Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rifkin's new book continued

Continuing from this post.

Chapter 11 is on the emerging ecological worldview of global consciousness, the democratization of everything. One of its expressions was the free software and open source movements, both dedicated to making information accessible to all for minimal to no cost. It was based on the notion that everyone could share, change, mix knowledge in a collaborative endeavor where no one person or company owned it. All of which transpired in the global commons of the internet beyond blood ties, religious affiliations and national boundaries, thus enacting global consciousness.

Cultural creation though is limited by the nature of the communication medium. The print revolution, and later tv and radio, favored individual authorship and copyright protection, the enclosure and privatization of knowledge. Previously in scribe cultures knowledge was shared and authorship was from divine inspiration. The internet reincorporates the sharing but replaces the theological underpinnings with global collaborative efforts. It also replaces the notion of scarcity with abundance.

This new commons needed a unifying narrative or worldview, heretofore having to navigate within the capitalist paradigm or regress to old notions of the commons. They found their theme in the ecological sciences, where the focus was not so much on individual species but how they interacted within environments. And most importantly, how all the environmental niches interacted with the biosphere as a whole.

It replaced the capitalist invisible hand, which was itself a holdover from a theological God in control to rational, self-interested individuals in control. Lacking a systems view it replaced God with the invisible force of a marginally less superstitious autonomous Market. Backed by ecological and other scientific advances, that is being replaced with with the visible systems view of the global eco-social commons, which redefines our place within it.

PS: Note that the invisible hand of the market is still metaphysical in that it must posit some supernatural agency that operates on its own if we but focus on our self-interest, i.e. the market will take care of itself. Moving into systems science and ecological consciousness thus naturalizes this process, making previously supernatural agencies like Gods or markets 'visible' and understandable, and reconnecting us with ourselves, our peers and our environments, but in a postmetaphysical framework. This also applies to the sort of instrumental rationality inherent to 'enclosure' of disciplines of study rather than to interdisciplinary cross-sharing more indicative of Habermas' collaborative, communicative action. It is not by chance that Habermas' calls this latter form of rationality postmetaphysical.

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