Cicero:
So we can say maybe that, for your understanding, we are witnessing this epistemological change. So maybe it’s the time to see how it plays out to the political level?

Michel Bauwens:
Well, it plays out I think at the moment, first of all, with a total lack of trust in the institutions, right. 20 years ago, 70% of people were saying, I trust politicians, I trust doctors, I trust hospitals. Today’s more like 17%. So they, I think the majority of the people do not see it, have not a clear vision of the alternative. But they already have a clear vision of what they reject. And you probably remember this quote from Gramsci where it says the old system is dying but is not dead yet and a new system is being born but it’s not born yet, so it’s a time of monsters. You know, citation like that and he was living in the same moment we are living now because at the moment he was living is you had in the 19th century had Smithsonian capitalism, which was a total domination of capital over labor and why workers in the 1850s were dying at 30. And, you know, World War I and World War II were a transitional periods where two new regimes — fascism and communism — were competing to offer something new because the old system wasn’t working. And then we got a huge change which was the welfare system, right. So after 1945 we have a compact between capital and labor, and it creates — at least in the western states — it creates a welfare state. Well, then the way I formulate this is that the change now is, we need a compact with nature, because the compact between capital and labor was done at the expense of nature by not recognizing externalities. And then so politically — and this is one of the terms that we wanted to discuss — is we don’t have a nation state system that’s territorial. So people live in a territory they, they like their locality. So at least some people do, they feel attached to the region, a lot of people feel attached to their nation. And then we’ve built a multilateral system that is on top of that. And that is, so we have political and economic institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, that were mediating institutions, and they’re not working anymore. They’re not working well anymore. Then we have another world, which is the word that I think you and I work with, which is a transnational trans-local world, which is where people live in virtual territories. So let’s say you do permaculture so you at some level you’re local. You’re you know, you’re doing your garden. But then when you communicate about permaculture you’re communicating with the global permaculture community. And in that world, the nation state doesn’t even exist. It’s just invisible. It’s not part of your view. Right. And so that second world for me is the word that we’re building with the commons with Knowledge Commons. And so we talk about Cosmo local, global order, which is everything that’s global is everything that’s light is global and shared and everything that’s heavy is local, which is an alternative to both neoliberal globalization which is a globalization of matter and people moving around the world all the time. We spend three times as many on transportation, I’m making things now. And then we have a world of national protectionism of “okay, let’s keep the foreigners out. Let’s do everything locally”. And so what we try to present is a third view, right, is a view of “Yes, we need to re-localize a lot of our production”. Because if you look at corona, the reason we are such a mess is that we have neoliberal just-in-time systems that are totally dependent on the weakest link and then when China you know, got in crisis, we didn’t get our medications. And there’s no supply line to create the making of ventilators and masks and so we lost every resilience that we had in terms of combating disruption anyway. So, yes, so what I’m saying is that the open source germ form shows how we can do it. We have a global cooperation of experts globally about ventilators. And then we need to find local places where we can make it. What we don’t want is to isolate ourselves, you know, from the knowledge that’s available in all of humanity.

Stina Heikkila:
Thank you. I will jump in with a question. I thought it was — you already answered to some of the questions that I had — but I was reading the other day your a piece that you wrote in Liminal on the corona and the commons. And there were some interesting remarks that you made about, you know, that for sure the systems that we have are sort of failing, like the nation state and, and the multilateral system. There’s a lack of trust that is growing but still, that things might have been even worse if we didn’t have these systems in place, because somehow they are doing their role. So I’m curious to hear about that coexistence and how you see that will pan out. What will be the frictions between the old and the new?

Michel Bauwens:
Right, so I think we have a two fold-problem: one is that we have, you know, weak, commons institutions. We don’t have strong commons institutions yet. And the other problem is that we have state forms which cannot cooperate with these commons, right? And I think Italy has given some examples of how this could be done, because after the Bologna regulation, the regulation for the care and regeneration of the urban commons, you have 250 cities which took it over and according to the calculation between 800,000 and 1 million people who are involved in these projects. So you have there already what I call a “partner state protocol”, a public commons protocol. So you have in Italian cities, a way in which citizens can do a project that can be recognized by the state and can be supported in what they call the five, the quintuple governance multi-stakeholder model. So this is a typical thing that exists in Italy but doesn’t exist in other countries yet. And I think it’s a good example of, you know, how you can smooth the cooperation between those two worlds. Because what we have now is we have all these open source communities now with all the expertise that is needed to this ventilators and valves, but we also see that the government are not ready or able to work with them. So there are several issues. And of course, one of the issues is certification regulations, which should probably be relaxed in an emergency time because even if an alternative is not 100% effective, it can still save a lot of lives that you can’t if you don’t have anything. But you know, beyond just emergency measures, what it shows us is that what is lacking today is the interface between the state and the civil society, the state and the commons. There is no interface and I think that’s a huge weakness on both sides, because right now the state would — and also maybe say that in some more theoretical ways I think the state can see territory, it cannot see flows — and so we need a partner state with which is not just the issue of, you know, being a partner with civil society and allowing civil society to be autonomous, but it’s also related to the ability of the state to see things and accept the fact that flows enrich the nation. I am not sure that beyond the neoliberal market flows, commodity flows, that people in the states and traditional politicians are actually able to see how open source and international global maker spaces can enrich a territory can enrich, you know, the wealth of a nation state. I don’t think they see that work well.

Simone Cicero:
That’s a very important point, as for my understanding because so far I think what we have been seeing in the last — you know, basically from forever — is that, you know, gradual (something that you also mentioned), this gradual integration of institutions up until we reach this supranational let’s say multinational transnational state, you know, with the UN, for example, as a way to somehow take over this role of controlling and regulating and at the same time. What you mention is that this trend basically disconnected the citizen from the policymakers and from the regulation, regulatory process itself. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good idea to borrow Daniel Schmactenberger’s considerations on on the fact that when you have this huge power growing at the edge of the system, so where basically every nation state -but within time I would say every individual — has technological potential to create such a big harm and often coupled with Guerilla like, you know, basically biological warfare or like we said, you know, we’ve witnessed that with the drone attacks to the Saudi plants, you know.

Michel Bauwens:
Yeah, that was amazing, yes.

Simone Cicero:
So the question is, when these two trends, let’s say generate friction between each other so that they need to to scale our need for a coherent regulation for example, at a multinational transnational level, and at the other hand, we have this need to probably go back into a more indigenous and local context of of creating wealth and managing the commons. Are we left with some kind of, you know, conundrum that we cannot solve?

Michel Bauwens:
Yeah, okay. I you know, I won’t imply that it’s easy, but so let’s take the example with corona. So we can criticize the state and there were many failures and everything. But imagine that there is no state, then, you know, in the US, you would have every state out of the 50 states will be competing with each other. They wouldn’t take into account each other. One city would do social isolation and the other wouldn’t. I mean, that’s not acceptable either, right? There are some challenges that do require transnational frameworks. And in some way, you could say that the nation state system already works that way. And that’s not so bad. So the fact of the WHO, you know, was able to advise, and it’s an international organization. And it is followed by a lot of states. But it’s an international expression, right. And I want to say something else, which is that the regime that we are living with is, you know, it’s weak multilateralism, and it’s only economic and political. So the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations, and they are mediating institutions to keep the peace because before World War II, they didn’t have them. And so they thought “We want to keep the peace we need these mediating institutions”. Now, one mediating institution that I know we need right now is actually some institution that could protect planetary boundaries. And I’ve done a report last summer called p2p accounting for planetary, was again, “p2p accounting for planetary survival”. And the theme is that we need accounting tools — share the accounting tools — that enable us to see the world differently. And that allows us to see externalities. And of course, they are not externalities, but the economy — our current economy — sees these things as externalities. So the thing is the economy is the center and then these marginal things on the outside, but actually the planet is primary. And we know we are guests. So we are actually at the edges in a certain way. And so that kind of reversal of perspective, I think needs to be institutionally validated. And so one project that I really like and I think is totally on the mark is called Reporting 3.0. And one of their proposals is called the Global thresholds and allocations Council. This is a form of, they call it multi capital accounting. So you don’t financialized but we have to see the metron energy flows in our systems. And so what they propose is basically that this group of scientists and experts, the global thresholds and locations Council, would be in charge of setting the limits in which states and individuals and companies and coops can operate right, because your freedom stops where you endanger the life of another. I think international is not good enough because if let’s take the human rights issue, right, we you have the UN Human Rights Council, but then there’s China and Saudi Arabia are members. And now human rights are very important, but it only affects some people, but the planetary survival affects everyone. And so this is sort of a vision I have is to have this to have globally shared accounting platforms, and shared supply chains where we can actually do Stigmergy, right. And that’s that I would say it’s an institution of the open source movement that works very well in free software. And once we have accounting, we can also apply it to production. That’s a huge, huge shift in perspective.

Simone Cicero:
Can you add a little Michel, on how would you see Stigmergy playing out in progress?

