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Postcapitalising post carbon for the win

By Karun Cowper - posted Wednesday, 23 May 2018

For many environmentalists, the "New Economy" is (mis)understood to be simply an economy that has transitioned away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy powered economy. The reality is that there's not necessarily all that much postcapitalist about a mainstream green post-carbon economic vision.

Indeed postcapitalism, such as it is framed by (for example) Paul Mason in his 2015 book "PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future" appears to be a framework that many eco-warriors are not even aware of let alone consciously aspiring towards.

So what is the postcapitalism, what is the New Economy?


The New Economy Network of Australia defines the New Economy as follows;

Many different movements have emerged around the world focused on the concept of a 'New Economy'. Although they use different labels, such as the Social Economy, Solidarity Economy, Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy, Steady State Economy and Community Economy, they all share two key goals: (i) to challenge the current dominant economic system, with its reliance on fossil fuels, large scale resource extraction and socially unjust structures and wealth distribution, and (ii) to create and strengthen economic systems that serve the needs of people in ways that are ecologically sustainable, socially just and culturally diverse.

From my point of view, foundational to the emergence of the most interesting aspects of postcapitalist, New Economy developments are the Commons and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and their interrelation.

P2P theorist Michel Bauwens describes the Commons, as "an idea and practice, that has emerged as a new social, political and economic dynamic" and P2P as a "relational dynamic based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organized through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good, with forms of decision-making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network."

This interrelation of the Commons and P2P has been termed by Yochai Benkler (Harvard University) as "commons-based-peer-production".

Examples of existing commons-based-peer production are probably most familiar in the digital realm. Think of time banks, peer-to-peer lending, open-source software platforms like Linux, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Wordpress, Arduino, Rasberry Pi, Wikihouse, and many other digital technologies that are not based on a profit-making motive but rather enable individuals to do and share things of value socially, outside of the market system.


But it's not just in the digital space, we have an emergent wave of commons-based-peer-production in the physical world also that Jeremy Rifkin calls the "Internet of Things". Open design communities are manufacturing in Fab Labs, makerspaces, and community workshops. Futurist Jose Ramos terms this "cosmo-localization" where we have the potential for localising production by drawing on open source global design commons for a wide variety of things including medicines, furniture, assistive devices, farm tools, machinery etc. These are produced locally using technologies such as 3D printers, CNC machines and low-tech crafts tools and appropriate technology.

We have the beginnings of a radically democratised new socioeconomic framework that enables increased capacity for innovation and resilience that prefigures new ecosystems for sustainable communities with solidarity that can be prototyped and defended politically at local and transnational scales. As Bauwens says "the new political agent of change is neither the proletariat nor the precariat, but the commoner, an empowered figure fit for the challenges of our times".

Sadly it appears that not enough environmentalists are aware these exciting developments and we have instead a post-carbon economy being sold to us largely within the framework of "sustainable capitalism". Al Gore for example sells a "vision" that describes a green capitalism with capacity to "maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance metrics throughout the decision-making process". Expressed more simply, his view is that the market has a critical role in saving us from environmental disaster.

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For more information about the New Economy in Australia check out the New Economy Network Australia at .

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About the Author

Karun Cowper is a ratbag citizen journalist and activist based in Perth. He is a Friends of the Earth Australia operative and new economy, P2P, commoner tragic.

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New Economy Network Australia

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