I have come in contact with Brazilian network-theory author Euclides AndrÃ© Mance, who is studying how to use the network form for human emancipation, but, unlike our own focus on distributive peer production, focuses on the extension of the collaborative production in the context of what is increasingly being called solidarity economics.
It’s an area which I have not explored in any depth, but it seems that a linkage between peer production and collaborative production would yield many insights and benefits.
Mance’s work is based on observing the strength of alternative cooperative approaches, globally, but especially in the Latin American sphere:
” In the last decades we have seen the emergence and proliferation of countless solidarity-based cooperation practices in the field of economics, among them: the revival of Companies Self-Managed by Workers, Fair Trade, Solidarity-Based Trademark and Labeling Organizations, Ecological Agriculture, Critical Consumption, Solidarity-Based Consumption, Local Employment and Trade Systems (LETS), Local Exchange Systems, Community Exchange Systems, Local Exchange Systems with Social Currency, Exchange Networks, Community Economy, Micro-Credit Systems, Popular Banks, Ethical Banks, Solidarity-Based Purchasing Groups, Boycott Movements, Free Software diffusion, among other economic practices based on solidarity. A significant number of organizations that are involved in these practices and that, as a whole, cover the different segments of the productive chains (consumption, commerce, service, production and credit) will start performing joint networked actions, while others have been doing it for over thirty years. The global growth of these networks indicates the increase of new fields of possibilities for solidarity-based actions strategically articulated with an aim to promote public and private freedoms, which are beginning to be discussed in the world social forums.”
Euclides distinguishes his work from mere “localism”, and the key idea is to form productive chains that can function, not totally at first, but increasingly so over time, independently of capitalism, create alternative streams of production, consumption, value creation and exchange.
“What distinguishes the defence of solidarity economy from a defence of localist forms of capitalism? Does it amount to more than a mere commitment to local welfare, and to what extent is that commitment not compatible with a local, â€˜small-scaleâ€™ capitalism? â€” How does solidarity economy move in the horizon of contemporary Latin American politics? The more the solidarity economy expands and diversifies, and its flows and connections improve, the smaller the need to relate to non-solidarity actors. The underlying logic is to progressively reduce relations with non-solidarity providers and distributors, putting in their place relations with solidarity actors who then become integrated with the networks. While relating to non-solidarity actors, solidarity economy initiatives strive to select the socially and ecologically â€˜least badâ€™ providers and distributors. While some fear that an expansion of collaborative networks and solidarity economy would quickly replicate the competition-based mechanisms of non-solidarity economy, I believe it is the best strategy to ensure the â€˜victoryâ€™ of solidarity economy initiatives over the rest. For the expansion itself affirms confidence in another economy, based on collaboration and not competition As such, the focus should not be on developing strategies to push nonsolidarity initiatives out of the market, but to multiply the number and diversity of solidarity actors to such an extent that it would enable a reorganisation of productive chains along which an environmentally sustainable and socially just economy could develop. Thus, solidarity economy should not be confused with the capitalist mode of production. Some people mistake it for â€˜local developmentâ€™; and since capitalism is capable of promoting local development, they imagine solidarity economy can be reduced to that perspective of localism.”
Based on the experience so far in Latin America, and in particular the expansion and re-contraction of the alternative economy in Argentina, a number of conclusions can be drawn.
“in Latin America, solidarity economy is advancing quickly, learning from both its mistakes and achievements. In Argentina, for example, after an initial explosion in the number of barter groups with their own local currencies â€“ which at one point reached over two million participants and some surveys suggest three to five million â€“ these networks quickly declined in size again. The seriousness of the impasse led to the emergence of a new national network of solidarity barter, with improved organisation and methodology. In Brazil the lessons from Argentina and other places led to the creation of community banks that operate through social currencies locally issued and circulated, which are, as opposed to the Argentinian case pre-impasse, guaranteed against reserves with solidarity micro-credit funds. In Venezuela, the Brazilian experience has inspired the ongoing organisation of a network of community banks that issue local currencies. In Mexico, a system of exchange has been developed where social currencies are no longer issued on paper, but registered as electronic credit on smart cards that allow for the transactions to take place through networks of data communication. In Brazil, the electronic system developed enables the realisation of transactions both with nonguaranteed currencies, which circulate only within a group of users-issuers, and guaranteed ones, as a form of payment between any users of the system, without the need for smart cards.”
Euclides AndrÃ© Mance is based in Brazil (see his site here), where 1.2 million workers are integrated in solidarity economy productive chains.
Three essays to read: