Surprisingly in the world today, there are more people who work for coops than for multinationals. A French study I believe has proved that ecologic coops have a lifespan 3 to 5 times greater than their purely for profit start-up counterparts. So, the change I am describing is not going to be easy but neither is it impossible. Through mutualisation we can achieve lower production costs which make these models competitive.
Nobody knows where this will lead to but I believe we are slowly moving to a post-Westphalian model. Our time resembles the 16th century in a way. Before the Peace of Westphalia, there were many forms of public governance: Germany was somewhat of a feudal federation, you had the Hanseatic League, city-states in Italy, etc. Before the hegemony of the Westphalian State model, there were many models and we may be returning to such a plurality of models, at least during this time of transition.
I like quoting Antonio Gramsci: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters”. He said this to describe fascism but today, one can wonder if it doesn’t apply to right-wing movements of national-protectionism that we see with Trump, Brexit, Marine Le Pen in France, etc. I doubt that these reactionary movements or a continuation of neo-liberal deregulation are realistic given their consistent failures of such a long period of time. Cosmo-localisation would be for me a better way forward.
UBI gives the opportunity to an increase minority of people to finance their transition. I believe UBI is a transitional demand to allow people to develop a more social-oriented life. On the other hand, the Job-Guarantee scheme remains within the existing societal system which has too many external negative externalities. Within our given context, UBI is a better solution but I do not know how realistic it is so, I prefer to speak of “Transitional Income”. By which I mean, that society decides to transition from our current Market / State bipolar system to one with the added Civil Society power balance – and I am happy to witness a growing number of people who wish this – and society decides to subsidise let’s say 10% of people to work out the transition. The way I imagine it would be to start creating Common platforms (of food, clothing, housing, etc.) and redesign the way these sectors are currently structured to minimise their negative external impacts on society and the environment.
There is a historic precedent to all this. If during the Middle Ages, people were capable with their limited education and means to subsidise 15% to 25% of people to exit the feudal system and work as monks, we should be capable to do the same today for the survival of the species. The argument that we cannot “afford” to finance a UBI or any other scheme enabling the transition is a false argument, since we are massively subsidising the banks through compound interest. It is just a question of priority.
The way we see things is to change through “seed forms”. By which I mean, that when a crisis arises, people try to find solutions. Because of the systemic nature of our current crisis, the solutions we need to adopt must come from outside our current framework. We will find our solutions in seed form among social innovations. For example, during the feudal systemic crisis at the end of the Middle Ages, we see the creation of Italian City States which laid the groundwork for capitalism, through the creation of accountancy, financial instruments like bonds, etc.
I believe we are witnessing today the seeds of the “Commons system”, a system centred around Commons which doesn’t mean that will be the only economic or governance form. There will still be States and a Market, it is just a question of what the centre of the system will be. Today, we are centred around the market, tomorrow, I believe we will be centred around Commons, as Paul Mason and Jeremy Rifkin have also been predicting.
We can’t predict the future but we can analyse in detail what is happening. Oikos, a Belgian ecological think tank, showed in a study recently that in the last ten years, civil and citizen initiatives have increase 10-fold. This was confirmed by other studies. So, at the very least for western cities, in particular in Europe, we are seeing a real explosion of alternatives. In East-Asia for example, Taiwan also shows some very interesting examples in terms of civil governance. I just finished a project which analyzed 40 urban commons project, half of these from the Global South, so it is really happening across the globe to some extent at least.
We need to develop alternatives so that when crises hit, we have them available as prototypes that others can learn from. Similar to the monastic world which offered a way out of the war-based Roman economy in crisis at the time, and eventually led to feudal economies with a entirely different functioning based on local domains and production. Jean Gimpel gives a very interesting description of this transition in his book La révolution industrielle du Moyen Âge. In it, he shows that 90% of technical innovations at the time came out of monasteries. They did this at a cost which was much lower than that of the Roman elite.