I very much appreciate Al Hammond insights into the new market dynamics of digital capitalism, and on the likely perenniality of the market function within a broader plurality of resource allocation methods.
One key for me is to distinguish capitalism from markets, and to realize that markets can be transformed. Markets can rule with a market state at their disposition , but market can also serve other more dominant systems of allocation as it did when it was an emergent force under feudalism.
Today, with the exponential growth of new digital and urban commons, most of which are subsumed under capital but by no means all of them, we have a new opportunity to transform markets so that they can serve the commons.
Capitalism is, as Kojin Karatani has argued in The Structure of World History, a three-in-one system: capital - state - nation.
Crucial in this current conjucture, is that the classic strategy of change ’within capitalism’, the famous Polanyan double movement, in which the mobilized people (aka the ’nation’) forced the state to periodically rebalance run-away capitalist logics, seems to no longer function. The most likely reason is that capital has become transnational, and that nation-states simply no longer have the clout and the will to rebalance through inter-state efforts.
This means that though the system is in deep crisis, it’s alternatives are in a bind too, which is a great opportunity for a more systematic transformation.
One of the potential strategies is to work with the commoners and their commons-based entrepreneurial coalitions, and to work, from the commons outward, to transform the market forms that depend on the commons. This is crucial , as capitalism in the advanced sectors and places, is moving from commodity-labor forms, to ’netarchical forms’, i.e. the direct exploitation of human cooperation, whether in commons-production or in distributed markets.
In my last contribution, I mentioned briefly protocol cooperativism. Here is the rationale for it.
In the last few years , we have seen the emergence of a cooperative/solidarity-based alternative to the netarchical platforms (GAFA), i.e. the platform cooperative movement. Signs of change are the two successfull conferences in NYC, evidence of union-coop funded platforms for nurses and cleaners, and more and more cooperative digital platforms that are listed in the Internet of Ownership directory. I am personally involved in the shift from the cooperative and ESS movement in France, towards a convergence of cooperative and commons forms; and the same evolution is underway in cooperative federations in other countries and Western Europe.
Platform coops are worker or multi-stakeholder owned and governed platforms, that are at the service of a commons or distributed market based community, in which the platform itself is considered a commons; and the ’cooperative’ legal form is considered to be a management model for such commons.
But they can easily slip back into competitive cooperativismand become mere collective modalities of capitalism. This is why platform coops need to be ’open coops’, i.e. they must make their contribution to the commons a strategic and legal priority. They must move from a position of capital accumulation, to a position of commons accumulation, and from a position of redistribution, to one of predistribution. The way to do this is by adopting protocol cooperativism.
This means there should not be 40 different ride-hailing coops competing with the one Uber, each with their own software (there are 13 ordering software packages for ordering food from CSA’s, only in the italian solidarity economy, as Jason Nardi of RIPESS told me once).
There should be one open source ride-hailing applications, which can be used by all the different open/platform cooperatives.
Given the fragmentation of the commons economy, who can be the ’agents’ of such transformation, of such ’commonification’ of market dynamics?
Today, we already have 2 such agents, but we need a third political/institutional one.
The two first agents which have emerged in the last 15 years are the global open source communities in the world of free software and open design, who have successfully created for-benefit associations (such as the FLOSS Foundations) as ’commons infrastructure organisations’.
The second agent are the global generative and entre-donneurial coalitions who have created market activities and incomes for the commons sector. This second sector is still very emergent and weak, but is exists and is growing.
But global transnational civic institiutions, and global post-capitalist ethical market coalitions may not be enough, we may need a transnational political institutions, i.e. the ’state form’ of the commons economy.
My intuition is that, in a age of increasingly fragmented sovereignty, coalitions of cities may play this role. The exponential rise of urban commons, (I identified 500 projects in a 300k populated city of Ghent, covering all provisioning systems), the rise of ’rebel cities’, ’fearless cities’, climate change coalized cities, commons-oriented progressive coalitions in spanish cities (look at the amazing Impetus Plan for the growth and support of the cooperative, solidarity and commons economy in Barcelona), give me hope that in time, coalitions of cities may emerge who can collective support the infrastructures of protocol cooperativism. In other words, networked cities today are a potential form of transnational governance that may also be an important agent for the commons transition.
The role of progressive coalitions at the nation-state level, is to support the emergence , consolidation, and trans-nationalization of the commons infrastructure, so that it becomes maximally resilient and able to withstand the pressures of global capital.
An all-out assault of a single progressive nation-state against capital today is doomed, but the nation-state arena can be an area for consolidation of a transnationally organized commons sector.