Michel Bauwens:
Yes, so if we move to open collaborative systems — and I think the blockchain systems are already that right — so that means like open source, everybody can come in and can leave at any time. So there is no single company that integrates the whole system that dominates our system. It’s an ecosystem. And it’s an open ecosystem. So what we see in these ecosystems is sort of all contributive accounting, which is practiced by different open source systems, which is where you can recognize non market generated activity as having its own value. So if you look at human history, and Bernard Lietaer talks about this in his book, The mystery of money: it talks about Yin and Yang money, male and female, warm and cold currencies. So now we only have cold currencies, extractive currency, he says we need to go back to the double system, which we had until the Middle Ages in the 14th century, which is we need warm currencies, which recognize non market generative care activities. So for example, in Indonesia you have money systems which regulates the watershed: people are paid to care for the watershed, and they can use that currency. So in the system that Reporting 3.0 proposes — this is more like a thermodynamic accounting systems — but again, it’s an open system everybody can see. So the theory is the following: in order to be in a steady state economy, so an economy that keeps the level of resources for the next generations, we cannot grow more than 1% a year otherwise it’s exponential. So basically, you calculate, you know, like the all the chemical elements of the table of Mendeleev. And that already exists. You can find it online. The American Chemical Association follows the flows of matter in these different elements. And so you’d have a commission of experts that would follow this, you know, how much copper is there, how much copper do we expect to find every year? What is the bio-circularity of copper? 70%. Every time you use copper, you re-use it, you can only use 70% of the copper. And that gives you boundaries, right? And within these boundaries, you’re free, but you cannot cross those boundaries. And stigmergy is that if I, let’s say I make shoes and I need leather. I can see all the other leather producers as well. So I can adapt in real time my behavior to the behavior of the ecosystem. And so there is another kind of accounting it’s called flow accounting. REA (resources, events agents), which no longer has double entry, and this is an important point. So if you use double entry accounting, you only see what is coming in and out of your own entity. And it’s a narcissistic accounting because the ecosystem doesn’t exist for you. Once you have flow accounting or REA accounting, you see the whole 3D ecosystem. You see every transaction, how it fits in the 3D ecosystem. Now, I want to go one step further, if you don’t mind. Because what we want to avoid is eco-fascism, right, a kind of planned economy where everybody is rationed. So here’s a potential solution to this. Let’s say you want to decarbonize and what we do now in the neoliberal economy is to do everything with competitive bidding. Competitive Bidding is anti-holistic because you win the competition by externalizing as much as you can. So you solve one problem, but you create anothers. In order to win, you have to be really reductionist. If you do a circular finance, let me explain what that means. You create a public ledger, that public ledger allows every citizens every collective to have its decarbonisation efforts to be verified. So you have it verified, you have been tokenized. And it either through taxation, or through contributions, those who profit from that positive externality, you fund these tokens and you create a circle. It can be very easy. I’ll give you an example Belgium, a small city — 20% of the kids used a bicycle. So it creates pollution because, you know, 80% cars. You create traffic accidents, noise, everything. SO “okay let’s pay these kids mileage mileage based currency” — I forgot the name but, you know, it exists in Bonheiden — they let them then use that currency in the circular economy, the local circular economy, so recycle makerspaces, Fab Labs. So, now they went to 60%. So considering cycling generative as compared to the extractive effects of cars and you recognize it creates value, so you have a priority but you leave people free to choose how they’re going to do it. You know, to use their creativity in answering those societal challenges. I hope that makes sense.

Simone Cicero:
No, it makes a lot of sense. And I think maybe my last question for this conversation today, or my last reflection that I want to offer — and maybe Stina wants to add more — but, you know, every time that we talk about for example, this moving out of competitive bidding into circular finance, and we speak about, you know, the need for institutional enforcement, you know, multinational institutions to enforce these regulations, which is of course, very meaningful — I find it very meaningful — but, you know, for example you will have witnessed that in the last few weeks, there were lots of people talking about how corrupt is the World Health Organization. So, there is this issue — I’m not saying that — but I’m saying that a lot of people are saying, you know, these are corrupt institutions not telling us for example, that masks are useful, you know, because they don’t want to make us, you know, freak out or something like that. So, in general, I think the question on potentially dealing with the corruption of the institutions, and in general the scarce capability to work, because of the complexity of the matter that they regulate. It is something that should make us think about, you know, what is the other route? And when I was talking with John Robb — we were talking with John Robb a few days ago — he made a reflection with us, basically saying “I want to be able to connect with the global system on my own terms”. If I am, you know, creating a local system — for example, caring about my resilience — I can connect with me on my own terms. And this is quite different as an approach or an epistemological political approach, you know, either we end up with these multinational institutions that everybody trusts, which is I believe a very difficult, you know, a very improbable outcome, or we may end up with these local institutions that connect with, connect between each other on their local own terms. So, maybe these connections that we are going to create, these multinational inter-networks and connections are more like you know, gonna be produced as tools.

Michel Bauwens:
Yeah, yeah, I think this is the thing that, you know, fundamentally libertarian people like John Robbs don’t get. This is actually the core of what I’m trying to tell you, that you have the two: we are living through physical bodies, and we live in a territory. And that territory is not just a local, it’s no, it’s a historically evolved situation where the communities that were destroyed by capitalism became the imagined community of the nation states. And we shouldn’t underestimate the attachment of most people to this identity, right? And we see, actually today that forces that represent the revival of the nation state are winning. They’re not losing, they’re winning. And the people who, you know, usually on the left who don’t feel this identity with a nation state, they’re losing. And then on the other hand, you have the libertarian view, right? And it’s all about networks iner-connecting networks. And I think what is missing is that the nation state is a very contradictory institution, but it also represents a “common good” institution. It’s a social contract between different parts of the population. Because what you have in the virtual world is just the same. You know, it’s not an ideal place. It’s a place with hackers — you know, I mean bad hackers now — the kind of people who steal your credit cards and stuff. So, it’s the interaction between the two, right? So we need strong, commons institution. I’m trying to give you a few examples of what I see as potential new commons institutions. And then we need to work on the interrelationship between both. Because for example, you talk about WHO, you say they’re corrupt. Why are they corrupt? They are corrupt because they are international. So Western countries don’t have enough masks. So they want to preserve the masks for the doctors and the hospital systems. So they have an interest in not pushing masks. In Asia where everybody has masks, the information we get is that masks work. In Belgium, I’m getting information that masks don’t work. I checked it: masks actually work. But the corruption of the WHO is because the nation states are the only agents that have power there. So they’re gonna negotiate. And there’s a nice term, it’s called “super competent democracy”. And so I think we need more independence for the trans-national expertise as a way of counter balancing the, you know, the corrupt selfish power of nation states. But we can’t have a completely new system that ignores nation state when the nation state is still dominant and powerful. Does that make sense?

Simone Cicero:
Totally, totally. I think one insight that I’m driving from this conversation is that we probably need to care about the local and indigenous regional, you know, many, many terms we are using to describe these systems where we as citizens, we can be more actively engaged in producing on top of the commons. But we also need to care about these interrelationships, inter-relational institutions that need to connect these nodes. That’s the part that I’m more concerned about, you know.

Michel Bauwens:
Yeah, that’s what we’re missing and, you know, we had it in the Middle Ages and was called the Catholic Church. Right? This was an institution that existed in parallel with the regional powers that was organized on a European scale. And so it could identify with, let’s say the interests of Western civilization, not just, you know, not just a local perspective of the regional Lord

Simone Cicero:
Good point

Stina Heikkila:
This links well into the question that I had also because earlier you spoke about this mutation of consciousness that we can start to somehow see emerging, where people are tired of this endless capitalism that is destroying the planet. So I see the link between what you mentioned in terms of this kind of radical transparency, where you would be able to basically see the impact in real time of a decision, right? So what is the cultural shift in that mutation of consciousness? Like how could we nurture citizens who could, you know, look for the right kind of choices?

Michel Bauwens:
Well, I think it should start probably in school because right now, the modern school is an agent of alienation. You know, so we decided in the 16th century in Europe, that the body was separate from the mind that the human was separate from nature. And all our institutions reinforce this. So that’s what you learn in school. You know, you learn all the abstract knowledge. But you don’t know anything about cleaning your room and about growing stuff. And for example, if you live in a country like Thailand, you’d see that all the children of the farmers don’t want to be farmers anymore. Right? So there’s a complete break between tradition and the relationship to the land, local, and then when they go to the school, it’s all about the nation state and science and engineering and you know, all good stuff. But you know what I’m trying to say, right? So I saw this documentary — I’m sorry, I don’t remember the name of the city, but it’s in Finland, I believe, in northern Finland — and it’s the first carbon positive city in the world. And what you see there is that the children are involved in this. So the children think about heating, they think about eco, they think about organizing the school in a way that, you know, it doesn’t use so much energy. So they started building like, how to say, a warming system that works on the floor. And so the kids are inventing all kinds of things. And so they are really growing up with a different kind of consciousness. So I think that, you know, that a large part of the answer is generational. At some point, we’re going to have to educate our children in entirely different ways than ways we were educated. You know, we’re largely lost already, in a way, because we’re so used to consumption and to all these separations. So even if we are ideologically sympathetic to these innovations, to be honest, in our daily lives, very few of us are actually living differently. And so, you know, changing our mind is the first step but to actually change the whole body-mind has to be mobilized. And I think this is something — you have to do some kind of programming of a worldview — and that has to be done very early.

Simone Cicero:
Well, Michel, I think we covered a lot of ground in this conversation. So I’m happy to offer a little bit of a reflection to wrap it up. I think we’re witnessing again and again, the fact that it’s a generational issue, it’s an educational one. And it looks — I don’t want to say that it looks like we understand what needs to be done — but somehow, more and more we understand that aspects of the current system need to change. We need to re-embed most of our economy to our region on a local scale. We need to, you know, develop these regulations and we need to change the educational system, but sometimes it looks like — or at least it was — you know, a trajectory where it was very hard to stop for a moment and to rethink, you know, the new systems. And, you know, sometimes — I was afraid to say that — but sometimes when I see that the systems are recovering, rebounding after the corona first hit, first wave, I’m thinking, you know, maybe in the future we’ll miss the corona times, where we had to stay at home.

