For many years now, I have been developing a radical, community centred philosophy to establish a logical foundation and principles of a software framework that would enable local communities to organically and democratically define and organize themselves within the principles of a true participatory democracy or open source politics and right to self-determination. I will outline the philosophy that informed these conclusions in the final sector in this essay.
By way of some preparatory notes when I say ‘operating system’, on one level I am referring to computers, software etc – but on another level I am also referring to the general political, economic and social systems by which our societies operate as a phenomenally complex ‘system of operation’. The reader should also note that none of the terms or concepts as I present them are fully specific. In my mind they are shape shifters that need to be thought about in conceptually flexible terms and I suggest the reader takes a similar open minded kind of view. It should be also noted that this is not a blog as such but the foundation or proposal for a much needed creative project. We can change the world together by design.
This is a radical form of politics in that it essentially rejects the notion that it is worthwhile engaging in any political struggle for control of our existing governing institutions and opts instead to create our own community operating systems as essential tools in micro-managing and improving our communities, their economies and ecologies and our lives and experiences within them. This demonstrates that any ‘revolution’ as such is not an object of political struggle – but merely a community software requirement which can be collectively designed by a global community of developers who see the bigger picture.
This system would provide local communities with a software framework to invent, discover, design and evolve themselves according to their own unique and varying contexts in order to serve their own most beneficial needs and aspirations as they recognize and define them.
I believe that WordPress when conceived in its full phenomenal sense – as being composed not only of WordPress,WooCommerce etc – but also the broader community of democratically minded contributors and developers adding functionality, ideas and general value to WordPress – to be the perfect environment and starting point for the project I will be outlining.
At this point I realize that I should make the point that your conception of what WordPress is will be very much dependent on which of its systems you have used. I think that most people’s experience or knowledge of WordPress is being purely a platform for blogging. If you use the wordpress.com site this is the impression you will get as it is very much geared for blogging.
However, if you go to one of the hosted WordPress providers or indeed host one yourself, you will see that there is far more to WordPress than just blogging. You can host web sites, operate E-Commerce, run clubs and groups and achieve all of this and much more with simple generic plugins. Most of these units of advanced functionality are not developed by WordPress but are largely free tools developed by a global community of developers designing and programming add-ins or super objects that you can drop-in to your site.
More on this later, for the time being I would like to take an expansive view of what I take ‘communities’ to be. It would be firstly useful to establish the different shape shifting ways in which we can understand ‘Communities’ and illustrate why centralizing the logical priority of the community over and above perceptions of companies, organizations and institutions – should be so central to our thinking and our designs.
Although many of us think about a community as being a small local geographical area, in many senses a community can be virtually any kind of organization. A family or household is a community on its smallest scale. Any club or organization which brings together people with shared interests is a community. Every business is a small community operating within a greater business community of communities serving communities of consumers. A School or University is a community as is a Hospital. Each school is also a member of a greater community of schools which in turn exist and function within a greater community of an education system.
In this sense I am talking about an open source ‘operating system’ as a selection of pre-built tools and applications that can be easily and immediately integrated together within a general app framework or site – in order to serve the needs of an individual, a household, a street or local community, a small business or community of businesses, a school, a church, a drama group or a football club or pretty much any kind of ‘organization’ you can imagine. As individuals and members of communities at many different scales and levels – we all have the same basic generic requirements which are essentially nothing more than effective personal, group management and organizational design tools.
Thinking and System Design governed by a morally and ethically guided sense of community
I believe businesses, schools and all institutions are best served and developed when we understand them as communities rather than as organizations or institutions. As soon as one says ‘Organization’ or ‘Institution’ one immediately thinks of bureaucracy, strict rule governing and a certain intractability and reluctance to progress and evolve.
In contrast, it is far healthier and more productive to think of all institutions, companies, organizations, clubs and even families – under the mental umbrella of communities where all their members have shared needs and interests which all need to be fully and faithfully taken into realistic consideration. When we think in terms of communities, we can start thinking about collectively improving how they function to the benefit of the community itself and the holistic benefit of all its members from the smallest family community to the largest global community. All of their needs and requirements need identifying and addressing.
I shall give an example of how what appears to be an innocent choice of perspective – can have a great impact on the kind of software and operating systems that might be developed for any given community and show how the character of the systems they end up producing become essentially limited and even counter-productive when one takes the wrong fundamental perspective.
When one understands a ‘School’ in limited terms – by viewing it as an institution – and then one does any kind of software requirements gathering, systems analysis and design – based solely upon the School’s role and duties as an institution – then one can see that the benefits that software ends up providing are heavily weighted in consideration of the bureaucratic needs of the institution and that they largely ignore the needs and benefits of teachers, pupils or parents in terms of a community.
Usually they end up producing mundane systems for collecting lunch money, monitoring attendance and policing truancy etc. They are mostly designed to fulfil monitoring and reporting requirements as specified by central or local government.
