km 21.0, version 1.2, September 2004
Its time for utopias again. The War on Terror, the slashing of the social/welfare states, the march of religious extremists on all continents and the erratic nature of capitalism at present are almost asking for them. Seven years have passed since our raucous the 98ers manifesto ample time to analyse things more soberly and yet more deeply. So here comes our first draft of a new comprehensive utopia.
The Bohème Principle
The Open Technosphere
Capitalism is everywhere. It is successful, efficient, and liberating. And yet at the same time cruel, inefficient and irresponsible. Lets face it: Capitalism is our current fate. We still have to live with it and within it. But Capitalism is not historys last word. Its inner contradictions drive it towards a turning point: Either it will end up in a chaotic global interregnum out of which a new empire will rise. Or we will succeed, guided by humanism, in transforming it into Transcapitalism the next step in the history of mankind.
Yet, revolution wont lead us there. The claptrap about smashing the system is nice folklore of both the 19th and 20th century. After all in all past revolutions each old governing elite was always simply replaced by another one. The winners only brought different cutlery to slice a piece of the cake of their civilisation. Exploitation and oppression were here to stay. So lets be done with all the rebel poses at a time when Che Guevara is but a fashion motif for the Western jeunesse dorée. Its appealing but void of substance.
Transcapitalism can only arise from local subversion and globally linked action. But theres nothing secretive about it: Its elements lie clearly visible before us.
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité such was the battle cry of the French Revolution attacking the feudal civilisation of Europe. These values have in principle not been proven wrong until now. However, 215 years later we know: They dont suffice. For they did not prevent Europe and the West from subjugating the world. Egalité basically meant white people. Liberté turned into the liberty of capital. And Fraternité literally excluded half of mankind: our sisters.
Transcapitalism is founded upon a new system of values: 1789 plus (sorry, Naomi Klein, for the logo). The trias liberty, equality, solidarity is completed by a second one: openness, non-violence, passion.
Openness rebuffs frontiers and barriers that divide people into illusionist categories like race or ethnic groups to keep some of them from the collective knowledge of mankind. Non-violence condemns all strategies and ways of thinking that emphasize confrontation instead of communication. Passion declines a rationality that regards the maximization of profit as the most healthy motivation for human co-existence and the body as merely a machine for maintaining order.
Openness, non-violence, passion: great words but are they ultimately insubstantial? No because these values are, in spite of all wars and excesses of power, prevalent in all cultures around the globe, like a mutually shared dream. Everywhere theyre continually put into practice, even while in competition with other values.
There are five elements that characterise Transcapitalism: the Bohème principle, the Globo, the open Technosphere, Regionalization and Radical Demilitarization. Oh dear! Is this the ridiculous attempt to have a capitalism with a human face i.e. trying to square the circle? A certain similarity to capitalism is inevitable since Transcapitalism evolves from it. But not from its ashes: Transcapitalism develops an already existing potential into a new civilisation in the sense of a historically applied jiu-jitsu-principle that transforms the foes momentum into ones own action. Because there will never be a new starting point from where mankind can decide its fate freely and self-determinedly from scratch.
Thus Transcapitalism breaks with the idea of a vanguard that, like a torch-bearer of dogmatic thinking with no consideration for the rest, creates structures that will be placed like sublime and benign ledgers on the shoulders of the less enlightened ones.
The Bohème principle
Full individualisation of Man can neither be achieved within present individualism nor in any kind of state socialism...
Transcapitalism begins in the modern disaster of the city. Millions of people apparently have nothing better to do than to flee into growing mega-cities and conurbations. How can they choose to trade in tradition as well as rural security and comfort for anonymity, violence, noise and bustle? But the uprooted, the soldiers of fortune, the dreamers have nothing to lose but a lot to gain.
The American dream sounds ridiculous to them because they know better than to dream of the retirees life of a burnt-out millionaire in suburbia. To them the industrial welfare-state of the 20th century is a stronghold that degrades passion to a hobby. No, they have discovered something different between white-bread jet-set and proletarised petty bourgeoisie: the bohème principle the joy of ones own work and creativity. Life, art and production in unison are one and the same for transcapitalists.
Capitalism greedily leers at their creativity, their self-confidence, their lack of traditions born out of denial - attitudes and attributes that predestine them for capitalisms post-industrial phase. Threatening them with impoverishment the information capitalism still tries to drive them into a merciless competition of negative individuals in order to exploit them as knowledge workers.
