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John Robb, from the open-source insurgency to the “Direct Economy”

The evolution of John Robb’s work in recent months points directly towards a new narrative, a refounding myth for the communitarian movement and P2P.

John Robb with the Indianos in MontevideoJohn Robb has launched a new blog: Homefree America. It is presented as his notebook on the American dream. On “Global Guerrillas,” he defined his objective as:

immersing himself in new ideas and frameworks that offer promise

The need for promise

Before getting into the contents of the blog, I think that it would be worthwhile to turn the concept around. For years, John split his time between market entrepreneurship and the analysis of new forms of conflict and insurgency on “Global Guerrillas.” But this research is now basically closed: all that’s left is to point out the repetition of the pattern:

open source warfare — a form of warfare where many participants, motivated for very different reasons, join together to take on a larger foe — now dominates modern conflict

On the other hand, rapid development of decomposition with the crisis in USA opened the way towards a new definition of resilience, in which the local and immediate environment of one’s own house incorporate technologies of the revolution P2P because

those improvements often lead to a lower dependence on an infrastructure that is declining inevitably towards bankruptcy.

It seemed that John was going to find, on the borders between P2P and localism, a new space in which to think. But “Resilient Communities” is not a blog of thoughts, like Global Guerrillas, but rather a ezine with novelties, examples of ingenious uses and news related to what John understands as a “resilient lifestyle.” Basically, it has earned a large number of followers, but it “doesn’t go anywhere,” it’s not a road on which new concepts will come, or new knowledge beyond hacks on crops or the achievement of domestic energy.

And of course, that’s not good enough for John. Why? Because to learn, to build knowledge, it’s important be going somewhere. It is that perspective, that promise, that allows us to understand reality dynamically, and understand the things that surround us, not only for what they are and how they affect us today, but for how they could provide a way–or block the way–to what we aspire to. As an old cyberpunk slogan went, “the future conditions the present more than the past.”

It’s a problem similar to what we studied in The Coming Futures: with the three large promises of redistribution of power opened after the fall of the wall now failed, substituted by galloping decomposition, which is nothing more than the simultaneous destruction of state and market, widespread incredulity, and consensus around the idea that “the system isn’t going anywhere” filter into every social conversation. The culture of decomposition is a culture of disillusion and an inability to establish commitments; ultimately, the main everyday point of institutional reference, the State, leaks, collapses, and is captured. And in that framework of the legitimation of “every man for himself,” localism, degrowth… are presented as alternatives, as the hope that a smaller, more manageable world–and inevitably economically and intellectually poorer–offer at least some safe reference points, a vital framework.

What promise?

John’s new area of development is that much more interesting because it represents an organized and serious attempt to coordinate a line of thought that recognizes the bite of the crisis and decomposition, recovers the central elements of the promise of distributed networks, globalization of the small, and the dissipation of rents. The key concept is the “Direct Economy,” an economy that

minimizes the formal structures used by bureaucracy and markets based on decision-making. (…)

  • It minimizes the role of intermediaries. Finance, retail commerce, lawyers, state. The customs officers of the old world.
  • It unravels the things that we used leave to the industrial bureaucracy of the past. From education to science, including manufacturing and…
  • [It is a] blind spot. It’s something that the entire edifice of the old economy can’t see, so don’t bother trying explain it. There’s also an overlap between the two economies, but sooner than later, the “direct economy” will eclipse the old (in terms of value for those who participate in it, and of the rate of innovation to which it will give place)

And so, the blog talks to us about the home as a productive unit in the global market, about the leap from employment to autonomy, and in general, about that great “unraveling,” the transition towards an economic system that reflects the reduction of the optimal scales of production.

This program, which is a research program but also a “market activism” program, is much more than an update of the line of thought of the power of networks of nearly a decade ago. It is a program for the construction of an environment “in parallel” with decomposition. And like every program, a possible future, a place to reach. Surely, this is the most valuable thing that can be offered at a time when decomposition is undermining culture like never before. And more important still: it offers a task and an autonomy that are already possible today. It invites not adherence, but rather, interaction, starting now, in a market with different rules.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

«John Robb, from the open-source insurgency to the “Direct Economy”» recibió 3 desde que se publicó el jueves 14 de noviembre de 2013 . Si te ha gustado este post quizá te gusten otros posts escritos por David de Ugarte.

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