The result is an expensive, partial operating system that was always logically destined to be more interested in policing both its students and its teachers – than it was in effectively focussing on the processes of education itself and caring for and nurturing either students or its teaching staff.
To consider the needs of the school purely in terms of its institutional role and requirements is a fundamental error. Had the software and system designers set out with the notion that their systems must directly serve the needs of the school as a community – then a very different set of requirements would have emerged and a very different system would have been designed as it would have focussed exclusively on considering and serving the needs and benefits of all its direct members and also those associated with the community.
Having developed numerous complex web based applications I have a simple rule that I always apply in my designs. The system must genuinely work to the benefit of all those who use or are associated with it in some way or another and not simply try and meet the needs of one particular party.
In terms of a school, this would have been an holistic and utterly realistic consideration of the requirements and needs of its teachers, its students and also their parents – under a governing concern that the designers needed to discover and create an effective, inclusive and supportive community which analyses and accepts all the fallibilities of its members. anticipates them and consciously designs itself around them to minimize their impact.
It would also involve providing a full educational management system along with responsive teaching applications designed to always deliver the core message of a lesson with all the supporting resources and links to contextualize that lesson within the framework of the curriculum and they would all need to be immediately available at the single click of a mouse.
For example if the topic under analysis was relevant to particular essay questions, then links to those questions would be displayed in a side-bar and the students and teacher can review them instantly to see their context and relevance within the very structured framework of any particular topic or subject. If there are linked themes then links to those themed or related topics and subjects should be immediately available.
In terms of logic, in the UK at least, regardless of the relative merits of the stuff it decides to teach, the national curriculum is extremely well thought out and meticulously structured. Unfortunately the curriculum is taught in largely ill-planned lessons with inadequate presentation and management of resources with the result that teachers and students fail to locate and understand the lesson within the full context of the curriculum as it was intended.
Indeed, I would say that most teachers do not have an adequate overview or understanding of how the national curriculum is structured and why. In terms of design analysis it is clear that any teaching operating system would need to directly represent and faithfully support the underlying logics and structure of the curriculum is a very systematic way. This is what the best IT systems are very good at. We do not leave it to chance that a teacher might make themselves familiar with the complexity of the curriculum as we design the system to fully contextualize it for both teachers and students so they can directly see how it all fits together in a very obvious way.
Our educational operating system would do all of the above but at the same time instead of trying to police a lesson, it would be designed to make allowances for or even embrace – all the inevitable distractions, disagreements, intellectual diversions, jokes and general movements off topic that always occur in and around lessons regardless of their particular contexts. Our education systems have pursued ‘communication studies’ as an object of study, but of far more significance in terms of knowledge would have been to have a science that rigorously investigated miss-communications and system failures in general. If you do not understand the fundamental nature of any given systemic failure then you have no possibility of ever addressing and dealing with it.
Given an appropriate software whose central design principle was always to guarantee to deliver the systemically specified core of a lesson in a simple step by step process, then such a system seems restrictive and totalitarian in one sense, but in principle it can actually be entirely liberating in that by guaranteeing the core of the lesson it allows for diversions, distractions and movements which might seem off topic – as it is always possible for the teacher and their students to immediately return to the core of the lesson because the step by step educational wizard – ensures that they always know precisely where they were in the lesson.
Such a system anticipates and expects all those elements that threaten to ‘subvert’ the teacher from communicating the meanings of the lesson and instead of trying to police them, it effectively provides time and consciously makes space for them – in doing so it mitigates against any possibility of the message not getting through. It also enables the teacher to give far more time to individual students who may not get the point in that it could give the teacher real time awareness of each student’s understanding of the core concepts of the lesson as they progress by monitoring understanding of the lesson with the use of mini-quizzes etc.
Historically education systems in general have always been obsessed with policing absence. This is not just absence such as truancy but absences such as daydreaming, inattention, humour and hilarity or any form of behaviour or deviation that the system believes to subvert the thoroughly idealized notion that in principle a lesson could always be somehow taught and received in full.
Instead of trying to police or rail against reality – systems function much better when they are designed to accommodate or even make use of the perceived evils they perpetually seek to eradicate.
Instead of trying to police ‘distractions’ in general, an effective educational system would need to fully accommodate them. We know that students will be ill, that they will fall in love, that they may be dumped, that they will suffer bouts of self-doubt and depression, that they will not be interested in every subject at any given time, that they will find themselves daydreaming in lessons and that they will frequently cease paying attention and start thinking about other things.
Although teaching involves presenting knowledge in discrete lessons, topics, schemes of work and subjects in a linear fashion all knowledge is heavily interconnected and educational in general is a question of mentally joining the dots across topics and subjects as one intuitively gets a sense of these connections. Often a student can be distracted at any point by a realization that this particular idea holds great implications or illuminates an idea in an entirely different place and these ‘distractions’ need to be managed by the system so that students and teachers can effectively bookmark them and mentally organize them within their learning experiences.
