Abundance Logic vs Scarcity Logic

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David de Ugarte:

"Abundance logic is a seminal concept introduced by Juan Urrutia in 2002 as the basis on which to understand what was then known as the "new economy".

The classic example is the comparison between newspapers and the blogosphere. In a newspaper, with a limited paper surface, publishing one more line in an article entails suppressing a line somewhere else as in a zero-sum game. By contrast, in the blogosphere, a space where the social cost of an extra post is zero, any blogger's publishing his or her information does not decrease anyone else's publication possibilities. The marginal cost is zero. The need to collectively decide what is published and what is not simply disappears. As opposed to scarcity logic, which generates the need for democratic decision, abundant logic opens the door to pluriarchy.

In such a universe, every collective or hierarchical decision on what to publish or not can only be conceived as an artificial generation of scarcity, a decrease in diversity, and an impoverishment for all.

For a generation and a professional domain whose work tools work under such a logic, even economic democracy must be seen as a lesser evil, a truce with reality in those social spaces – such as business – where scarcity still prevails. In that way, innovators in the domain of social networks or Internet design rediscover traditions as old as cooperatives from a new perspective." (http://deugarte.com/gomi/phyles.pdf )


  • "The big lesson of the twentieth century for commoners was to discover that collective decision-making is a “lesser evil,” a response to scarcity that must be limited to situations in which this is inevitable. It’s not necessary for everyone to vote on a uniform if each one can wear what they want. It’s not necessary to agree on a menu if several different things can be cooked that will completely satisfy everyone. That is, where one person’s decision does not drastically reduces others’ possible choices, the sphere of the decision should be personal, not collective. Collective choices, democratic methods and voting are ways of managing situations where, more or less explicitly, there is a conflict in the use of resources. They are a “last option” imposed by scarcity. The point is to avoid, as much as possible, the homogenization that they involve. That is why in a community committed to abundance, the wealth produced is measured by the extent of the personal decision-space. It’s no good to create more goods and income if that doesn’t have an impact on everyone’s option-space. It’s no good to defend individuality if resources are not created to make it possible without conflict. To gain ground against scarcity, build abundance and therefore continuously enlarge the material base of personal decision-space is the objective of economic activity of an egalitarian community that works."

- David de Ugarte [1]

Christian Arnsperger on Capitalism as Imaginary Scarcity

"Generating constant economic growth within a framework of constantly expanding globalization—this is, in a nutshell, the capitalist project when it comes to economic development. I want to argue that such a view—the massively dominant view—of development is existentially wrong....to move towards a genuinely post-development view, we need to tackle the issues raised by existential economics. For us in the rich, Western countries, capitalist, growth-oriented development has been a three-century-old cultural choice. It has been based on specific anthropological premises. It has been an anthropological and spiritual disaster.

"The identification of growth with development comes from a deep-seated conviction in the Western cultural landscape: more stuff is better than less stuff. By 'stuff' I mean material goods but also all sorts of non-material objects such as services and images. The Western human being is a being who has made consumption into an existential imperative.

"Don’t expect me to draw...a well-meaning denunciation of economic materialism in the name of 'spirituality.' If I did that, I’d be ignoring the very roots of modern economic thought. In reality, in fact, the great thinkers of economics were working very consciously for the salvation of humanity.... I think we need to go as far as saying that economic thought has a strictly spiritual root.... The economy is, therefore, less a technical-operational domain than an existential-spiritual one.... Economics, therefore...is part and parcel of theology—not only neo-liberal economics (as some left-wing critics claim, using the word 'theology' as a degrading term), but all of economics to the extent that it ultimately seeks to liberate Man. Marx, Keynes, and Hayek were, literally, the most influential theologians of the 20th century; I say this not by analogy or as an image, but as a literal description of what their study of economic activity was about.

"What is post-development? It is, essentially, a move from capitalism to post-capitalism in all parts of the globe. This includes pre-capitalist economies which still exist. These economies are no longer viable; the existential critique of capitalism should never be an alibi for a nostalgic—and completely illusory—return to pre-capitalist forms. The idea, instead, is that poor countries need not necessarily go through a capitalist 'stage' in order to go beyond the misery which we, in the West, have bestowed upon ourselves through the massive growth of our wealth.

"Capitalism functions on what I call imaginary scarcity: what makes accumulation, competition, and consumption 'work' is the fact that each of us somehow feels he never has enough. Wanting to get more just deepens the feeling of 'never quite enough.' This process is never-ending; it never exhausts itself; more not being enough, it calls for even more, and this creates growth and the need for growth to create existential reassurance.

"Now, real scarcity could, in principle, be eliminated through a form of egalitarian capitalism. You could try to 'channel' the dynamism and incentives of capitalism into a system where we produce, distribute, and consume (and even 'exploit' each other, which is inevitable whenever there is division of labor)—a system that would establish one single barrier to capitalist rationality: everyone should be protected from real scarcity, so that there should be massive and constant redistribution. But alas, egalitarian capitalism is an unstable creation; when you establish it (as did the promoters of social democracy in the mid-20th century), it gets attacked from all sides by those who have no interest in it. Why? Simply because capitalism and equality are like oil and water: you can mix them up vigorously, but if you don’t coerce them into staying mixed they will separate again. The basic reason is that egalitarian capitalism eliminates real scarcity but is incompatible with imaginary scarcity.... [We need] a profound change in our theology, a change towards a new fundamental reflection on what it means to be human beyond liberal individualism... Capitalism can’t transcend itself.

"In a truly post-capitalist world, human beings should be free from both real and imaginary scarcity. The idea that constantly growing aggregate wealth can be stimulated only through relative poverty—an idea that lies at the heart of capitalist market incentives—has to be replaced with the idea that moderate wealth can be maintained through relational and social investment.

"One thing that is very urgently needed is development aid to the First World from the Third World—to the extent that the Third World hasn’t itself already given up its traditions.... What the Third-World traditions are still rich in, and what we tend to have become very poor in, is spiritual resources to deal with existential anxiety in 'adjusted' ways—integrating death into the rituals of life.... Spiritual resources would allow us to see things differently, and to live differently, giving economic wealth production its rightful—and relatively minor—place and giving relational and social investment the priority." (http://www.uca.edu.ar/uca/common/grupo20/files/Arnsperger.Conferencia.UBA.12-9-08.pdf)


URL = http://deugarte.com/gomi/phyles.pdf


  • Juan Urrutia, “Redes de personas, Internet y la lógica de la

abundancia: un paseo por la nueva economía”, Ekonomiaz: Revista Vasca de Economía, 2001; 46: 182-201 (ISSN 0213- 3865).

  • Véase VV.AA, De las naciones a las redes, El Cobre, 2009.

More Information

  1. Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentality