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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Part V - Thinking Beyond Capitalism

Sadly, my blogspot host (in all other respects so generous) doesn’t give the option of uploading pdf files – which I need for my diagram with hyperlinks. And the photographs I am allowed are technically unable to contain hyperlinks.

I therefore have to ask those readers who want to know more about the illustrative names at the perimeter of the diagram which graces this post to click here for an interactive version of my amended version of Beyond Capitalism

The normal caveats prevail – namely that I owe the basic structure of 6 dimensions and 15 boxes to  the Commons in Transition people; that the simplified text and indicative names are my personal responsibility; and that I am well aware of the limitations of these last two…..
Having said that, let me offer an initial commentary on some aspects of the six dimensions

1. The POLITICS Dimension (Democracy and the Commons)
As representative democracy has eroded in recent decades, direct democracy has attracted increasing attention – eg referenda, citizens’ juries, participatory budgeting or random selection of electoral positions. There is no obvious name to offer – although John Keane’s huge book on The Life and Death of Democracy is one of the best resources.
Paul Hirst advanced the idea of “associative democracy” until his sad death in 2003. This drew on the thinking of figures such as GDH Cole…
As the internet has developed, so has the principle of “The Commons” of which Elinor Ostrom and Michael Bauwen are key figures…..

2. The ECONOMY (or Finance??) Dimension
actually reads to me more like the International Finance Regime – with a concession made to the importance of local banking but the normal economic world of production and other services missing. The North Dakota State Bank is one example of the wider concept of local banking. David Graeber; Thomas Pikety; Joseph Stiglitz; and Yanis Varoufakis are just a few of the most important writers on the issue of debt and capital

3. The WORK/ECONOMY Dimension
It is here I have my most fundamental questions about the classification – since the original diagram gives only one phrase (“enterprise- social and responsible”) for what is arguably the engine of the economy AND places this in the “Work” box – rather than the “economy” one….Robert OwenMondragon; and Ronald Douthwaite are examples of those who have inspired global cooperative endeavours which account for far more jobs than people realize – about a quarter of jobs globally. With the appropriate tax regimes, that could be much more…
Even so, privately-owned companies have a critical role – as recognized by Paul Hawken in Natural Capitalism – the next industrial revolution and Peter Barnes in Capitalism 3.0
CASSE (advocating the “steady state economy”) should be transferred to this box……
The original diagram also failed to mention robotisation which has been the subject of much discussion recently such as here and here. Martin Ford is probably the key writer at the moment on the issue – perhaps also Jeremy Rifkin

4. The 4th Dimension
Here again, I’m uncomfortable with the designation originally given to this box – “consumption/production”. It seems to me to cover at the moment the field of self-sufficiency (??) as propounded by people such as John Michael Greer and Dmitry Orlov – the latter in his Reinventing Collapse; the Soviet Experience and American Prospects – or the Resilience magazine

5. The CONSCIENCE Dimension
Robert Quinn’s Change the World is, for my money, the most persuasive tract – despite its off-putting (and very American) sub-title “how ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary results”. And, despite the cynicism he has attracted, Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is actually a very worthwhile read….If these are too “exhortatory” for readers, you may want to look at Character Strengths and Virtues by Martin Seligman
Danah Zohar’s Spiritual Capital – wealth we can live by (2004) is an interesting critique of capitalism with a rather too superficial approach to its amelioration. The Ethical Economy – rebuilding value after the crisis; A Arvidsson and N Peitersen (2013) covers the ground better - and is summarized here and critiqued here.
A fascinating and totally neglected book is Questions of Business Life by Richard Higginson (2002) which is what a cleric produced from his work at an ecumenical centre for business people….

6. The CITIZENS Dimension
The internet attracts great hopes – and fears. On balance, people are persuaded of its net benefits to democracy – although the high hopes of various “springs” and movements have been bitterly disappointed. Writers such as Paul Hawken and Paul Kingsnorth have written powerfully about these experiences…

Yochai Benkler is a new name for me. A legal scholar, he has written profusely about the limits and potential of the open source technology which leads us back to platform democracy and cooperatives….

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