With whom can we work together: is it possible to ally progressives and conservatives around P2P themes and priorities?
In my contribution yesterday, I called for a grand alliance of and for the commons. Today I would like to ask a second question: how broad can such alliance potentially be? Can it include forces from both the left and the right?
The P2P Foundation itself is a pluralist network for research and advocacy around peer to peer, and our discussions feature people from many diverse political backgrounds. My own origins were in the political left, moved to the center and then started to move back to that historical tradition, though always strongly delineating itself from the socialist tradition and presenting itself as a new formulation for the emerging post-industrial and post-capitalist structures. But this is just me. On our p2p research list, we have people calling themselves with a wide variety of epithets, both moderate and more radical. We have American mutualists, conservative distributists, even some people still using the concept of ‘neoliberal’ in their identity. Yet we all manage to talk and learn from each other, sharing our interest in peer to peer, as the free aggregation of individuals, and in structures which promote this social logic to occur.
What we are doing here is I think, look for concrete commonalities, while putting other differences ‘under brackets’ (if that is good English?), i.e. we agree to disagree, and remain focused on common priorities.
But the P2P Foundation is a research and advocacy platform, not an explicitely political grouping.
How far could such a logic of cooperation be extended when one enters more specifically the political arena and the creation of social movements?
A few observations to help answer this question:
– Is the left-right distinction, as expressed in capitalist and industrial society, still significant in the contemporary era? If we define the left position as in favour of more equitable distribution of opportunities and the tools of well-being, then yes, but at the very least, it will take on a wholly different content; at the very least left and right will be redefined in the new context of peer production and netarchical capitalism
– Is the progressive-conservative distinction, still as relevant? I think the situation here is already very different. Who can deny that many features of human society need to be preserved, hence ‘conserved’, and thus, the object of conservative ideals. But who can deny that in many other aspects, ‘progress’ needs to be made to more equitable solutions? I would also argue that most of humanity is not simply left or right, progressive or conservative, but a different mix of each.
The latter remark opens the possibility of a new type of alliances with peer to peer related forces that define themselves as ‘conservative’. For example, the peer to peer approach in architecture proposed by Nikos Salingaros has supporters and detractors in every shade of the political spectrum but as a p2p approach, should be in alignment with our work. What of explicitly conservative forces like those of Philip Bond in the UK, or distributist Catholicism? In my view the common orientation towards an autonomous civil society, and for more ‘distribution’ in society (a condition for the p2p dynamic), should make possible a possible alignment. In the same way, entrepreneurial forces, including netarchical capitalist forces, which respect the social charters of the commons and the communities they work with, are potential allies.
If my reading of history is correct, then social change and necessary phase transitions only occur when there is a mutual realignment within the old society, of both sections of the managerial class and of the producing classes. In the sense of Gramsci, change can only occur when it is also based on a broad cultural hegemony. The cultural hegemony of the old socialist workers movement has disappeared, and the neoliberal cultural hegemony is in the process of dying. We have a good chance to obtain a realignment around the commons and social innovation that will be based on a social contract between forces that are partly aligned, but also with partly different priorities. As long as peer to peer communities and forces can align themselves with social forces that respect the autonomy of the commons, political cooperation can be forged, putting differences “between brackets”. It is possible to struggle and construct the commons together, while also struggling for the social contract that will exist within the commons. The struggle for the commons aims at changing the very structure of the current civilization and political economy, and potentially aligns different social forces against the old order which destroys the biosphere and impedes social innovation, while it lack of social justice endangers the stability of the world system. This is the basis of a unity under a new cultural hegemony. At the same time, the precise definition of the new order is a function of the balance of power within the new attempted hegemony.
So the conclusion to the question is:
– Yes, we can built alliances around commonalities in the construction of a world centered around civil society, the commons, and peer to peer dynamics
– Yes, these alliances will unite forces that are also potentially different in their priorities and differences
– Taking the point of view of the autonomy of peer to peer communities, this will necessarily mean a critical cooperation which aims to protect the maximum autonomy of the commons