Umair Haque: The Protests and the Metamovement

Michel Bauwens and his P2P Foundation brings brilliant analyses from many perspectives on the “beyond economics – beyond money “egalitarian movements now sweeping the world”

Umair Haque: The Protests and the Metamovement

With every day that we hold the square, we chip away at our fear, at our confusion, at our alienation. We improvise new ways of living, new relations, new forms of solidarity. We create. We meet each other. We share food, sleeping space, music and drink. We fight the cops together. We talk about what a new and better world would look like, and we try, to the best of our abilities, to build it. And, as we discuss our ideas and principles in Liberty Plaza, it becomes clear that, though we may have different focuses, different politics, though different goals brought us all here, we can only achieve them together.

The first text is an excerpt from Umair Haque’s editorial on the context for OccupyWallStreet. It is followed by a report from the trenches from Willie Osterwell. Finally, Yotam Marom analyzes what has been achieved so far.

1. Umair Haque:

“Across the globe, protests are rippling out like vectors in an epidemic.

I believe that we’re witnessing the rise of a global Metamovement.

The Metamovement is a movement of movements. Not all these movements are similar, and no two are exactly like. The Arab Spring is part of the Metamovement; the London Riots were part of the Metamovement; India’s nationwide anti-corruption protests were part of the Metamovement, just like Israel’s massive demonstrations were; protests spreading across America, under the banner of Occupy Wall Street, are all part of the Metamovement.

It’s one thing for institutions to fail — as in fail to deliver the goods — but for them to punish people for attempting to pursue prosperity reaches beyond failure. To get a visceral feel for this, please stop for a second and visit We Are The 99 Percent. This is not merely nonfunction, but malfunction.

The Metamovement isn’t just a faint, transient echo, but the increasingly resonant reverberation of people challenging this brutal state of malfunction, this Great Splintering of institutions and social contracts. Their truth, I suspect, might be this: there’s no one left to turn to — and so the Metamovement has turned to each other. Not for yesterday’s notions of “solidarity”, or the corporatist ideal of “inspiration, “but as nodes in a pulsing network whose coherence defines it: to demand institutions which can literally deliver the goods of enlightened social contracts. That enshrine in the people, first and foremost, the inalienable right to be authors of their own destinies — instead of condemning them to be mute puppets.

It is, of course, this sense of autonomy that is the cornerstone of eudaimonia, the belief that a good life is a life lived meaningfully, and that it ought to be possible to both live meaningfully and make a living. And in that foundational sense, I’d say the Metamovement is the first glimmering of a larger revolution that will burn over the globe like Bouazizi’s fire. No, not every revolt ends in revolution — but every revolution begins with revolt.

And make no mistake, this is revolt — an insurrection against a monstrous status quo that’s failed too many, too deserving, for too long, while serving too few, too undeserving, far too well. It is not in the nature of man or beast to stay yoked to the gleaming machines of their own economic, social, and moral annihilation. Better — as perhaps Bouazizi thought — to commit the ultimate act; to choose. To choose to let loose a brutally human cry, one whose echoes might come to define a defining decade.”

2. Willie Osterwell:

” As the General Assembly grows, major meetings with everyone in the square become unweildy and incredibly difficult. There is a need to shift decision making to smaller groups and it would be great to see a focus on neighborhood organization: General Assemblies in the burroughs would be an incredible achievement. As with the movements in Spain and Greece, occupiers have eschewed simple demands or sound-bite messaging. As elsewhere, there is no official representative body which speaks for the protesters, no centralized or formally heirarchichal power structures. The lack of a clear, easily reguritated message tends to enrage both the media and the traditional and professional left, but the demandless occupation is not a reflection of stupidity, political impotence or idealistic naivete, as many within and without the protests have claimed.

When we look around us, we see a world that is burning, a planet being consumed by capital, an economic system which thrives on the production of human suffering, mass imprisonment, violence, economic strife. We see a world that cannot be fixed by the same people who brought us here, with the same methods, ideologies and processes. And we see that we are not going to win the fight tomorrow. But we want to win. We’re going to win. So we do what we can. We take a space, we build our resolve and our numbers.

With every day that we hold the square, we chip away at our fear, at our confusion, at our alienation. We improvise new ways of living, new relations, new forms of solidarity. We create. We meet each other. We share food, sleeping space, music and drink. We fight the cops together. We talk about what a new and better world would look like, and we try, to the best of our abilities, to build it. And, as we discuss our ideas and principles in Liberty Plaza, it becomes clear that, though we may have different focuses, different politics, though different goals brought us all here, we can only achieve them together.

