Another world is possible: Prometheus or Pandora.
Driven by the ideal of private ownership of just about everything on Planet Earth, neo-liberal capitalism undermines social cohesion and justice for the sake of profits, competition, consumption and technological growth. (1) These values are the last ideological subterfuge of a modernity that has lost its moorings. Their hegemony has resulted in a rule of the marketplace and a commodification of existence that is largely responsible for the double wall of ecological menace and social degradation that blocks the future. In their shadow, the Promethean idealism that created the modern world has vanished. They are compatible neither with the altruistic sacrifice, nor with the creative spirit, symbolized by the Titan Prometheus. They are light years away from the Shelleyan Prometheanism we need and are now in a position to implement: the reconciliation, through a liberated humankind, of intelligence, sociability, art and nature. The contention that global capitalism represents our Promethean potentialities is empty. In augmenting material misery and psychological insecurity, the property system underlying global capitalism has endowed us with the gifts of Pandora rather than those of Prometheus.
The Greek culture that first imagined Prometheus as a friend of humankind understood civilization in fundamentally different terms to those of the acquisitive individualism of the capitalist property system. Festivals public and private, Dionysian music and dancing, Apollonian art and an intense sociability--all echoed in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound--characterized the culture of the Greek city-state. By contrast, the institutionalizing of Prometheus in the economic order of modernity has had two salient features that are diametrically opposed to the values of the ancient Greek cultural order: the repressive 'civilizing mission', a crusading moralism inherited from Christianity by capitalist individualism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and, more recently, media 'branding' of lifestyles by consumption-oriented corporate capitalism.
The 'civilizing mission' was undertaken by enthusiasts of the modern property system among indigenous villagers and tribesmen of a pre-modern social order who were not yet acquainted with its virtues. Their cultures, condemned by bourgeois and Christian ideologists alike, displayed many of the features of play, sociability, and religious--aesthetic exuberance notable among the Greeks.
A case in point is the nineteenth-century effort of agents of the American government to impose Anglo-Saxon notions of private property in land on Native Americans who had hitherto held all land in common. (2) The General Allotment Act of 1879, intended to encourage private farming among Native Americans by breaking up their reservations, sought to divide their land into properties of 160 acres for heads of families and 80 acres for single persons, with the surplus purchasable by government. All allotments could be sold by their owners after twenty-five years. The bill was defended by Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior, who said: 'The enjoyment and pride of the individual ownership of property is one of the most effective civilizing agencies'. The presumed barbarism this civilizing agency was to eradicate is evident in a report from a government Native American agent who supported the bill. Note how closely the archaic customs attributed to the absence of private property approximated those of the original worshippers of Prometheus:
... as long as the Indians live in villages, they will retain many of their old and injurious habits. Frequent feasts, heathen ceremonies and dances, constant visiting--these will continue as long as people live together in close neighborhoods and villages. I trust that before another year is ended they will generally be located upon individual land or farms. From that date will begin their real and permanent progress. (3)
Indeed, for the Greeks from whose imagination Prometheus was born, the arts of civilization included everything denounced among the 'heathen Indians'. Apologists for neo-liberal capitalism contend that only property can guarantee the material and psychological benefits of Promethean modernity. However, quite independently of the inversions of those benefits in the double wall created by the modern property system, accumulation of property has resulted in an abrupt decline, wherever it has been the guiding principle, of the sociability and rituals that anthropologists understand as central to culture.
In the course of the twentieth century, astute observers of society came to understand that humankind, even in the vast urban spaces of the capitalist metropolises, was to a considerable extent escaping, and indeed fleeing, the dutch of the civilizing mission and its associated universalist bourgeois and Christian values. The colonizing of heathen mentalities had turned out to be relatively superficial. Between the two world wars a branch of the escapees, in this case even worse than the civilizers, was able to coerce the latter into a temporary alliance. In Germany and Italy, 'blood and earth' Fascism, rampant among the unemployed, the young, and the pre-industrial strata, forged a strategic alliance with the industrial bourgeoisie under the banner of national autarchy and European conquest. (4) Temporarily the capitalists were no longer in charge. Since 1945, they have understood they struck a bad bargain, and throughout the industrialized West have put a cordon sanitaire around the Far Right. Nonetheless, quite apart from interbellum Fascism, they have had to contend with other large islands of disbelief and resistance: in proletarian slums, among youth, and among some ethnic and racial minorities.
In the last third of the twentieth century, as consumption-oriented, post-Fordist corporations took over the steering of the capitalist system, they realized that more than simply advertising their wares, they needed to bind major sections of the consuming public to these products by identifying them with the lifestyles of their prospective customers. In the spirit of 'if you can't beat them, join them', the values of the civilizing mission were abandoned. Instead, through the commercial colonization of the mass popular culture of middle- and working-class youth, both white and black, corporate advertisers integrated into the nexus of consumer capitalism all those groups that in the 1960s and afterwards had shown their capacity to develop their own, apparently rebellious subcultures. This occurred through the takeover of major sporting and popular music events by companies like Nike, Gap, Benetton and Calvin Klein. Naomi Klein defines this phenomenon as the 'branding' of lifestyles. (5) World cup games, Olympics, and mass pop concerts as well as electronic or print media are 'sponsored' by--and identified with--billionaire corporations. Which leads to a subtle subversion--the French use the word recuperation--of social phenomena in principle unrelated or even antagonistic to property values, individualism or the work ethic, so as to cultivate identities totally dependent on having the appropriate expensive consumer items. The aim, pace the apologists of consumer culture, is not the 'carnivalization' of modern culture but, through emulation and conspicuous consumption, the inculcation of all the values necessary for the triumph of consumer capitalism in social strata unreachable by an overt civilizing offensive.
The young and not-so-young who are the object of this selling campaign have begun to reject it. Increasingly, ubiquitous 'cool' advertising techniques are parodied and ridiculed by those at whom they are aimed. Counter-campaigns are organized by enthusiastic amateurs in organizations like Adbusters, Students Against Sweatshops and the Direct Action Network. In the black underclass, hip-hop serves a similar function. Using the Internet as an organizational medium, such groups have worked together with more established groups like Public Citizen, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to launch protests like those in Seattle and Washington DC, against the World Trade Organization, the IMF and the World Bank.
If the chosen objects of advertising hype are capable of wielding irony and parody to transgress its message, if the jeunesse doree of the affluent West is capable of militant protest against capitalism's prostitution of intelligence and sensitivity, the information technology base created by modern capitalism as the virtual fortress of its 'new economy' can also be turned against it. Indeed, this technology presents us with an unprecedented opportunity for a renewal of the Promethean promise, that is, for a better and more secure existence than any previously known and for a return to the autonomous values of art, freedom and sociability manifested by the culture that invented Prometheus, bearer of fire to humankind. On condition, of course, that we abandon the corporate consumer culture that now governs our lives.
Ernest Schachtel identified the core qualities of the creative geniuses of modernity--Galileo, Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, Marx and others--as allocentric, or other-oriented, perception, a notion that pinpoints the psychological basis of humanity's Promethean capacities. Schachtel's concept is a psychologically refined version of the emphasis on comprehending otherness found in the work of a broad diversity of epistemologists, anthropologists and ethical philosophers (among them, Michel Foucault) who for centuries have been concerned with transcending the binary opposition between self and other inherent in Cartesianism. Possessive individualism, the mania for growth and the identitarian cocoons that have shaped the ideologies that straight-jacketed Promethean modernity, constitute a narcissistic denial of otherness, which Schachtel called 'secondary autocentricity'.
