Techno-utopian-claptrap? Or visionary?
I buy the premise, but I can see losing the fight…
I did find this response, from a guy who has tackled the techno-utopian future before:
The question I always seem to come back to is the hierarchy of needs. Can a sharing economy, based on individualism (which is still what we’re talking about, I’d argue), provide us with the basics? As long as everything we need for basic survival is commoditized via corporate models, getting from there to here can be tricky.
It’s not that a sharing economy can’t provide for essential, but how do we secure this to the level that we need, given the 7 billion souls on this dumb rock? Pretty much all I’ve seen (including the Guardian article) really does sort of gloss over this particular issue, too much for my taste…
Damn straight it’s tough to see how to get to a sharing economy from here (from the article you linked):
The only time in recent history where IT appears to have led to an acceleration in productivity growth was the late 1990s, which was the result of increased investment in high-tech equipment. I went into writing After the New Economy thinking that the productivity acceleration was a mirage, but it wasn’t. But then it fell apart, because corporations prefer shoveling out cash to their shareholders to investing it.
I keep hoping the internet can wake people up one day… maybe someone can make the ultimate viral video or something.
Yeah, I know. I think it’s going to take something much bigger than that… I mean, we’re still sort of sleep walking through after the 20th century… you’d think the realities of the two world wars and the Cold War would have set us all straight, but look at what happened at the end of the cold war (well starting in the last couple of decades of the Cold War), neoliberalism run amok, because “capitalism” won… I do wonder if Marx was right about having to literally tear it all down to build it back up again. The only way around might be through, but… well, have you seen that movie Children of Men? Yeah. What’s that line from that Billy Bragg song? It something Fidel Castro’s brother talking to a woman at a gas station after the revolution, and the line is “he thinks that he should warn her/that the third world is just around the corner…”
Didn’t Sheri Berman prove in The Primacy of Politics that social democracy finished ahead of the many flavors of 20th century capitalism?
I dunno… I’d have to read her, actually… looks like I’ll need to add her work to my list now. But this article specifically deals with the end of capitalism (something being predicted for a while now… how long have we been in the period of late capitalism?) and what comes next.
But that does beg the question - if we can get to something that works for everyone, allows for free trade that doesn’t benefit a small group of people, at the expense of billions of people, and doesn’t continues to kill the planet, and brings about a good life for everyone… and if it’s a form of government that works with our existing idea, why do we need constantly novelty of something new? Isn’t that continuous push for something novel part of the problem that we’ve created for ourselves (which is part of a consumer capitalist society)?
I think he’s describing efforts to democratically regulate and/or use economic resources:
New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.
I believe it offers an escape route – but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a fundamental change in what governments do. And this must be driven by a change in our thinking – about technology, ownership and work. So that, when we create the elements of the new system, we can say to ourselves, and to others: “This is no longer simply my survival mechanism, my bolt hole from the neoliberal world; this is a new way of living in the process of formation.”
Things aren’t looking too good for real democracy lately…
Indeed, but the question still rests on who controls the economic system, yeah? If you’re downsized from your job, the question is whether or not a sharing economy can fill in the gaps to keep you afloat in what is still a cash economy, that, to me is the salient question. Are you going to be able to feed, clothe, and house yourself? I think it’s possible, but just saying it’s inevitable isn’t enough, I think…
If a current system of mandatory greed can keep 7 billion people alive, it seems easily conceivable that with a sharing economy this would only be easier to achieve.
Also, this line of enquiry neglects that there is no way to know with certainty how many people there would happen to be now if resources were handled using different systems then they have been.
There is also the risk of not respecting the organization of people’s lives and relationships in accord with their goals. Living for the longest amount of time, and/or in the most comfort may not even be well-thought out or universal, so far as goals go. What if I’d rather live for 50 years in a particular kind of society rather than 100 in another? Or that if my goals are suddenly facilitated through organization. that I might not even need to be here at all anymore. The risk of many economics is failing to consider that in a contemporary liberal society, people cannot be accurately assumed to have the same values or goals as each other.