We are preparing ourselves for the fight ahead, because we have been left futureless by a group of people who insist we ask them to solve the problem, so they can refuse us. We don’t make one simple demand because this isn’t for the media to turn into sound bites, for politicians to aggrandize or argue against, for bankers to gamble on and academics to study. We’re not asking the people in power for permission, we’re teaching ourselves how to take what we need and make a better world without them.”

3. Yotam Marom

“Though the press is now somewhat intrigued by us, and alarmed by police brutality, it still has very little to say about the actual content and processes of this occupation: The spontaneous working groups that emerge to deal with any issue that comes up, the remarkable de-centralization, the actions we have carried out in solidarity with labor struggles around the city, the public education taking place at the occupation, or the incredible display of direct democracy practiced in the camp.

Maybe it’s because they don’t care, or maybe it’s because we are a threat to their sponsors (and we are). But, honestly, maybe it is because we speak a new language, one we have to translate it for them.

I have to admit, I was skeptical. I saw too many young white college kids and not enough grassroots organizers fromNew York, not enough of those communities hardest hit by neoliberalism and austerity. I was pushed away by some of the cultural norms being adopted and found myself at odds with the lack of demands, not to mention the sometimes over-emphasis on process. Having helped organize Bloombergville (a two-week occupation against the budget cuts in NYC) only a few months earlier, I found it hard to believe this would be significantly larger or be able to mobilize the kind of mass support it needed in order to make an impact. I didn’t see how this would aid in the overarching aim of building a movement, beyond a single uprising. But I was wrong about some of those assumptions, and – though we are still far from being a huge, unified movement with clear goals, led by the most oppressed layers of society, with the capacity for long-term struggle – things have steadily improved.

First of all, the occupation has lasted more than two weeks and it’s growing every day. Many tens of thousands of people have participated in this occupation in some way or another – from the thousands who have slept out or marched or stopped by, to the thousands of pizzas ordered for us, the thousands of dollars sent our way, and the thousands watching the livestream and emailing and calling and tweeting. Add this to occupations being planned in something like 70 cities in theUSalone, not to mention those happening in other countries (both those in solidarity with us, and those that were our inspiration). Labor, student, and community groups from around the city are joining, and they bring with them serious organizers and community members from the most oppressed and marginalized communities in New York. They also bring their own concrete demands, which are easy to support because they are obvious, as they have always been.

Next, we have taken steps to define ourselves, to write documents to that affect, and to move toward a collective consciousness that is bold and uncompromising. Those documents that define us take forever to write, because we all participate in their writing (yes, it’s a bit of a drag, but revolutions aren’t so easy when we are fighting for the type of liberation that demands self-management). Now, to be clear, I have always been a strong proponent of clear demands – because they help define our struggle, point the way to actions we want to take, give us tools for measurement, communicate with people outside of the occupation, and represent those busy struggling elsewhere. However, I do want to point out that we have been able to continue to grow and bring new communities in despite a lack of demands, and that those people and groups will bring their own. I also think our demands really aren’t as mysterious as some people are letting on; I think our critics are playing dumb. Let’s cut the crap. We wouldn’t be on Wall Street if we didn’t already have an implicitly unifying message: We hold the banks, the millionaires, and the political elite they control, responsible for the exploitation and oppression we face – from capitalism, racism and authoritarianism to imperialism, patriarchy, and environmental degradation. We have a diversity of grievances, complaints, demands, principles, and visions, but it is clear that we have planted ourselves in the financial capital of the world because we see it as one of the most deeply entrenched roots of the various systems of oppression we face every day. Come on. The clue is in the title: Occupy Wall Street.

Every day, the occupiers see themselves more and more connected to a movement – a movement around the country and the world, but also a movement through time, stretching from the giants who came before us to the future giants we will be. Every day more people from different communities join, and in their attempt to represent themselves, they bring their people, their demands, their languages, their struggles. Every day more grassroots organizations – struggling around housing or healthcare, for adjunct professors or postal workers – join the fight, bringing with them the clear message that this movement must be grounded in the hard organizing work that took place before this occupation and will continue after it. This deepening of consciousness and realization of the connection between the different struggles we wage will be among the most important things to come out of this.

