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RE: <nettime> The Dean campaign and the Internet
Prem Chandavarkar on Mon, 15 Dec 2003 15:29:29 +0100 (CET)

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RE: <nettime> The Dean campaign and the Internet

> Among the questions Nettime folks might consider: where will the radical
> left come in, or down, on all this?

The question that keeps coming up in my mind is "Suppose Howard Dean does
succeed in becoming the next President of the United States, then what
will happen to the broad-based net-savvy network that his campaign
created?" A non-traditional reform-oriented campaign can acquire a certain
buzz and energy when it lies outside the mainstream, is not too
interlinked with the conventional structures of power and governance, and
particularly when it can be placed in opposition to the current power
structure which can be critiqued as elitist and without sufficient respect
for ethics and human rights.

But what would happen if Dean were to become the epicentre of the
establishment?  Is it possible that the network that has been created can
be misused to become an instrument of propaganda and indoctrination?  
Should the members of the network think of the possibility that their
allegiance is really to a reform-oriented concept of open source
intelligence, rather than to a single political personality?  Is it
possible that left leaning reform works better (or perhaps only works)
when it is outside the establishment?

In a book he wrote some years ago "Getting to the 21st Century: Voluntary
Action and the Global Agenda", David Korten traces the emergence of four
generations of voluntary action, personified in NGOs.  The first
generation was oriented purely towards charity.  Realising that this
merely created relationships of dependence, a second generation started
looking toward empowerment.  However empowerment based purely on local
practice ran up quickly against bottlenecks and a third generation emerged
which had acquired the ability to critique and construct policy.  Korten
placed his hope on a fourth generation which was beginning to emerge at
the end of the 20th century - whose new strength was based on its ability
to network.

But we also see a fifth generation emerging which is undoing the
achievements of the earlier progression - the NGO as contractor.  With
current philosophy of governance incorporating notions of downsizing,
outsourcing and privatisation a new scope emerged where NGOs found an
ability to work unhindered in their area of core competence.  But this has
raised serious concerns about NGOs being co-opted into the systems of
power. It has been felt that their traditional dynamism came when they lay
outside the establishment with an eye towards gaps in the system, towards
critique and repair.

Perhaps the future lies in merging two trends - the 3rd and 4th generation
NGOs that Korten identifies with the lessons that could be learned from
projects such as the Dean campaign.  Should we ask whether research in
political philosophy should shift its underpinnings in academia and
empiricism and move to an evolutionary approach with its foundations in
open source intelligence.

Prem Chandavarkar

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