Revolutionary Communities

I began to get to this in my post on health care and cooperatives, and governmental reform but I think it's important to get to this point in its own post.

I guess what I've been gunning at (whether or not I realized it) is, "the shape of social/political change" in the contemporary world. What does change look like? What mechanisms can we use to create change? How do the existing ways that we think of revolutionary change fail to address the world we live in?

Samuel R. Delany, in his essay(s) Time Square Red, Time Square Blue presents what he calls "Contact" a potential instrument of social reform, of social "activism." Contact, boils down to unstructured, seemingly random, intermingling of people in urban contexts. He argues for direct relationships, for an increase in cross-class cross-race relationships, by avoiding "gentrification" and social segregation. And he illustrates the efficacy of these methods with a number of pretty effective examples.

When I read this the first time, as well as the second and third, I thought remember thinking "wow, that was the first social critique I've read that not just presents an overwhelming critique of a cultural phenomena (gentrification, the sequestering of public sexuality) but that also presents a mechanism for social change."

The problem with presenting mechanisms to promote social and political change is that the details are incredibly difficult to clarify, and it's easy to present a valid critique without presenting an idea of how to effect change. It's easy to call for action, and leave the nature of that action up to the in-the-moment activists. It's far too easy to point out a social problem, even a superstructural issue, and then default to the methodology of previous generations (and issues,) to attempt to solve the problem. Here's an example:

We see a lot of "recursion to Marxist-inspired methodology," without much (I'd say) thinking about the industrial/material implications of Marx. This happens, to varying degrees in a number of areas: I think in some more casual Marxist-Feminism, in (some) environmental movements, and other movements that present "revolutionary social/political" critique. Revolutionary moments are indeed important times for some renegotiation of social values and systems, but it's too easy to say "after the revolution...." and get all misty eyed, and forget that the critique at hand has very little to do with the disconnect between the ownership of resources, labor, and social power.

Furthermore, I think there are a lot of contemporary civil rights movements (Gay and Lesbian, Women, Immigrant) that refer back to the American Civil Rights Movement in a way that ignores the complexities of the current issue, or the complexity of the earlier issue. In any case, interlude over, I think I'm gunning for a way to get past this trap of casting contemporary struggles in the methodological terms of past struggles.

My contention is that in the next, 20 or 30 years [1] the biggest force of social change won't be (exactly:) the mustering of revolutionary regiments, it won't be about who we elect to legislatures and executive offices, it won't be about where we march; but rather, about the communities we form, about the relationships we develop in these communities.

But tycho, I know you're interested in communities, but *revolution?*

Indeed, it's a stretch, but here's the argument: when people get together, we make things. We see this in free software, we see this in start-ups, we see this in fan communities on the Internet. This production, is going to be an increasingly important part of our economic, political, and social activity, and the conversations the cross-class contact that occurs when people get together to work on something of common interest. Communities are the substrate for the transmission of ethical systems, and are the main way in which ideologies are transmitted to people. This is all incredibly important.

But tycho, materialism isn't dead, you're ignoring *things* which continue to have great importance!

Technology won't make material things matter less at least in the way that this statement assumes. What technology will almost certainly do is make it possible for fewer people to do the work that once required required great infrastructure and capital outlay. Technology will allow us to coordinate collaboration over greater distances. Technology will lower the impact of large economies of scale on the viability of industries (smaller production runs, etc.) The end result is the things that take huge multi- and trans-national institutions (corporations) to produce today, could potentially be the domain of much smaller cooperatives.

We'll realize, I think only somewhat after the fact, that the world has changed, and all the things that we used to think "mattered" don't really. And I think, largely, we can't plan for this. The "work" ahead of is, is to make things do work with other people, to collaborate and draw connections across traditional boundaries (nations, class, race, discipline, gender, skill sets), in the present and let the future attend to itself. These kinds of ad-hoc institutions are already forming, are already making things. And that's incredibly cool.

Thoughts? I need to improve the history section of this, a good bit, and come up with more examples of the kinds of communities that exemplify this kind of organization, but this is a start.

[1]These are rough dates, lets just say "until the singularity hits."
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