We have already taken back some space – space for new forms of democratic participation, for the type of initiative and creativity discouraged by the status quo, for autonomy within solidarity, for experiments of self-management and equity and solidarity, for a type of rebellion that rejects permits, pens and sidewalks, one that demands streets and bridges instead – someday also buildings and governments. It will be hard, I hope, for us to go back to the pens in the future, having tasted what it’s like to stand among thousands in the pouring rain on the Brooklyn Bridge, and that’s quite a liberating step forward.

These are enormous victories not only in the consciousness of a new generation of fighters, but also in the creation of a new narrative – one that refuses to accept the myth that Americans don’t struggle, that we can be bought off with TVs and iphones, that things really aren’t so bad and we’re willing to let injustice happen because we get a bigger piece of the bounty our military and capitalists extract from others. No, we are rewriting the story, telling it ourselves, tweeting and tagging it, filming and singing it, writing it with our arrests and the bruises we get from the terrified and bewildered police who will eventually have to either join us or get the hell out of the way. And the story will be an important force not only in this struggle, but in the many to come. We will tell the story while we are at work and school, on the picket lines, in marches, at our next occupations and sit-ins, in jail when the bosses get frightened enough to tell their henchmen to arrest us in the hundreds as they did on October 1st, and the story will help us remember and imagine our boundless potential while we fight on.”

 

Moving towards a peaceful ‘war of manoeuvre’ in a global class warfare
22 September 2011 — The New Significance – Source: Social Network Unionism

dignity.jpg

As P2P Foundation has also been closely following and reporting on it, P2P Global Revolutions has already been taking a momentum globally, since the historical event of Tahrir Square.

The time table can also be read as the crystallisation of a P2P revolutionary work which can also be linked back to feminist uprising, environmentalist awakening, Zapatistas, the Battle of Seattle, Social Forums, the anti-war movement and others. Yet the process of global rising up has been accelerated by besides the Icelandian and Tunisian events, the Egyptian, Spaniard, Greek and UK city square occupations. The 2011 International Road to Dignity reflects this momentum of taking over the city centres. So we are moving from war of position to the war of manoeuvre.

Italian communist and political activist Antonio Gramsci’s core concepts like hegemony, organic crisis, passive revolution, historic bloc, transformismo, war of position and war of manoeuvre are central for our understanding of today’s complex global capitalist system, as well as the catastrophic changes that are currently taking place in it.

Recently, Stephen Gill, a prominent neo-Gramscian global economy politics theorist, has identified the 2008 global financial turmoil as the manifestation of a ‘global organic crisis‘, with reference to Gramsci’s original concept. Theorisation of the rise and decline of the global hegemony of the transnational capitalist class and the Empire -also inspired by Gramsci’s writings- have also been enlightening, at least to me.

Jerome E. Roos from online magazine Reflection on a Revolution (ROARMAG), in a brilliant article this time has sharply indicated the upcoming passive revolution on a global scale, by tracing the recent shift in the language of intellectuals of global capitalist elite/class such as Warren Buffet, Forbes and Financial Times authors. This shocking return of the concept of Class Warfare on the pens and mouths of the core capitalist actors, after decades carefully hiding it under the carpet, might be indeed signalling an upcoming intervention by capitalists together with state elite in order to prevent an entire collapse of the system, while saving its capitalist character.

A global organic crisis roughly means that there are analytically three alternatives before us: a global war, a global fascism, or a global revolution. What brought us here is told clearly in the above referred articles also in terms of the first and second options we have. But where can we, actually we have to go from here, this is about the third option, might be secret in the below time table.

As P2P Foundation has also been closely following and reporting on it, P2P Global Revolutions has already been taking a momentum globally, since the historical event of Tahrir Square.

The time table can also be read as the crystallisation of a P2P revolutionary work which can also be linked back to feminist uprising, environmentalist awakening, Zapatistas, the Battle of Seattle, Social Forums, the anti-war movement and others. Yet the process of global rising up has been accelerated by besides the Icelandian and Tunisian events, the Egyptian, Spaniard, Greek and UK city square occupations. The 2011 International Road to Dignity reflects this momentum of taking over the city centres. So we are moving from war of position to the war of manoeuvre.

The peer to peer processes are at the core of this rising revolutionary agency, as well as to the structural changes we have been experiencing since the late 60s. These two dialectically shapes each other within the process. Against this backdrop the precariat, peer labour and immaterial labour [including social justice activists working for the NGO sector] are forming a constellation of alter forces, towards a grand alliance without the consciousness of a class. The formation of this new global historic bloc of alter forces can be indicating the rise of a New Transnational Labour Class [so in formation].

