Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Updates about missing posts (2nd of 5): “TIMN: some implications for thinking about political philosophy and ideology, cont. (3rd of 3 parts)”

This is the second post in a series that revisits the prospects for finishing five missing posts from years gone by. It continues my hesitant effort to revisit the prospects for those posts. See the first post in this series for context and explanation (here).

As highlights of this post, I’d point to the insightful forward-looking quotes from writings by Michael Sandel, Steven Hayward, Michel Bauwens, and David Bollier.

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What this post — “TIMN: some implications for thinking about political philosophy and ideology, cont. (3rd of 3 parts)” — was going to say

TIMN provides as good an optic as any other out there for trying to discern future political philosophies and ideologies. So I’d like to finish this post someday. But whether or not I do, I’ve already done numerous posts in recent years, identified later, that amount to spin-offs about this theme.

This 2009 series was supposed to have three parts. Part 1 was about the past. It showed that history’s major political “isms” and “ocracies” can be analyzed — deconstructed, interpreted — as expressions of particular combinations of TIMN. Part 2 was about the recent present. It claimed that America’s two dominant ideologies — liberalism and conservatism — are now too triformist (T+I+M) and too exhausted to be suited to the emerging quadriformist (T+I+M+N) era. Most partisans of both liberalism and conservatism remain stuck in narrow government-vs.-market (I vs. M) debates, while other partisans seem inclined to backslide into parochial T-type tribalism. Whatever the case, few seem to see a way beyond their aging triformist views.

This Part 3 was going to be about the future, by scanning for new political philosophies and ideologies that may be emerging across the spectrum to express +N. TIMN itself has its own implications for fashioning future philosophies and ideologies, but the purpose of this post was to use TIMN to assess what was emerging elsewhere. TIMN is not inherently ideological; it is not inherently Leftist or Rightist. But it can be pointed in Left or Right directions, within limits. I regard these attributes as strengths of TIMN.

I made preliminary points about much of this in my 1996 paper about TIMN. So I initially figured I’d write this Part-3 post by revising and updating text from that 1996 paper (P-7967, pp. 30-35). But that approach kept bogging me down, and before I could concoct a better approach, I moved on to other matters.

My old notes for this prospective post are sketchy. But it was set to emphasize two search criteria about future-oriented views from a TIMN perspective:
  • Presence of +N: What matters most for future political philosophies and ideologies is that they have a strong +N element — that they give it a distinct purpose and role, and not just bandy the term “network” in loose ways. The rise of +N depends on its capacity to shape a new realm, not just its capacity to reshape older TIMN forms and their realms.
  • A sense of balance: What also matters is that future philosophies and ideologies express some kind of balance among the TIMN forms — preferably by recognizing the significance of all four forms, their strengths as well as limits for creating desirable societies.
As a result, this post was going to tackle Francis Fukuyama’s forward-looking “end of history” argument. If TIMN is correct, then this “end of history” argument can’t be true. His famed thesis held (1992, p. xi) that “liberal democracy may constitute the “end point of man’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government,” … the “end of history.”” And he has persisted with this view, saying (2002), “The basic point — that liberal democracy is the final form of government — is still basically right.”

From a TIMN perspective, Fukuyama’s thesis is thoroughly triformist (T+I+M). It does not grasp that the network form of organization is on the rise and will reinvigorate history by generating quadriformist (T+I+M+N) societies. Liberal democracy may well endure, but not in the conventional end-of-history sense. A new beginning is emerging.

This post was also going to be critical of market-mad — i.e., excessively +M — arguments, mostly espoused by conservative libertarians, which claim that future progress depends on inserting market principles into evermore areas of society. TIMN is fully pro-market, but only to a proper extent that is kept in balance and within limits vis à vis the other forms.

