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Re: <nettime> Nightmare or Opening? the Soros perspective
brian.holmes {AT} aliceadsl.fr on Sat, 16 Jun 2012 01:16:20 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Nightmare or Opening? the Soros perspective

Felix, I share your perplexities. Notably this one:

--The question then becomes, who can articulate a theory of re-embedding
and which is the social class than can mount the political pressure
to implement the necessary policies. In Polanyi's days, this was, I
assume, Keynes and the working class rising towards middle class
status. The result was the post-war social-democratic (soziale
Marktwirtschaft) consensus on both sides of the Atlantic.

I am hoping to dig deeper into some of the literature around Polanyi in the
next two months. His analysis of who does the reembedding clearly includes
the rising workers, but not only. Because he understood the dangers of
laisser faire capitalism for the natural environment, he also spoke about
the protective roles taken by the landed classes and the peasantry.
Further, he understood that social reproduction and culture require
continuous production and care, they are not just freely available
"externalities" as in liberal capitalism. I am not sure if he developed a
complex class analysis in fully modern terms. Keith could tell us more.

Today if you look to Latin America you can see the kinds of coalitions that
are emerging, especially over the last ten years, between classes and
geographic regions, in the attempt to regain a viable way of life, lessen
inequalities and halt the tremendous destruction of the countryside. Much
of the debate over the commons comes from there, of course. These attempts
link the country and the city to an increasing degree, even in a place like
Argentina where just a decade ago left politics was dominated by the
industrial themes of the most traditional Marxism. But the question of
whether anything comparable to these Latin American coalitions is emerging
elsewhere, is difficult to answer. Will the potentially huge environmental
movement ever amount to a transformational force on the ground? The energy
is there, but at every turn it has been blocked (remember Copenhagen).

--Normally, I think the work that is done around rethinking the commons
is fantastic and it makes me very hopeful. But I fear a little that it
will be put to the test much too early. At the moment, we have a lot
of micro-practices, but nothing that can scale, or even nobody that
can articulate how to scale it.

The amazing and scary thing is that now you really see Polanyi's double
movement at work everywhere. By that I mean the overall movement in society
that simultaneously exacerbates liberal capitalism and develops responses
and correctives to it.  There are endless emergent forms of what he called
"the self-protection of society." The most visible in the US are the urban
gardening movements, the anti-pipeline and anti-fracking movements, and, of
course, Occupy. Equally visible, though, and much more easily scalable, is
authoritarian nationalism at its worst. It's not just "the state." It's a
molecular thing, manifesting particularly as racism. There is an
existential anxiety at the micro-social level that combines with the power
drives of transnational state capitalism.

What we would need, in order to avoid the easily imaginable worst
scenarios, is a full-scale transformation of educational and cultural
institutions so that the necessary work on urgencies can be done in a way
that is serious, open, enriching and not limited to artistic or
intellectual prototypes, but really social, weaving across classes and
regional differences. Since change is clearly not going to come from
corporate programs (carbon trading, green jobs, charter schools and other
outright lies) I think it could only be achieved by opening up the existing
institutions to a thinking and a practice of the commons (including free
software alongside neighborhood organization, renewable energy, and so on).
This shift of cultural/educational institutions is the exact opposite of
what the capitalist classes are now demanding and imposing (Bologna
process, tuition crisis, student debt slavery etc). This is why I think
that the privatization of culture and education has to be countered by
grassroots work that is not apocalyptic and self-marginalizing, but instead
aims to challenge and transform what's going on in the official structures,
which are threatened and in crisis anyway. If nothing changes, art for
auction and education for blindness will continue up to the point of
massive unemployment, full-scale ecological catastrophe and planetary civil
war. This was all just theory a few years ago. Not so today in my view.

all the best, Brian

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