While the credo of possessive individualism is innate to the ruling corporate system, the allied concept of growth for its own sake is shared with most of the collective incarnations of Prometheus vanquished by triumphant capitalism: nationalism, Fascism, socialism and communism. A rebirth of the Promethean humanism that freed us from subservience to religious and political absolutism thus requires that we reject the ideology of unlimited growth. This would mean leaving all the modern incarnations of Prometheus behind. It does not, however, mean abandoning the founding ideals of Promethean modernity, nor the technological potential created by that modernity, which is indispensable to the future alleviation of human misery and the creation of a just and sustainable world. (6)
In principle, the underlying allocentric values of Promethean modernity--intellectual and affective curiosity, or the will to comprehend otherness, the thirst for justice and human solidarity, and the hunger for personal and collective freedom--are utterly incompatible with the possessive individualism that inspires the modern property system. Given institutional shape by the most powerful alliance of political power, military force and corporate wealth the world has ever seen, and driven by the ideology of insatiable consumption and the desire for unlimited growth--the twin fetishes of investment capital--this system has already produced an unjust and dangerous global inequality between rich and poor, and growing insecurity for a large majority of the world's population. It will, if unchecked, lead to environmental apocalypse.
The hegemony of a corporate capitalism inspired by those fetishes is thus inherently self-contradictory and unstable. On the one hand, growth fetishism, by endangering the human future through environmental degradation and climatic deregulation, reverses the promise of Promethean emancipation from natural fatality. On the other hand, the ineluctable concentration of property ownership under capitalism, together with the all-absorbing focus on increasing one's individual property, systematically subverts social justice, saps social cohesion and, by reducing the quality of experience to money and consumption, mocks the intellectual and emotional curiosity of the allocentric personality. Moreover, the present process of capitalist globalization, entailing as it does massive uprootedness and social degradation, is increasingly incompatible with our existing institutions of democratic control. One national leader after another is elected on the promise of protecting his people from it, only to turn around once in power to plead the impotence of national governments to resist its powers of economic coercion. Moreover, institutionalized democratic control is non-existent at an international level. Neither the giant multinational corporations nor their central committees--the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank and the EU--are subject to it, which is why opposition to those organizations has taken the form of militant direct action in recent years.
Happily, no system is eternal, and the present corporate governance of the world has begun to manifest its internal contradictions in a manner that bears comparison with the disintegration of the absolutist ancien regime in continental Europe between 1789 and 1848. The twentieth century saw in 1929 a stock market collapse that precipitated a global depression. Its origins have much in common with the cause of the present volatility of world markets: the irresistible lure, for those who desire instant wealth, of new stock market values, the rapid inflation of which is based on the untenable premise that buyers will always be found who will pay even more for them.
The likelihood of a repeat of the 1930s in the next few years is particularly high in view of the abandonment of any kind of social regulation of economic activity, the kind of prudent social management that administered the post-World War II economic recovery during the epoch of the Fordist welfare state. A stock market crash devastated the South-East Asian 'tigers' in the late 1990s; a decade-long recession in Japan lingers interminably into the twenty-first century; and the sudden drops in Internet shares in the spring and fall of 2000 presaged the collapse of the telecom sector and a major recession in Europe and the United States. Against this unstable 'new economy', a variety of equally new social movements raised demands for radical change. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, coalitions of environmental, labour and anti-capitalist groups--with little or no connection to the radical movements of the past--were attacking major gatherings of global corporate power: the Seattle WTO meeting in November 1999; the Washington IMF and World Bank meetings in April 2000; and the Prague meeting of those organizations in September 2000 and in Genoa in 2001. September 11 interrupted the rising tide of dissent, but in Europe it quickly resumed. Peaceful protests at EU summits in Brussels (December 2001) and Barcelona (March 2002) brought out 100,000 and 300,000 demonstrators respectively. (7)
While it is impossible to predict either the future of this resistance or its program for an alternative to the present global disequilibrium, the combination of environmental and social demands expressed by the protesters certainly strengthens the plausibility of European movements for a Social Europe. Indeed, if there is a realistic prospect anywhere for an internal transformation of neo-liberal capitalism, it is not in North America but in Europe.
This prospect is implicit and sometimes explicit in the French gauche de la gauche and the German PDS, as well as in a considerable part of the socialist and Green constituency in France, Germany, Italy and England, which for years has been frustrated and disgusted by the supine conformism of the social-democratic leadership to neo-liberal ideology and the American global model. Sympathetic to prominent left-wing mavericks like Ken Livingstone and Oskar Lafontaine within the social-democratic parties, this radical undercurrent within and to the Left of European social democracy has made it clear that it would like to use the institutions of the European Union to create a kind of left-leaning 'progressive capitalist' bloc with a renovated, European-wide welfare network. Social thinkers as prominent as Jurgen Habermas and the late Pierre Bourdieu, pointing out the impotence of national states to protect their people when confronted with the economic power of US-based multinational capitalism, have called on European progressives to support the idea of a European welfare state. (8)
A bloc of this kind, with more internal democracy, better regulation, and better social protection and environmental awareness than either the North American or the East Asian capitalist blocs, could compete with the United States as a global model, offering better trade and lending terms to third world countries willing to comply with certain minimum requirements for social and environmental legislation. As a model, its social legislation, a reflection of the still existing social sense of most ordinary Europeans, (9) would guarantee adequate health, education and social fallback resources for the ill, the unemployed and the incapacitated. Its environmental measures would be founded on a rapid conversion to renewable energy resources and would be supported by a material infrastructure of inexpensive, energy-saving public rail transportation to facilitate the transition to a largely automobile-free society. To allow for more leisure, adult education and political participation, it would also shorten the working week as productive efficiency increased and as efficient public transportation replaced private transport.
Furthermore, increased social cohesion and security would provide a social-psychological base for work-time reduction, since the winners/losers mentality, and with it the personal demand now resulting from hyper-individual competition in the acquisition of prestigious but superfluous consumer goods, would be considerably diminished. On the basis of a steady increase in popular participation through the associative life stimulated by it, (10) this program, while permitting a prominent role for regulated corporate capitalism, could reverse both the downward ecological spiral and the ruinous tendency toward the dissolution of the social order into personal acquisitiveness. It could give a decisive stimulus to similarly oriented movements within the American and Japanese blocs that are striving to transform them from within.
Such an evolution might, as I have said, reverse the vicious spiral of global inequality, insecurity and environmental degradation. Nonetheless, a Social Europe with a major corporate capitalist sector--even one subject to reasonable social and ecological limitations--would still be at war with itself since the basic tendencies of capitalism to resist democratic control, to grow indefinitely, and to cultivate insatiable consumption would persist. There would be no shortage of virulent complaints that capitalism could not survive limits to consumption, and they would not be unfounded. This Social Europe would, however, be no more than a first step leading, over the course of decades, to a transformation of mentalities and institutions. Given the broader level of debate that such transformed mentalities would support, many might argue that the new Europe was far from a maximum utilization of the potentialities inherent in extant globalization. Such utilization, which now appears utopian, would increasingly be demanded and defined by the myriad of associations stimulated by a Social Europe.
Certainly, if we grant that the present ecological menace and lack of social justice is not inherent either in economic globalization or in the technological accomplishments that sustain it, then the key question is how to go beyond the disastrous values and institutions now undermining the human future. Once we see the necessity for a return to social regulation, we can expect a renewal of serious speculative thought about an alternative global order--one which might build on some of the basic principles of the new Social Europe--to create a radically different and better world order. This article is an exploration of what that order might look like. My proposals are intended not as a blueprint but as a contribution to a new utopian vision.
