Monday, March 12, 2012

occupy as a business model...,

aljazeera |Last week I discussed the value crisis of contemporary capitalism: the broken feedback loop between the productive publics who create exponentially increasing use value, and those who capture this value through social media - but do not return these income streams to the value "produsers".

In other words, the current so-called "knowledge economy" is a sham and a pipe dream - because abundant goods do not fare well in a market economy. For the sake of the world's workers, who live in an increasingly precarious situation, is there a way out of this conundrum? Can we restore the broken feedback loop?

Strangely enough, the answer may be found in the recent political movement that is Occupy, because along with "peer producing their political commons", they also exemplified new business and value practices. These practices were, in fact, remarkably similar to the institutional ecology that is already practiced in producing free software and open hardware communities. This is not a coincidence.

Let's look back at the workings of Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park, when it was still in operation in the autumn. At its centre was a productive public, reaching consensus through the General Assembly and offering all kinds of templates ("Mic Check", "Protest Camping", "Working Groups", et cetera) which, in a true open-source way, could be copied and practiced by similar communities the world over, but also modified to suit local needs.

This community had all kinds of needs: physical needs, such as food, shelter and healthcare. Did they resort to the market economy for this?

The answer isn't a simple yes or no. Occupy Wall Street set up working groups to find solutions to their physical needs. The economy was considered as a provisioning system (as explained in Marvin Brown's wonderful book, Civilising the Economy), and it was the "citizens", organised in these working groups, who decided which provisioning system was appropriate given their ethical values.

For example, organic farmers from Vermont provided free food to the campers, but this had a negative side effect: the local street vendors, generally poor immigrants, did not fare too well with everyone getting free food. The occupiers cared about the vendors and so they set up an Occupy Wall Street Vendor Project, which raised funds to buy food from the vendors.

Bingo: in one swoop, OWS created a well-functioning ethical economy that included a market dynamic, but that also functioned in harmony with the value system of the occupiers. What is crucial here is that it was the citizens who decided on the most appropriate provisioning system - and not the property and money owners in an economy divorced from ethical values. Fist tap Arnach.