Michel Bauwens:
So we can reset our thinking, right?

Simone Cicero:
Exactly and like, my question is, are we doing it or not?

Michel Bauwens:
Yeah, I think we’re doing it. So here’s the way for me to see it: you have a stable system and the only way to go to a new stable system is through a chaotic transition because societies are complex adaptive systems. So we are ready since 2008 in the chaotic transition. And then what we need is you know, pedagogical catastrophes. We are going to learn because we are going to be shocked. And corona is the first shock, the first true shock — maybe the second if you count 2008 — but corona is a wake up call, and I think that it will have long term effects. I think it is, you know, we’ll try to go back to normal in some way. But I think in many ways people have woken up, for example, to the fact that our state systems no longer work. That you know, we don’t have ventilators, we don’t have masks. How is that possible? The most advanced Western countries are not coping with this pandemic as they should. And they lost tens of thousands of people because they were not organized in the proper way. And a lot of people will lose their income, you know, they will have to rethink their place in the world. So I think this will be a multi year shock and it will have effects but it’s not enough to have one shock. We’ll have more, but maybe this is the first one.

Simone Cicero:
Yeah, I mean, just as a closure, I think, you know, I was listening to Jamie Wheal a few days ago on a podcast and I think he said something interesting: that sometimes, you know, that there’s this conversation now around this idea of “Game B” — also this idea that we need to make transition towards a new civilization. And it’s interesting to say that, you know, parts of this new civilization are already here. And sometimes we iconise, let’s say we imagine this transition as something very different, while the reality is it’s gonna start by steps, you know, through maybe this new disruption that we are living through these days is going to push us in this direction. A little step, and then another one, and then another one. And we end up maybe in a few years with a system that is completely different. So hopefully.

Michel Bauwens:
I think that’s how it works, yes, there is no, you know, there is, okay…. So you know, I was quite unhappy as a youth and I went to therapy. And you know, I did it for about seven years, and there is not a single therapy where I felt “this is it”. And yet after seven years, I was different. You know what I mean? So, I suddenly realized that I had changed. But there was no there was no like, revolutionary moment. And I think in the West, we’re too focused on this idea of, you know, the revolution that comes from the French and the Russian revolutions. But actually, even those industrial revolutions were different in every country. And it was a religious civil war in England. It was, you know, the military class which took power in Germany. The Tsar then liberated the serfs in Russia. So it took so many different forms, right? And I think this is going to be the same. We, you know, we shouldn’t wait for this magic moment. You have all these little changes and at some time, it will feel “Wow. Now the logic is already different”.

Simone Cicero:
Yeah, maybe maybe Michel we just need to give up our tendency to try to model everything because this transition is not gonna be modelled very easily. So Michel, thanks very much. That was an amazing conversation. And really, we thank you for this and I’m sure that our listeners will have lots of food for thought. And for sure we had it, so thanks again.

Michel Bauwens:
Thank you, thank you. Thank you, Stina, as well.

The post Commons-based peer production at the edge of a chaotic transition appeared first on P2P Foundation.

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Take back the App! A dialogue on Platform Cooperativism, Free Software and DisCOs https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/take-back-the-app-a-dialogue-on-platform-cooperativism-free-software-and-discos/2020/04/24 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/take-back-the-app-a-dialogue-on-platform-cooperativism-free-software-and-discos/2020/04/24#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75768 Take Back the App! We need platform co-ops now more than ever. If the 19th and 20th centuries were about storming the factory and taking back the means of production, then the 21st century is about storming the online platforms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon and the apps that increasingly control our economy and our... Continue reading

The post Take back the App! A dialogue on Platform Cooperativism, Free Software and DisCOs appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Take Back the App! We need platform co-ops now more than ever. If the 19th and 20th centuries were about storming the factory and taking back the means of production, then the 21st century is about storming the online platforms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon and the apps that increasingly control our economy and our lives. Increasingly, we’re living online, controlled and manipulated by secretive, for-profit companies, but there are alternatives. This week, Laura talks with coders, activists and tech entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of the platform cooperative movement. If we take the cooperative route, they argue that tomorrow’s online world could distribute rather than concentrate power—but will we? Recorded before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this conversation about the companies that mediate our lives is more relevant now than ever.

“How about if the future of work does not get answered straight away with automation, but with cowork, with the creation of commons, with putting up productive energies, and the definition of work towards social and environmental ends.”


Stacco Troncoso, Strategic direction steward of the P2P Foundation

Micky Metts, Worker/owner of Agaric

Ela Kagel, Cofounder and managing director of SUPERMARKT


Laura Flanders:

We’re relying more and more on free online platforms to mediate and inform our lives. But are they really free? As our digital selves are crunched, categorized, and traded, for-profit companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon make out exerting an alarming amount of control over our economy and us in the process. It could get much worse, but there are alternatives. This week on the show, I talk with coders, activists, and tech entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of the platform cooperativism movement. They’ll share their experience with cooperatively owned and operated digital platforms, which distribute rather than concentrate, power and wealth. If we take the cooperative route, they argue tomorrow’s digital economy could shrink inequality rather than exacerbate it and change our lives in the digital world and also on the dance floor. It’s all coming up on the Laura Flanders Show. The place where the people who say it can’t be done, take a back seat to the people who are doing it. Welcome.

Laura Flanders:

Welcome all to the show. Glad to have you. Let’s start with platform cooperativism because I still don’t think people quite understand what we’re talking about. So what is a digital platform and why does it need to be cooperativised?

Micky Metts:

Yes, a digital platform is the type of tool we use every day, as you said, a Facebook is a digital platform, amazon is a digital platform for buying things. We believe in platform cooperativism that people need to own the platforms that we use daily and engage in. We need to be the keepers of our own information and to put forward the goals we want with our platforms. We are now being owned by platforms that we are on and we are so far engaged in them that they own all of our contacts, all of our information. If you were to be shut off of a platform, you would not have any connection with all the people, the thousands of friends that have given you likes and that you know. So for platform cooperativism, people need to build and own the platforms that we use.

Laura Flanders:

So is it as simple, Stacco, as to say maybe once upon a time the marketplace was where we did our business, now it’s some platform online and there’s a problem.

Stacco Troncoso:

Well, they increasingly mediate our daily lives, they mediate our elections, how we relate to each other, and we have no ownership of this. And they’re actually headquartered in the US but they have worldwide reach. So how about we lower the transactional cost of that collaboration and take ownership of the decision making of how they affect us.

Laura Flanders:

Well what’s the cost we’re paying now?

Stacco Troncoso:

The cost we’re paying now is that our digital facsimile of you is creating information for advertisers to exacerbate consumerism, to give data to further set political ends, which may not be in accord to you, the data generator.

Laura Flanders:

So that reminds me of what we’ve heard about recently. We saw some of the leaked memos from Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook corporation, literally bargaining with clients based on the currency they had, which is us.

Ela Kagel:

I mean there’s the saying that goes if it’s free, you are the product. And I think that’s true for all the digital platforms where your data is being sold and your privacy rights are just being used.

Laura Flanders:

And just to put a little bit more of a fine pin on it. How is that different from advertising? Because I always say the for-money media is all about delivering people to advertisers, unlike the independent media, which is about delivering people to each other. So is it really different?

Ela Kagel:

I think it’s entirely different because advertising is a way of sending out a message to the world and you can still decide for yourself whether you want to receive it or not. But what we are talking about here is media corporations owning the infrastructure of our society, not only our data but also looking at Airbnb for instance, owning streets, owning neighborhoods, and transforming the way we live and relate to each other. And I think that’s really, that’s a different story.

Laura Flanders:

So what do we do about this? Stacco, you have this extraordinary DisCO manifesto that you’re releasing and you’re on book tour with it now. It is sort of about disco, but not quite.

Stacco Troncoso:

So what is DisCO? DisCO stands for distributed cooperative organizations. They’re a way for people to get together and work, and create, and distribute value in commons oriented, feminist economics, and peer to peer ways. You don’t get to do this at work very much, to exercise these kind of relationships. And there are also critique of this monster called the decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO. They’re basically corporations or organizations that exist on the block chain that can execute contracts, they can levy penalties, they can employ people. So the computer organizations that wield their own economic power, and because technology is far from neutral and it always follows the ideals of those who are investing in it, we’re quite concerned about the deployment of these decentralized autonomous organizations. So we came up with the DisCO as an alternative, which is comparative on solidarity base.

Stacco Troncoso:

This came out of the lived experience of our comparative called the Guerrilla Media Collective, which started with a project based around translation and combining pro bono work and paid work. So we will do social and environmentally aware translations for someone like Ela for example, but then we would also do client work and the income that would come from our agency work would come back to compensate for the pro bono work. And we did this because volunteering, doing pro bono stuff is cool if you have the privilege to do it. But if you’re a mother and you have five kids and you need to get to the end of the month, maybe you want to look into compensatory mechanisms so you can do valuable work. So this was the guerrilla translation, guerrilla media collective story. But as we became, through our work in the P2P Foundation, aware of this world of the blockchain, et cetera, we said, “Well, we need a feminist reaction to this,” and why we need that is it’s a movement that talks a lot about decentralization, but it doesn’t really talk about decentralizing power and this trifecta of hierarchy, which is capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy.

Stacco Troncoso:

So how can we operate in the marketplace while articulating those values?

Laura Flanders:

Micky, you’ve worked closely with the Ujima Project in Boston where you’re based, that is also trying to address this problem of investing and where it comes from and where it doesn’t go.