Sustainable Democracies in a Non-Capitalist Global Economy
Since the disintegration of the Soviet empire and the collapse of marxist ideology, debate about utopia, never altogether silenced, has increased. (11) My approach here, though perhaps idiosyncratic in some respects, is thus part of an ongoing discussion by philosophers, social ecologists, geographers and sociologists about the good society. A sharply insightful book by Boris Frankel commented on the status of the debate in the mid-1980s, outlining and criticizing books by the French-Austrian economist and philosopher Andre Gorz, the East German dissident Rudolph Bahro and others. (12) In adding to this discussion, I am working from multiple points of departure which--to indicate the line of filiation with the mainstream of critical idealism in the period since the European Enlightenment--I summarize as the other, that is, the Shelleyan, Prometheus. I discuss elsewhere a theoretical foundation for this alternative Prometheanism provided by Ernest Schachtel's psychoanalytic notion of allocentric perception. (13) In the tradition of many nineteenth- and twentieth-century socialist and anarchist thinkers, I assume the capacity of humanity, within the framework of material conditions, to transform existing power relations and release itself from the awesome pressures of past and present orthodoxies and tyrannies, a capacity evidenced by all the great political and intellectual revolutions of modernity. The nineteenth-century historian Michelet summed up this transformative potentiality as humanity being its own Prometheus. (14)
My other assumptions, in the following pages, echo widespread criticisms of the present commercial order of society. One such criticism is that the use of advanced industrial technology within the framework of corporate capitalism is leading to global environmental disaster. Problems like global warming, the destruction of parts of our natural environment necessary for the human future, and widespread pollution are sources of international concern and negotiation between existing political entities. Many people now believe that humanity will have no future unless social existence is drastically altered so as to reorient energy utilization to sustainable, renewable sources. This means not only a rapid development of solar, wind and tidal energy technology to replace fossil fuels and nuclear power, but a rebuilding of public transportation networks and a reconstruction of many large cities to make them feasible. Some think this can be accomplished while retaining the existing global market economy. I do not. While such reconstruction may begin under some kind of regulated capitalism, its presuppositions are incompatible with the continuation of present consumer society.
Another broadly shared criticism is that the subjection of all human relations to the laws of the marketplace has brought about a disintegration of the social and political frameworks necessary for human security and an exacerbation of the extremes of wealth and poverty, both within the industrialized North and between North and South. To counteract or reverse this commercialization of existence, there are essentially two programs. A political approach--which generally uses the Keynesian welfare state as its reference point--would like to restore control over the economy either by the nation-state or by some kind of international political authority, such as the European Union. This is the preferred approach of ATTAC (Association pour la Taxation des Transactions financieres pour l'Aide aux Citoyens) and of many past or present marxists affiliated with the Trotskyist movement or with the influential Monde Diplomatique. A second approach aims at revitalizing social ties and at undermining corporate capitalism by the spread of economic and political citizens' groups, based on the ideas of participatory democracy. This 'associationist' position, represented by Hilary Wainwright in England and Alain Caille in France, is preponderant in the European Green movement and inspires many of the local exchange systems in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. As I have indicated, I consider the first of these positions to be tactically sensible in the short term, but the second--close to the anarchist tradition--seems to me to have the only long-term potentiality for social transformation.
A third point of departure has to do with the nature of work. On the one hand, the burden on the vast majority of people of unremitting, exhausting, repetitive and alienating labour has been made potentially obsolete by technological advances. But on the other hand, the all-pervasive ideology of the marketplace has prevented us from benefiting from these advances, from transcending our obsession with work-earn-spend, so as to make available to all people the reasoned and aesthetically sensitive existence that has until now been the preserve of a small minority. Even in the Anglo-American heartland of the capitalist economy most people are working harder than ever, and their use of scarce leisure time has been largely integrated into an exploitative and expensive commercialism. Moreover, reflecting global inequities between North and South, most Asians, Africans and South Americans remain impoverished and forced to work long hours for a pittance, while their governments are crushed by debt. Trade and financial pressures have integrated the Third World into global industry, reproducing there the worst excesses of misery and exploitation typical of early nineteenth-century industrialism.
Two possible utopian alternatives have appeared. One is based on the maximum use of the new technology to reduce work to a bare minimum. Ideally, this option would permit machines to do all the necessary labour and allow people to devote themselves purely to cultural and social activities. The second alternative would use technology to eliminate not work as such but only, as far as possible, the stultifying sort that produces exhaustion, boredom and alienation, and to limit the grip of work on human existence by bringing it into equilibrium with our cultural and social potentialities. When I started studying these matters a decade ago I leaned to the first solution. Along the way, I have shifted to the second, for two reasons.
The first is that a sharp dividing line between work as necessarily alienated, non-creative activity, and free creative cultural activity is untenable. Much creative activity that passes as non-work--because it is often not remunerated--is indeed work (like the learning of a musical instrument or the writing of a book). Moreover, many of the new kinds of work involving computer programming, as well as older kinds of artisan work that pre-date the industrial age and are undergoing a revival, have creative aspects.
The second is that at least one essential area of production can only be undertaken in a manner consistent with environmental sustainability and human health by breaking sharply with industrial methods: agriculture. The subjection of agriculture to the joint principles of large-scale industrialization and market capitalism has produced the ecological menace of soil and water pollution, the health hazard of contaminated food, and the social disaster of a near-disappearance of small farming, with the corollary consequence all over the Third World of urban slums and shanty towns filled with uprooted peasants. The need to return to small-scale organic farming, as outlined in 2001 by the German Green minister for agriculture, is a salutary reminder of the limits of technology, which can never take the place of face-to-face human interaction, participation, acculturation and sociability. Moreover, decentralized organic farming, reflecting the vastly varied climatic conditions and cultural traditions and mentalities on our planet, reminds us of one further given: any future society will not be monocultural but rather an infinite number of organized social-cultural geographic settings for such interactions.
On the basis of these points of departure, and from the premise that a European welfare state would be an indispensable first step, I have developed the following proposal.
What I envisage would be an extrapolation from a radically evolved Social Europe to a world scale: the interdependence of small-scale local cultures, indispensable seedbeds of strong personal identities, with a global, non-market economic system fine-tuned to regional tastes, for the satisfaction of all basic needs. The economy would combine the advantages of high-tech information technology for large-scale production of some basic products with those of artisan craft production for others. Provision of essential goods would, wherever possible, be supplied regionally or by local cultures, using every technology, from pre-industrial crafts and farming to computer programming and automated production. Food would be grown organically according to the desiderata of long-term ecological sustainability, and each region would strive to produce a surplus of grain beyond local needs--perhaps 5-10 per cent--to supply other regions hit by drought and potential famine. In addition, there would be a planetary economy independent of regional and local economies for the maintenance, in case of local difficulties, of an adequate standard of living.
In other words, neither a homogenized global society (Benjamin Barber's 'McWorld'), (15) nor autarchic utopias based exclusively on pre-modern artisan and farming techniques, are viable alternatives to the present world order. While imposition of a global totalitarian technocracy would be lethal for the rich diversity of human culture, and lobotomizing for human intelligence, it would be suicidal for humanity to turn its back on the global technological achievement that holds out the promise of liberation from scarcity and stultifying work. I shall discuss shortly the various aspects of future local cultures--economic, social, cultural and political. For the moment, let us consider how global technology may be used, not to satisfy the needs of competing corporate giants for ever more growth, sales and profits, but to solve the problems of planetary poverty and exclusion, while limiting production to what is necessary for the maintenance of a reasonable guaranteed standard of living for all. (16)
In effect, there would be a global social contract: a guaranteed living standard that would permit all persons and groups to be maximally free to determine their own ends. In exchange each individual would accept three civic constraints: participation in the economy at a local, regional or global level for a given period of time; the rights to self-expression of other groups and individuals; and preservation of the integrity and sustainability of the environment.
A decent and secure standard of living for all human beings would include the basic needs of food, drinkable water, housing, clothing, public transportation, renewable energy and labour-saving household appliances, including such amenities as air-conditioning for hot climates and central heating systems for cold ones. Present technology makes such a standard of living--available to all with a fraction of the amount of work required by the prevailing system of consumer capitalism--a realistic target.
