P2P Approaches to Politics: some choice citations

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* The Constellation Method of Social Change

In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.

– Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Freize

* McKenzie Wark on expressive politics

There can be no one book, no master thinker for these times. What is called for is a practice of combining heterogeneous modes of perception, thought and feeling, different styles of researching and writing, different kinds of connection to different readers, proliferation of information across different media, all practiced within a gift economy, expressing and elaborating differences, rather than broad-casting a dogma, a slogan, a critique or line. ? ? ? This expressive politics does not seek to overthrow the state, or to reform its larger structures, or to preserve its structure so as to maintain an existing coalition of interests. It seeks to permeate existing states with a new state of existence. It spreads the seeds of an alternate practice of everyday life.

* David Snowden on idealistic vs. naturalistic sense-making

“In the idealistic approach, the leaders of an organization set out an ideal future state that they wish to achieve, identify the gap between the ideal and their perception of the present, and seek to close it. … Naturalistic approaches by contrast, seek to understand a sufficiency of the present in order to act to stimulate evolution of the system. Once such stimulation is made, monitoring of emergent patterns becomes a critical activity so that desired patterns can be supported and undesired patterns disrupted. The organization thus evolves to a future that was unknowable in advance, but is more contextually appropriate when discovered.” (Kurtz and David Snowden, Bramble Bushes in the Thicket)

* William James on Meliorism

“meliorism treats salvation as neither inevitable nor impossible. It treats it as a possibility, which becomes more and more of a probability the more numerous the actual conditions of salvation become”

“As meliorism takes as its goal to make things better through concerted effort, meliorism is a habit of mind and a mode of practice that aims for realistic optimism rather than passivity, pessimism, or nihilism” (Peter Lunenfeld)

* Pessimism is a luxury we can only afford in good times

“Pessimism is a luxury we can only afford in good times, in difficult times it easily represents a self-inflicted, self-fulfilling death sentence. This insight, to me, is real Realism or real Realpolitik, far from blue-eyed Idealism. We have to courageously resist the current tendency to suspect those who work for a better world to be hopeless idealists. This would mean Realpolitik letting disaster happen (by deepening fault lines instead of transcending them), and us not at least attempting to prevent this. Strange real Realpolitik!” (Evelin Lindner, 2004.)

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” (Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal history of our times, 2004, p. 208)

Against the production of hopelessness

“Hopelessness isn’t natural. It needs to be produced… the last thirty years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a kind of giant machine that is designed to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, to flourish, to propose alternatives, that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win… Economically, this apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras, and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and as a result, it’s dragging the entire capitalist system down with it.”

– David Graeber

* Mitch Kapor on Open Politics

“the whole concept of open and equal access to information could do wonders for our politics. Placing information in the open, allowing people to debate both general and very specific aspects of software, and then creating a process for decision-making about implementation could be very important lessons…. There are many other interesting aspects to the open source community that may very well help define new participatory processes that can help us revitalize our democracy.”

* The New Power of Internet-organized Minorities

“The adage that organized minorities are more powerful than disorganized majorities is now more true than ever. However, as these organized minorities multiply and grow, they are challenging the very nature of what power is and how it will be maintained in our society. … Self-organizing groups, and networks that tie these groups into powerful coalitions, are the new players. To alter Time magazine’s formulation, the Person of the Year isn’t “you,” it’s “us.”

– Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry

* Dale Carrico on an emergent technoprogressive politics

“The fact remains that there seems to me to be an exciting, vitally important emerging technoprogressive mainstream in the United States of America and across the planet knitting together what might initially have seemed to be disparate concerns into an ever more unified, ever more popular, ever more emancipatory movement, conjoining

(a) democratic and anti-authoritarian education, agitation, and organizing via peer-to-peer networked formations,

(b) research, funding, and institutionalization of decentralized and renewable energy provision,

(c) advocacy of universal informed nonduressed consensual recourse to emerging genetic and prosthetic medicines,

(d) championing universal education to promote critical, literary, scientific, and civic literacy,

(e) defending the right of women to avoid or end unwanted pregnancies as well as to make recourse to ARTs to facilitate wanted ones,

(f) circumventing technodevelopmental wealth concentration via automation, outsourcing, and crowdsourcing through the advocacy of a non-means-tested universal basic income guarantee,

(g) overturning militarist budgetary priorities, regulating the trade in and use of arms of all kinds, dismantling private armies and policing forces, repudiating the ongoing automation and abstraction of death-dealing, and

(h) turning the tide of confiscatory intellectual enclosure by encouraging access to free creative content through public subsidy of citizen participation in networks, universal public access requirements for research funded by the public, limiting current legal copyright terms, widening fair use provisions, radically circumscribing state, corporate, and academic practices of secrecy, and repudiating the legal fiction of corporate personhood.” (http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2007/08/trouble-with-technocentricity.html)

* Paul Hartzog on the need for alternative practices

“When faced with the constraints of existing structures, it is often the case that people will choose to, or be compelled, to turn aside and create something new on their own. This is the primary reason, in fact, why I keep returning to Hannah Arendt as a political thinker. From her we gain insight into the ability of people to undermine ostensibly illegitimate political and social practices, not by attacking them, but by simply engaging in some other practice that, by its very nature, calls the existing practices into question and, eventually, to account.” (http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=201)

And finally, from Karl Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the tasks itself arises only when the material conditions of its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.

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