Multitudes 10 on Development

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* Special Issue: Multitudes 10: Development



Review by Michel Bauwens, 2003:

Article 1: From Imperialism to Cognitive Capitalism

Imperialism was already a factor during the early stages of merchant capitalism, and created a "international division of labor", which lasted until the 1950s. At that time, following decolonisation, the new nation-states in the South, attempted to create self-centered development, on the model of the early West. So, while it rejected Western domination, it embraced its model, 'lock, stock, and barrel'. But the very success of some countries in changing the terms of the international division of labour, will break the unity of the South, which had emerged in the period from 1950 to 1980.

The debt and monetary crisis of the early 80s would then bury its development model and make place for the "Washington Consensus", i.e. neoliberalism. The new trinity is "austerity, privatisation, liberalisation". The idea being that spontaneous market development would bring specialized production to the most suited countries. But it failed to reduce the debt load, on the contrary, and increased under-development in many countries. On top of that came the financial crisis of 1997-8, which would even destabilize the relatively successful South-East Asian nations.

Polanyi had already noted a regular historical balancing between the regulatory function of the State vs the Market. After 2 decennia of market domination are we now going back to the state or to a new synthesis of the two ?

But such a vision fails to take into account the transition to new phase of cognitive capitalism as well as 3 other key factors:

   - 1) the ecological limits making classic industrial development a force of destruction (and fails to integrate local farming knowledge)
   - 2) a new division of labor based on the availability and diffusion of knowledge
   - 3) the shift towards Empire as the new form of global governance

Under cognitive capitalism, the old division is replaced by a new one, based on the capacity to mobilize expertise in networks, but this is still geographically determined

There are important "new enclosures" of knowledge, through patents and IP rights, especially the biopiracy of traditional knowledge, which produces a new permanent 'rent'.

Article 2 : The Center-Periphery Theories of Samir Amin

A reminder of the vocabulary:

   - Sector 1: Industrial Equipment
   - Sector 2: Mass consumption goods
   - Sector 3: Export-oriented Consumption
   - Sector 4: Luxury Goods

- Center countries had S1 and S2 in a auto-centered model - Periphery countries had S3 and S4 in a extraverted model, coupled with a non-capitalist traditional sector of farming, responsible for the reproduction of labour.

In this old developmental model, the traditional sector could e used for cheap labour and capital accumulation so that the periphery could also become self-centered. But this no longer works. Hence, we need a new model of "sustainable" development, fit for the era of cognitive capitalism.

The traditional sectors can no longer be seen as archaic, but through their experience in maintaining biodiversity, are actually prefigurations of the future, and can be coupled to the new ecological sciences of energy and resource savings.

Cognitive capital becomes central and is dependent on the development of collective intellectual institutions, immaterial investments becoming key (education, health, social investments).

The two factors above require an essentially egalitarian vision.

Article 3: Notes on gaming in cognitive capitalism

Gaming is now the largest entertainment industry, bigger than Hollywood, and with a similar cultural role on today's societies, as movies had in the 1920s and 30s.

In a very interesting conclusion to the article on the class dynamics of the gaming industry (consisting of knowledge workers, prosumers, and poor workers for the hardware.), the author describes two contrary dynamics

   - the successful integration of the dot.communist ethos of the prosumers in a growing industry
   - the continuous creation of transgressive social practices which become habitual social modes for the new generations of the North