Consider that the average working week in most developed industrial societies is still around forty hours (a level it reached seventy years ago). This equals, on the basis of an average period of employment of forty years, about eighty thousand hours during a person's lifetime. But only a minority of those working are actually producing and distributing tangible goods; the rest are in commercial, banking, advertising and personal services that exist only by virtue of a capitalist economy with extremes of wealth and poverty. If the global production system were limited to satisfying the basic needs I have mentioned, the total amount of necessary work during a lifetime might be limited to thirty thousand hours (fifteen years) or less. This means that the present work ethic, although not totally abandoned, would be subordinated to a voluntarily chosen deployment of individual and group energies, under the mentioned constraints, in the arts, craft work, sports, philosophical reflection, sensual pleasures and so on.
Shifting the focus of human activity away from work and consumption is not contrary to our nature. History provides many examples of societies whose central values are the intelligent use of leisure, rather than the acquisition of material goods. Indeed it is difficult to locate a single important ethical philosophy or religion in which acquisitiveness has the importance it has in our world. Today, whatever the burden on humanity of Adam's curse, the necessity to eke out one's days in harsh labour to provide for the material necessities of life has, precisely by virtue of the Promethean spirit of humanist inquiry and invention, been ended. The amount of labour necessary for the provision of a reasonable and secure material existence has, thanks to technology, been reduced to the point where in principle all men and women should be able to recast their existence from a life of brute labour to one devoted to reflection, inquiry, play, the creation of beautiful and personally useful things, and care for others--precisely the ideal advanced by Shelley's liberated Prometheus.
This does not mean that productive work in the traditional sense would no longer exist. It suggests, rather, that the quantity of this kind of work and its significance for our lives could be reduced. For example, instead of a working life of forty years of forty-to fifty-hour weeks, a working life of perhaps one-third that amount would be sufficient to supply the basic goods mentioned above.
There would, of course, necessarily be a transitional phase of some decades in which a working life closer to our present one would be necessary--perhaps a working week of thirty hours. During this time cities would be rebuilt for public transportation; the conversion to sustainable energy sources would take place; water, health care and adequate education would be made available to all; and the earth would, as far as possible, be decontaminated from the pollution of the last two centuries. A global charter of humanity's social and environmental rights, perhaps under UN auspices, would be a good first step to this transitional phase.
But certainly, by the middle of the present century, a social order based on the vastly reduced work time is a realistic goal. In fact, combining automation and computerization has already permitted the massive reduction of industrial workforces. Today the superabundance that the more affluent countries have established as a standard is produced by relatively few. Only a minority of those employed are actually involved in producing or distributing it. (17) Large numbers are in unproductive commercial or bureaucratic employment. Still others, because of the reduction or elimination of welfare benefits or 'downsizing', have taken on shoddily paid temporary jobs or work in the service sector as freelance servants for the affluent, delivering their household purchases and taking care of their homes and children.
A social system that paid more than lip service to the ideals of democracy and social justice could long ago have started a systematic shortening of the working week, corresponding to the increase in productivity. By now, all Americans and Europeans could have been working a twenty-hour week, with a standard of living higher than that enjoyed in 1970. (18) Instead, the taste-makers, pacesetters and advertisers have whetted consumer appetites for additional family automobiles, expensive and ecologically disastrous faraway vacations, and a large range of electronic gadgetry (home computers, Internet services, video cameras and players, mobile phones) (19) that make a return to the modest affluence of the 1970s unthinkable for many people.
In fact, reduction of work time was incompatible with the personal insecurity and 'work-and-spend' values that corporate strategists have cultivated. Exponential increases in productivity were never viewed by those strategists as a means of escaping the curse of Adam, but rather, simply as an opportunity to expand profitability by selling more with a lower wage bill. Furthermore, the wealthy--who would by now also be working a twenty-hour week if work-time reduction had been on the order of the day--might have had to do their own shopping and cleaning, since the pool of inexpensive unemployed labour would hardly exist. If all this was not sufficient to eliminate work-time reduction as an acceptable way of using productivity increases, prudent liberal economists constantly reminded the captains of industry that without the large industrial reserve army of the downsized, indeed without an unemployment level of five per cent or more, the demands for higher wages might be irresistible.
What keeps the system going is the near totalitarian grip on the public mind of a conventional wisdom: what the French call the pensee unique and Margaret Thatcher summarized as 'There is no Alternative'. Any interference with, even any regulation of, existing property relations is assumed to lead to social collapse, nationalism, communism and, worst of all, idleness. Given the absence of a known and discussible alternative, the lure of the well-advertised lifestyle--fast cars for all, expensive vacations, luxuriously furnished houses and designer clothing--mesmerizes millions into a workaholic existence. That is the carrot. The stick is social fear: wealth is so poorly distributed and the pace of downsizing so unpredictable that most men and women are afraid they will fall into the bottomless pit of an impoverished underclass if they lose their present, rather precarious employment. To hold on to it, and to retain the chimerical possibility of moving into the upper ten per cent of the wealthy, they are willing to neglect their families, their friends and their souls. This is what keeps them focused on their work and the rites of insatiable consumption.
Imagine, however, that enough of us in Europe and North America were prepared simply to say, 'Basta! Enough of the rat race. Let's cash in our chips now and have a minimum of alienated labour and a maximum of leisure and sociability'. (20) We would debate for a long time about what 'Basta!' really meant, and, to lessen the social injustice of the North-South divide, we would have to agree to increase considerably the present extremely low level of economic assistance to undeveloped and developing nations. But in the end we would probably come out with an alternative to the present world economy that looked roughly as follows.
Clearly a good deal less than half of the current European and American workforce is presently engaged in the actual production and distribution of the affluent lifestyle enjoyed by most Europeans and Americans. Moreover, if we had decent rapid public transportation, we could do without most cars, which would curtail the labour cost of constructing, fueling, and repairing them, and the environmental impact of driving them. At a rough estimate, between fifty and seventy-five per cent of present white-collar work-time--most of the hours now worked in banking, advertising and government administration of public finances--might be superfluous in an economy oriented exclusively to the provision of necessary food, clothing, housing, household appliances, public transportation and other essential services. Given the rapid productivity increases of the late twentieth century and anticipated further increases in the first decades of the twenty-first, a major reduction in our average lifelong labour time is possible, and this is of such a magnitude that a qualitative improvement in the human condition is conceivable.
For example, if in the future all the work to produce a reasonable quantity, quality and variety of necessary goods was fairly divided, our grandchildren might be in a position to choose, after completing their education, to work a solid stint of ten to fifteen years or, alternatively, to spread out their work obligation through a normal lifetime at two eight-hour days a week. Clearly some skilled work in the engineering or programming of machine tool lines or in medicine would require such intensive experience that it would have to be concentrated in the shorter period. And if a particular occupation, immune to the communication possibilities of the Internet, required one's presence far away from one's preferred community, that would be another excellent reason for getting the work obligation done in as few years as possible. Many other occupations, however, particularly in the distribution or service sectors, might be sustainable for decades at the more leisurely pace of a couple of days a week. As important as the quantitative reduction, would be the qualitative improvement in the character of work. Whether in organic farming or the high-tech production of quality goods, in craft production (where local communities preferred it) or in medicine, teaching and distribution services, the kinds of work still necessary would be far more likely to engage the personality of the worker than the rote, frequently exhausting routines currently imposed on most people. Moreover, since all would be trained in the skills necessary to design, administer and run the systems of production and distribution, the current top/down hierarchies of management could be replaced by a horizontal organization of work in which all would participate co-operatively in basic decisions about production methods.
In return for this participation in the partly global, partly regional or local production of food, housing, clothing, medical care, education and transportation (within the mentioned limits), all of these necessities would be freely available to everyone, from the cradle to the grave. Again, this does not signify regression to the grey, uniform production of collectivist economies of the Fordist era. Clothing and housing need not be any less varied and interesting than our present supply, since they would be created under the same post-Fordist, computer-based flexible production schedules that now provide a rich variety of models for local consumer. Food, as I have suggested, would be produced under conditions of organic, ecologically sustainable farming, and would be somewhat more labour-intensive than manufacturing. (21) Decisions as to increasing the variety and quality of goods would be made in continual consultation and negotiation among consumers and producers, although trade-offs would have to be decided at certain points between variety and work time, the only future criterion of cost.