Yes, and isn’t that a question of analysis? What practical local sharing economy programs and/or practices demonstrate promise and should be replicated and improved? We’re not able to presume there’s a theoretical magic bean.
A related question: What are the barriers? Is there a way to prolong the life of a shared project before the IPO and patent bargaining?
So … An example of a way to prolong the period before a shared economy or practice is appropriated by, say, investors:
A farmers’ market that limits its produce vendors to a 100 mile radius and requires prepared food vendors to use a significant portion of produce supplied by the market. Higher income visitors to the market are encouraged to donate time and funds, maybe through a local nonprofit. Lower income and culturally diverse visitors are encouraged to support the work through committees and other means.
And federal benefits should be accepted for payment to increase the amount of local income available to purchase local, healthy food. The administrative support should run to the extent possible on free software and pro bono professional contributions.
The example fits. It increases sharing by stabilizing the local economy and limiting involuntary dependence on outside corporate interests.
And a practice that yields a shared value that is non-fungible can last longer because conversion for profit can’t easily happen.
It strikes me that the real reasons behind the push to break all crypto, end general-purpose computers, and balkanise the web might be to make it difficult or impossible for disruptive new institutions to achieve enough ubiquity and trust to dominate and displace traditional gatekeeping structures of dominion… Wikipedia was obviously the thin end of a wedge.
A properly functioning internet is eventually destined to dissolve almost any monopoly, regardless of whether it’s a monopoly of information, power or even money. Open-source structures will rise to become social edifices that have the common good embedded in their architecture, and the scumbag elite need to poison everything to prevent it.
Are we gonna let them poison everything?
I don’t disagree… but there is the problem that the internet infrastructure we enjoy today was once a product of the project of state power, and in the US, that’s means connections with corporations… The internet was built AS a state infrastructure, in other words, with the input of private industry.
But also you can think of the net like a tool, yeah, and how is that tool going to be used? Open source is always the way to go, but even there… well, look what google has done with open source, harnessed it for their own bottom line. This is sort of true across the board with social networking, right? Tons and tons of free labor builds wealth for those who run social networks. It’s like the article posted here on BB recently about redditor moderators being free labor… it’s our work that makes these things profitable in the first place.
So how do we provide an antidote that came with the poison pill of the internet in the first place. Clearly, our ability to share ideas and communicate across vast distances are a plus for humanity… but is that enough?
My feeling is the whole shitfight needs to be steered or even coerced by government into the commons. You have to get Bernie in. He’ll nationalise the bastards and employ heaps of folks giving everybody broadband.
I think a Bernie presidency will help and let’s face it, if we lead, much of the rest of the world will follow. But even with a Sanders presidency, we still have a ton of work to de-corporatize and re-commons the US. Let’s just hope we can get there via people powered, democratic means, because the violent revolutionary means has (historically speaking) been a hell of a bloody, violent mess. If things don’t change soon, Marx might be proven right regarding a proletarian uprising, and it might not be as progressive as we’d like to see.
There are actual small shared projects using FOSS which resist commodification. Those projects can be identified and scaled …
The farmers’ market example (above) is a real example in Missoula, MT. There is also DIY Girls which uses FOSS and DIY to share STEM projects for girls in underserved communities. And FreeGeek in Portland.
Yes, the projects are small but can be scaled and duplicated and defended from profit-based systems and the professionals serving those systems.
So another question is how to accelerate alignment of the existing stakeholders of a community-centered sharing economy? In local communities … and then create more sharing opportunities between them instead of staying stuck in silos.
Even finding a forum to discuss the issues in a coherent and professional way can be challenging.
Should I really read this whole article? So far I’m not really seeing it.
“In the shell of the old” is hardly a new idea.
And all these kinds of things have been going on long before 2008.
Maybe that’s when the author started paying attention?
I don’t know if you saw the response by another author I posted to, but you might like that better… It’s the 2nd or 3rd comment in the thread.