All of these systemically defined ‘evils’ are an absolute given. However, if we have all the lessons in the entire curriculum fully linked up and available 24/7 at school or from home – then we go a long way to mitigating against all those temporary threats of absence, because if the student, the teacher or the class – lost the thread at a particular point they can go back anytime and revisit it. Such a system is also of course the best revisionary resource possible. If students are ill they can study from home and catch up on all missed lessons if they wish to. They may drop out of education all together and we must anticipate that possibility. In which case the education system need not be a brief opportunity which is in danger of being missed but something that is always available as it is something that students can always come back to when they feel the time is right. Such a system does not allow its opportunities to ever become wasted. The greatest wastage as such has been the time spent by institutions trying to obsessively police absences and angrily throwing chalk at them instead of designing a system that simply worked around them.
All of this would take place as part of a wider project that aimed at making it virtually impossible for anyone to fail to get excited and become willing and motivated to get an education for themselves and benefit greatly by it and for all its teachers to become excited and engaged in their work because they would never know what interesting stuff they might be learning next, whilst still meeting their responsibility of getting the core of the lesson across.
Just as the web in terms of design has become responsive to the needs of its users and their devices consuming it, then I’m very much suggesting that the education system itself needs to be rethought and designed as a similarly responsive community system.
The success of our education systems rely far too heavily on the ‘coincidence’ that the interests of each of its individual students will coincide with the limited framework of any given curricula. Your success within such a system is heavily reliant on this principle and those whose interests coincide with those of the system are systemically advantaged within it – the less the fit of any individual’s skills and interests with those of the system then the more they will effectively be alienated within it.
In contrast, a responsive educational system would far more democratic in that it would be able to adapt itself and accommodate and develop a far greater range of topics and subjects according to the incredibly diverse interests of both its students and teachers. We have had the technology to do this for 20 years but no-one has visualized the goals in order to seize upon the opportunities. Much of this is due to the fact that as members of systems their is a tendency for all of us to be intellectually institutionalized by them, their contexts and their histories. We live and think within the limited, commonly agreed parameters which govern their functioning and in doing so we miss the opportunities for imagining how they might function differently and more efficiently to the benefit of all.
Having said this much, the analysis at this point has only considered the obligations of the system to teach and the students to learn, in terms of the school as a community there is still far more work to be done. The system also needs to provide a framework by which students and teachers organize and manage their educational and social lives within it. By utilizing pre-built drop in units of functionality, it needs to be able to allow them to instantly establish and manage study groups, support groups, clubs and discussion groups, to associate with one and other according to specific interests, whether they be fans of a particular genre of music, interested in creative media production, musicians wishing to find like minded students to form a band or rock group or any number of other hobbies and interests which bring people together. The system has to provide all the applications and tools required for the school to fully become its own most successful community to the extent that all of its members can become fully engaged within it and not remain as alienated and isolated loners who eventually turn up in its hallways touting guns.
WordPress as a community launch pad in the real world
Whilst the web has been successful to a degree in helping to establish virtual communities, it has had nothing like the success in being able to translate this potential to establishing local communities on the ground in the real world. Seldom do we live near to other members of on-line communities of which we may be members and meet-ups are far and few between. This means that advances on the web have had little impact in our day to day lives within our vastly under developed local communities.
In the real world every street has the potential to become an active, fully integrated community which is conscious of all its members and its resources. Each street is located within a greater community of its surrounding area and collectively all of its members willing to participate – can organize their own improvements, recycling, car, tool or other resource pooling and sharing, they can trade with one and other, organize child or elderly care and generally undertake any number of co-operative voluntary initiatives that can be brainstormed, organized, publicized and actualized as a benefit to the community as a whole.
This is really all about providing the infrastructure for the most democratic, morally and ethically efficient use and management of a community’s resources in every sense, be they cars, broken or discarded computers, tables, sofas, chairs, waffle makers, electric martini shakers and junk in general, disused and abandoned property, land, people, talents, skills and potentials etc……………a remark from Wittgenstein on the possible applications here – I had always confused the dots of laziness with the dots of infinity………
For instance at my house I may have a large rear garden but I hate gardening and it is overgrown and neglected. Given an appropriate software and management system – that resource could be made available to someone else who would like an allotment but cannot get one. In which case I could give them the free use of my garden for them to grow vegetables and I could either do this for free or perhaps they could give me a share of their bumper crops through the seasons. The important part is that a resource that is going to waste will now be used effectively to the benefit of the grower, myself and my neighbours (as they no longer have to look at the eye-sore that was my garden).
I should stress here that all this system would offer is the software and architectural framework for any form of personal, household or community management system and a large selection of tools to develop, manage and achieve any number of different aims. The examples I cite for how such systems might be used are just suggestions. It is up to individual communities themselves to decide how they use such systems according to their own economic, political and social aims and ambitions. Any such ambitions would reflect the political, social and economic character of each community. For instance it could be used by a local business community to organize and communicate with each other and to market to and maintain relations with local customers. Fundamentally, regardless of any given application – it is really about systems providing good personal and organizational management tools/skills.