Outside of this limited work experience, however, all activity would be freely chosen at the individual and small group level. While participation in democratic governance would probably receive a high priority everywhere, other local associations might encourage craft activities, philosophical speculation and the creative arts, sports activities, or even more sophisticated economic activities, to supplement, perhaps on a commercial market basis, the goods distributed freely by the global production system, but always with the ecological and social restraints indicated above. Presumably, local systems of exchanging goods or services on a barter or script basis--outgrowths of already existing 'local exchange trading systems' (LETS) in Europe and North America (22)--would be widespread.
This speculative model, which we might call a post-capitalist Prometheanism, combines in a loosely unified scheme both the universalist and the particularist achievements of humanity. On the one hand, the economic system would be universalistic in the sense that it would be founded on the global social contract mentioned above, and that it would guarantee, on the basis of a modified version of the present global high-tech economy, a basic standard of living for all. In turn, everyone would be trained to participate in this economy to the best of his or her abilities. This global economic structure would provide not only for the production and free distribution of necessary goods; it would also be responsible for guaranteeing both civic welfare (free health care, transportation and education for all) and ecological equilibrium (diversity and sustainability).
The political system would also have a universalist component to the extent that a democratically elected planetary control would be necessary to insure both world peace (premised on the abolition of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction) and environmental equilibrium (premised on global conversion to sustainable energy supplies).
On the other hand, decisions about most aspects of daily life, political as well as economic, would be made by citizen assemblies or elected bodies at the regional and local levels on the basis, wherever possible, of indigenous custom or choice. The production and distribution of goods would be attuned to the kinds of food, housing and clothing traditionally used and preferred locally. Except where particular items (fossil fuel powered private cars, for example) were incompatible with ecological sustainability, individuals within each culture should have a range of choice not vastly inferior to what reasonably well-off people now enjoy in the food, clothing, housing, furniture and household appliances they acquire. Indeed, the social goal would be a revival of local communities as the optimum source of identity, values and culture. In case of major disagreements with the global production and distribution centres, regions should be potentially self-sufficient. Schematically and briefly, particularist and universalist social values would be related institutionally as follows.
First of all, the desired social setting, the seedbed for allocentric personalities, would consist of overlapping concentric sociopolitical frameworks for cultural self-definition, within which the collective self-fashioning of identities would be balanced by a cultivated appreciation of other cultures, languages and mentalities. These overlapping frameworks would exist for everyone at the level of the locality (based on the visual propinquities and personal friendships of village, city or neighborhood); of the region or nation (based on cultural affinity as well as on native language or dialect); of the continent (North or South American, European, African, Asian); and of global humankind. (In addition, most individuals would be linked to mutual interest groups--popular and classical music, science fiction, gardening, chess, social philosophy, history and the like--either locally, by face-to-face contact, or globally, via the Internet.) Again, each of these geo-cultural frameworks would have an inward and an outward orientation. The inward orientation would provide the necessary sense of local, regional or continental identity. The outward orientation would cultivate allocentric perception and create a global sense of one human species and basic human equality, despite manifest differences in culture, language and mentality.
These overlapping identities would simply be an extension and formalization of the ways personalities are presently shaped in complex societies. For example, Parisians might feel ties to the friends, shops and architecture of a specific neighborhood (say the rue Mouffetard), to Paris as a city, to France as a linguistic-cultural unit, and to Europe (in which they travel) as a common culture. Moreover each citoyen and citoyenne, indeed every European, would be sensitive to the achievements and tragedies, the laughter, tears and common problems of Asians, Africans and North and South Americans. With an active awareness of other peoples through Internet communication and work experience, and a passive understanding gained through press photos, television reports, films and reading, identification with humanity as a whole would preclude the kinds of murderous wars and genocide that stained the history of the twentieth century.
There is, of course, a bogus, kitsch sense of identification with other peoples which those in favour of focusing on local or internal group identities may justifiably ridicule. The kitsch variety of identification, so often exploited by those with universal-humanist messages and parochial aims, is not an actual comprehension of and empathy with otherness. Rather, it is a projection of narcissistic feelings of self-pity onto certain others whom we believe (only via the media) to be victims, and a projection of rage onto yet others whom we understand to be their persecutors and oppressors. Such feelings have often been manipulated by propagandists to justify military interventions on behalf of allegedly tyrannized peoples. There are many instances: Allied outcries over the German 'rape of Belgium' in World War I; the Nazi excuse of the persecution of the Sudeten Germans for the 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia; the supposed danger of Fascist counter-revolution used by Stalinists to justify Russian military action in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968; or the interventions of the United States in Vietnam and, more recently, in Kuwait, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. A real sense of multicultural global solidarity is nonetheless for several reasons possible and even crucial in the world to come.
One reason for this is that twentieth-century technologies for waging war--nuclear, chemical and biological--are so dangerous that it is essential to make armed conflict unthinkable. An important way of doing this is to extend to the global limits of all humanity the kind of sympathetic understanding that makes the use of violence against members of one's own identity group--except under conditions of acute social decomposition--an atavistic remnant of crueler days.
Another reason is that one of the major sources of future conflict, if humanity does not change course, is the geo-cultural divide between a wealthy Euro-American North and an impoverished Latin American, Asian and African South. Redistributing the world's wealth in such a way as to bring the South close to the level of the North is a feasible and essential goal for the twenty-first century, but it is contingent on three factors. First, North and South alike (though principally the North) will have to pay the costs of conversion to sustainable energy resources. This conversion will depend both on prioritizing research into the improvement of wind, solar, and tidal sources of power, and on a major reduction of those energy uses which are ecologically and socially destructive and unnecessary, such as private automobiles. Second, redistribution will have to be accomplished in such a way that it does not lead to a backlash among the populations of the North. Third, there will have to be an expansion, through as much direct experience as possible, of the empathic basis for feelings of global human solidarity.
These matters are linked. An important indirect pre-condition for the sense of solidarity with global humanity is the elimination of class barriers within each identity group by redistributing wealth and ensuring democratic participation in social, political and economic decision making. Participation would certainly be made more feasible by reducing the economic and cultural gap--presently enormous even within the industrialized West--between rich and poor. The experience of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe shows that where the middle class separated itself as a hegemonic class from the lower orders, it became phobic not only toward the proletariat but also other nations and races, and towards women and children as well. Moreover, it developed pathological fears of nature itself and--in conformity with the hypostatization of its separation from the common people into an exaggerated mind-body split--of its own body. (23) During the transitional phase, redistribution and a better social security net would thus have the benign side-effect of reducing xenophobic tendencies in the Euro-American working and lower middle classes, whose support for the anti-immigrant Right in the last decades of the twentieth century grew in direct proportion to the downsizing and deregulation that undermined its security and identity.
All these social preconditions for the attainment of a globally allocentric perception depend on the universal satisfaction of basic needs, which, as I have indicated, will include not just material goods but free medical care, transportation, and education for all.
To insure the provision of medical care, there would necessarily be a program of sophisticated medical training, undertaken after the general educational curriculum described below. Those trained as doctors and dentists would be exempted from the requirement to participate in the global production process. If their total work life was to exceed significantly that of the rest of the population, they could be compensated by being given more--or more attractive--living space.