The underlying shift is in the nature of the productive forces and productive relations -the shift in telecommunication and transportation infrastructure and the rise of the internet- might be providing us a possibility to overcome not only the new contradiction between the sub structure and super structure of the world economy and politics, but also the organisational and leadership problems.

The 17th September Occupations of Paris and Wall Street and occupations of Washington DC and Brussels can be compared to the offensive of the forces of Spartacus to the Rome, in this sense. Peer Indingadosnetworks call for a World Revolution on the 15th of October. Altough it will not be a revolution as we know it from our memories, it will surely be a turning point in collective action culture of networked peers from many countries and open a new era in which the creation of the most democratic revolutionary subjectivity that world has ever seen would be realised.

Creation of a such revolutionary peer to peer subjectivity would indeed be the only way that would be able to lead us to dignity safely. To a better world, a commons based society.

Therefore we all vitally need to contribute to this process with our entire existence.

May force be with us!

 

Boaventura de Sousa Santos at the WSF (2): Sociology of Emergences

Excerpted from the article:

* The WSF : Challenging Empires. http://p2pfoundation.net/World_Social_Forum”>Toward a Counter-hegemonic Globalisation Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, on how this new type of ‘egalitarian’ sociology is practiced in the context of the World Social Forum:

“Whereas the goal of the sociology of absences is to identify and valorise social experiences available in the world — although declared non-existent by hegemonic rationality — the sociology of emergences aims to identify and enlarge the signs of possible future experiences, under the guise of tendencies and latencies, that are actively ignored by hegemonic rationality and knowledge.

For some thinkers, the possible is the most uncertain and the most ignored concept in western philosophy.8 Yet, only the possible permits to reveal the inexhaustible wealth of the world. Besides All and Nothing, Bloch, for instance, introduces two new concepts: Not (Nicht) and Not Yet (Noch Nicht). The Not is the lack of something, but also the expression of the will to surmount that lack. The Not is thus distinguished from the Nothing.9 To say No is to say yes to something different.

The Not Yet is the more complex category because it expresses what exists as mere tendency, a movement that is latent in the very process of manifesting itself. The Not Yet is the way in which the future is inscribed in the present. It is not an indeterminate or infinite future, rather a concrete possibility and a capacity that neither exists in a vacuum nor are completely predetermined. Subjectively, the Not Yet is anticipatory consciousness, a form of consciousness that is extremely important in people’s lives. Objectively, the Not Yet is, on the one hand, capacity (potency) and, on the other, possibility (potentiality).

Possibility has a dimension of darkness as it originates in the lived moment, which is never fully visible to it. Also, as a crucial component of uncertainty that derives from a double want : one, the fact that conditions that render possibility concrete are only partially known; and two, the fact that such conditions only exist partially. At every moment, there is a limited horizon of possibilities, and so it is important not to waste the unique opportunity of a specific change offered by the present : carpe diem (seize the day). Considering the three modal categories of existence — reality, necessity, and possibility — hegemonic rationality and knowledge focus on the first two and neglect the third one entirely. The sociology of emergences focuses on possibility. Possibility is the world’s engine. Its moments are want (the manifestation of something lacking), tendency (process and meaning), and latency (what goes ahead in the process). Want is the realm of the Not, tendency the realm of the Not Yet, and latency the realm of the Nothing and the All, for latency can end up either in frustration or hope.

The sociology of emergences is the inquiry into the alternatives that are contained in the horizon of concrete possibilities. It consists in undertaking a symbolic enlargement of knowledge, practices and agents in order to identify therein the tendencies of the future (the Not Yet) upon which it is possible to intervene so as to maximise the probability of hope vis-à-vis the probability of frustration. Such symbolic enlargement is actually a form of sociological imagination with a double aimm : on the one hand, to know better the conditions of the possibility of hope; on the other, to define principles of action to promote the fulfilment of those conditions. The Not Yet has meaning (as possibility), but no direction, for it can end either in hope or disaster.

The sociology of emergences therefore replaces the idea of determination by the idea of care. The axiology of progress and development, which have justified untold destruction, is thus replaced by the axiology of care. Whereas in the sociology of absences the axiology of care is exerted vis-à-vis alternatives available in the present, in the sociology of emergences the axiology of care is exerted vis-à-vis possible future alternatives. Because of this ethical dimension, neither the sociology of absences nor the sociology of emergences are conventional sociologies. But they are not conventional for another reason : their objectivity depends upon the quality of their subjective dimension. The subjective element of the sociology of absences is cosmopolitan consciousness and non-conformism before the waste of experience. The subjective element of the sociology of emergences is anticipatory consciousness and non-conformism before a want whose fulfillment is within the horizon of possibilities.

