there is no public in the global market

Two years ago, just after the pandemic was declared, I suggested that we need to go beyond civil society, governments, and markets — toward a commons or noosphere — to deal with the entangled complexities facing us. My assumptions at that time have not changed much to date.

  1. The three organizing forms for society, chronologically — Tribes, Institutions (Governments), Markets — are widely applicable across history.
  2. Each form builds on the other and changes it.
  3. The last form is the dominant form — today that would be the Market form (market volatility today is increasing inequality and turmoil)
  4. A new form is emerging — Networks (Commons)‚ and hence the T+I+M+N model.
  5. This form has also been called the noosphere.
  6. I have found evidence that what initiated each new form was a change in human communication media — T+I (written word), T+I+M (print), T+I+M+N (electric/digital).
  7. I believe we are currently in between a triform (T+I+M) and a quadriform (T+I+M+N) society, which accounts for much of the current political turmoil in our post-modern world.
  8. This model can help inform us how to build better organizational forms for a coming age of entanglement.

I am less inclined to include the tribal form of organizing as pertinent — after having read Graeber & Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything — but the continuing dominance of the market form and the incompetence of the institutional (government) form to deal with our global challenges continues. This was recently highlighted by Dr. Henry Madison on a long Twitter thread. This is the most succinct explanation of how our market-dominated society operates, and why this is not sustainable.

Why don’t governments protect us from Covid? Because market economies replaced societies, and they don’t have a public. Only individual consumers. No geographical or ethnic or any other identifier for people, except as customers of a global market.

Many wonder when the Covid debacle will end, any day now surely governments will come to their senses. (In Australia this MAY still happen.) But we may have reached a tipping point. And the idea of ‘endemic’ Covid might hold the key to understanding where this might go. As Katherine Wu showed, ‘endemic’ can mean many things. But historically it practically meant a disease that couldn’t be eliminated. And just about always, that meant a disease left to fester in poor countries we didn’t care much about.

We told these poor countries to ‘live with’ these diseases, because we couldn’t be bothered helping them to control them. But with the politics of market economies, there are no countries. Just global markets. How we used to just treat other countries is now how we’re starting to treat our own people. They’re all just market economy consumers, where they are is irrelevant. You can see this with the amount of labour we import, which our lockdowns highlighted, when they couldn’t come.

The reason modern governments decided to ‘live with’ a lethal virus, is because that’s what they’ve always done, when it was other countries. And now the globalised market (as they see it) is reaching its apogee, the distinctions between rich and poor countries are reproduced *within* rich countries as well.

It’s an evolution of the same colonial model, now within our societies, not just between countries. Note the obsession with ‘jobs’ in the Covid recovery, the only territorial remnant people are now allowed is their attachment to a workplace.

You’re interchangeable now with the poor in countries who have historically been plagued with malaria and other endemic diseases, which is why you’re now told mass infection here is ‘endemic’ too. Your government doesn’t defend you as an Australian, because we’re not citizens now, we’re all (global) employees. Every bit of agency and identity people have, including their relationship to their own land, has been increasingly replaced with a global job market.

Look at how often conservatives say ‘move to where the jobs are’, and how transport infrastructure is one of their greatest passions. The hyper-mobilisation of humanity, nobody should ‘work from home’, because their home now is increasingly their job. Their identity is as an employee. You’ll be treated like a citizen in a developing country now, because to the market economy, that is in fact what you are. What all of us are. This is the endgame of neoliberal and libertarian politics, where it was always going to arrive. —Twitter 2022-06-02

We need to move beyond government and beyond markets. The answers will not come from government or from the market. They will come from networked committed people. The challenge will be to ensure that these groups do not become tribal populist counter-movements, as we have enough of these already. Saving democracy is a worthy objective. ‘Draining the swamp’ and ‘freedumb rallies’ are not.

Let’s not give up on how the internet has connected citizens around the world. Instead of leaving social media platforms, have better conversations on them and look for new platforms to deeply consider how human civilization can advance. Consider blogging instead of posting long Twitter threads. First we can own our media, then own the conversation. A networked commons can emerge and deal with the critical challenges ignored by governments and markets.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead (attrib.)

communities government markets and the networked commons

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