The restructuring of transportation deserves special attention. Although getting around in private vehicles equipped with high-powered engines consumes a great part of the time and budget of ordinary families and is a notorious source of C[O.sup.2] pollution, it is a facet of contemporary existence that has received relatively little critical discussion. (24) In its contemporary form, the privately owned automobile is simultaneously a crucially profitable area of corporate capitalism, an anti-social ideological trap for car owners and users, and an environmental hazard more menacing to public health and human survival than tobacco. To drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels it would be necessary to limit car and air travel, and trucking, to emergencies and special cases, until and unless non-polluting forms of transport were devised. Transportation in local areas would be by freely provided bicycles, which have no ecological consequences, and where this is impossible (for reasons of distance, climate, topography or the infirmity of the traveller), by free public transportation, principally in the form of trams and rapid trains. In the 'social capitalist' phase preceding the transformation I envisage, an enlarged infrastructure for such would everywhere have been created. Improvement and maintenance of this infrastructure and the vehicles operating within it would be a responsibility shared between the locality, the region, and the global system for production of necessary goods.
Educational goals, after universal schooling in literacy skills, would include curricula in four basic areas:
1. cultural awareness of the history of one's own identity groups and their relatedness to other such groups in the world, based on a reformulation and integration of present university programs in the humanities and necessarily involving extensive experience of literature and other languages;
2. preparation for participation in democratic decision making, locally, regionally and globally--an extension of the present study of the social sciences;
3. preparation for participation in the global economy through training in the natural sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer programming (future doctors would receive a special curriculum weighted toward the biological sciences and chemistry, while everyone would follow a program in environmental studies);
4. training in the mastery of a particular artisanal trade, cultural discipline or scientific activity, so that everyone would be equipped to contribute creatively to the local and regional culture, as well as to participate in the global production of necessities. (25)
The ecological goals, which most people now agree are desirable, are the maintenance of biodiversity and sustainability on our planet. Biodiversity would be based on a continual balancing of human needs against those of our natural environment. Clearly, where certain animal predators become a threat to human settlements or livestock, they need to be contained. On the other hand, practices motivated by human cupidity that threaten animal or plant species would be ended. Where humankind required wood or other biological resources for its basic living standard or for craft economies, it would not remove more of a particular living thing than could be replaced. Global agreements on fishing and agriculture would be elaborated from existing international efforts to maintain planetary balance. Sustainable energy supplies would become the only permissible ones, unless energy sources could be developed (liquid hydrogen, for example, or nuclear fusion) that do not produce toxic waste.
For the sake of both effective democratic decision making at a global level and the maintenance of a broad allocentric awareness of the infinite variety of human cultures, the educational system would prioritize the learning of languages. Since the nation-state (source of our present language structure) will have few functions in the future, the present tendency of a devolution of authority and education toward regional levels will probably continue, revitalizing ethnic languages and dialects. One would expect that in the future, the educational system would train citizens in the language and culture of their own region (for example, Breton, Provencal, Basque, Catalonian, Frisian, Welsh, Bayrisch); in the language and culture of the larger national group to which they are historically or linguistically affiliated (French, Spanish, German, English, Dutch); in another of the major languages spoken on their continent; and in one of the world languages understood by a minimum of, say, 300 million people (English, Spanish, Russian and Chinese are the most obvious candidates).
The Historical Foundations of Social Justice
There are, of course, more fundamental political objections that will be raised to my ideas. What I am proposing amounts to a radical abolition of the existing property and market systems, which many will view as either utterly unrealistic or as a potentially disastrous return to 'command economy' thinking, associated with the worst abuses of Soviet Communism. It is neither. To the contrary, it is historically realistic, in two senses.
First, it is smply a recognition and a humanization of the process of rationalization which Max Weber believed, at the beginning of the twentieth century, to be the meta-historical red thread of human, and especially, Western historical development. Weber saw this rationalization as permeating all areas of human activity--political, economic, religious, intellectual, scientific, cultural--in a double sense. There was an increasing tendency toward instrumental rationality in all these areas, and an increasing centralization of activity. Both rationalization and centralization were indispensable to the development of democracy and social justice.
The process of centralization was visible, for example, in the gradual curtailment of the feudal aristocracy's military and political autonomy within the developing state systems, and in the gradual subordination of religious to secular authority. Most historians are aware that for roughly a thousand years before 1500, armies were private affairs--hired out occasionally by more or less powerful feudal aristocrats to monarchs with sufficient funds to buy their services--and that it was a long, hard struggle by centralizing princes to disarm the barons and dukes of their realms. One might also argue that the slow rise of democracy represents a rationalization of political power, premised on the assumption of fundamental human equality and on the relatively recent argument that it is irrational to permit birth to be a criterion for political and economic power.
My proposal merely extends these historical trends to the economic sphere. If private--feudal--ownership of the means of coercion could be abolished in the modern state system according to the principle that social peace could only be assured if the state monopolized the legitimate use of force, then private ownership of the means of production and distribution of essential goods can be abolished for comparable reasons of social justice and ecological equilibrium. Just as the basic challenge of modern political thought--and the motor of many national revolutions--has been the democratization and rationalization of the state apparatus, the motor of contemporary and future revolutions will be the democratization and rationalization of the means of production.
Comparison to the command economies of the defunct Soviet empire in this context is a red herring. The command economy developed by Stalinism was developed not to humanize abundance but to build a power base for Communist Party elites that would enable them to defend themselves against and compete economically with Western capitalism. The Stalinist system hid its ruthless exploitation of a forcibly collectivized peasantry, and of slave labour in extraction industries, behind a facade of Promethean work values (Stakhanovism) and cradle-to-grave welfare provisions for the urban working class it claimed to represent. But the function of its command economy was simply the most rapid possible accumulation of capital in order to create the infrastructure of the single party that ran state and economy alike. Repressing protest as counter-revolutionary, and indifferent to the environmental impact of rapid industrialization, it produced one ecological disaster after another. Designed to transform a peripheral, pre-modern economy into a major competitor of the capitalist West, that system is best characterized as totalitarian state capitalism. Its point of departure was one of the most brutal and backward political economies in Europe, one that had ruled by the Cossack's knout until 1917 and had abolished serfdom only two generations earlier.
By contrast, my proposal for domesticating and humanizing an out-of-control economic apparatus is projected at the highest level of an already existing information technology and is based on the goal of ecological restoration and the democratic values of social justice and equality. Both the political and the economic transcendence of capitalism will depend on the democratic use of Internet communications, as well as the computerized and automated high-tech production processes that are eliminating most of the stupefying, brute labour of past millennia.
Change never occurs in a vacuum, and it cannot occur in monolithic civilizations supported by fanatic conviction. Until, of course, the system begins to crack and that conviction fragments. Such disintegration is a matter of internal dynamics which, sooner or later, have afflicted all civilizations, from ancient Egypt to the Chinese empires that persisted until this century. As in the case of the Roman empire, it could be followed by prolonged cultural and social decline. One cannot exclude the possibility that the present social and ecological wall blocking the future may prove permanent; that we have gone too far down the road of reckless squandering of the planet's resources and that the future, if there is one, will be grim indeed. But there is reason to think that this degradation of the human condition is not the only possibility.
Human solidarity and creativity, symbolized by the altruistic genius of the Greek god Prometheus, have in the past eliminated many seemingly eternal sources of human misery, vanquished absolutist regimes and feudal tyranny and, at least in a part of the world, overcome much of the disease, fear and hunger that made life brutish and short. They have led us, with many zigzags, to the present dangers and possibilities. This progress has depended on the conjunction of three active forces: human reason, the social passion to change inhuman circumstance, and, often forgotten, the radical use of new technologies.