The symbolic enlargement brought about by a sociology of emergences consists in identifying signals, clues, or traces of future possibilities in whatever exists. Hegemonic rationality and science has totally dismissed this kind of inquiry, either because it assumes that the future is predetermined, or can only be identified by precise indicators. For them, clues are too vague, subjective, and chaotic to be credible predictors. By focusing intensely on the clue side of reality, the sociology of emergences aims to enlarge symbolically the possibilities of the future that lie, in latent form, in concrete social experiences. The sociology of emergences valorises clues as pathways toward discussing and arguing for concrete alternative futures. The care of the future exerts itself in such argumentation and negotiation.

As in the case of the sociology of absences, the practices of the WSF also come more or less close to the ideal type of the sociology of emergences. I submit as a working hypothesis that the stronger and more consolidated movements and organisations tend to engage less in the sociology of emergences than the less strong or consolidated. As regards the relations between movements or organisations, the signs and clues given by the less consolidated movements may be devalued as subjective or inconsistent by the more consolidated movements. In this as well, the practice of the sociology of emergences is unequal, and inequalities must be the object of analysis and evaluation.”

 

The commons and the growth issue

Excerpted from Silke Helfrich:

” * Commons reduce money-induced growth because they make us more independent of money. The more we produce commons, the less we or the state has to pay for goods.
* Commons reduce population-induced growth because they are associated with a multiplicity of sufficiency strategies which create prosperity by sharing.
* Commons escape the growth compulsion because all those things that are produced as commons do not have to be made artificially scarce. And there is no incentive for artificial scarcity because commons are not produced as goods to be exchanged, but they foster and maintain social relationships, satisfy needs, and solve problems. Directly.

Thus far, the vision of the future — but we have not got there yet. In the here and now, a lot more must be thought through, discussed, and fought for. Therefore, in what follows I will briefly give my reasoning.

“The truth is that there is, as yet, no credible, socially just, ecologically sustainable scenario of continually growing incomes for a world of nine billion people,” according to economist Tim Jackson (Jackson 2011: 98) who recently created a stir with his book Prosperity without Growth. Jackson works through calculations which demonstrate why the idea that we can continue to grow as we have before is an impossibility.

What does the immediate problem consist of?

The capitalist market economy has achieved some things, but failed in important respects. I just want to mention three of these:

1. It cannot succeed in satisfying the basic material needs of many people, nor can it meet the immaterial needs of all people.

2. It is inefficient and ineffective in preserving natural resources.

3. It systematically destroys jobs.

There is a connection between these problems. In general, paid employment is the single means people have to access money. Money is, in turn — to an increasing extent — the only means to get what we need in order to acquire the basic provisions of life. Or, to put it more precisely, in the current economic system it is the only valued means. That’s the reason it is customary to regard ourselves as needing, above all, paid employment even though what we actually want is to be alive, active, creative. We want simply to satisfy our needs. Many describe what we seek as contentedness. Others go at it more strongly and call it happiness.

For decades, political thinking of every kind has thus been fixated on job creation. This has narrowed viewpoints, blunted analysis, and truncated the argument. In fact, the job creation argument has pretty much destroyed meaningful thinking and practical, creative steps toward a “good life.” This does not lack a certain irony, but it lacks logic because, if the economy grows, so too do real wages and salaries (at least they should), which in turn encourages companies to invest in technologies that make workers redundant. Work productivity therefore rises faster than resource use productivity. [1] In short, to remain competitive, companies must save jobs! We return to mentioning problem number 3: The capitalist market economy systematically destroys jobs.

This way of running the economy can only fail to solve the above-mentioned long-term and structural problems. However, in the short term it can grow, grow, grow.

That short-term “solution” is welcome — at least as far as the state is concerned. For in the current economic architecture, the amount of money that goes into the public budget and, therefore, the quality of public services, depends upon economic growth. As a result, the state is only in a position to balance out these failures — assuming that there is the political will to do so — if the economy is growing. The state is caught in the famous growth trap. So if the economy grows and the state actually steps in to address the so-called “market externalities” (pollution, social exhaustion, etc.), the problems can be patched up, but they don’t change substantially in nature. They cannot change substantially. By stepping in, the state ameliorates the symptoms — provisionally — as is usually the case when solutions are merely symptomatically focused. Still, our three problems remain. They now appear as follows.