The community operating system would essentially be the provision of an organizational framework for a community co-operating system. All that is required is the software framework with which to realize, organize, manage and actualize any community’s ambitions as it realizes them. Note again that this should be inclined toward building inclusive and responsive communities that adapt themselves to their own needs and the varying needs of its members.
If we look at our communities then they are not inclusive, in fact they suffer from a bi-polar disorder stemming from being governed by a monetary system and system of waged labour which divides us by waged classes and systematically excludes large parts of the community from effectively taking part by rendering members as employed and unemployed, useful and worthwhile on one hand and useless and worthless on the other – with all the negative social and psychological implications those divisions entail.
This seems foolish. Surely in order to be successful, a community needs everyone to get involved and take part in order to become the effective and most efficient sum of its parts. It is very hard to move from unemployment to employment in order to become ‘useful’ within our current system. Indeed it actually penalizes you if you are unemployed and thinks that you should rot in poverty and misery making full time job applications rather than your being able to freely pitch in and help out. A community operating system would allow all to freely and directly take part and encourage and foster all of those currently excluded and marginalized into contributing and being part of the community family.
Communities clearly require their own software and management systems for this to take place and such systems would foster the proliferation and expansion of each community’s own ideas and initiatives on their own democratic terms. We desperately need the software for communities to discover, understand and therefore unite themselves.
An additional radical twist at this point it to suggest that as much as communities can urge their local populations to join and take part – then they can also reward members for their efforts in that given the relevant software and design they can award “Community Credits” equivalent to the number of hours of effort provided to the community in member contributions and members could then use these systematically recorded and systematically stored credits to buy and sell things to each other as an open source form of money and barrier free form of trading which can be conducted using a mobile phone app that could be produced and which could run alongside payment systems such as PayPal.
I envisage that a WordPress plugin such as WooCommerce could be extended and developed to also become a searchable global yet also local gateway for trade in new and second-hand goods as a combination fulfilling the functionality of Amazon’s third party sales and Ebay. Initially it would utilize the ability to make payment in PayPal currencies – but the ability to trade using Community Credits would eventually be built into the system as a payment alternative. For retail traders using WooCommerce, this could be implemented in a similar way to the coupon functionality possibly where they could set weekly limits as to how many Community Credits they would accept.
There are already basic functional examples of such alternative currency systems in use around the world, most notably the TEM system in Greece as this must read article explains (see here) – but they are not available for communities to easily adopt. If such a system was available as a drop in module from WordPress it would be the work of seconds for a community to adopt and implement its own monetary system.
We could develop and implement such currency systems, all we need is faith in the system of community credit for them to function. All we need to nurture faith in such a currency is to start trading with it. I’m pretty confident that all of our houses are overflowing with a lot of stuff that is either broken or that we don’t need or don’t want. All of this stuff is a potential resource to someone else who could make use of it. If we start off by trading the stuff we don’t want with each other and we use community credits to make such trades then we will quickly build up the faith in community credits that would be required for it to effectively function as a currency to the credit of the community and all its members. The better organized and functioning our communities become the more we will have faith in them and their currencies.
There are many that lament the rise of fiat and virtual currencies and advocate the return to a ‘gold’ standard and supposed ‘real’ money. Such a development would be highly regressive and dangerous. The problem with gold and precious metals as the basis of monetary systems is that they will always end up being controlled, owned, seized, policed and taxed by an elite minority by whatever corrupted and often violent means deemed necessary.
Virtual currencies on the other hand, such as community credits, are entirely democratic, virtually free to create and cannot be controlled, owned, policed and taxed by political and economic elites or even Mafias. How could a government tax the community’s credits? How could it possibly spend them if it did? How do banks and global corporations ‘compete’ with self-sufficient communities?
Throughout history, the people have always been oppressed and regulated by a monetary system together with a productive system and a system of waged labour servicing it, which has always been controlled by an elite minority in one guise or another. This no longer need be the case as we have the technology now to create, manage and exchange our own currencies and communities on our own democratic terms.
All of this does not take place as a revolutionary movement that seeks to overthrow the current system. Such an organic, evolutionary phenomenon would develop in tandem with our current system as something of a symbiotic political, social and economic addition to our current systems.
In addition to these economic aspects, given the software and systems to define and organize themselves, communities would quickly evolve to the stage by which they could conduct their own elections for central roles and responsibilities for its key members (just glorified reader polls really). This indicates that there is a possibility for communities to effectively become self-governing in an entirely participatory and fully democratic fashion. All those who choose to participate collectively decide what needs to be done, elects its leaders as those most willing and suited in managing projects and then collectively acts to achieve the aim and goals it defines for itself.
In order to succeed – such communities need everyone to get involved, to get excited and take part and make whatever contribution any member can make on their own terms of engagement and according to their own talents and interests. In a sense as stated above – the community moves beyond members of employed and unemployed and allows everyone to freely take part and make contributions in a post-waged labour environment that simply credits its members for taking part on their own terms.