It is arguable that the development of information technology will offer the same opportunities for improvement of the human condition that the invention of printing did in the pre-modern and modern eras, and on the same scale. Printing was probably the key to the permanent break-up of a corrupt and hierarchical Western Christianity in the sixteenth century, and of absolutism from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Numerous reform movements to purify the church and clergy had emerged in mediaeval Christianity from the tenth century on, but they had all been either co-opted, crushed or completely marginalized until the Lutheran Reformation, whose plea for a priesthood of all believers could be supported by the circulation to Luther's followers both of the translated Bible and of a flood of anti-Roman pamphlets in the new print medium. (26)
The zigzags I refer to are obvious in the uses to which print--as well as most other modern technologies--have been put in the past five centuries. Certainly, they confirmed as well as undermined dogmatic belief. The printing of the word of God showed everyone the only true path, at the same time as it undermined the unquestioned authority of the church hierarchy. From the standpoint of mentalities, print culture was both an important tool in the civilizing mission of bourgeois and Christian elites to suppress orally transmitted popular cultures and, in the nineteenth century, a means for historians and ethnologists to preserve vanishing oral lore. The printing press, before it significantly undermined traditional authority, provided the infrastructure of absolutism, enabling princes to codify and circulate administrative decrees. Yet, in the same way that in the sixteenth century religious transcendence of a corrupt Christianity developed through the new medium of the printed word, the philosophical transcendence of feudal absolutism in the high Enlightenment depended on the illegal flow of bootlegged books and pamphlets across the borders of pre-revolutionary France. (27) New print technology used for transgressive literature grew in the nineteenth century to include treatises, essays, novels and poetry that undermined not only the economic principles, but also the social morality and sexual repressions of the new middle-class holders of power. Every revolution from the proto-bourgeois English one of the seventeenth century to the anti-bourgeois 'almost revolution' of 1968 has been prepared, sustained and debated through a flood of pamphlets, manifestos and petitions in a medium that did not exist before 1450.
Information technology has until now been used primarily to cut wage costs in the production and distribution sectors of market capitalism by making large numbers of workers superfluous. It has also been used to achieve instant transmission of information by businesses and governments. But the same technology is also being used by groups and individuals to exchange, or make freely available, information and ideas that have nothing to do with commodity transactions: information and ideas that can augment knowledge, sensitivity and power among those completely opposed to the present commodification of everything.
The use of the Internet to organize global movements and demonstrations, supplemented though it may be by a great deal of face-to-face organizing, is simply a prelude to the future use of this instrument to organize global democratic debate and political participation. Even at the level of production, the information technology that now provides the infrastructure for neo-liberal globalization could be used in a future, more reasonable world to ensure us all a secure supply of life's necessities, without the nagging fear that we are making the planet uninhabitable for future generations. So that we can get on with the important thing: lives based on reflection, personal creativity of all sorts, and human compassion.
(1) This article is chapter 6 of my forthcoming book, Prometheus Revisited: The Quest for Global Justice in the Twenty-first Century, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 2003. For reasons of space, a section titled 'Problems: Unequal Endowment, Corruption, and Criminality' is not included here.
(2.) E. Wilson, Apologies to the Iroquois, London, W. H. Allen, 1960, pp. 276-78.
(3.) Wilson, p. 276. A senator from Colorado opposed the bill, claiming it showed a complete ignorance of Indian character, laws, morals and religion. 'The real aim of this bill,' he said, 'is to get at the Indian lands and open them up to settlement. The provisions for the apparent benefit of the Indian are but the pretext to get at his lands and occupy them ... If this were done in the name of greed, it would be bad enough; but to do it in the name of humanity, and under the cloak of an ardent desire to promote the Indian's welfare by making him like ourselves, whether he will or not, is infinitely worse', p. 277. There is a distant anticipation here of Arundhati Roy's denunciation (in The Cost of Living) of the leveling of villages for dam construction in contemporary India.
(4.) Perhaps a similar Fascist alliance of autarchic capitalism and pre-industrial resistance to cosmopolitan modernity is at the base of the terrifyingly effective international network of Al Qaeda, financed by dissident Saudi capital hostile to the Saudi oil elite's cosy relationship with the West.
(5.) N. Klein, No Logo, London, Flamingo, 2000.
(6.) On this point, as on others, one cannot help but agree with Viviane Forrester who, in her impassioned Une etrange dictature, warns against the equation of the new technologies of globalization with neo-liberalism: "These technological advances are inseparable from globalization, but not from the ideology that claims to be identical to them. While these technologies may have permitted liberalism to triumph, they are completely distinct from it ... They neither depend on it nor originate in it, and could easily be dissociated from it without changing at all. To the contrary ... they would then finally have the capacity of becoming beneficial, instead of ruinous, to the greatest number. Neoliberalism and globalization are not synonymous ... We have come to confuse the prodigies of the new technologies, their irreversibility, with the political regime that utilizes them. As if it went without saying that the immense potentiality of freedom and social dynamism offered to the human species by research, inventions and recent discoveries should have been transformed into a disaster and into the incarceration of humanity in the pit of this disaster' (pp. 17-18).
(7.) 'The Barcelona Breakthrough: Lessons From the Largest Ever Demonstration Against Corporate Globalisation in Europe', (interview with the Spanish ecologist Ramon Fernandez Duran), Corporate Europe Observer, 11 May 2002 (www.corporateeurope.org). Duran makes clear the important role of radical Catalonian organizations and of the leftwing Barcelona city government in organizing this huge protest, thus demonstrating the interaction between leftist opponents of neo-liberalism and the important Catalonian regionalist movement.
(8.) P. Bourdieu, 'Le mythe de la "mondialisation" et l'Etat social europeen' and 'Pour un nouvel internationalism', in Contre-feux, pp. 34-50, 66-75; J. Habermas, 'There Are Alternatives', New Left Review, no. 231, 1998, pp. 312; 'Europe and Globalization', New Left Review, no. 235, 1999, pp. 46-59; and 'Why Europe Needs a Constitution', New Left Review, n.s., no. 11, 2001, pp. 5-26. In a manifesto issued at the end of April 2000, Bourdieu and his Raisons d'Agir group appealed for an estates general of European social movements to draft a common program: 'Pour des Etats genedraux du mouvement social europeen', Le Monde, 28 April 2000.
(9.) E. Todd, L'illusion economique: Essai sur la stagnation des societes developpees, Paris, Gallimard, 1998.
(10.) Social ecologists and libertarian social thinkers such as Murray Bookchin, Andre Gorz, Alain Caille and Patrick Viveret (editor of the French monthly Transversales) have pioneered the discussion around the details of the associative networks that would be essential to prevent a Social Europe from lapsing into bureaucratically controlled capitalism. See, for example, Gorz, 'Sortir de la societe salariale', in Miseres du present: Richesse du possible, Paris, Galilee, 1997, pp. 123-78.
(11.) Andre Gorz, writing shortly before the end of the Soviet system, announced the demise of the capitalist industrial utopia of the last two centuries and demanded a new utopian vision to enable us 'to perceive the potential of liberation that the current transformation contains', Metamorphoses du travail: Quete du sens, Paris, Galilee. 1988. p. 22. At roughly the same time. Seyla Benhabib published a brilliant study of the Frankfurt School that pointed out the utopian implications of Habermas's ideas: Benhabib, Critique, North, and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory, New York, Columbia University Press, 1986. Immanuel Wallerstein has coined the term 'utopistics' to describe this renewed discourse: Wallerstein, Utopistics: Or Historical Choices of the Twenty-first Century, New York, New Press, 1998. Daniel Singer gave the title 'Realistic Utopia' to the concluding chapter of his Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours?, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1999. See also D. Harvey, 'The Utopian Moment', in Spaces of Hope, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000, pp. 133-96; Miguel Abensour, L'utopie de Thomas More a Walter Benjamin, Paris, Sens & Tonka, 2000, and Le proces des maitres reveurs, Paris, Sulliver, 2000; the survey by R. Trousson, D'Utopie et d'Utopistes, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1998; and Y. Friedman, Utopies realisables, 2nd edn, Perreux, L'Eclat, 2000.
(12.) B. Frankel, Post-Industrial Utopias, London, Polity, 1987.