The Growing Economy

1. The capitalist market economy is still not able to satisfy the material or immaterial needs of many people — or only through their access to money or public social services.

2. The absolute decoupling of the consumption of resources from production becomes the most ignored subsidiary issue in the world.

3. Jobs are still systematically destroyed — but are also built up again somewhere else. They call it “creative destruction.” It may well be creative, but it is still destructive in disturbing dimensions.

And everything is pulled into a spiral around the drive to get money as the only way to satisfy needs. Everything must be turned into commodities — even things that are in plentiful supply, even behavioral patterns and social relationships.

What is to be done: Deal with the problem itself and not its symptoms.

Current strategies generally only tackle the above-mentioned problems singly. Growth, for instance, should create jobs. It does this, in fact; but in so doing, it sacrifices existing jobs and neglects the other issues. Those who would like to reconstruct industrial society with a Green New Deal also campaign for jobs, but they strategically concentrate on resource efficiency above all by trying to ensure economic valuation (i.e. “pricing”) for natural resources. However, whoever wants chiefly to ‘deal green,’ must then explain how their measures will, in principle, eliminate the driving forces by which money, debt, and population growth destroy resources.

That will be difficult. In the end, an economy driven to grow is not up to the necessary absolute decoupling from resource consumption. In fact, since 1990, the increase in the efficiency with which resources are used per unit of output was not even fast enough to offset the increase in resource use brought about by population increase. (see Jackson, 2011: 92) Further, there is the question of whether a Green New Deal would even make the social gap bigger, because producing eco-friendly “goods” makes them more expensive. What would that mean for people without much money? And how would this reality be explained to them?

Interim Conclusions

We are wasting too much energy with too little problem solving.

We need more than complementary solutions — we need something fundamentally different. Only if we think ‘out of the box’ we will be able to widen our view and sharpen our arguments. We need other criteria in order to decide what we produce and how. We need another “inner order,” as Werner Rätz, a fellow platform speaker expressed it in his excellent contribution. Another operating system.

And that brings me to the commons and, thus, “beyond the market and state.”

The commons must be understood as being what they are first and foremost — diverse, self-determined, and self-designed, largely robust, (re-)productive social systems. They also embody another operational mode.

Whoever thinks and lives in a commons way consistently asks:

* What do I/we need? Not, what can I sell?
* What can I share?
* What can I make available for general use?
* Where and how can I co-operate?

There are a lot of preconditions for commoning! But it is well worth pushing for that vision anyway. Whoever promotes commons creates possibilities to take many areas of life out of the market. For in the commons, things are produced in a collective way in order to solve problems and satisfy needs — not to sell products in a market. For that reason, commons are “growth-pacifying” (“wachstumsbefriedend”), to quote Wolfgang Sachs.

And that is the key difference! When a problem is solved, one doesn’t have to solve it again; one can turn to new tasks and devote oneself to other needs.

By contrast, if one sells a market product, one must sell the next one. And the next, and the next. If the process runs too slowly, or if the people, reduced to being only customers, become tired of purchasing, then multiple ways must be found to accelerate the whole process again: for example, by planned obsolescence or the practice of manufacturing things so that they fail quickly. Artificial scarcity is another strategy to fuel consumption. Think of the contrived extensions of copyright protection or of terminator seeds and, of course, the permanent expansion of individual property rights. If the market becomes finally saturated, new needs have to be produced. Then, sheer marketing drives demand, debt, and the desired growth process. Actual problem solving is playing only a minor, secondary role. How does Jackson put it?

“At its outer frontier, consumer capitalism is a complex beast, generating whole new species of financial derivatives, just to keep afloat. At its heart, it is strikingly simple.” (Jackson, 2011:103)

But how does it come about that this mechanism has worked for so long in societies where needs are saturated? The answer is that consumer culture holds together because it is so successful in failing to meet many needs. Which means — and we return to mentioning problem number 1, consumer culture is not able to make us happy — we have to keep consuming as the only credible strategy to solving problems.

The more commons, the less market is needed, and thus the less growth.

Now, is the commons idea good enough to change the productions system and the social infrastructure? I would answer this question with “Yes.” What does one have to do to make that possible?

An example:

Two principles are important for effective commons: limited resources (water, forests, land) require access regulations to ensure that they remain available for their users, i.e. commoners. By contrast, unlimited copyable resources spread and unfold only as a commons, if they are accessible to all. Ultimately, the active use by any person multiplies the possibilities for the use by others. That relates, for example, to ideas, software codes, knowledge, and design. And these are, after all, the most important productive resources at the present time.

