David Bollier: To find alternatives to capitalism, think small
A very important and powerful short essay from David Bollier, who has been trying to see what new kinds of economic models can come from both the internet and environmentalism for nearly two decades now.
From The Nation in the US, this is an exciting overview of a "pluriverse" of small initiatives, loosely connected, that - if you zoom out - begins to look like a viable alternative.
Attempting to move beyond neoliberal capitalism may sound naive. But over the past two decades, some remarkable progress has already been made. Besides a range of relocalization strategies, a new sector of commons-based peer production has revolutionized software development, scientific research, academic publishing, education, and other fields by making their outputs legally and technically shareable.
In the halls of government, however, policy-makers and even progressives show little interest in the profound political and economic implications of free and open-source software, Creative Commons licenses, citizen science, data commons, open educational resources, and open design and hardware.
Most of these and other movements are seen as too small, local, unorthodox, or little-known to be consequential. They don’t swing elections. Their participants tend to eschew politics and policy, and often don’t regard their work as part of a unified movement. They see themselves as part of a pulsating pluriverse of autonomous projects, each working diligently in its own separate sphere.
Counterintuitively, this pluriverse may fuel a true progressive revival. “The next big thing will be a lot of small things,” the designer Thomas Lommée predicted recently, neatly capturing the structural logic of postcapitalist movements and the generativity of the Internet.
Acting on this insight calls for a new mind-set. Greater attention should be paid to places and players on distributed networks. The swarms of self-selected individuals and projects should be recognized as serious actors that can meet real needs in new ways.
We also need to acknowledge the limits of markets and centralized bureaucracies, which are so often hell-bent on asserting total control, engineering dependencies, and eliminating the space for social deliberation and genuine human agency.