Friday, November 3, 2017

A TIMN-ish article by George Monbiot

Guardian columnist George Monbiot makes TIMN-ish points in this analysis of how to think about a society’s economic spheres. He criticizes that most people, especially our leaders, act as though there are only two: the state sphere, and the market sphere — i.e., the public and private sectors. Not so, says Monbiot, for there are really “four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons.”

This maps perfectly well with TIMN’s four evolutionary forms: tribes, institutions, markets, and networks. The household sector, first recognized by Aristotle, took shape, mostly around families, ages ago as the T/tribal form arose. Monbiot notes that this sector goes unrecognized these days, yet its activities (e.g., home health care) greatly subsidize the next two sectors. The state and market sectors fit respectively with TIMN’s +I/institutional form and the later +M/market form. As for the commons sector, Monbiot observes that it emerged ages ago, then got mostly enclosed and disregarded by political and economic elites, and is only now making a comeback. As for TIMN, it expects the rise of the +N/network form to generate a separate new sector in the decades ahead, most likely a commons sector. Today, recognition of its importance, distinctiveness, and future potential is growing anew, thanks partly to writings by Elinor Ostrom and to theory-and-practice efforts by activist outfits like The P2P Foundation and the Commons Strategies Group.

So, Monbiot’s four sectors map well with TIMN. But that’s not all that is TIMN-ish here. He further argues that all four are so valuable that they should be kept in “balance” — a strategic dynamic in TIMN theory — by working to strengthen the weaker two, namely households and commons. Finally, while he doesn’t offer an explicitly evolutionary viewpoint à la TIMN, he hints that a proper recognition of all four sectors could induce “the social and environmental transformation for which so many of us have been waiting.” TIMN foresees that as well.

Here are some eye-catching passages:
“Both sides seem to agree that state and market are the only sectors worth discussing: politics should move one way or the other along this linear scale. In fact, there are four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons. The neglect of the last two by both neoliberals and social democrats has created many of the monstrosities of our times.” …

“I’m not proposing we abandon either market or state, but that we balance them by defending and expanding the two neglected sectors.” …

“I hope such parties can take the obvious step, and recognise that the economy has four sectors, not two. That’s the point at which it can begin: the social and environmental transformation for which so many of us have been waiting.”
How far Monbiot can/will continue to move in this direction, I’ve no idea, for his writings are fairly new to me. He is somewhere on the Left. But that’s fine with me, for now I can add his name to the few other writers, all on the Left, who are also developing frameworks that have much in common with TIMN, notably Michel Bauwens and Kojin Karatani. I’m still waiting and hoping for thinkers on the Right to become more TIMN-ish.

A step I wish Monbiot had taken — it’s somewhat implied but not stated explicitly — is to point out that his four-part design would make a sound basis for crafting a new political narrative that reorients how people think about current trends and also looks far ahead to a brighter future. He does write appealingly about the importance of political narratives in a prior article (I’ll point to it in the first comment below), but he has yet to put it all together. I want to do likewise with (and for) TIMN, but I’m moving and maneuvering awfully slowly these days.



As noted above, here’s the article (and book) where Monbiot provides a stirring analysis of the importance of “powerful political narratives”, in which he observes that:

“The first observation is the least original. It is the realisation that it is not strong leaders or parties that dominate politics as much as powerful political narratives. The political history of the second half of the 20th century could be summarised as the conflict between its two great narratives: the stories told by Keynesian social democracy and by neoliberalism.” …

“But because we have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to replace our tired political stories with a compelling narrative of transformation and restoration, we have failed to realise this potential. As we rekindle our imagination, we discover our power to act. And that is the point at which we become unstoppable.”


[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Oct 17.]


Harold Jarche said...

I presented TIMN as part of a workshop with the Finnish Prime Minster's Office, and it was well-received. I will let you know how it goes, David.

Thanks again for your work and inspiration.

David Ronfeldt said...

excellent to hear. thanks for updating me.

actually, i learned of your blog post about this a while back and have been intending to leave a comment. soon.

i reluctantly joined facebook a while back, and rather than quit it, i've found a way to make it useful for preliminary posts. i spend more time there now than at my own and others blogs. if you ever join, please "friend" me.