Kevin Carson Ⓐ: “Libertarian Municipalism: Networked Cities as Resilient Platforms for Post-Capitalist Transition”

The same technological trends that are reducing the total need for labor also, in many cases, make direct production for use in the informal, social and household economies much more economically feasible. Cheap open-source CNC machine tools, networked information and digital platforms, Permaculture and community gardens, alternative currencies and mutual credit systems, all reduce the scale of feasible production for many goods to the household, multiple household and neighborhood levels, and similarly reduce the capital outlays required for directly producing consumption needs to a scale within the means of such groupings

Put all these trends together, and we see the old model of secure livelihood through wages collapsing at the same time new technology is destroying the material basis for dependence on corporations and the state.

But like all transitions, this is a transition not only from something, but to something. That something bears a more than passing resemblance to the libertarian communist future Pyotr Kropotkin described in The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops: the relocalization of most economic functions into mixed agricultural/industrial villages, the control of production by those directly engaged in it, and a fading of the differences between town and country, work and leisure, and brain-work and muscle-work.

In particular, it is to a large extent a transition to a post-capitalist society centered on the commons. As Michel Bauwens puts it, the commons paradigm replaces the traditional Social Democratic paradigm in which value is created in the “private” (i.e. corporate) sector through commodity labor, and a portion of this value is redistributed by the state and by labor unions, to one in which value is co-created within the social commons outside the framework of wage labor and the cash nexus, and the process of value creation is governed by the co-creators themselves. Because of the technological changes entailed in what Bauwens calls “cosmo-local” production (physical production that’s primarily local, using relatively small-scale facilities, for local consumption, but using a global information commons freely available to all localities), the primary level of organization of this commons-based society will be local. Cosmo-local (DGML = Design Global, Manufacture Local) production is governed by the following principles:

Protocol cooperativism: the underlying immaterial and algorithmic protocols are shared and open source, using copyfair principles (free sharing of knowledge, but commercialization conditioned by reciprocity)

Open cooperativism: the commons-based coops are distinguished from ‘collective capitalism’ by their commitment to creating and expanding common goods for the whole of society; in Platform coops it is the platforms themselves that are the commons, needed to enable and manage the exchanges that may be needed, while protecting it from capture by extractive netarchical platforms

Open and contributive accounting: fair distribution mechanisms that recognize all contributions

Open and shared supply chains for mutual coordination

Non-dominium forms of ownership (the means of production are held in common for the benefit of all participants in the eco-system.

In this paper, we will examine the emerging distributed and commons-based economy, as a base for post-capitalist transition, at three levels: the micro-village and other forms of cohousing/co-production, the city or town as a unit, and regional and global federations of cities. —

According to Bauwens and Kostakis, in a commons-based economy, an ecology of enterprises (ideally mostly cooperative or peer-to-peer) grows up as a value-added layer on top of information and natural resource commons. The small-scale institutions for managing and supporting the commons — e.g. the Mozilla Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, etc. — are mini-Partner States. To turn that around, the Partner State is a sort of commons-administering foundation writ large, a meta-organization supporting the commons and civil society. In our vision, a commons-centric society would ideally have:

a productive civil society that would contribute to the commons,

a generative market that would create added value around the commons,

a partner state, which is emerging prefiguratively in some urban practices, such as the Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of the Urban Commons or some policies of the Barcelona En Comú citizen platform.

In this vision, the partner state would be the guarantor of civic rights, but also of the equal contributory potential of all citizens. Without this function, communities could have unequal access to resources and capabilities, perpetuating inequality. In our vision, the state form would gradually lose its separateness from civil society, by implementing radically democratic procedures and practices.

Another good description comes from Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel:

Imagine a radically reconfigured and democratically accountable structure. One that, while preserving the more desirable characteristics of the Welfare State — social and public health provision and large infrastructure management and upkeep — radically democratizes them. It would do away with the State’s cozy symbiosis with market entities, while deconstructing its pernicious monopolies over money creation and exchange, and property and judicial rights. A second radical set of measures would prohibit the structural enforcement of inequality and the often violent repression of emancipatory alternatives. This structure would function in much the same way as foundations do in the Open Source software economy: providing the infrastructure for cooperation and the creation and upkeep of commons but not directing the process of social value creation and distribution. In other words, it would empower and protect the practice of commoning. This enabling metastructure — often referred to as “The Partner State” — would also take on new functions derived from already existing P2P/Commons practices.(…)

Policies for a postcapitalist transition that can be adopted at the local level include a local basic income, replacing the “privatization” of public assets with commons governance, promoting collaborative forms of organization and production, and in particular promoting the data commons. In the case of Barcelona, Mason has an extensive laundry list: Suppose Barcelona did these things:

• Brand itself as a city of commons and collaborative production

• End privatisation

• Massively reduce the cost of basic services like housing, transport, education, and health so that being in the precariat became more survivable

• Build an agent-based, complex model of the economy, with real inputs, so that participatory democracy could model complex decisions

• Prefer and promote collaborative organisations over both the centralised state and the market solutions

• Institute a citizens basic income, conditional on some participation on non-profit activities

• Decree that the networked data of the population as it uses public services is non-ownable.

Would capitalism collapse? No. The desperate, frantic “survival capitalists” would go away — the rip-off consultancies; the lowwage businesses; the rent-extractors. But you would attract the most innovative capitalists on earth, and you would make the city vastly more livable for the million-plus people who call it home.(…)

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