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Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

 

Anthropologist David Graeber and Charles Eisenstein, author of the Book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition (2011), tackle the age-old question of the nature of money and its implications to society in this discussion that was held at NYU’s Kimmel Center in New York City on August 22, 2012. The sound recording isn’t very good in the video, but do bear with it.

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Marco Berlinguer from the Transform! network maps here some potential points of rupture in our current form of capitalism. Excerpted from his article over at openDemocracy.

“Let’s put it simply. We are still living in a capitalist society; and in the last twenty years, one major change has been the qualitatively new importance of information, communication and knowledge both in the economy and in society at large. These two frameworks are overlapping, but they do not necessarily coincide which leads to some important problems and tensions worth closer study.

First, where knowledge, information and communication play a central role, the processes of production appear intrinsically and more immediately social. They benefit and rely on flows and networks of production which go beyond the formal boundaries of any specific organisation (not to say single individuals). This gives more prominence to the forces of cooperation and of mutual interdependence and presses any institution to experiment in organisational logics based on openness to the ‘outside’. This, for example, is one reason for the success of open source within a growing segment of IT-industry. More significantly this ‘openness’ is the logic behind the internet itself: an open architecture is its initial conception and the secret of its incredible (and fundamentally unplanned and decentralised) development.

But there is also another aspect of this social nature of production that needs to be noted: in many senses, the flows of production appeared to shift away from the formal boundaries of what is traditionally considered productive work, to spread into society at large. The gargantuan literature in business and media studies about the increasing blurring of the divide between consumer and producer has to do with this phenomenon. But just consider Google’s model of value production – that is, offering for free online services and platforms of social networks, to then exploit the user- generated data and contents in various ways – and here is one emblematic example of this shift.

In any case, the general problem which then emerges is that the social nature of these processes seems to put pressure on any regulatory, governance and accounting system closed within the boundaries of formally isolated organisations. This is well reflected in the proliferation of mechanisms of governance that stems directly from the need to regulate the collaborative action of a multiplicity of protagonists who are autonomous and so not governable by simple authoritative mechanisms. But, more deeply, this configuration also brings people to questioning the adequacy, legitimacy and efficiency of property regimes as we know them, be they private or state mechanisms. The increasing rediscovery of the notion of commons by these movements and many beyond them – has its roots here. Though yet arguably indefinite, it reflects the search for a new conceptual guide in the design of institutional frameworks more attuned to these new relations of production.

Let’s now turn to another aspect: the nature and organisation of work. When we look at the qualities which need to be mobilised and at the forms of organisation of production in these spheres, we observe an increasing importance of attitudes and capacities such as creativity, flexibility, development of information, continuous learning, problem-solving, initiative, communicational and relational skills, decision-making, attention, experiential/practical/”tacit” knowledge. Now, what makes these qualities peculiar is that they are embedded in individuals and are not easily reproducible and controllable through planned command or automated mechanisms. Moreover, they depend on motivations which are not easily reducible to the monetary, as is recognised in the same management literature and experience and as the experience of [Free Culture]-movements widely confirms. The necessity to deal with such a workforce and processes of production has been indeed one of the major sources of the crisis in the Fordist organisation of production and of innovation in management styles. But the puzzle for governance in these productive forces – which reflects a blurring of entrepreneurial and managerial functions and of dependent work – is far from being solved.

However, there is another dimension where the experience of the FC-movements is interesting. There are experiments of a different kind around these problems and these potentials which have contributed to re-framing in a different way complicated problems related to the meshing and mobilisation of different motivations, non-hierarchical division of labour, collaboration and coordination, and so on. And quite interestingly, they have done all this by experimenting with new notions of what constitutes property, working on the basis of a distributional/sharing – rather than exclusive – approach to property, conceiving themselves as producing common resources.

There is, finally, a third cluster of problems which I would like to highlight in this brief and very incomplete map. The increased immaterial and social nature of the processes of production and of products is creating a series of problems in the systems of measures. Economists, policy-makers and the business literature all struggle to define new parameters for the measure of the value of capital, of work, of wealth, of productivity. Such problems are evidently further complicated by the digital revolution, which made it possible that a digital product, once created, can be potentially reproduced “easier, faster, ubiquitously and almost free”; and which, moreover, is subversively creating social practices that are exploring an economy based on principles like, “not scarcity, not rivalry, not exclusivity”, that is something which evidently troubles basic rules both of economy and of the control of the appropriation of value. In this lies another clue that fundamental difficulties are emerging, which point toward what could be called a crisis of the system of value – which, indeed, has many other roots, well beyond this realm.

All this doesn’t mean that these problems are not solvable in principle within a capitalist framework. We can already observe innovative mechanisms of accumulation which effectively deal with these new developments. What is more dubious is that they can be managed without fundamental changes in the institutional framework.”

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In this podcast, Chris Martenson talks with Rob Hopkins, the initiator of the Transition movement. While the movement started off as a reaction to climate change, it has now turned into a project for a holistic cultural change where re-localisation of the economy is seen not only as a survival strategy, but also as a way to invigorate communities and bring people together. Hopkins emphasises the need to have a positive program with creative possibilities for people to engage in when faced with the current global crises.

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Luke Miller Callahan interviews in this video David Holmgren, ecologist and co-originator of the concept of permaculture. Holmgren argues here that suburban areas offer better possibilities for transitioning towards more sustainable ways of life than densely populated inner city areas, since they can potentially support larger scale local food production and communal living. This, however, requires a shift in people’s notions of private space and property.

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Professor David Harvey discusses in this talk why our current capitalism can’t be “fixed” to create a more socially responsible form of capitalism. He gives two main reasons. First, capital simply cannot afford to pay for the growing social and environmental costs of production, which therefore have to be borne by individuals. The second reason has to do with the growth imperative of capitalism. Harvey argues that there are no longer enough productive investment opportunities around to keep a sufficient growth rate going, which has led capitalists to invest more and more in property to be rented out (including “intellectual property” and land-grabbing in the Global South countries) and financial speculation, or what Marx calls “fictitious capital”. This, in turn, has led to more and more bubbles and even more concentration of wealth. Harvey goes on to draw some guidelines on how to go about overturning capitalism in the current situation.

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Michel Bauwens from The Foundation for P2P Alternatives discusses in this keynote speech the current proliferation of peer production practices and peer-to-peer culture that he dubs the “third revolution in human productivity” (the first two being the inventions of slavery and capitalism), in which intrinsic motivation replaces extrinsic motivation as the driver of production for the individual. He also discusses the implications of this shift to the notions of property and governance. The speech was held at the IT-University in Copenhagen on September 22, 2011.

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Catastroika is a new full length documentary film by the makers of Debtocracy, the highly successful critique of the mainstream narrative about the Greek debt crisis. In Catastroika, the makers turn to the after effects of the crisis, namely the mass privatisation of public services and the selling off of publicly owned assets. They use historical precedents to show that privatisation often can lead to not only poorer services and higher prices but also to more rather than less public debt. The film features interviews with Naomi Klein, Slavoj Žižek and Greg Palast, amongst others. In various languages with English subtitles.

Like its predecessor, Catastroika is also released freely on the Internet under a Creative Commons license. You can download it as a torrent here.

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