(13.) Chapter four of the forthcoming Prometheus Revisited
(14.) Against fatalistic ideas of natural determinism, Michelet wrote: 'It is the powerful work of self on self ("travail de soi sur soi") in which France, by its own progress, transforms all its basic elements ... In human progress, the essential comes from the living force, which is called humanity. Humanity is its own Prometheus'. 'I had only Vico as my master. His principle of the living force, of humanity which created itself, made both my book and my teaching' (italics in original). 'Preface de 1869 a l'Histoire de France', in J. Michelet, Introduction a l'histoire universelle, Tableau de la France. Preface a l'Histoire de France, Paris, Bibliotheque de Cluny, 1962, pp.168, 170. A similar notion, but more individuated, is represented today by Martha Nussbaum: 'The core idea is that of the human being as a dignified free being who shapes his or her own life in cooperation and reciprocity with others, rather than being passively shaped or pushed around by the world in the manner of a "flock" or "herd" animal. A life that is really human is one that is shaped throughout by these human powers of practical reason and sociability', in Women and Human Development. The Capabilities Approach, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 72.
(15.) B. R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World, New York, Ballantine Books, 1996.
(16.) Those familiar with the literature on this subject will note that I am in basic agreement with Boris Frankel's critique (Post-Industrial Utopias, pp. 65-102) of Rudolf Bahro, the principal advocate of a utopia of autarchic artisan-based communes, as well as of Alvin Toffler and Barry Jones, whose goals, while comparable with mine, would be attained while leaving intact the basic framework of corporate capitalism. My own views are close to the two-tiered economy advocated by Andre Gorz, the criticism of whom by Frankel, it seems to me, is overly severe.
(17.) Some statistics culled at random from Rifkin, End of Work, pp. 134-8: The United States Steel Corporation employed 120,000 workers in 1980. In 1990, US Steel produced the same output with 20,000 employees. Using a computerized manufacturing process, the number of production workers needed to make a ton of steel fell to one-twelfth of what it was in 'a giant integrated steel mill'. In OECD countries, employment in the steel industry fell by more than 50 per cent between 1974 and 1989, while production dipped only six per cent. The International Association of Machinists, which claimed to represent a million workers in the mid-1960s, saw 'the number of machinists in the country [dwindle] to less than 600,000' three decades later. 'Between 1973 and 1991, output in the household appliance industry increased at an annual rate of 0.5%.' That means an overall increase of around 10 per cent for the period. During the same period, thanks to an average annual increase in output per employee hour of 2.7 per cent, 'employment declined sharply from 196,300 to 117,100, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects ... [that] by the year 2005, a mere 93,500 workers--fewer than half the number employed in 1973--will be producing the nation's total output of home appliances'. The overall growth in population means that the employment situation for industrial workers is even worse than these figures suggest.
(18) The length of the working week dropped precipitously in the advanced industrial countries from about sixty hours at the end of the nineteenth century to about forty hours half a century later. Despite productivity increases in the contemporary period--comparable with those of the earlier period--work time has hardly changed. Indeed, in the United States, the average working week has actually increased. See Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, New York, Basic Books, 1991.
(19.) No doubt, not all of this equipment is superfluous: the Internet, surfed by means of personal computers, has a powerful democratic potential for circulating news and ideas, for organizing dissent and, in a future global democracy, for disseminating debates and referenda essential to widespread global participation in decision making (see below). This positive potential is, at the moment, overshadowed by the negative, commercial functions of information technology: that is, serving as a surrogate for white-collar personnel, thus permitting massive downsizing and to fostering social exclusion, and as a global marketplace for the selling of just about everything. But most of the other electronic gadgets--mobile telephones, video cameras etc.--lack any positive potential. The phones may prove damaging to health; the cameras may be used for Big Brother-type security surveillance.
(20.) Many have already taken this step. In The Overspent American Juliet Schor refers to those who have said 'enough' as 'downshifters'. Interestingly, she notes a marked concentration of those Americans questioning the values of consumption in the Pacific Northwest, and particularly in Seattle, site of massive demonstrations against the World Trade Organization meeting of November 1999. Theoretical arguments for such limitation are to be found in D. Meda, Qu'est-ce que la richesse?, Paris, Aubier, 1999, and A. Durning, How Much is Enough: The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth, New York, Worldwatch-Norton, 1992.
(21.) Organic food production need not be much less efficient than large-scale capitalist agriculture. A field experiment conducted in Switzerland over the period 1978-1999 that systematically compared four farming methods--two organic, two conventional--in the same area revealed crop yields in organically run small farms to be approximately 20 per cent lower than those of industrial farming, but with maintenance of soil fertility by crop rotation (virtually no soil erosion), no nitrogen fertilizer pollution, 50 per cent less energy use, 97 per cent less pesticide and 51 per cent less fertilizer. Potato crops were 58-66 per cent of conventional farming yields (greater problems in handling crop pests), but wheat crops were about 90 per cent of conventional yields. P. Mader, A. Fliessbach, D. Dubois, L. Gunst, P. Fried and U. Niggli, 'Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming', Science, vol. 296, no. 31, May 2002, pp.1694-7; E. Green, 'Organic Farms Viable Despite Lower Yields, Study Finds', latimes.com, 31 May 2002.
(22.) In 1995, more than a thousand such networks were found in Great Britain, and they were spreading rapidly in the Ariege region of south western France. See A. Caille, 'Vers un nouveau contrat social', in Le tournant de decembre, p. 132; also Gorz, Miseres du present, pp. 165-74.
(23.) These phobias are intelligently analysed in the case of the French bourgeoisie at the end of the nineteenth century in Denis Bertholet, Le bourgeois darts tous ses etats: Le roman familial de la Belle Epoque, Paris, Olivier Orban, 1987.
(24.) For statistics on and costs of US gasoline consumption, from someone who broke out of the automobile trap, see R. Singel, 'Addicted to Oil: Confronting America's Worst Habit', LiP Magazine, 17 June 2002, www.alternet.org. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation, which consumed 1 to 2 per cent of average family budgets around 1900, now absorbs 20 per cent of such budgets ('What We Work for Now', New York Times, 3 September 2001). The environmental impact of this increase is considerable, as much from air as from ground travel. On 1 May 2000 Friends of the Earth, the Aviation Environment Federation, the National Society for Clear Air, and the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise issued a report, 'Aviation and Global Climate Change', in which they contended that a return flight from London to Miami produced 2,415 kg of C[O.sup.2] per passenger, more than an average British motorist produced in a year: 'Pollution Warning on Holiday Flights', BBC News Online, 1 May 2000. The magnitude of the problem is suggested by the general increase in international tourism over the course of the past half-century. The twenty-five million international tourist visits of 1950 grew to 700 million in 2002, and the travel industry anticipated that there would be about 1.6 billion per year in 2002. See D. Nicholson-Lord, 'Green Tragedy: The Blight of Eco-Tourism', Resurgence, 13 June 2002, taken from the web at www.alternet.org/. Major reductions in air travel both before September 11 (because of recession) and after were expected to prove ephemeral: in November 2001 London's Heathrow Airport announced plans for a fifth terminal. George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian ('Terminal Disease', 23 November 2001) that, 'Heathrow produces 10% of all organic pollutants in Britain: if the poisoning costs now carried by the NHS were charged to the airlines, they would be paying some 1.3 billion [pounds sterling] a year. Terminal 5 mocks the promises on climate change the government, made a few days ago in Marrakesh. Aeroplanes are the world's fastest growing source of carbon dioxide, and their impact on world temperatures may be doubled or even quadrupled by the nitrogen oxides and vapour trails they produce'.
(25.) How many years of education this program would necessitate, and whether these goals could best be attained by maintaining or eliminating the existing separation between secondary and higher education, would be the subject of public and professional debate. Educational structures and curricula would vary according to local cultures. I doubt, however, if an education that did not cover the four areas mentioned would be adequate to the social transformations I have proposed.
(26.) E.L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 volumes, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979; Eisenstein, A. Grafton and A. Johns, 'AHR Forum: How Revolutionary Was the Print Revolution', in The American Historical Review, vol. 107, no. 1, February 2002, pp. 84-128.
(27.) R. Darnton, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1982; Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, New York, Norton, 1995
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