However, this policy of angst doesnt work. The new bohème counters the chimera of an Ego plc with the co-operative, the group, the band within which mutual respect and the interexchange of capabilities and talent take rule. Learning is no longer the desperate attempt to fix a broken biography but the joint path through a life shared with others. The common unifying goal is not the soonest possible upload of usable data but the development of ideas, of technical skills and crafts as well as individual maturity. The new bohème doesnt even try to appeal to and thereby appease the big business: They loathe size and power.
They break with the mass production scheme of capitalism and create a small-scale way of production, the new manufacturisation, which is enabled by the open Technosphere. Repairing and conversion or redefinition become important sectors of the economy. In changing associations the separation of waged labour and the rest of everyday life that capitalism forced upon us is vanishing. The continuous flow between different activities and individual skills for example between the roles as parents, information workers and craftsmen becomes the foundation for the economy. For it denies the logic of the big business and the retirement pensioner syndrome of the current capitalist society.
The new bohème may not be a social class in the sense of Marx but it has been developping for a long time. Theres a direct line from the artist of the early 19th century to the so-called travellers invading rural Britain within the last decades or the free lance master in the art of living of today. The politics of the exoteric Marx of the workers movement (Robert Kurz) has no significance to them. Their rationality is founded neither on living off the riches of the system nor upon the profit orientation of the capitalists.
Wherever interest on money is due, there is economy and dynamic, as well as crisis and panic. Everything else is merely production.
Although mass products and demonstrative luxury are no longer attractive within the bohème principle: We still go shopping Transcapitalism is for all intents and purposes a money economy built on cash. The benefits of money are too important for the bohemian to do without it. After all only money makes self-determination and independence possible. True emancipation of women started when they began to earn money themselves and did not have to live in subordination to a patriarch any longer. Also, unconditionally living up to ones own inclinations is only possible in a money economy. Art, intellect and music only bloom in the money sphere where no state, no ruler dictates what is to be read, listened to and thought. Apart from that, nowhere are the peoples dreams and needs taken as seriously as in this system. This is ensured by the unbeatable price mechanism of the money economy to date the only economic information system that matches the complexity of todays civilisation. To denounce this insight as cynicism of the market (as Franz Schandl did) merely reveals an ahistorical romanticist attitude.
Communism failed because it had no pecuniary system that could have transported economic information properly. For the same reason the new social barter systems will fail, too. They are too complicated, they dont send price signals and even more importantly they dont propel innovation. Because in the barter systems one cannot be indebted and therefore cannot invest.
In Transcapitalism there is money, but only one currency: the Globo. It is the global valuta that arises from a fusion of block currencies like the dollar or the euro. The Globo acknowledges the truth of the money economy, yet prevents violent currency crises. It significantly reduces economic insecurity and provides a sufficiently high rate of inflation. The truth is that only the owner of capital can decide in which standard he wants to keep his capital. Currently owners of capital face insecurity about future devaluations caused by inflation or exchange rate losses, resulting in a movement of capital from one currency to another which at the same time even raises the insecurity of all participants. This led to the financial market crises that hurt Latin America and Asia so badly and now looms over Eastern Europe.
In Transcapitalism the Globo makes currency crises impossible because there are no longer any balances of payment that could get out of equilibrium. Speculation in foreign currencies will be a thing of the past. Also no-one will have to deal with different fiscal rules. The region that gets indebted too much will still face a debt crisis. But a fair bankruptcy law for regions can solve this problem.
Thanks to the Globo the owners of capital can only choose between holding it in the world currency or in property like real estate or precious metal. The Globo certainly has to be stable but that doesnt mean two percent inflation. Four, five percent are possible, too. So money is created that stimulates the economy. By the way the Globo does away with another injustice: the International Monetary Fund along with its insane recipes for the poor. The World Bank though is here to stay: It issues the Globo and shapes the fiscal policy.
Transcapitalism clings to a money economy but contains its core problem: the up to now inevitable accumulation of capital in the hands of a few. This is achieved by a comprehensive regionalization (see below) as well as a new institution that takes the fact of money being credit into account. Every 75 years not more than twice in a mans live there is a radical institutionalised redistribution of real estate. In these years most of the debt will be abated while the capital that the creditors hold in debentures is destroyed. Back to square one start again.
The open Technosphere
The lesson in the future will be that copyright is protected far too well. The problem will center not on copy-right but on copy-duty - the duty of owners of protected property to make that property accessible.
For the time being the world of the 21st century marks the preliminary climax of a trend that has been evolving for thousands of years: the transformation of the pristine biosphere of planet Earth into a Technosphere. There is no place that has not been affected by mankinds actions in some way. From the low earth orbits in space down to the building blocks of matter man has conquered and manipulated every sphere with the help of technology. It is futile to regret this because this is the human mode of existence: the only way in which the naked ape can interact with the world. There is no way back to Arcadia.
