Anarchism and the Promise of a Post-Capitalist Collaborative Commons

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* Article: Engaging the Non-Flat World: Anarchism and the Promise of a Post-Capitalist Collaborative Commons. By Hannes Gerhardt. Antipode Vol. 0 No. 0 2019 ISSN 0066-4812, pp. 1–21



"This paper challenges the use of a geographically site-centred, flat ontology to justify contemporary anarchists’ predisposition to espouse exclusively prefigurative forms of action. By considering the anarchist, post-capitalist potential of a technologically enabled peer-to-peer (P2P) economy and Collaborative Commons movement, the case is made for the need to acknowledge and engage the higher-order (emergent) nexuses between state apparatuses and capitalist flows. Doing so, it is argued, makes envisioning the process of creating anarchist oriented, post-capitalist futures significantly more tangible and convincing."


Hannes Gerhardt:

"I suggest amending the geographically “flat”, non-scalar ontological commitments that are often adhered to in the embrace of such a tactic in order to allow for a more targeted, trans-local, and ultimately more effective approach to understanding and changing the systems being resisted.

The paper proceeds in three sections. The first reviews anarchist geographical approaches to resistance and action, making particular use of Deleuze and Guattari (2003, 2014) to analyse and ultimately critique dominant, site-centred rationales for prefiguration. The second section considers the non-flat, geographically far reaching outlook entailed in the digitally enabled, non-hierarchical peer-topeer (P2P) economy and subsequent Collaborative Commons movement (Benkler 2006; Kostakis and Bauwens 2014; Rifkin 2014). The last section explores specific, instructive efforts within this movement that directly tackle the pervasive scalar/ hierarchical systems of control that continuously and successfully work to subvert the ubiquitous efforts to prefigure alternative, post-capitalist futures."


From the conclusion:

"Being able to imagine a post-capitalist world requires a vision of how to get there. Focusing on current anarchist approaches, I have made the case that for such a vision to be convincing requires thinking beyond singular prefigurative tactics that rely on a flat ontology. Put simply, the view that all humanly imposed geographical imaginaries—and the concentrations of power they enable—should be conceptually and practically rejected leaves the vision of getting to a post-capitalist future so abstract that it is nearly impossible to conceptualise. Instead, without promoting a concrete blueprint for action, I suggest anti-capitalist anarchists would benefit from thinking through the agonistic process involved in a prolonged transition that will require engaging the socially constructed, yet very real, scaled hierarchies around us.

To help elucidate what such a transition may entail, I offered the conceptualisation of an ascending collaborative P2P mode of production, driven not only by new, technologically enabled, decentralised socio-economic relations, but also by changing ideas and assumptions that reflect many anarchist values. The vision of such a mode of production displacing the current capitalist one is made tangible by seeing beyond the flat ontological site to envision targeted challenges to the expansive forces inherent in the “three headed” apparatus of capture that maintains the stability and expansion of capitalism. The contestations depicted in this paper include challenges to the apparatuses linked to rent and profit, but the focus was primarily on the task of coping with, and ultimately overcoming, the apparatus involved in the monopolisation of monetary value. Concretely, these efforts involve establishing fair reciprocity arrangements for the Collaborative Commons and the longer-term aim of displacing exchange value economies through the creation and adoption of spatially expansive use-value based cryptocurrencies. In this way, commons-centred communities backed by political (municipalities), social (intentional communities) and entrepreneurial (cooperatives) rationales can be envisioned to slowly exert increasing control over the means of production along anarchical, post-capitalist lines.

Such a vision and the conceptual means proposed to getting there remain true to anarchism’s broad dedication to the commons, mutual aid, radical democratic decision making, and decentralised modes of organisation as ways to counter hierarchical authority in all its forms. At the same time, the focus on the politicaleconomy embraced here will be seen as too capitalocentric by some while others will dismiss any suggested engagement with the state as only helping to sediment violence-enabling geographical imaginaries. Whether the approach presented here should count as anarchist or not, however, is ultimately beside the point. In the end, the goal here was to offer a case for counter-capitalist action, based on the unfolding Collaborative Commons movement, that seeks to identify and engage the higher-order “conditions of visibility” that would allow the many anarchist lines of flight occurring around us to join into new, emancipatory stabilities.

Such a framework undoubtedly needs more work and discussion, especially in geography, but perhaps it can be a window, at least for some, to question the deeply ingrained feeling that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is a post-capitalist one."

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