The critique I intended to emphasize back then was Michael Sandel’s, as expressed in four Reith Lectures in 2009. I saved them for the missing post, and they’re worth recalling for his argument that America has evolved from having a market economy into becoming a “market society”:
“[T]he better kind of politics we need is a politics oriented less to the pursuit of individual self-interest and more to the pursuit of the common good. That at least is the case I shall try to make in these lectures. …
“One way of understanding what’s happened is to see that we’re at the end of an era, an era of market triumphalism. The last three decades were a heady, reckless time of market mania and deregulation. We had the free market fundamentalism of the Reagan-Thatcher years and then we had the market friendly Neo-Liberalism of the Clinton and Blair years, which moderated but also consolidated the faith that markets are the primary mechanism for achieving the public good. Today that faith is in doubt. The alternative is to re-think the reach of markets into spheres of life where they don’t belong. We need a public debate about what it means to keep markets in their place. …
“My general point is this. Some of the good things in life are corrupted or degraded if turned into commodities, so to decide when to use markets, it’s not enough to think about efficiency; we have also to decide how to value the goods in question. Health, education, national defence, criminal justice, environmental protection and so on - these are moral and political questions, not merely economic ones. To decide them democratically, we have to debate case by case the moral meaning of these goods in the proper way of valuing. This is the debate we didn’t have during the age of market triumphalism. As a result, without quite realising it, without ever deciding to do so, we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society.” (source)
Sandel makes a vigorous case against taking +M to an extreme. That is consistent with TIMN. Yet his laudable communitarian call for rebalancing via “a new politics of the common good” does not make him a proponent of +N. Indeed, he never mentions networks as a useful form of organization. The closest he comes in what I’ve read is in a comment about civil society:
“What I think we need to try to do is to try to build institutions of civil society that cut across national boundaries and provide ways of debating questions that spill across borders. And also to build up those forms of civil society that may be closer to citizens than national assemblies are, or national newspapers, so that more local particular sites within civil society can contribute to a rejuvenation of democratic discourse.” (source)
In short, Sandel’s views are in line with my understanding of TIMN — but sparingly, for there’s not much +N in them.

Somewhat in the same vein, but from a conservative angle, is the following quote I expected to include by Steven Hayward:
“The single largest defect of modern conservatism, in my mind, is its insufficient ability to challenge liberalism at the intellectual level, in particular over the meaning and nature of progress. In response to the left's belief in political solutions for everything, the right must do better than merely invoking "markets" and "liberty."” (Hayward, 2009)
He’s right — it’s certainly important for TIMN how the “meaning and nature of progress” get treated. Indeed, most of this post was to be about new visions of progress.

Above all, then, I intended to call attention to the most fully +N formulation that I could find at the time anywhere on the political spectrum: the P2P (peer-to-peer) theory proposed by Michel Bauwens. It bothered me not a bit that his approach was well to the Left. Rather, it helped confirm my sense that theorists on the Left were coming to grips with network/+N implications far more than were theorists on the Right. At the time I couldn’t find anything comparable on the Right (and still can’t), where the most forward-looking thinking was (and still is) mainly about heightening the +M part of TIMN, while also constraining the state (the +I part) and reviving family and cultural foundations à la the T part of TIMN.

I won’t reiterate what I might have said about Bauwens’ P2P orientation back then, because, while I never finished this post, I have covered his work in later posts (see below for clarification). What I do want to mention here is that his work, along with others’, pointed to the emergence of a new philosophy/ideology that emphasized a looming renascence of the commons (sometimes called “commonism”). Here are three apropos quotes that I saved to use in this post (and they still make for instructive reading):
“The question is therefore indeed whether [p2p is] just a subsystem, easily integrated in capitalism, as most analysts think, such as Benkler and Lessig say, or whether the post-capitalist logic inherent in the p2p dynamic, will go from seed form to parity to dominance. The latter evolution is the ‘bet’ of the P2P Foundation, but of course, we can’t prove that future, and I fully accept a different scenario, i.e. a different post-capitalist scenario that is oppressive and possible worse than capitalism. However, my insistence of p2p ‘transcendence’ in no way obviates the need for political action and for a unified political movement. If you read our statement of principles, this is one of the key goals, a unifying of social forces that support more equality and justice, and hence, an interconnection of the free culture movements, worker and farmers movements, and “socialized entrepreneurs” that help sustain our commons.” (Bauwens, 2010)
“[T]he new peer to peer left is, will be, not focused on the state, but on the Commons. The core of peer to peer is the autonomous development of civil society, to which the market and the state become servants. Peer to peer is about ‘absolute democracy’, i.e. about extending autonomous and democratic governance (peer governance) to the largest extent possible, beyond politics, into the realms of production (peer production) , co-created culture and participative spirituality. The state, still serves the common good where necessary, but has to provide at least neutral arbitrage between the market and civil society.
“The peer to peer left is a direct emanation of civil society, and not of sections of the state apparatus. … The Commons is primary, the State and the Market are secondary.” (Bauwens, 2010)
“Most ideological debates tend to focus on the relative merits of the state versus markets. I consider that a false choice. They ignore the commons. The commons is an intermediate form of governance and collective provisioning that has its own advantages over large government bureaucracies and impersonal, sometimes-predatory markets. The commons is a voluntary, self-organized political economy that provides important services and goods. It builds social capital. It promotes civic participation. And it often commands greater personal loyalty and moral legitimacy than either governments or markets.” (Bollier, 2009)
From a TIMN perspective, this is a significant development that relates to the rise of +N, the search for making it influential and effective, and the prospects for a new “war of ideas” about how societies should be organized and how progress should be achieved. But I didn’t manage to write any of this up at the time.