Micky Metts:

Yes. Well, one of the problems with investing is the vetting, of course, and finding out all the underlying ties, et cetera. If you’re not really speaking, today’s language of technology, it is very hard to vet what technology you’re going to invest in. And without consulting the community, you can’t really build the technology they need. So right now we’ve ended up with a bunch of corporations that are tightly tied with corrupt governments doing their bidding and feeding the information directly to the government. So without disengaging from that, there really is nowhere for us to go.

Laura Flanders:

So if you’re making software differently-

Micky Metts:


Laura Flanders:

How do you do it?

Micky Metts:

We use free software that allows the people that use it to modify it, change it, sell it, do anything they want with it. When you’re using a corporation’s software, like a Facebook or whatever they build their platforms with, you cannot see into that and you cannot see what they’re doing, which is as Shoshana Zuboff is talking about now, surveillance capitalism, which in a nugget leads right down to predictive analysis.

Micky Metts:

And now there is a bill that William Barr has put up to use predictive analysis to take our social media or a doctor’s records, combine them, and search for signs of mental illness. And then to put us-

Laura Flanders:

As defined by somebody.

Micky Metts:

Yes, who we don’t know who yet, and then to place us in observation against our will. How is this possible? And hardly anyone knows it, but these are platforms that are corrupt, that are all filtering info to the governments.

Laura Flanders:

I highly recommend Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism, if you haven’t read it, people. Ela to you, you don’t only work with artists, but you have worked for a long time in the artistic community in Berlin. How does that fit into this discussion? How do artists engage with the same question?

Ela Kagel:

Well, I’ve seen quite a lot of my artistic friends moving away from contemporary art and rather diving into the world of activism, trying to apply artistic strategies to helping bring about social change. So I think that’s something that is happening because also, the artistic world is subject to a colonialization of people who have the money and the power to acquire arts. But that also brought about a really interesting movement of people applying all sorts of strategies.

Laura Flanders:

You work at the very prosaic level though of people’s daily needs as well, and I understand you’ve been working on a project having to do with food delivery systems.

Ela Kagel:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Laura Flanders:

We’ve got lot of automated food delivery now coming from companies like Amazon, or explicitly Amazon in the US. Is that a similar problem in Berlin?

Ela Kagel:

Yeah, I think it’s starting to be a real problem everywhere. So a lot of these food delivery networks are owned by BlackRock, the world’s largest investment company. So no matter are you trying to build locally? In a sense, you need to compete against this company. But what I think is super interesting when Deliveroo decided to pull out of some European markets, there have been a bunch of writers who decided, “Okay, so we are fed up anyways, we’re going to start our own thing. So we will apply a different ethics to what we do. We will create a platform co-op, something that is owned by us, something that allows us democratic control over what we do.” So there’s an interesting movement emerging now in Europe. It’s happening in Spain with Mensakas, it’s happening in Berlin as well.

Ela Kagel:

And it’s really interesting because this is not so much about taking a sole and entrepreneurial decision about, “Okay, I’m starting a co op or a company,” but this has more of a shared effort because clearly if a bunch of people is trying to build a sustainable food delivery network in a local sense, it’s super, it’s almost impossible to compete against the likes of, you know. So this really requires a shared effort of municipalities, of activists, people who know how to build co-ops, it’s super essential. The people who run the business, but also restaurants and potential partners, to really build something that is a real alternative to the food delivery as we know it. And I find it so interesting because these meetings, they feel different. This is not the startup situation, but this is really about creating multi-stakeholder models in cities and helping to bring about a real shared effort because all these organizations will only exist if you all want them to be, otherwise it won’t happen.

Laura Flanders:

They won’t be able to compete with the huge multinational. Well that gets to my next question for you, Stacco, the DisCO Manifesto is a lot about what happens online, but it’s also a lot about what happens offline in communities. And I want to just elaborate a little bit on what Ela just said, that co-ops are typically other privately owned organizations. They’re privately owned companies, they just happen to have a lot of private owners. Is there a possibility that you could have accumulation of wealth in cooperative hands that would still be concentrated, would still potentially be manipulated or abusive or surveilling, or are you trying to change the whole ethic of capitalism around accumulation?

Stacco Troncoso:

Despite the issue of private ownership, you can see that co-ops are like this fenced off area to experiment with other models, because co-ops actually overturn the three technologies of capitalism. So private ownership of the means of production becomes collective ownership. Wage labor? There’s no wage labor, you’re the worker and the owner, and an exclusive orientation to what’s profit is tempered by the cooperative principles. Now on the subject of comparative, as opposed to capital accumulation, as Ela has said, there’s multi-stakeholder models and you have precedents in Quebec and Emilia Romagna where for example, instead of privatizing healthcare, how about we give it to co-ops and we will have four kinds of votes. And one of them, it will be the state or the municipality that are putting up the funds, another vote will go to the doctors, another vote will go to the patients, and another vote will go to the family of the patients.

Stacco Troncoso:

So this is the more decision making side, but you can see that it’s emphasizing people who are part of the economic activity beyond the co-op. Co-ops have existed for 150 years, but they haven’t brought about the desired revolution that they could foreshadow, and part of it is because they do not talk to each other, they don’t know how to mutualize, and they don’t know how to mutualize economically for greater ends. You mentioned the big boys and they are boys, which is Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple, they have a market cap collectively of 3 trillion US dollars, but co-ops worldwide have also market cap of $3 trillion but they’re not talking to each other.

Laura Flanders:

You’re nodding and smiling, Micky.

Micky Metts:

Yeah. The most important thing that I see and hear from people we talk with is what the co-op movement needs most is a secure communications platform that is not owned by the Man or by governments. Because without that, our communications are kidnapped. We are not in real communicate, like the WhatsApp app that is just ubiquitous, that is a direct spy mechanism.

Laura Flanders:

You can say that it’s all the problem of capital orthodoxy and the tendencies of the economy. But isn’t it also our fault, Ela?

Ela Kagel:

I find this a super interesting question, to be honest, but anyway, I think we’ve had a really tiny time window where we actually had a choice. I wonder, if talking about today, if we still have that choice. Coming back to what you just said, you need to have the privilege to have the time to search for an alternative to opt out of these networks. But very often people are not in a position to opt out of Facebook and all these other platforms. WhatsApp, whatever. So that’s the real problem. And it’s not so much about us taking a choice. And I see this rather as a quite dangerous way of framing the situation. I think this is more about building an alternative to what’s there.

Laura Flanders:

Can we build one when Google has, I think, 96% of all the search business at this point? is it too late?

Stacco Troncoso:

I don’t think it’s too late. And if you look at the history of these monsters, they’ve only existed for some 20 odd years, and born out of public money. Here’s the thing, even though they may seem like behemoths, which are impossible to take down, take into account if the revolutionary drive of the 19th and 20th century was let’s take over the factories, let’s take over this massive economies of scale. What about if the means of production are actually in your laptop right now? And what about if we can network those laptops? It is much easier to create the alternatives. With that being said, what is really difficult is to have this network effect because what we need are alternatives, which are easy to use, which are inclusive, where your friends are, and this is where we’re lagging behind because of course we don’t have those massive investments, but the actual technology and to educate people into this technology is much simpler.

Micky Metts:

It’s there.

Stacco Troncoso:

Yeah. And it’s beautiful for people to actually know how to make the technology not just have it handed to you.

Laura Flanders:

How do we move forward to make the change that you’re talking about? It’s not going to be sporadic, you over here and you’re over here and maybe one TV show in a million once every 10 years. How do we do it? Do we embed these discussions in schooling and education? Do we fight for a better public media system? What?

Micky Metts:

Well, it’s difficult because the education system now, Microsoft and Apple got in there very early in the days of early computing and they armed all the schools with Apple’s and Macintosh systems, so now people have grown up with these systems and feel a loyalty to them that is beyond the convenience. So for new adopters, it’s the convenience, for the older generations that have grown up with these tools, it’s nearly impossible to get them out of their hands.

Laura Flanders:

Those are the screens that brought them up basically.

Micky Metts:

Yes. So even when you’re pointing out the inequities and how this tool you’re using is your jailer, people don’t really get it or they have to divide their mind and say, “I need this tool to do my work. I can’t work without it, therefore I must use it.” But I caution us all to while you’re using it, think of how inequitable it is. Think of the things that it’s doing to the system.

Laura Flanders:

But that feels like me feeling guilty when I drink out of a plastic water bottle.

Micky Metts:

It starts like that. But then with these movements and platforms, there are actual places to join and make change.

Laura Flanders:


Micky Metts:

And to not be alone.

Laura Flanders:

You have one of those places.

Ela Kagel:

I guess we find ourselves in a place where we are constantly competing with others about likes and about visibility, attention, and so forth. So what if we would really work on strengthening our local communities, our municipalities in order to create a sense of where we are, what our communities are, having more opportunities of actually getting together and helping each other with all these questions. Because one of the big problems of the neoliberal past 10, 50 years, 15 I mean, was the fact that people got isolated in a way. So that’s really, that’s proof to be a side effect. So for me a counter strategy is to radically create those opportunities in places where people can come together. That’s the first thing, because that is missing.

Laura Flanders:

So what do you do in Berlin?

Ela Kagel:

Well, there is Supermarkt but also other spaces because Berlin, this is in recent years turned into a hub of people that want to make the world a better place, which is great.

