(Just to keep all five IOPS blog readers up tp speed, with a bit of anarchic political philosophy thrown in. Just my own views. Not applicable to the IOPS website. The first paragraph is still my view of the question which IOPS should be mainly focussed on, if it really exists.)
Notes on Self-Organisation and a Global Transformation Dialogue Website
How can we contribute to the process of finding a global Network of networks, a Movement of movements, a Hyper- or Meta- or Super-Movement which might be capable of turning around the Titanic of global capitalism, of rescuing civilisation from climate chaos, of making another democratic, just and sustainable world possible?
One idea has been to try to help facilitate this process by creating a global participatory website of dialogue for movements and concerned individuals, possibly called ParticipatePlanet. A prototype is under discussion by an affinity/interest group emerging from IOPS. The final website will of course be self-managed by the participating movements, networks, groups and individuals themselves. Hopefully it might itself approximate the libertarian ideal of ‘an interwoven network composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international – temporary or more or less permanent – for all possible purposes’ (Peter Kropotkin).
These notes are meant to provide some very general thoughts about self-organisation as a first principle and guiding value for participatory website construction.
The Tao of Anarchism. Self-organizing, self-regulation, self-management, is not merely an ‘ideal‘, but ‘natural’, the Way of Nature itself (‘Tao’). It, and its synonyms spontaneity and freedom, pertain at all levels and scales of nature, from sub-elementary particles to the biosphere and beyond.
‘There has existed throughout the whole process of evolution an ability to move on to new planes of existence, to create novelty. Freedom is not an essence only available to the sensibility of man; it is germinatively at work in all living things as spontaneity and auto-plasticity’ (Herbert Read, ‘Anarchy and Order’, p. 156). Libertarian social philosophy is thus not mere utopian wish-fulfilment but makes the claim of being grounded in contemporary science, in biology and ecology, in ontology and metaphysics.
Intrinsic (v Extrinsic) Control. Any natural or human system is self-regulated when it is intrinsically controlled by its own internal mechanisms rather than by the intervention of agencies outside the system (extrinsic control). A healthy animal body self-regulates and heals itself after disturbance (Walter Cannon’s ‘homeostasis’), as does a healthy ecosystem without chemical or technological intervention or a healthy community or society without the intervention of the state.
Autonomy (v Heteronomy). Human social systems over millennia have been self-regulating. The rise of ruling classes and states, ‒ often building on and extending the rule of men over women and the old over the young ‒ meant the usually violent attempt of controlling and/or intervening from outside and from above in the complex local self-regulations of the people. Networks became pyramids. Palace and church sought to dominate tent and hut, lord the peasant, merchant the cottager, factory-owner the worker. Heteronomy (the rule of others) replaced autonomy (self-rule).
This also happened inside people as heteronomy was internalised as ‘natural’ (obedience, authoritarian and outer-directed character etc). Yet the spark of autonomy, of spontaneity, freedom and self-activity, lives on in all people.
Super-System Interdependence. Independent self-regulation of a system, intrinsic control, of course does not mean independence from external context. On the contrary, this external context, the infinite web of interdependence between systems and organisms, e.g. the planetary biosphere, is itself a self-regulating super-system of self-regulating systems. As is the super-organism of the human body. Our global website will, necessarily, also be such a super-organism expressing self-managed interdependence.
Holonic Nesting. Any self-regulating system or web of interdependencies is made up of parts that are themselves self-regulating systems or wholes. The self-regulating parts/wholes (or ‘holons’), made up of other self-regulating parts/wholes, are thus embedded or nested within larger self-regulating wholes which in turn are parts of larger self-regulating wholes, and so on.
A bacterial ecosystem lives in the gut of a parasitic mite on a beetle that lives under bark that is part of a tree that is part of a forest that is part of a continental biome that is part of the Earth’s biosphere that is part of the solar system that is part of the Milky Way galaxy that is part of a galaxy cluster that etc.
Each of these nested systems is self-regulating, as is the Whole System, the universe: there is no extrinsic Prime Mover extrinsic regulating the whole show. The universe is not a dominator-hierarchy and pyramid but a horizontalist ‘holonarchy’. Our global website will be a nested holonarchy like the universe.
Horizontality. In a food web, for example, each part/whole is horizontally linked to many different other parts/wholes through relationships of predation, competition, commensalism, mutualism/cooperation, symbiosis. These horizontal, ‘grassroots’ relationships are the actual form that the system’s self-regulated complexity takes. There is no hierarchical top-down control of the system. ‘Nature knows no king of beasts’ (Murray Bookchin). Our global website will cater for horizontal grassroots inter-connection and dialogue.
From Affinity Group to Infinity Group. Take the complexity of libertarian self-organisation just in my simple case. I am at present in an affinity group with a mutual interest in creating a global dialogue website. Most in this group are, or have been, affiliated with IOPS. In turn IOPS itself could in theory (if conceived differently) be part of some larger international federation of libertarian/’participist’ groups of some kind. In turn this international federation could be part of this global Movement of movements (a kind of ‘Infinity Group’) and its website. At the same time I have ‘horizontal’ connections with the local Community garden which is part of the local Transition initiative which in turn is part of the international Transition Network which could be part this global Movement of movements and its website.
The website could thus cater for me as an individual, as a member of an affinity or interest group, as a member of IOPS, a member of a Community Garden, a member of the local/international Transition Network. Like Wikipedia it could have meta-portals, i.e. portal opening upon portal up and down the holonic scale from most local to most global. These portals could be organised both geographically by continents and via global activist themes or issues (e.g. climate justice, direct action, Blockadia, social justice, participatory democracy, indigenous rights, peace and non-violence, gender and sexuality, another world visions etc.)
Coherence not from Unity but from Complexity. The website structure should reflect a libertarian vision of a complex, diverse, self-managed society, a Confederation of federations or Network of networks, where coherence is not found through an enforced top-down unity (as in all parties right and left) but through the free, bottom-up communication of its diverse parts.
Peter Kropotkin described this well in 1905 as ‘an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between multitudes of forces and influences’ expressed in ‘an interwoven network composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international – temporary or more or less permanent – for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs.’ (1905 ‘Anarchism’ article for Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition).
Flow (v Building). We can build a website but not a truly self-organising movement and certainly no global Movement of movements. These emerge spontaneously when the time is ripe from deep social and psychic sources beyond any extrinsic control or leadership. What we can try and do is facilitate global dialogue by offering a prototype website and go with the Flow. Like the creative process in art, poetry, science, self-organisation itself is Flow, flexible and dynamic rather than rigid, static structure. It is creativity in response to challenges. It is surfing the waves of social movements emerging from the Deep, from the Void, the Tao. Perhaps the waves have not developed enough as yet, and it could thus yet be too early for such a (ad)venture, who knows. Still, one can only find out by venturing, so it’s worth a non-violent shot.