That is to say that unlike our current unresponsive political and governmental institutions, provided with their own operating systems or community app collections – communities can become entirely responsive, inclusive, democratically functioning entities that needs, values and rewards all its members.
If you have followed the logic so far then I have a further twist in the development of this idea. Once such a modular and adaptable system is built, flexibly adopted and distributed around the world – one can see that in addition to our fully functional, democratic community cooperating systems – we will have also built ourselves a global backup operating system in general.
The world came perilously close to financial collapse in 2007 and 2008 and there is no good reason to think that such a collapse would not occur in the future. One can only imagine to what extent societies could degrade if the centrally issued, institutionalized form of money was not available to fulfil its function as we are so entirely dependent upon it for organizing and regulating our relationships.
If such a financial collapse came, then with our backup community operating system – our communities could carry on functioning on a day to day level in that they would have the additional monetary system of community credit and could freely exchange goods using that democratically issued medium.
In extremis, the community operating system could also be employed to share food and other resources if they became scarce and would also provide the framework by which communities could unite and rapidly respond to any additional and unexpected challenges as they emerged and publish their successful initiatives to the global community of communities as a guide to how to effectively respond to different problems.
The TEM system in Greece was born out of crisis, it would be far more prudent if globally spread communities had such systems in place before any future crisis falls upon us.
At present all of our communities exist in an ad-hoc and largely disorganized fashion. In many areas communities do not exist as such and their populations remain alienated, isolated and at risk.
At their worst, in areas of poverty and high unemployment, ‘communities’ as such are ruled by gang cultures, crime, drugs and violence. Growing up within such a negative community system of operation, its inhabitants do not see such behaviours as immoral – it is just the harsh reality of their particular social context.
This 11 minute video gives a good indication of the dangers of community breakdown as the American Dream comes to end. The communities filmed here would be in a far more resilient and healthy position had they a system of operation to unite and integrate them. I think the answers we need are beyond the scope and consciousness of our current politics. I do not side with the left or the right, indeed I believe our current political choices are virtually meaningless. An efficient and successful community operating system will eventually render them as irrelevant.
What anti-establishment phenomenon such as Brexit and Trump illustrate is that there are serious problems with our current systems and these problems exist at a global or universal level. What history illustrates all too clearly in my mind is that we would be entirely foolish to carry on believing that the establishment will fix our problems for us or that it even cares about them. This is something that we now need to take upon ourselves and I’m afraid that will be a lot of hard work but we can at least provide ourselves with the best software tools to collectively take on the job.
It seems obvious to me that the civil members of damaged communities wherever they may be in the world, need to be able to manage, communicate and organize themselves in order to unify and make better sense of their lives. They need to involve themselves and their children in a positive, inclusive community experience where they feel both wanted, needed and supported. Such damaged societies will take a long time to heal but one has to start somewhere by giving them the ideas and the software tools and systems to discover and heal themselves.
Unfortunately in terms of a resilient functional technological architecture this is a massive challenge.
What is essential is to build a system that will enable communities to firstly discover and define themselves on different levels of granularity – but also allow each community to organize itself within a greater web of local communities by joining together by elective associations and processes of integration and this requirement needs to be factored into the database architecture and design choices of the system. One the greatest difficulties in designing any IT based system is to successfully navigate the huge amount of technological options for implementing it and selecting the right choices.
For instance one is a member of the general system on a global level, but any individual can then associate their membership within any number of different clubs or communities and have all communications channelled through a single app or interface making it easier to keep track of them. This means that one has to develop a system that could be hosted on a specified computer or group of computers in the community, but could still interact and share information on a global level.
In terms of resilience any community operating system hosted remotely on the internet is subject to outages and attacks or even government shut downs. It is possible however to envisage that wireless routers connected on a daisy chained house to house basis could be adapted and utilized to effectively create community area networks which would carry on being available in the event of failure in the backbone of systems as long as households and communities had electrical power. This in turn raises other new possibilities of utilizing solar and wind turbine technologies at a shared community level so communities were not completely reliant on the national grid and a national communications infrastructure. Self reliance or community resilience and reliability is freedom personified.
I hope you are beginning to realize that there are a phenomenal amount of issues to be recognized and addressed in all of this. One of the greatest challenges in this will be in getting the precise architectural design in place to support such a system and there are a great many other additional considerations to need to be taken into account. It has all been far too much work for me as a lone thinker and developer which has been very frustrating. WordPress and its global community of developers can collectively achieve these aims once we have clearly defined them – all I can provide is a focal point from which to begin.
It could be the case that most of the systems we need already exist? Looking briefly at some of the available WordPress add-ins – I can find the following systems that could help to establish different kinds of local community.
Probably the most developed plugin is WooCommerce which enables anyone to add E-Commerce functionality to their wordpress based site.
There is a pretty good overview of what is involved and the capabilities on the YouTube link below. This gives a very good overview of how easy it can be to integrate a very complicated unit of functionality into any given WordPress hosted site.
Of course there is no reason why the wooCommerce app couldn’t be adapted to include functionality of the community yard sale app below.
