Posted by: Re.Rooting | 23 June, 2008

Simultaneous, Co-locative Pluralistic Systems

Imagine what a plurality of systems available on local and regional levels could offer a society in terms of representation and resilience… A selection of systems available, offering real alternatives to misrepresentative and exploitative power structures to the point that they eventually become obsolete. It is necessary for a society to be resilient and adaptive to the circumstances of failed centralized systems.  It is necessary to have available a wide range of available options that can allow a society to not “put all its eggs in one basket”, so to speak, and instead distribute the impact of economic and political instability over a breadth of choices in which any citizen can actively participate and find their needs met.

For example, when pluralized monetary systems are more readily available (as the monolithic one most commonly available, globalized capitalism via the IMF and Federal Reserve, seems to be pretty unsustainable and misrepresentative), local and regionalized monetary systems will be able to establish a kind of hybrid hegemony over these ones that are stretched out and render over-centralized, convoluted and exploitative economic systems obsolete. This is not anything that hasn’t been done on a large scale before, except this time around, the options will be more participatory, sustainable and pluralistic, and there will be more of an understanding of the inherent flux, the ebbs and flows of markets and their viability.
In times of resource scarcity, instability of markets and systems will undoubtedly become huge factors in determining the future viability, sustainability and livability of communities. Recognizing that systems will always be in flux and that different situations call for different approaches is necessary for adaptation. Pluralistic economies and political systems will allow us to evolve more robust and resilient systems, as we practice multiple ones side by side in an effort to reveal which has more viability in given situations. As well, one system or approach will not always be the best in any given situation, moreover, there will most often be several effective approaches.

Not only is it the systems but the approaches that are taken within these systems and the solutions that are offered to problems that are important. Thus, in systems that are more locally representative and participatorially managed, solutions and approaches will be more regionally oriented and will be dynamic and scalable to the needs of the communities they serve.
Thus the relative success or failure of any given system can be distributed over a network of systems where their plural nature will allow the participants more flexibility and adaptive experimentation to make more readily available new economic paradigms not yet functionally realized. Creativity, Ingenuity and the need for social evolution will all play into our economic and political schema more fully, as new approaches will offer many new possibilities especially when they are conceived “in the field”, so to speak, as opposed to being cooked up in some intellectual laboratory, they would be tested and evolve in practice.

What would be the goals? To provide more flexible, less volatile and more resilient approaches for communities to subsist and live decent lives in the world. Reduction of volatility is important, as it is the driving factor behind resource scarcity, misrepresentation, economic hardship and exploitation. It is largely a product of a globalized market where corporate and banking interests, regardless of the impact of what they are doing, run rampant and destabilize, weaken and deflate or inflate entire economies with the sheer force of their will and way. For example, the ability to turn food into a commodity has destabilized the food market to an extent that vast amounts of vital resources may be made purposely unavailable or even be destroyed to prevent price fluctuations or for the interests of the food brokers, not the end-users whose livelihood and sustenance are at stake.
So, by giving the participants a wide range of options in which to support themselves economically, there is a better chance that people will feel better represented, that they will feel better compensated for and actualized by their labours, that they will see better value in participating in whatever systems that they choose, and that they are given a more robust set of options to distribute the impact of probable failures and to distribute what is available by whatever means are best suited to the purpose.
This would also reduce the level of influence and power one could have over others.  If, as is the case now, a certain system becomes overrun by the power and influence of a small body of actors, to the undeniable detriment of the participants, it would be easier to render anything as such obsolete. By the very nature of pluralistic, co-locative systems, there is no main entity to control, no primary means to take the reigns of and thus no capacity for full hegemony. As well, smaller systems are obviously more manageable, and thus the checks and balances that ideally go into managing these systems are more easily applied, and any behavior indicative of malintent could be dealt with by the participants themselves, rather than depending on a convoluted, beauracratic system that you can only hope will look out for the public interest, or on extremely powerful market actors to act ethically and justly.

The most important thing to realise about pluralistic, co-locative systems is that they are here, concurrent with our daily lives, but are slowly disappearing as the powers-that-be have seen it fit to further hegemonize our available set of options.  For example, people very often sell things to eachother without vendors licenses or business licenses, such as on craigslist or among friends.  These represent valid transactions of property, but are, in no means, a direct product of our capitalist systems.  No retailer is involved in my buying a file cabinet from my friend mike, unless you consider the original retailer he purchased it from.  This would be an act that is against the goals and principles of our current capitalist system, as it contradicts the values of wastefulness and perceived obsolesence that are such driving market factors.  Freecycle is an even greater example of a system that exists side by side with retail enterprise, or putting things out on curbs or having garage sales.  These are all valid ways of transferring and distributing property, and with a LETS system or community currency,  along with more localized, collective produsage, they would become more robust and strong alternatives to the current overriding economic sphere.

Another example of a system that exists pluralistically next to another more commonly recognized would be common law, versus statuatory law.  Common law exists as a situational practice that is settled between the parties involved, with minimal involvement from hierarchical institutions.  They are dictated not by governmental laws passed but by jury decisions made in courts and by contractural agreements made between parties, which is provisioned in the U.S. Constitution, 1:10, as a legally binding entity whose freedom to contract is not inhibited by any state or federal institutions or by any branch of government, and instead is based on the fundamental rights of the parties involved. The most commonly understood instance would be common law marriage, though there are many other forms you might not be aware of, such as common law trusts (private trusts, pure trusts, public trusts, land trusts, etc. etc.), many contractural obligations you make (including your right to add ARR on any contract you sign, as this protects your rights in the instance that you rescind any in contract that you were not aware of at the time of signing), etc.  I will write more about common law in another post.  This is an excellent example of an entire institution that exists side-by-side with another, where they do not necessarily contradict eachother but where people can choose freely between either one in different situations.  The uses of common law and other alternative legal institutions will become more prevalent as centralized systems become less and less efficient in managing vastly distributed populations like the U.S.

Lastly, an example that many of us have probably enjoyed are farmers markets.  These offer a more direct relationship between the producer and the consumer of the food, on more levels than just economic.  This offers an opportunity for the farmer to eliminate the meddling of the agro-industrial complex and the dilution of the value of their efforts.  Increasingly, as the international food system dwindles in viability, many people will be turning to their local farmer’s markets as a robust alternative to food grown thousands of miles away.  Even restaurants are beginning to turn more to local food sources as the food crisis deepens without abatement.

Complex Adaptive Systems Science offers a wonderful approach to managing such a multiplicity of systems.  If you are interested in these kind of topics, this is a field  of study that you should look into, along with resilience management.

It is also important to realise that, though I have mostly focused on economic systems, this kind of doctrine has far wider implications.  Not only has this been applied to the concept of energy alternatives, where a wealth of alternatives and a diversity of resources will contribute to sustainability and to resilience, but there has been talk about applying this to other things such as political systems and other types of systems.  Though it already exists on certain levels, I am advocating that it be further developed and more foundational alternatives be called up and cultivated to provide a more robust set of complete alternatives to current modalities.

There are a wide range of viable economic systems, outlooks and factors available, many of which are or have been in practice:

  • Participatory Economics
  • Biogeregionalism
  • Mutual Aid
  • Traditional Economies
  • Open Money/ Free Banking
  • Cooperatives
  • Reciprocity
  • Eco-Socialism
  • Free Market
  • Mutualism
  • Syndicalism/ Worker’s self management
  • Geoism
  • Community Supported Systems
  • theories of value
  • peer2peer
  • Collectivism

Emergent Networks as Distributed Reputation System
David Hales

Local/Community Currency:


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