It’s becoming increasingly feasible, thanks to the desktop and network revolutions, for a growing share of functions previously carried out by the centralized regulatory state to be performed by voluntary P2P networks. “Watching Big Brother“; “BP: WikiLeaks’ Finest Hour?”; “The Desktop Revolution in Worker Protection“; “A Labor Department of One“; “The Rising Cost of Evil in a Hyperconnected World.”
One question anarchists are frequently asked is how a stateless society would prevent the mistreatment of workers and other forms of corporate misconduct.
The way this question is framed is instructive. One of the major themes in the rise of the modern state was what James Scott (Seeing Like a State) calls “legibility” from above. That is, the society is supposed to be transparent primarily to the state — vertical, as opposed to horizontal legibility, the latter implying transparency to one another. The question, framed as “wouldn’t businesses be able to get away with this or that,” or “wouldn’t this be allowed,” suggests the questioner is implicitly (and probably unconsciously) viewing things from the state’s perspective.
The question that should be asked is, how would we hold one another accountable for doing harmful things? And the answer is, we’re doing it now.
One of the most important effects of the computer and network revolutions is the number of functions, which previously required capital outlays of hundreds of thousands of dollars, that can now be done for the cost of a desktop computer. Desktop publishing, software design, podcasting, editing an encyclopedia… Throughout the information and entertainment industries, activities that twenty years ago could be performed only by bureaucratic hierarchies with expensive capital assets can now be done by individuals in their own living rooms.
And monitoring the activities of giant corporate bureaucracies is one of them.
Now, it seems, community policing has become another. Check out this example of the use of Twitter to track down a stolen bicycle: “A bike theft in the time of Twitter.”