Even so, during the ensuing months and years I did go on to write various new posts that expressed many of the themes touched on above:
  • First, in a series of reviews about the future of the state: Phillip Bobbitt’s “market state”, Phillip Blond’s “civic state”, and Michel Bauwens’ “partner state” vis à vis TIMN.
  • Later, in reviews about John Keane’s concept of “monitory democracy”, Steven Johnson’s concept of “peer progressivism”, and James Bennett and Michael Lotus’s concept of “America 3.0”.
  • Along the way, in posts about the likely nature of a +N sector, and related to that, about the rise of the commons and a proposal to create a U.S. Chamber of Commons.
  • I also tried to identify and refer readers to blogs where these and related matters are discussed in TIMN-like ways: notably, the blogs of David Brin and Michel Bauwens.

Thus I’ve continued to pursue the theme of this missing post, even though it per se may never advance beyond this update.

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My notes for this missing post indicate that I was also going to include some TIMN analysis about emerging philosophies / ideologies that were oriented to regress rather than progress: e.g., collapsitarianism and dystopianism; warnings that communism and fascism may be revived in new guises; forecasts of “neo-feudalism” and “neo-medievalism”; tracts decrying modernity and progress; and adaptive ideas for “resilient communities” and “transition towns” as ways to defend against the dawn of dark times. As John Robb noted in a quote I saved: “I suspect that without fallback positions like resilient communities, much worse would happen. It prevents the mob.” And I also figured a well-known quote from Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks would fit into the post: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Including a section on this would have helped re-affirm that TIMN is useful for understanding regress as well as progress. Particularly relevant is a TIMN observation that visions of despair about civilization, modernity, and progress normally begin and end by lamenting a demise of communal life and a yearning for its renewal. What becomes important in such views, then, is the tribal/T form. People want to re-unite around it anew, the more so when they claim that the +I and +M forms have failed them. And of course today this often gets tied to hopes for the +N form, and hence for T+M combinations. Reflections in this vein, according to my old notes, include Robb’s notions of “networked tribes” and “global guerrillas” as well as Jay Taber’s views about “how tribal institutions and networks can lead the way in democratizing capital ownership — what I consider the most vital of human projects for a sustainable future.”

While I didn’t get far with researching this theme at the time, at least I nodded to it in a subsequent post which noted that “collapsitarians and dystopians across the ideological spectrum argue that many states and other big hierarchies are goners, markets have become too ruinous, and thus the future belongs to whoever can best cluster together around tribal and network modalities.” I still hope to do a full separate post about this someday.

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[EDITED — April 3, 2014: To reduce bulk, I deleted two appendices and references to them in the text. If any reader is curious, what was Appendix A came from my 1992 RAND paper on TIMN (P-7967, pp. 30-35), and what was Appendix B came from my 1991 journal article on cyberocracy (RP-222, pp. 282-283). I also deleted a closing afterthought, based on Appendix B, that did not reflect my original notes for this post (but might make for a good post on its own some other time).]

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