And there is no reason why such hybrid apps could not be converted to also accept Community Credits in addition to other payment forms.
Here are a few other examples from about 20 minutes research.
A sports club management plugin app.
This is impressive in that it has been adapted to cover a multitude of sports and languages.
An accounting plugin app.
A basic election plugin
An events management application
If communities wished to run their own schools then with a lot of the above apps and those below one can see how a foundation can be quickly built.
Interactive Video plugin
Given the global community of developers there is no reason why we can’t develop complete education management and teaching systems that would be freely available to any school or community in the world. The possibilities of a community operating system are as endless as are the possible contributors.
The philosophical background: Prototypes versus Archetypes
The status quo or consensual hegemony of the current archetypical and monolithic, political and economic system – is shored up by a philosophy of pragmatism and a highly elevated risk aversion to political, economic and social change.
This is achieved by the current system stating itself to be the most pragmatic, democratic, rational and efficient blueprint for our political, social and economic organization – as the best of all possible political, economically productive and most natural of social worlds.
After the fall of communism this seems to be just a matter of common sense as logically, it seems there cannot be any possible alternatives as the logics of western rationalism were left to reign supreme.
This one political size fits all approach, inevitably leads to a suppression of a naturally inherent community diversity and with it political and social imagination and creativity.
Instead of anything new, the same trite political arguments take place over and over again by rote. As time goes on and the same ideas are recycled yet again and inevitably fail to deliver their promises, politics becomes bleaker and bleaker and of diminishing appeal and utility to its citizens whose only rational response is utter disillusionment, alienation and political apathy.
Our current political economies and societies are no longer something that we consider to have a vested interest in – it is something that we feel to be resigned or condemned to – as we realize them to be nothing other than a collection of corrupted, self-serving institutions which are depressingly shown to act beyond our interests, control or influence. In countries such as Greece, the overall zeitgeist now is that of an inevitable fiscal drowning in a cruel sea of debt and a sinking sense of political and social hopelessness.
Our only solution at this point is to reject the principle of governance of these now grotesque figure-heads and shift the centre of our political gravity to another sphere in order to negotiate a theoretical space for new and more democratic forms of politics to emerge.
Initially this can only be done at the theoretical level at which the current system rationalizes itself and also the terms on which it believes it can object to the arguments of any political alternatives.
Our current political philosophy in order to maintain its hegemonic grip, not only defines the world in terms of its own peculiar set of narrow ideas and values, but also defines the terms and conditions under which any radical or revisionary alternative could be put forward. Any alternative proposal is consequently subject to a number of ideological constraints.
The current system would demand that any revolutionary politics will have to be presented in terms of a completed national manifesto, as a precise political, economic and social blueprint for society with a set of clearly defined goals and means for arriving at them.
Any such replacements or national manifestos would then be submitted to a thorough political, economic and social risk analysis by the existing hegemony. In doing so it would be charged to consistently exhibit the following ‘virtuous’ characteristics.
- National appeal and applicability
- Increasing Productivity
- Increasing Growth
- Increasing Affluence
- National Consensus
The problem any truly libertarian and participatory theory of democracy would have with this is that in order to achieve such aims, the proposed blueprint or replacement archetype will have a tendency to be proscriptive and totalitarian in nature.
It will gravitate around its own peculiar idealized notion of the perfect type of model citizen dwelling within the perfect type of model community – such Utopian visions are usually pursued by totalitarian political means in the name of a national common good which is actually a suppression of diversity.
In essence it will try to dictate precisely how you will live and consequently the nature of the meanings and relationships you can have – based upon whatever narrow set of choices and definitions it settles upon.
This is the political technique of consensualization which is the mass production of the masses. All current politics aims at the mass-production of its model citizens to meet its own limited ideological and productive requirements in what it perceives to be their most convenient form.
In the process the potentiality of citizens to explore and experiment, to construct and understand themselves and their communities in creative and imaginative ways – becomes subject to a suffocating ideological constraint.
Any radical politics cannot base itself upon the imposition of such nationally imagined ideals. This is impossible as it cannot be logically reconciled within the terms of its own critique. I refuse to proscribe or dictate the terms in which people live. I don’t want to tell anyone precisely what to think or limit the ways in which they could imaginatively make their own meaningful contributions or understand themselves. I merely seek to illustrate some logics by which we could start to think and define ourselves, our relationships and our communities differently and in ways that would benefit all their members.
If we cannot conceptually give birth to a new politics within the strict demands of modernist logics, then we must initially provide an ideological foundation for the liberation of political thought from these current constraints and demonstrate the logical possibility of alternatives.
I can do all this and still be both logical and rational, even if the terms of my arguments may seem at times to be irrational and counter-intuitive.
The first step in any radical political enterprise is to recognize that the macro level demands of the logics of the archetypical politics are a logical trap. To follow their proscriptions is merely to end up imitating and reduplicating them.
