Michel Bauwens asked me to clarify how my analysis differs from Kevin Carson’s wonderful review of Doctorow’s The Makers. Even though we are discussing a fictional example- the New Work boom of, approximately 2015-2020- this is, I think a useful exercise because it allows us to think about what kinds of economic regulation might or might not be compatible with an economy of abundance.
Kevin Carsons hypothesis about of the end of the New Work boom focuses on an oversupply of capital:
“The problem with his “straining a billion bits of krill” investment model is that those hundreds of thousands and even millions of ventures, cumulatively, weren’t enough to soak up even a large fraction of all the capital lying around waiting to be invested. So the overwhelming majority of available capital still sat idle without any productive outlet. “
However an oversupply of capital is only that in relation to an insufficient demand. The reason why hundreds of thousands or even millions of ventures can not prosper is that there is insufficient demand for their products. This suggests that an economy of abundance (also a relative concept- the old industrial economy was surely an economy of abundance in relation to the old artisanal economy) needs a Keynesian regime of regulation. That is, the state or some other state-like actor must install a mechanism for the redistribution of value that guarantees a sustained demand for new products. To accomplish this entails two things. First, to redistribute the new value that is generated away from the restricted flows of corporate and financial rent that circulate among Kettlewell and his investors and to larger swats of the population (thus activating the multiplier effect !). Since the Maker boom builds on highly socialized, or even ubiquitous productivity, it seems logical that such a redistribution takes the form of some kind of guaranteed minimum income. Second, the state (or state-like actor) must guarantee a direction of market expansion that is sustainable in the future. In our present situation that would probably mean to offer incentives to channel the productivity of a new maker culture intoproviding solutions to the problem of transitioning to sustainability within energy, transport and food production systems. This would, no boubt open up new sources of demand that would be able to sustain the new economy of abundance for a long time, and after that we can go into space ! Without such a Keynesian governance, a future economy of abundance is doomed to collapse, just like the industrial economy of abundance collapsedin 1929.