Ela Kagel:

And since space is still sort of available, there are enough people took advantage of that and got a space, rented it, and opening up that space for community events. So that’s what we also do at Supermarkt. So in doing so, just being there, that’s helped a community to emerge and that wasn’t curated by myself or anything, it was just about being there, opening the doors, running regular events, and then things happen automatically. They just emerge by people being in the same spot. And I really think that’s a healthy way to try to counter the current situation, but of course it’s not just the communities there. They also need backing from local politics and they need solid financing structures, and that finance cannot just come from the classic world of finance, but also that needs a collaborative effort to raise funds from sources that are acceptable and sustainable. I really think these are big tasks we need to tackle and there is no easy solution for that. But at the same time, what I really see, for instance at the Platform Co-op Conference here, I see a lot of people starting initiatives and I see them thriving. So there is hope, but we just need to bring these people together, as Stacco said, we need to build an ecosystem of platform co-ops.

Laura Flanders:

We caught up with one such group at the Platform Cooperative Conference titled Who Owns the World held at the New School in New York in November, 2019. For over 20 years, Smart Co-Op has provided work security for tens of thousands of freelances in over 40 cities in nine European countries. Here’s what they had to say.

Sandrino Graceffa:[in French, translation follows 00:22:00].

Our organization, Smart, has understood that there was an intermediate position, between the classical salaried worker and the individual forms of entrepreneurship, we call it the grey zone of the working world. This grey zone consists of creatives, freelancers, people that work with a lot of discontinuity. We call it the new form of employment. The atypical jobs. The institutions, whichever they are, don’t really take into account this category of workers who still need to be protected. Therefore, our organization intends to bring new solutions to these problems of work and employment.

Tyon Jadoul:

We are pursuing a social model for social transformation. We have a really political dimension to our project that strive to offer the best social protection for the most freelancer as possible.

Sandrino Graceffa:[in French, translation follows 00:23:01].

The core activity of Smart is to provide the administrative, accountability and financial frameworks that allow autonomous workers, freelancers, to charge for their performances. In exchange, Smart gives them a working contract, a salaried working contract. Smart converts the revenue into a salaried working contract and therefore brings the best level of protections for these workers.

Tyon Jadoul:

You can have a real living democracy participation of the members, even with a big structure like us because we are now about 25,000 cooperators or associates in Belgium. How we do that, we invented or created different possibility for a member to participate into the evolution, the decision making of our cooperative. You could do it by participating to small meetings at night, you can do it by giving your opinions online on a blog, by writing something that you might find interesting, by coming to the general assembly each year, you can watch it online, you can vote online, you can express your voice.

Laura Flanders:

Sharing successful models and innovative ideas is essential if we’re ever going to create a more democratic digital world, cooperatives owned and controlled by their workers look set to play an important part in that evolution.

Laura Flanders:

So we often end this program by asking people what they think the story will be that the future tells of this moment. So Stacco, I’m going to ask you, what do you think is the story the future will tell of us now?

Stacco Troncoso:

Just off hand, it may be the moment where people were doing things that were criticized as folly or useless, but really what we’re doing is to build capacity, and we’re building capacity because there’s people that talk of collapse and you always imagine like the Mad Max sexy collapse, but we’re in an ongoing process of collapse. But we’re doing these things that may not make sense, according to the predominant economic logic, but man, they will make sense in the next economic crisis where incidentally, co-ops over all economic crises have actually thrived, kept to their principles, and being more successful. But it’s not just that, there’s also overcoming the alienation that Ela talks about. How about if the future of work does not get answered straight away with automation, but with care work, with the creation of commons, with putting up productive energies, that being that the definition of work towards social and environmental ends.

Stacco Troncoso:

And I think that we’re in this hinge moment where everything may seem hopeless, but a lot of things are crumbling and those solutions which are being posited, your green growth, your neoliberal strategies now to tackle climate, they’re not going to work. And again, process of collapse we raise the ground with alternatives.

Laura Flanders:

All right, I’m going to leave it there. Thank you all. Micky, Stacco, Ela, great conversation. You can find out more about the Platform Cooperativist conference or the Conference on Platform Cooperativism at our website and we’ve been happy to be part of it these last few years.

Ela Kagel:

Thank you.

Micky Metts:

Thank you.

Laura Flanders:


The post Take back the App! A dialogue on Platform Cooperativism, Free Software and DisCOs appeared first on P2P Foundation.

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Pandemic Priorities: supporting alternatives now is promoting a sustainable economy https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/pandemic-priorities-supporting-alternatives-now-is-promoting-a-sustainable-economy/2020/04/24 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/pandemic-priorities-supporting-alternatives-now-is-promoting-a-sustainable-economy/2020/04/24#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2020 08:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75775 Especially in these times, honoring our ancestors is investing in and trusting alternatives that are based in dignity, health and livelihoods for all of us.  In the early 1960s, my grandma was a secretary at the Caymanas Sugar Estate in Portmore, Jamaica. She helped the cane cutters who worked on the estate’s land create a... Continue reading

The post Pandemic Priorities: supporting alternatives now is promoting a sustainable economy appeared first on P2P Foundation.


Especially in these times, honoring our ancestors is investing in and trusting alternatives that are based in dignity, health and livelihoods for all of us. 

In the early 1960s, my grandma was a secretary at the Caymanas Sugar Estate in Portmore, Jamaica. She helped the cane cutters who worked on the estate’s land create a credit union. At that time, workers were acknowledging the problematics of who owned the capital and resources on their island. In 1962, Jamaica gained independence from the British, with the hopes of more national equity and securing workers rights. My grandmother understood that helping the cane cutters pool their money to create a credit union was one step closer to liberation from the confines of colonialism and capitalism. At the time she thought of it as a necessity—as the right thing to do—rather than an alternative economy.

Tej and grandma
Tej and grandma

Throughout the Caribbean and Africa, the sharing of resources and money is not new. Sou sous and other types of community banking are age-old practices. These traditions even emigrated overseas to places like the U.K. and Canada along with Jamaicans who realized they would not receive the queen’s royalties they learned of during their schooling.

Like Jamaican cane cutters and emigrants realizing they lacked access to the things they needed, we also now find ourselves similarly situated in the current pandemic. As we recognize that people need immediate access to resources, we are realizing that the most effective tools are local economies, regional manufacturing systems, and community banking. 

As people succumb to fear, individuals are hoarding the resources we need to protect ourselves against the COVID-19 virus, children are missing meals since schools are shut down, city governments are realizing housing should be a human right as we are called to Shelter in Place, and the federal government is finally acknowledging that freezing student loans will actually bolster the economy. It is clear the systems that currently shape our societies do not work towards human continuity or resilience. In fact, it is this way of life that has resulted in the crises that we are currently in: the health crisis, climate crisis and spiritual crisis. 

The pervasiveness of capitalism has overshadowed other types of economies so that we don’t think any other way is possible. Rather than many economies we are told there is one economy, and that one is capitalist. The dominant globalized economy has become so embedded into everyday life that investing in and finding accessible alternatives is a barrier for many of us. In the U.S., buying local clothing or food is a luxury. It is more expensive to buy locally made products than buying fashion or produce from thousands of miles away. 

If we are going to make it to the other side of this pandemic and this deteriorating world, then just as others before us have recognized, we have to rely on community interdependence, cultural equity, and alternative economies as a basis moving forward.

Luckily, we don’t have to wait for a SciFi future to participate in alternatives that support a better life for all of us. My grandmother knew this more than half a century ago. Around the world, communities are participating in and building other economies. I honor the work she did by investing in and participating in these communities. I am grateful to be part of an alternative circular economy with a council of womxn. I hope my experience can shed light on some of the current possibilities. 

I joined a gifting economy: a Mandala circle. Along with several other amazing womxn, we each gift whichever womxn is in the center of the circle at the time we decide to join. Eventually it’ll be our turn in the center of the circle to receive gifts. We have calls three times a week to discuss our dreams, intentions, challenges and proudest moments. We support one another and share resources. We share what we’d like to do and want to do if money was not an issue. We talk about our work and all that we are currently doing. We laugh and build sisterhood. 

The gifts the womxn in the center of the circle receives are monetary. However, giving the gift is not transactional, based in ownership or capital. It is based in love, trust, and the belief that we all deserve to live how we want without having to compete with each other. We gift this womxn knowing that she is free to do whatever she’d like with the money. The womxn in the center is not expected to pay it back and does not have to use it for professional purposes—although she can. We do not put barriers or burdens on the gifts, and trust she will make the right decision with her gifts. When it’s each womxn’s turn in the center, she receives the same agency and trust. We are investing in each other rather than stocks that are attached to extractive, exploitive enterprises. 

There are several of these Mandala circles. Some circles gift different amounts of money, and you can start out in a fractal Mandala circle in order to amass enough money to participate in the larger one. The Mandala circle splits so that it can multiply once the womxn in the center has received eight gifts. It is precisely this multiplication factor that allows this form of investment to be soundly sustainable, allowing more womxn to join the movement. At no point in the Mandala circle do you have to beg anyone for money, go to a bank, worry about interest, report on what you’re doing with the money, exploit anyone to get the money…you just have to be engaged in community with others. 

In my particular Mandala, each womxn will receive several thousand dollars without strings attached after gifting a little over a thousand dollars to whomever is in the center of the circle when she joins. We do not advertise on social media or do marketing. We do not hold space for those who only want to join for the money. Our circle is not about consumption, trends or not having enough. It is about rejuvenation, healing, and abundance. There is enough in the world, it’s just not distributed fairly. When we have money, we usually spend it on companies that are greedy and do not care about us. This is primarily because these companies are constantly in our face with advertising and usually widely accessible. In our Mandala, we put our money where our values are when we can—whether we have a little of it or a lot.   

We are linked in our shared values that thriving livelihoods and collective economics is a way forward. We are connected in our understanding that the ways of our ancestors can get us to the other side of this unsustainable violent system. We are bound by the belief that interdependence and supporting one another is the only way we will all survive. We believe in reciprocity and concentric circles, rather than greed and hierarchies. We believe that sometimes it is your turn to give and sometimes it is your turn to receive. Sometimes it is your turn to lead and sometimes it is your turn to follow. We know that everyone in the circle is deserving and worthy.  We know that giving a gift is both selfish and selfless: because you feel good when you do it and the person who gets it feels good when they receive it. 

The cane cutters’ credit union in 1960s Jamaica my grandma helped to start and the Mandala circle I’m a part of today are examples of alternatives to the current mainstream economic model. The current economic model really only benefits a wealthy few. The “economy” does not have to feel competitive, exclusive and exhausting. An economy can feel refreshing, collective and inclusive. These are the economies we need to support and build to combat this pandemic, to stop the climate crises, and to transform current ideological backwardness. These are the economies we need to trust. We need each other. The Mandala circle I am in—and other alternative economies—start from this premise. 

The time is now, we can’t go back to “normal”— and why would we want to anyways. As Arundhati Roy  aptly wrote last week in the Financial Times

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

Here are a few alternatives to check out:

  • For Streaming: enjoy videos & films on this worker-owned post-capitalist streaming service
  • For Food in the Bay Area (co-ops): Mandela Grocery Store and Rainbow Grocery
  • For Health in the Bay Area: Berkeley Free Clinic
  • For Indigenous Solidarity: contribute to the Shuumi Land Tax, supporting an indigenous women-led land trust
  • For Land & Food Justice for POC in California: donate to the Minnow Project
  • For Solar Power & Renewable Energy in the Bay Area: worker-owned  Sun Light & Power can provide affordable, clean energy for your affordable housing unit or non-profit organization
  • For Supplemental / Alternative Education for Black People: 400 + 1 collective centers Black liberation and prosperity (*specifically for Black communities)
  • For Banking & Money: Black-owned Credit Union of Atlanta (*you don’t have to be Black to put your money in this credit union)
  • For more information on the Mandala circle I’m in send me a direct message, although many circles are all womxn the Mandala Movement is open to all

Lead image: mandala by xavo_rob 

The post Pandemic Priorities: supporting alternatives now is promoting a sustainable economy appeared first on P2P Foundation.

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Italy, democracy and COVID-19 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/italy-democracy-and-covid-19/2020/04/23 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/italy-democracy-and-covid-19/2020/04/23#respond Thu, 23 Apr 2020 08:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75771 The crisis triggered by COVID-19 is challenging the very meaning of coexistence and cohabitation and redesigning the boundaries of public space in an absolutely unprecedented way, with unpredictable results. Written by Francesco Martone and originally published by the Transnational Institute. Measures to contain free movement and prohibitions on assembly have led to the temporary limitation,... Continue reading

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The crisis triggered by COVID-19 is challenging the very meaning of coexistence and cohabitation and redesigning the boundaries of public space in an absolutely unprecedented way, with unpredictable results.

Written by Francesco Martone and originally published by the Transnational Institute.

Measures to contain free movement and prohibitions on assembly have led to the temporary limitation, if not suspension, of some fundamental rights, such as the right to mobility, to meet, to demonstrate, to family life.

Over four billion people are now suffering under varying degrees of restriction of civil rights and freedoms. Nevertheless, this crisis is occurring in a global context where democracy and the civic space were already under attack, and this element needs to be duly factored in when analyzing the human rights implication of the crisis and possible remedial actions.

The CIVICUS monitor report “People power under attack” (December 2019) registered a backsliding of fundamental rights and freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression worldwide (40% of the world’s population now live in repressed countries, compared to 19% in 2018). The report concluded that civil society is now under attack in most countries, and just 3% of the world’s population are living in countries where fundamental rights are in general protected and respected.

In this context, COVID-19 is in fact representing a major challenge for human rights and the role of the state. Restrictions, such as social distancing, deemed crucial to preventing the spread of the virus pit the fundamental right to health against other fundamental rights and freedoms – albeit temporarily – and challenge the fundamental concept of indivisibility of rights. It is also bringing to light the extensive weakening of the state’s obligation to ensure key social and economic rights, such as the right to health, by means of a robust public health sector, or to a decent job. Millions of people, mostly the most vulnerable, migrant workers, precarious workers are losing their source of income and will be in dire conditions after the medical emergency is over.

As far as the impacts of COVID-19 on fundamental rights and on the quality of democracy are concerned, two situations can be identified. In states where restrictions and violations were rampant before the COVID-19 emergency is being used to strengthen the grip and increase repression and antidemocratic features. These are states where exception is the rule. In states where democracy still exists, albeit with the limitations described in the CIVICUS report, the COVID-19 emergency risks paving the way for dangerous restrictions that might persist also when the “emergency” is supposedly over. These are states, where the rule might become the exception. These two distinctions are key also to understand what the different challenges for international solidarity and social movements are. In both cases the space of initiative – current and future – would be jeopardized or at least affected. Social distancing is in fact hindering the possibility of organizing in traditional terms, (assembly, demonstrations, meetings, advocacy and solidarity delegations, international civil society monitors). To various degrees, countries in the so-called Global North also, where NGOs or social movements operate or are located, were already starting to suffer from a restriction of civic space (see for instance criminalization of solidarity, or restrictions and violation of privacy for antiterrorism purposes). The difference is that now the restrictions, of freedom of circulation and movement and the right to assembly in particular, are applied to entire populations.

It will therefore be essential that all measures undertaken to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences, respect fundamental rights and comply with a rights-based approach. News from various countries does not warrant optimism. From Colombia, for instance, where rural and indigenous communities already under attack before the pandemic are now even more under fire from paramilitary forces: in the last ten days at least six leaders have been murdered. Or in Hungary where Viktor Orban’s recent moves have allowed him to have full powers to manage the crisis. Or the Philippines, or Egypt or Turkey. It comes as no surprise then that in various recent statements the UN has called upon states to ensure the respect of fundamental rights, to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure that the COVID-19 emergency is not used to trample on peoples’ rights, and to justify further repression.

A brief analysis of the situation in Italy

Italy was one of the countries where COVID-19 spread with dramatic and tragic intensity. Some regions in the North, (Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna) are ranking first in terms of contagion, hospitalized patients and death toll. The spread of the pandemic in the country has been accompanied by unprecedented restrictive measures that have triggered an interesting debate on legality, democratic legitimacy, and states of exception and emergency and a growing number of initiatives by social movements, civil society, and ordinary citizens.

First and foremost, we must consider the extent to which the management of the COVID-19 emergency risks opening or deepening existing fault-lines in the democratic basis of the country and its governance structure. For instance, we are witnessing a risky overlap of competences and fragmentation of the polity. On the one hand the government, a coalition between the Democratic Party and the 5Star movement plus other minor parties, on the other the governors of the hardest-hit regions, Lombardy and Veneto (run by the right-wing League), on the other the pervasive presence of the “experts”, the Civil Protection Service (Protezione Civile) and the National Institute for Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità). The latter are those that are instructing the political decisions: the “political” government is being substituted by some sort of medical governance and crisis/disaster management approach. Hence, any initiative that is being undertaken is hard to challenge politically, since it is motivated by scientific and technical assumptions and by the alleged goal of ensuring the containment of the virus and, by doing so, fulfilling the obligation to respect the constitutional right to public health.

The emergency is somehow “depoliticizing” the public debate. To add to this, the political turf battle between the government and those regions led by representatives of the main opposition party have led to the adoption of a multitude of decrees and ordnances that somehow form a patchwork of regulations and prohibitions, that make it harder to ensure proportionality and accountability and leave broad discretion to public officials. The use of the military in policing “social-distancing” measures is a case in point. It should be stressed that the deployment of the military for public security purposes is not a novelty in the country. Troops have been deployed to ensure protection of sensitive targets against hypothetical terror attacks, but their rules of engagement never included the enforcement of public order as the case could be now. Some “regional governors” in fact urged the deployment of troops in the streets to ensure compliance with “social-distancing” orders.

Secondly, the de-legitimation of Parliament and of the so-called “political caste” has reactivated speculation on the need for a “strong-man” or of the centralization of executive power. This de-legitimation was already severe before the outbreak and needs to be read in conjunction with the fact that, before the COVID-19, two key political deadlines were approaching, notably administrative elections and the referendum for the reduction of the number of members of Parliament. In fact for the first time ever the President of the Council of Ministers, currently Giuseppe Conte, has been issuing so-called Decrees of the President (DPCM), a brand new category of acts , since decrees are usually issued by the government as a whole. These were made executive without parliamentary debate and without their transformation into law, and hence without a sort of public scrutiny as the Constitution mandates.

In fact, the Italian Constitution does not contain any norm related to the state of emergency, while Parliament’s activity has been reduced to a minimum because of the spread of the virus among Members of Parliament and only after a few weeks from the declaration of the state of emergency was there a parliamentary debate on the COVID-19 and related government measures. More worryingly, Italy has no independent human rights institution that would monitor compliance of government’s activities and restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms to international human rights standards and obligations as mandated by international covenants to which Italy is part, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights.

Third, beyond exposing these gaps and fault-lines, COVID-19 is also bringing to light the systemic imbalances, injustices and lack of full achievement and even denial of key social and economic rights in the country. As many as 2.7 million people are at risk of hunger because they have lost any source of revenue or income due to the lockdown, and at least 20 million people are now living on subsidies and other forms of emergency income introduced by the government. These figures account for a the broad informal economy and precarious or free-lance work. Also, the dramatic rush to step up intensive care units and to increase the number of health care personnel, point to the impact of budget cuts on the public health care system carried out in the past, with all the consequences it carries in terms of ensuring equitable access to public health care for all. The current inhumane conditions for detainees, due to overcrowding, also came to public attention after a series of prison riols triggered by fear of infection.