The principle of a commons-oriented production mode is, therefore, design to share and to further develop jointly with others. Put in another way: Copying wanted! This brings the best outcomes for everyone.

The most interesting growth in the commons is uninteresting for economic growth.

In commons, the most interesting types of growth are the growth of knowledge and abilities, the richness of social relationships, the logic of time spent together rather than the logic of time saving — where it is not necessary to press ever more consumption out of ever less time. A commons, instead, evolves toward variety, autonomy, and self-organisation instead of monopolies.

The growth question, as posed in the capitalist market economy, plays no role in the commons.

It is far more the case that the commons demonstrates a way out of the growth dilemma.

To get around the dilemma we need:

* An interweaving of technological and social innovation — which also means innovation in property relations
* Free knowledge sharing
* An — or, better, multiple — alternative(s) to the situation where money is the sole means of access to basic provisions. The need for money is not a good motive, nor a good reason to permanently keep [the] people busy, even when they are already busy in a variety of ways.

Adelheid Biesecker, who was a co-speaker in the discussion, had this to say about the last point: “We don’t have much time for employed labour any more. We have better things to do.”

We can find these better things in the commons. And the good news is: this is not pure theory. There is already a form of production which points beyond the usual institutions of market and state, chained together in the growth trap. This form of production is known as commons-based peer production, a concept about which Yochai Benkler has been influential.

What needs to be discussed is how this growth-independent form of innovation and production can be spread to more areas of production. And, indeed, important beginnings have been made on this front.”

Who should be involved in whole system conversations

Republished from Tom Atlee:

“Consciously convened conversations have many functions. Many seek simply to get people talking with each other. Others try to bring together what they call “the whole system” to address that system’s collective issues or dreams.

Who is involved in these “whole system” conversations?

A “whole system”, in this case, involves all the parties who play – or could play – roles in some social unit or situation. The social unit could be a family or relationship, a group or organization, a community or a whole society. A situation might be, on the one hand, an issue, a problem, or a conflict – or, on the other hand, an inquiry, an opportunity, a shift, or simply a periodic reflection about what’s happening. We can convene conversations around any of these things.

So how do we decide who the parties or players are? How do we “cut the pie” of the whole system? And, if we’re ambitious, how do we elicit a “voice of the whole”?

I see four different approaches to defining who “a whole system” includes. Each approach has its own rationale and appropriate usages. They are not mutually exclusive, but are usually used more or less separately. Perhaps being aware of them and building synergies between them would enhance the power and wisdom of our conversations. These approaches include:

1. Adversaries: The “whole system” here is everyone involved in a conflict. The conflict can be anything from a family quarrel to a political struggle over ideas, values, policies, or resources. The goal of the conversation is to resolve or transform the conflict. To do that, we need to engage both sides – or all sides, as the case may be. Powerful conversation can help adversaries work through their differences, discover each other as human beings, and find better ways to relate to each other. When only a few people are involved in the conflict, we want to include both or all of them. When the conflict is between groups, we want to include a manageable, influential subset of “the whole system” that includes members from each group. Often this includes leaders or representatives of those groups, but sometimes – especially in an archetypal battle like liberals vs conservatives – we choose archtypal voices from the conflicted sides whose ability to then find common ground helps contradict widespread assumptions that they can never work together.

2. Stakeholders: The whole system here is a situation or issue itself, which is generated by interactions among the interested parties and diverse perspectives involved. The goal of the conversation is to resolve the issue or at least see how it could be handled better. We want to bring people together who, if they (or their networks or people like them) can agree on a better path ahead, will co-create a better path forward. We want people who are or might be affected, people who have a stake in what happens with it, and people who have information or power that could make a difference. Usually we want to include leaders, representatives, or at least voices from all the groups or kinds of people involved in the issue. Our job here is primarily to help them all hear each other well enough to recognize the full dynamics that keep their co-created problem alive – dynamics in which most or all of them are playing significant roles – including their diverse legitimate interests. We want to move them from co-creating the problem to co-creating solutions.