The only truly radical alternative therefore is to reverse their requirements and concentrate the focus of the political at an experimental and prototypical micro community level instead of the high stakes/risks of demanding change at a national macro level.
In order to escape the overwhelming gravitational pull of existing political economy, any provisional, prototypical political theory, needs to establish its ideological foundations by asserting the right to think and be evaluated by an oppositional set of principles and rules. Thus a prototypical or open source politics would initially open itself to consider aiming at the following oppositional set of concepts.
- Less Productivity
- De-Growth or Economic Contraction
- More moral and ethical productive use of resources
- Communitarian Prototypicality
One of the techniques of the philosophy of Deconstruction, is that one experimentally reverses one’s governing assumptions regarding analysis of any given problem in order to see how it changes one’s perceptions.
As one example of this, one could anticipate that whilst the whole of western political economy assumes that the future can only be built on more growth as part of an unending and virtuous increase of labour and production, then one reverses this imperative and assumes that a future can only be realistically built on less labour, consumption and production as we know it and that the political future lies in a world of community centric largely post-waged labour economies.
Our inability to reach such conclusions is due to our thinking being institutionalized in that it is circumscribed, and therefore limited – by the parameters of what is presented to us as ‘common sense’.
The first task therefore, is to radically challenge the parameters which essentially govern the possible conclusions we can draw. At this point in time, as the basis of experimental thinking in the construction of a political prototype, then the perspectives and conclusions of established thought should not constrain us.
The truth or applicability of such alternative viewpoints will not be immediately apparent, but we need to initially entertain them as logical and theoretical possibilities and then imagine what the world of political economy could possibly look like once we adopt such perspectives.
Initially, we need to deconstruct the current system’s aversion to the ‘risks’ of alternative political thinking. In the process I hope to show that our existing system manages its tenuous ‘stability’ by thoroughly irrational and contradictory logics.
If we are to loosely describe western societies as being democratic free market economies, then this description contains something of an ideological contradiction. Whilst western societies could be said to have relatively free and rapidly evolving economies, markets, industries, technologies, tastes, fashions and objects – then in complete and utter contrast our political systems are a predominately closed ideological shop. We live in an advanced 21st century world, but we seek to govern or control it with a largely outdated 19th century nationalist politics which is structurally resistant to change.
My suggestion here is that the lack of creative spirit, freedom and imagination in our contemporary politics is fundamentally at odds with the effervescing imagination and creativity displayed by companies and individuals outside of the political sphere. There is massive progress and change in the ideas, organization, systems, technologies, music and arts of our current society, but there is no equivalent or accompanying progress and change in its politics.
Whilst free market capitalism is transformative and is driven by the principles of imagination, creativity, participation and experimentation – and systemically makes provision for or spreads the risks for all that entails – then in direct contrast, its politics is not prepared to open itself to any imagination, creativity, participation or change and will not expose itself to any risks at all.
The fact that capitalism is ideologically open to internal change and risk is why capitalism is progressive, exciting and transformative. Conversely the fact that our current politics based upon the philosophy of pragmatism, is absolutely resistant to change as it is always perceived as an unacceptable risk – is why it is inert, dull and seemingly incapable of change.
Capitalist imagination, creativity and development does not take place at a macro level. Capitalist development always takes place at the micro level with groups of visionary and radical individuals such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, pursuing prototypical ideas whose values governments and financial institutions, and even the public at large – are initially unable to identify or even recognize.
Recognizing the fact that capitalist change takes place at the micro level, the prototypical political solution would be to take the principle of capitalism’s provision for risk via its spread or distribution of risk, which is the fundamental energizing principle and driving force of capitalist development – and theoretically release it for the imaginative development and transformation of new forms of politics and communities.
This would be to energize politics from an unresponsive, ideologically closed shop, to a potentially creative, free, open source political community. The great thing about capitalism in principle, is that it can be truly democratic. It fundamentally needs and wants everyone to get involved, to have new ideas, to take risks and be adventurous. In direct contrast, the political system remains utterly inert and unresponsive, it wants nothing from you other than the mechanical and bleak national ‘endorsement’ of an increasingly meaningless and hopeless vote every 4 or 5 years.
The point here is that a new business idea may be revolutionary, yet capitalism makes no immediate demands that it needs to be presented as a substitution or blueprint for all business practices everywhere. It may turn out that the new idea is eventually adopted or embraced by a majority of companies, but this only occurs once the idea has been experimentally prototyped, put into practice and seen to work.
In exactly the same way, a prototypical politics could refuse to provide a revolutionary blueprint or archetype for a national political replacement, but instead establish the principles of experimental communitarian development as a form of risk containment, by which communities, given a fully fledged community operating system, could become prototypical, experimental, self-defining and transformative entities.
This means that in principle, instead of organizing or thinking within nationally proscribed limits and restrictions, communities could decide and focus on their own needs and values and become the subjects of their own self-reflection, education, determination and the terms of their own social interactions/relations.