Lastly, other estimates point to the risk of a substantial shortage of fruit and produce in the markets, since at least one quarter of annual production is guaranteed by 260,000 seasonal migrant workers who now cannot travel due to the restrictions. Many of them have been working in the past in semi-illegal or extreme conditions. or have ended up involved in organized crime. Concerns have already been voiced about the potential of the Mafia to exploit this situation by offering support and access to credit to those who lost their jobs and hence cannot ensure their basic subsistence.

Parallel to the official narrative, that hinged on a mixture of cheap patriotism, restrictive measures, and scientific governance of social processes, other practices developed, that represent an important social and political capital for the future: online assemblies; a flourishing theoretical debate on COVID-19 and its implications at all levels; a growing number of initiatives by social movements; a proposal for an Ecofeminist Green New Deal; campaigns for better conditions in jails and for amnesty; for a so-called “Quarantine minimum income”; a recently published platform of civil society organizations and social movements working on trade, economic justice and against extractivism, and in parallel a growing number of solidarity initiatives are clear signs of another Italy that does not accept resignation or helplessness. An Italy that does not accept the idea that in order to tackle the virus and its implications people have to solely comply with orders aimed at limiting, repressing or imposing “do-nothing” behavior. Support services for the elderly, the most vulnerable, those that live alone in their homes, food banks, psychological support and assistance, purchasing and home delivery of drugs are among the most recurrent self-organized initiatives, that express an attempt to turn the feminist concept and practice of “care” into political practice. Civil society somehow transforms itself into a “commune”, and its members into commoners, that collectively organize to foster the respect and pursuit of common goods and rights, such as the right to food, care, solidarity. The challenge will be that of nurturing that mix of theoretical analysis, mobilizing and mutual aid and support from below after the most immediate “medical” emergency will slowly leaving the space to the economic and social one.

Further challenges will be that of linking up those processes with the global level, with similar and parallel processes elsewhere, adopting a “decolonized” approach that would always consider power imbalances locally and globally. COVID-19 will not bring the automatic transformation of our societies or the collapse of capitalism, or a revolution by proxy. Rather, the way and intensity of activation of social movements’ response “at present” will also be key to determine how these, and new and innovative modalities of conflict, proposal and self-organization can forge our future.

Photo credit Daniel Chavez (TNI)

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Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next? https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/coronavirus-spells-the-end-of-the-neoliberal-era-whats-next/2020/04/22 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/coronavirus-spells-the-end-of-the-neoliberal-era-whats-next/2020/04/22#respond Wed, 22 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=75764 Coronavirus is a political crucible, melting down and reshaping current norms. Will the new era be a “Fortress Earth” or a harbinger of a transformed society based on a new set of values? Think Bigger Whatever you might be thinking about the long-term impacts of the coronavirus epidemic, you’re probably not thinking big enough. Our... Continue reading

The post Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next? appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Coronavirus is a political crucible, melting down and reshaping current norms. Will the new era be a “Fortress Earth” or a harbinger of a transformed society based on a new set of values?

Think Bigger

Whatever you might be thinking about the long-term impacts of the coronavirus epidemic, you’re probably not thinking big enough.

Our lives have already been reshaped so dramatically in the past few weeks that it’s difficult to see beyond the next news cycle. We’re bracing for the recession we all know is here, wondering how long the lockdown will last, and praying that our loved ones will all make it through alive.

But, in the same way that Covid-19 is spreading at an exponential rate, we also need to think exponentially about its long-term impact on our culture and society. A year or two from now, the virus itself will likely have become a manageable part of our lives—effective treatments will have emerged; a vaccine will be available. But the impact of coronavirus on our global civilization will only just be unfolding. The massive disruptions we’re already seeing in our lives are just the first heralds of a historic transformation in political and societal norms.

If Covid-19 were spreading across a stable and resilient world, its impact could be abrupt but contained. Leaders would consult together; economies disrupted temporarily; people would make do for a while with changed circumstances—and then, after the shock, look forward to getting back to normal. That’s not, however, the world in which we live. Instead, this coronavirus is revealing the structural faults of a system that have been papered over for decades as they’ve been steadily worsening. Gaping economic inequalities, rampant ecological destruction, and pervasive political corruption are all results of unbalanced systems relying on each other to remain precariously poised. Now, as one system destabilizes, expect others to tumble down in tandem in a cascade known by researchers as “synchronous failure.”

The first signs of this structural destabilization are just beginning to show. Our globalized economy relies on just-in-time inventory for hyper-efficient production. As supply chains are disrupted through factory closures and border closings, shortages in household items, medications, and food will begin surfacing, leading to rounds of panic buying that will only exacerbate the situation. The world economy is entering a downturn so steep it could exceed the severity of the Great Depression. The international political system—already on the ropes with Trump’s “America First” xenophobia and the Brexit fiasco—is likely to unravel further, as the global influence of the United States tanks while Chinese power strengthens. Meanwhile, the Global South, where Covid-19 is just beginning to make itself felt, may face disruption on a scale far greater than the more affluent Global North.

The Overton Window

During normal times, out of all the possible ways to organize society, there is only a limited range of ideas considered acceptable for mainstream political discussion—known as the Overton window. Covid-19 has blown the Overton window wide open. In just a few weeks, we’ve seen political and economic ideas seriously discussed that had previously been dismissed as fanciful or utterly unacceptable: universal basic income, government intervention to house the homeless, and state surveillance on individual activity, to name just a few. But remember—this is just the beginning of a process that will expand exponentially in the ensuing months.

A crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic has a way of massively amplifying and accelerating changes that were already underway: shifts that might have taken decades can occur in weeks. Like a crucible, it has the potential to melt down the structures that currently exist, and reshape them, perhaps unrecognizably. What might the new shape of society look like? What will be center stage in the Overton window by the time it begins narrowing again?

The Example of World War II

We’re entering uncharted territory, but to get a feeling for the scale of transformation we need to consider, it helps to look back to the last time the world underwent an equivalent spasm of change: the Second World War.

The pre-war world was dominated by European colonial powers struggling to maintain their empires. Liberal democracy was on the wane, while fascism and communism were ascendant, battling each other for supremacy. The demise of the League of Nations seemed to have proven the impossibility of multinational global cooperation. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the United States maintained an isolationist policy, and in the early years of the war, many people believed it was just a matter of time before Hitler and the Axis powers invaded Britain and took complete control of Europe.

The Yalta Conference, 1945: Allied leaders reshaped the new global era

Within a few years, the world was barely recognizable. As the British Empire crumbled, geopolitics was dominated by the Cold War which divided the world into two political blocs under the constant threat of nuclear Armageddon. A social democratic Europe formed an economic union that no-one could previously have imagined possible. Meanwhile, the US and its allies established a system of globalized trade, with institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank setting terms for how the “developing world” could participate. The stage was set for the “Great Acceleration”: far and away the greatest and most rapid increase of human activity in history across a vast number of dimensions, including global population, trade, travel, production, and consumption. 

If the changes we’re about to undergo are on a similar scale to these, how might a future historian summarize the “pre-coronavirus” world that is about to disappear?

The Neoliberal Era            

There’s a good chance they will call this the Neoliberal Era. Until the 1970s, the post-war world was characterized in the West by an uneasy balance between government and private enterprise. However, following the “oil shock” and stagflation of that period—which at the time represented the world’s biggest post-war disruption—a new ideology of free-market neoliberalism took center stage in the Overton window (the phrase itself was named by a neoliberal proponent).

The value system of neoliberalism, which has since become entrenched in global mainstream discourse, holds that humans are individualistic, selfish, calculating materialists, and because of this, unrestrained free-market capitalism provides the best framework for every kind of human endeavor. Through their control of government, finance, business, and media, neoliberal adherents have succeeded in transforming the world into a globalized market-based system, loosening regulatory controls, weakening social safety nets, reducing taxes, and virtually demolishing the power of organized labor.

The triumph of neoliberalism has led to the greatest inequality in history, where (based on the most recent statistics) the world’s twenty-six richest people own as much wealth as half the entire world’s population. It has allowed the largest transnational corporations to establish a stranglehold over other forms of organization, with the result that, of the world’s hundred largest economies, sixty-nine are corporations. The relentless pursuit of profit and economic growth above all else has propelled human civilization onto a terrifying trajectory. The uncontrolled climate crisis is the most obvious danger: The world’s current policies have us on track for more than 3° increase by the end of this century, and climate scientists publish dire warnings that amplifying feedbacks could make things far worse than even these projections, and thus place at risk the very continuation of our civilization.

But even if the climate crisis were somehow brought under control, a continuation of untrammeled economic growth in future decades will bring us face-to-face with a slew of further existential threats. Currently, our civilization is running at 40% above its sustainable capacity. We’re rapidly depleting the earth’s forestsanimalsinsectsfishfreshwater, even the topsoil we require to grow our crops. We’ve already transgressed three of the nine planetary boundaries that define humanity’s safe operating space, and yet global GDP is expected to more than double by mid-century, with potentially irreversible and devastating consequences.

In 2017 over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued an ominous warning to humanity that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late,” they wrote, “to shift course away from our failing trajectory.” They are echoed by the government-approved declaration of the UN-sponsored IPCC, that we need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disaster.

In the clamor for economic growth, however, these warnings have so far gone unheeded. Will the impact of coronavirus change anything?