3. Domains: Here the whole system is a social grouping that could function more coherently and effectively. The goal of the conversation is to enable greater understanding and collaboration to happen. We’re interested in creating a new multi-domain activity, stimulating trans-domain consciousness, or helping an existing organization or activity improve its internal functionality. In an organization, we want to include people from all the organizational domains – all the departments and all the levels of staff and management. In a coalition, we want representatives of all the organizations and groups that are coming together. In an interdisciplinary, interfaith or multicultural convocation or convergence, we want the full spectrum of worldviews – people from all the various fields or faiths or cultures or perspectives we are trying to connect up. We want to engage them in weaving together a well-functioning collaborative whole that helps them achieve their shared goals.

4. Citizens: In this approach the whole system is the community, state, nation or other generic/geographic/inclusive political entity. The goal of the conversation is to enhance democratic responsibility by individual citizens, public officials, and/or the whole community or society. That goal may be focused on solving a public issue or on making sensible democratic decisions or on generating a community vision. If our target is for individual citizens to be more informed or engaged, we can invite everyone and engage “whoever shows up.” If we actually want to generate some coherent public knowledge, judgment, policy, or action, we may seek to convene a microcosm of the community – usually “randomly selected citizens” often balanced demographically – so that their collective voice can be more legitimately be called the voice of the people. In any case, we encourage participating citizens to view themselves and each other as involved, co-creative peers. Our job is to provide them with an information-rich, communication-enhanced environment to enable a special level of collective citizenship on behalf of their community.

As noted earlier, these four approaches are not mutually exclusive. After all, people in all these conversations tend to be citizens. And obviously adversaries are stakeholders in their conflicts just as department heads are stakeholders in their organizations. Furthermore, citizen deliberators are usually informed by expert partisans or stakeholders. But the four categories of conversation differ in their FOCUS of who is mostly talking to whom, what subgroups or self-identities are being invited, and what roles they are being asked to play. When we invite participants to play roles in a particular conversational story, we shape how they see themselves and each other and how they behave in the conversation. When they are selected because they are citizens of their town, for example, they tend to behave less as a partisans, stakeholders, or holders of official positions and more as peer citizens – and vice versa.

Each approach has its own appeal and logic. We like the stakeholder and domain approaches because they bring separated parts of a system together face-to-face to talk their way into more effective wholeness. The adversaries approach also offers a certain elegance, since the conflict exists only because certain folks disagree about something – or their competition is nasty because they can’t see each other as fully human. If they understood each other’s perspectives and needs and work together to meet those needs, their battle might well evaporate or at least become less toxic. The citizenship approach has a compelling democratic mystique: It offers a way for We the People to more effectively govern ourselves well together. As citizens who share community values and care for the well-being of our community, individually and collectively, we can generate community solutions as well as greater civility and social coherence.

WIth all this in mind I would like to suggest that the challenging public issues of our day – climate change, war, economic instability, health care, and so on – urgently call for a legitimate, potent, and wise “voice of the whole” that can influence government policy, stakeholder activity, and mass public consciousness and behavior in sensible directions. I think that consciously integrating these approaches could elicit that voice, so sorely lacking in today’s politics.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine a research project that convenes three parallel, independent, comparable ad hoc councils of randomly selected citizens (e.g., Citizens Juries) who interview diverse stakeholders about climate change and then deliberate to produce policy recommendations. Now imagine ALSO convening a simultaneous set of comparable and parallel stakeholder dialogues about climate change. To top it off, imagine convening three parallel transpartisan deliberations on climate change – liberals and conservatives with some libertarians, greens, and others to spice it up. What would all these conversations come up with?

Imagine comparing the results of all nine forums. Imagine what we would learn from both their differences and similarities, both within each approach and across the three approaches. If their recommendations are significantly similar, wouldn’t that be remarkable! Imagine how it would change everything we think about the possibilities of politics!

It is reasonable to expect, however, that the different conversations would produce some different results. So imagine that we then mix and match the participants across the three approaches, creating three new parallel groups each consisting of members from all nine forums. Now imagine putting these three new groups through a dynamic choice-creating process (e.g., a Creative Insight Council) to see if they then come up with similar results. Again, analysis of the results and processes would provide fascinating insight into the powers and dynamics of conversation and how to best use it to address major public issues.

To my knowledge nothing like this has ever been done. But think for a minute: What if it were truly possible to discover a legitimate, inclusive, coherent, wise voice of a whole society? How much do you think it would add to the quality of our public discourse, our public policies, the behavior of interest groups, and how members of society think and act about public issues?

This particular research approach is only one way to explore this. The most important thing is the inquiry, itself. Are we ready to ask the pivotal question: How can we best evoke a true voice of the whole?

I suspect that if we took this inquiry seriously, it would change everything.”