For instance in terms of education this could mean a community rejecting the narrow set of subjects of a national curriculum and focusing more of its efforts on an education system that put communication, co-operation, personal and social relations – and the general well-being and happiness of its citizens at its heart. A system of education whose only real aim would be to make our communities and ultimately the world a better place.
Such a system would not leave forms of violence, abuse and bullying as ancillary concerns, it would bring them into the very heart of its curriculum, deconstruct them and show them for the worthless and futile gestures they are – at the same time it would do everything it could to demonstrate the absolute nature of our inter-dependence and coach the value of unbridled co-operation and social support.
In order to do so, it would need to recognize and redefine what our most important needs and values actually are. The political question here is what the goals of ‘education for life’ should ideally aim at? An endless retraining for the demands of production, or the betterment of social relations and community cohesion? As it is, our education systems meet neither criterion effectively but that’s another discussion
Whilst there are obviously risks to such political revolutions or experiments when they are presented at a national or macro level, then when political revisionary thought takes place on the micro level of the community prototype – the risks if there were any – are effectively mitigated as they are localized and spread across the diversity of communities.
This is precisely the logic by which the imagination of capitalism thrives and advances, in that it is always prepared to take and spread the risks of new business ideas. There is no valid logical reason why we could not have a creative and imaginative form of politics and communities that similarly thrives and advances if we are prepared to take and spread the risks of developing new community prototypes across a broad societal base.
A principle that is theoretically good enough to drive an economics, must also be good enough to drive a politics. Which is to say that I cannot see why the political pragmatists of the status quo can possibly object or deny permission for such radical forms of thinking as the mechanism is entirely faithful to the governing spirit and logics of free market capitalism itself.
Such a politics could never be over-arching or totalitarian in that it does not impose a archetypal or national model in any sense but offers the radical alternative of more democratic self-determining community prototypes.
Along the way it needs to establish the rights, logics and the operating system by which individuals and communities would be given the freedom to begin to creatively and experimentally define themselves as new prototypical political and social entities.
This is where the reversal of our political characteristics comes into play. Self determining, prototypical communities would be exceptionally diverse in terms of what they felt their needs, values and aspirations would be and the best political means of delivering them.
Taken as a whole, the sum of these prototypical parts could never be consistent or coherent in that given the sheer diversity of communities, it is inevitable that a good many would be logically inconsistent and contradictory with one and other.
In this sense when viewed from a national or even global perspective, this would necessarily result in an incoherent, internally contradictory and irrational form of politics – which is precisely what the deconstructive reversal initially aimed at – but that’s the very nature of diversity.
Instead of conforming to a national archetype, its politics aims at logical permission for the community prototype. Instead of aiming at homogeneity, it gives direct expression for political, social and personal diversity. Instead of an outdated general political consensus, it initially creates space for discussion and experiment.
It may turn out that some of the most successful prototypes would become part of broader national or even global archetypes, yet if this happens it will only be because those prototypes showed real merits and other communities chose to adopt those ideas.
One suspects that the ideology of consumer society is fast approaching ideological bankruptcy and sinking under its own debt. It is not logically sustainable in so much as it is not financially sustainable and it is not environmentally sustainable. These problems have moved beyond the scope, imagination and understanding of contemporary politicians and economists as they are the prisoners of their own ‘common sense ‘and blinkered ideology.
If our existing societies and systems have become broadly unaffordable then we need to ask what kind of societies and systems can we actually afford? We can produce the highest quality free education systems available 24/7. Given an appropriate Operating System, communities can share and organize care for children and care for the elderly and establish systems that are generally supportive to all their members. Ultimately communities will become self-sufficient and self organize and provide for much of those services provided by government which we will no longer be able to afford.
The environmentally and even socially friendly goal now in every sense, is to rationalize what our everyday, physical and objective needs really are, secure and provide these as a matter of course, and then aim at investing our imaginations and efforts in increasing and maximizing the quality of our abstract social wealth as opposed to an abstract economic wealth based upon the questionable principles of un-ending growth in production, labour, (consumption/waste -disposal) – all financed by ever increasing debt.
I do not propose a blueprint as to how communities should design themselves. Instead, I offer the idea of a logical and software framework for communities to fully become themselves. Marxism placed an over-determining influence of the scene of production and labour at the very heart of its philosophy. In doing so as Baudrillard notes, Marx confused the liberation of the means of production with the liberation of man. If we collectively own our community operating systems then we effectively own the means of our own economic and social productions in a much wider sense than the one originally conceived by Marx. It is not a question of seizure, but a question of occupying a vacant ideological lot and creating a new space in which communities can thrive.
I believe that WordPress is one of the few software communities in the world that can start to deliver this vision.
I have said this is radical thought but in many ways it is not. In fact I can trace the genesis of this back to the earliest days of the enlightenment and Voltaire’s Candide. Rejecting the Panglossian archetypes, Candide concludes that all we can do is cultivate our gardens. I am just revising this by saying that our diverse local communities are the gardens that we need to collectively cultivate on their own differing terms. Or as my grandmother would say – look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. Look after our communities and our nations will take care of themselves.