Capitalism draws its dynamism from this allotted technical fate. But it tries to expand this appropriation to the human body and to the sphere of knowledge, the so-called cyberspace, by applying the property regime to both of them. This is done with patents and other forms of intellectual property. To achieve this capitalism must employ totalitarian surveillance and control systems. It can only be continued if individual liberty is given up.
Transcapitalism breaks with this logic by declaring the complete design and content of the Technosphere all knowledge as public domain. Property can only be claimed on material things. Transcapitalism transforms the idea of open knowledge that is getting more popular today through the movements of Free Software (Open Source) or free access to scientific findings (Open Access) into a general principle. The TRIPS agreement (for: trade related aspects on intellectual property rights) is abolished without substitute. This principle deprives global companies in the pharma, media or computer industries of their basis for existence. The age of the economic dinosaurs ends plagiarism is no longer a crime but a starting point for production.
This overcomes the current fabrication divide a term coined by the US physicist Neil Gershenfeld between the centre and the periphery of capitalism. Each region can freely make use of the global public domain of knowledge in order to produce the goods that are needed according to each regions own conditions. Hence they are no mass products anymore.
Here another element comes into play that current capitalism like a necessary phase in the evolution of the Technosphere has generated: the development of small-scale, smart and thus locally usable technologies. They are the result of new methods of fabrication in micro and nano-technologies and new materials that dont require the gigantic and capital intensive factory plants of capitalism. In Transcapitalism the factory is replaced by the Personal Fabricator. It becomes the foundation for a new locally set manufacturisation which is accompanied by a radical transformation of political structures as well as trade.
The technology of production by the masses, ... , is conducive to decentralisation, compatible with the laws of ecology, gentle in its use of scarce resources, and designed to serve the human person instead of making him the servant of machines.
Transcapitalism marks the irrevocable quietus for nationalism. The nation, a historical error, is removed as an intermediate entity. In Transcapitalism there is only a world union that comprises a number of regions of comparable sizes whose identity is defined by cultural attitudes like dialects, art or history. Each region houses 10 to 20 million people who do not work for the global market but for their region. Trade is done with neighbouring regions in the first place.
Globally there are four institutions: First the world currency, the Globo, issued by a reformed World Bank. Secondly the World Resources Organisation (WRO) that replaces the WTO of today and balances the consumption of resources between all regions and continents. Thirdly the World Anti-Trust Organisation, that contains the economic power of large corporations and enables the principle of self-sufficient regions. For the end of the national state also means the end of transnational corporations: They are split into their regional components and cannot play regions off against each other anymore. The forth institution will be a World Tax Organisation (or World Revenue Service) that sets minimum tax rates for capital gains, corporate profits and incomes. Tax competition between regions is not unwelcome but the exploitation of the majority by a minority that keep their money in tax havens like Switzerland or Luxemburg does not work in Transcapitalism.
... it is my firm conviction that nothing enduring can be built on violence.
The disappearance of national states and world trade dominated by the Western sphere are a precondition for the fifth important element of Transcapitalism: radical demilitarization. This is more than merely a comprehensive disarmament leading to a global ban on arms trade and a disbanding of national armies. Radical demilitarization also means the end of economical warfare for markets that are conquered and for resources that have to be secured. A war that has contaminated both the language and the way of thinking in capitalism. Transcapitalism is the end of global players and global markets as we know them.
Radical demilitarization is incomplete without a new way of handling drugs. In capitalism they are criminalized despite their cultural roots. On the one hand this takes them out of the economy and leaves them to mafia-style organizations. And on the other hand the exorbitant profits that result from these politics are used to finance armed conflicts. Transcapitalism finishes this drug-war-economy and rehabilitates the cultural significance of drugs. Consequently they are re-introduced into economic life.
Transcapitalism is a future that might be. It is not a Garden of Eden with no fraud, egotism or civilisatory diseases whatsoever. Transcapitalism acknowledges the complexity and ambiguity of human life while all attempts to overcome them once and for all have been the starting point of fascist thinking. However, in contrast to capitalism it does not shy away from the question of power. Transcapitalism answers this question by distributing power economically and politically in an unprecedented scale in order to keep the promise of power to the people.
...and were sitting here, aloud, with discipline and drink to the world. Maybe its slowing down again until it stands still. Or rotates at the right pace.
Schneller Autos Organisation