Fortress Earth

There’s a serious risk that, rather than shifting course from our failing trajectory, the post-Covid-19 world will be one where the same forces currently driving our race to the precipice further entrench their power and floor the accelerator directly toward global catastrophe. China has relaxed its environmental laws to boost production as it tries to recover from its initial coronavirus outbreak, and the US (anachronistically named) Environmental Protection Agency took immediate advantage of the crisis to suspend enforcement of its laws, allowing companies to pollute as much as they want as long as they can show some relation to the pandemic.

On a greater scale, power-hungry leaders around the world are taking immediate advantage of the crisis to clamp down on individual liberties and move their countries swiftly toward authoritarianism. Hungary’s strongman leader, Viktor Orban, officially killed off democracy in his country on Monday, passing a bill that allows him to rule by decree, with five-year prison sentences for those he determines are spreading “false” information. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu shut down his country’s courts in time to avoid his own trial for corruption. In the United States, the Department of Justice has already filed a request to allow the suspension of courtroom proceedings in emergencies, and there are many who fear that Trump will take advantage of the turmoil to install martial law and try to compromise November’s election.

Even in those countries that avoid an authoritarian takeover, the increase in high-tech surveillance taking place around the world is rapidly undermining previously sacrosanct privacy rights. Israel has passed an emergency decree to follow the lead of China, Taiwan, and South Korea in using smartphone location readings to trace contacts of individuals who tested positive for coronavirus. European mobile operators are sharing user data (so far anonymized) with government agencies. As Yuval Harari has pointed out, in the post-Covid world, these short-term emergency measures may “become a fixture of life.”

If these, and other emerging trends, continue unchecked, we could head rapidly to a grim scenario of what might be called “Fortress Earth,” with entrenched power blocs eliminating many of the freedoms and rights that have formed the bedrock of the post-war world. We could be seeing all-powerful states overseeing economies dominated even more thoroughly by the few corporate giants (think Amazon, Facebook) that can monetize the crisis for further shareholder gain.

The chasm between the haves and have-nots may become even more egregious, especially if treatments for the virus become available but are priced out of reach for some people. Countries in the Global South, already facing the prospect of disaster from climate breakdown, may face collapse if coronavirus rampages through their populations while a global depression starves them of funds to maintain even minimal infrastructures. Borders may become militarized zones, shutting off the free flow of passage. Mistrust and fear, which has already shown its ugly face in panicked evictions of doctors in India and record gun-buying in the US, could become endemic.

Society Transformed

But it doesn’t have to turn out that way. Back in the early days of World War II, things looked even darker, but underlying dynamics emerged that fundamentally altered the trajectory of history. Frequently, it was the very bleakness of the disasters that catalyzed positive forces to emerge in reaction and predominate. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—the day “which will live in infamy”—was the moment when the power balance of World War II shifted. The collective anguish in response to the global war’s devastation led to the founding of the United Nations. The grotesque atrocity of Hitler’s holocaust led to the international recognition of the crime of genocide, and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Could it be that the crucible of coronavirus will lead to a meltdown of neoliberal norms that ultimately reshapes the dominant structures of our global civilization? Could a mass collective reaction to the excesses of authoritarian overreach lead to a renaissance of humanitarian values? We’re already seeing signs of this. While the Overton window is allowing surveillance and authoritarian practices to enter from one side, it’s also opening up to new political realities and possibilities on the other side. Let’s take a look at some of these.

A fairer society. The specter of massive layoffs and unemployment has already led to levels of state intervention to protect citizens and businesses that were previously unthinkable. Denmark plans to pay 75% of the salaries of employees in private companies hit by the effects of the epidemic, to keep them and their businesses solvent. The UK has announced a similar plan to cover 80% of salaries. California is leasing hotels to shelter homeless people who would otherwise remain on the streets, and has authorized local governments to halt evictions for renters and homeowners. New York state is releasing low-risk prisoners from its jails. Spain is nationalizing its private hospitals. The Green New Deal, which was already endorsed by the leading Democratic presidential candidates, is now being discussed as the mainstay of a program of economic recovery. The idea of universal basic income for every American, boldly raised by long-shot Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, has now become a talking point even for Republican politicians.

Ecological stabilization. Coronavirus has already been more effective in slowing down climate breakdown and ecological collapse than all the world’s policy initiatives combined. In February, Chinese CO2 emissions were down by over 25%. One scientist calculated that twenty times as many Chinese lives have been saved by reduced air pollution than lost directly to coronavirus. Over the next year, we’re likely to see a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions greater than even the most optimistic modelers’ forecasts, as a result of the decline in economic activity. As French philosopher Bruno Latour tweeted: “Next time, when ecologists are ridiculed because ‘the economy cannot be slowed down’, they should remember that it can grind to a halt in a matter of weeks worldwide when it is urgent enough.”

Of course, nobody would propose that economic activity should be disrupted in this catastrophic way in response to the climate crisis. However, the emergency response initiated so rapidly by governments across the world has shown what is truly possible when people face what they recognize as a crisis. As a result of climate activism, 1,500 municipalities worldwide, representing over 10% of the global population, have officially declared a climate emergency. The Covid-19 response can now be held out as an icon of what is really possible when people’s lives are at stake. In the case of the climate, the stakes are even greater—the future survival of our civilization. We now know the world can respond as needed, once political will is engaged and societies enter emergency mode

The world needs to respond to the climate emergency with a similar urgency to the Covid-19 response. Source: David J. Hayes, NYU Energy & Environmental Impact Center

The rise of “glocalization.” One of the defining characteristics of the Neoliberal Era has been a corrosive globalization based on free market norms. Transnational corporations have dictated terms to countries in choosing where to locate their operations, leading nations to compete against each other to reduce worker protections in a “race to the bottom.” The use of cheap fossil fuels has caused wasteful misuse of resources as products are flown around the world to meet consumer demand stoked by manipulative advertising. This globalization of markets has been a major cause of the Neoliberal Era’s massive increase in consumption that threatens civilization’s future. Meanwhile, masses of people disaffected by rising inequity have been persuaded by right-wing populists to turn their frustration toward outgroups such as immigrants or ethnic minorities.

The effects of Covid-19 could lead to an inversion of these neoliberal norms. As supply lines break down, communities will look to local and regional producers for their daily needs. When a consumer appliance breaks, people will try to get it repaired rather than buy a new one. Workers, newly unemployed, may turn increasingly to local jobs in smaller companies that serve their community directly.

At the same time, people will increasingly get used to connecting with others through video meetings over the internet, where someone on the other side of the world feels as close as someone across town. This could be a defining characteristic of the new era. Even while production goes local, we may see a dramatic increase in the globalization of new ideas and ways of thinking—a phenomenon known as “glocalization.” Already, scientists are collaborating around the world in an unprecedented collective effort to find a vaccine; and a globally crowdsourced library is offering a “Coronavirus Tech Handbook” to collect and distribute the best ideas for responding to the pandemic.

Compassionate community. Rebecca Solnit’s 2009 book, A Paradise Built in Hell, documents how, contrary to popular belief, disasters frequently bring out the best in people, as they reach out and help those in need around them. In the wake of Covid-19, the whole world is reeling from a disaster that affects us all. The compassionate response Solnit observed in disaster zones has now spread across the planet with a speed matching the virus itself. Mutual aid groups are forming in communities everywhere to help those in need. The website Karunavirus (Karuna is a Sanskrit word for compassion) documents a myriad of everyday acts of heroism, such as the thirty thousand Canadians who have started “caremongering,” and the mom-and-pop restaurants in Detroit forced to close and now cooking meals for the homeless.

In the face of disaster, many people are rediscovering that they are far stronger as a community than as isolated individuals. The phrase “social distancing” is helpfully being recast as “physical distancing” since Covid-19 is bringing people closer together in solidarity than ever before.

Revolution in Values

This rediscovery of the value of community has the potential to be the most important factor of all in shaping the trajectory of the next era. New ideas and political possibilities are critically important, but ultimately an era is defined by its underlying values, on which everything else is built.

The Neoliberal Era was constructed on a myth of the selfish individual as the foundational for values. As Margaret Thatcher famously declared, “There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” This belief in the selfish individual has not just been destructive of community—it’s plain wrong. In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, a defining characteristic of humanity is our set of prosocial impulses—fairness, altruism, and compassion—that cause us to identify with something larger than our own individual needs. The compassionate responses that have arisen in the wake of the pandemic are heartwarming but not surprising—they are the expected, natural human response to others in need.

Once the crucible of coronavirus begins to cool, and a new sociopolitical order emerges, the larger emergency of climate breakdown and ecological collapse will still be looming over us. The Neoliberal Era has set civilization’s course directly toward a precipice. If we are truly to “shift course away from our failing trajectory,” the new era must be defined, at its deepest level, not merely by the political or economic choices being made, but by a revolution in values. It must be an era where the core human values of fairness, mutual aid, and compassion are paramount—extending beyond the local neighborhood to state and national government, to the global community of humans, and ultimately to the community of all life. If we can change the basis of our global civilization from one that is wealth-affirming to one that is life-affirming, then we have a chance to create a flourishing future for humanity and the living Earth.

To this extent, the Covid-19 disaster represents an opportunity for the human race—one in which each one of us has a meaningful part to play. We are all inside the crucible right now, and the choices we make over the weeks and months to come will, collectively, determine the shape and defining characteristics of the next era. However big we’re thinking about the future effects of this pandemic, we can think bigger. As has been said in other settings, but never more to the point: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Lead image: City vibe / Ambiance urbaine #03 by Napafloma-Photographe

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