Las Indias in English

Since 2002 opening ways towards a New World

las Indias Cooperative Group

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 86 ~ March 18th, 2015 ~ 9 ~ 2

On the “naturalness” of the commons and the self-interested invention of the cult of Elinor Ostrom

vacas comunales

When you live in a community, you see how it’s the most natural and spontaneous thing in the world that everything is shared, that everything must strengthen everyone to work… and precisely because of that, it never seems like a big thing, it doesn’t seem to have a special value, it’s “spontaneous,” “normal.” But when you go to the everyday institutions of society — the businesses, the communities of neighbors, the administration — it’s hard to find an iota of everything that you take for granted, and you wonder if it really is as “natural” as it seemed to you.

But if we think about it a bit, that “naturalness” is quite present in our culture. All languages have a specific word for communal work: in Spanish, using the Asturian word, we call it “andecha;” in Portuguese, “mutirão;” in Euskera [Basque], “auzolan;” in Russian, “toloka;” in Finnish, “talkoot;” in Norwegian, “dugnad“…  And also for community property: the traditional peasant common lands and associations of fishers, or “procomún,” as it begins to be called in the fifteenth century in Spain, is equivalent to the Japanese “iriai,” or the English “commons.”

trabajando las tierras comunalesThat’s because agricultural and hunting commons are the original form of ownership and work, long prior to State property and private property… and for the time being, the most persistent: commons institutions remained vigorous throughout the world up through the Middle Ages and resisted Modernity with relative strength until the “amortization” of nineteenth-century liberalism forced them to evolve into modern cooperativism. But don’t be fooled: even today, there are large European regions, like Galicia, where more of the 25% of the territory is made up of common lands. We have always been surrounded by the commons and by community values. Our culture kept more than just the formula for us.

If it wasn’t enough to observe the survival of large expanses of communal land and herds on all continents, it must be said that in all of our community experience we’ve never found a single case where problems arise because someone had consumption patterns such that endangered common resources. In community life, there are problems and conflicts, but in our experience, that’s not one of them, and if it does happen somewhere, it certainly isn’t frequent or relevant.

The “Tragedy of the Commons”

hardinAnd “The Tragedy of the Commons” has a trap. It is a theoretical model created in 1968 by Garrett Hardin, an neo-Malthusian ecologist, a forerunner of what would later be called “degrowth,” obsessed with what he believed to be an “excess of population.” Hardin starts with a definition of the behavior of individuals according to which they would look only at their short-term interests, but would be blind both to the social result (which is to say, the impact their actions would have on the sum of individual results) and on their own total results over time. The model also means that the commons in question is not reproducible (with free software, this is not applicable, because it doesn’t run out when we use it more).

With these initial restrictions, according to which people would literally behave as if there was no tomorrow and there were no other people — surprise, surprise! — the result is that the shared resource runs out. The results were implicit in the conditions of the game, and the result is the one that was desired: the “demonstration” that the reality that surrounds us doesn’t exist, because it is “irrational.”

zemstvo rusoThis is a very different path from the one followed by the classical economists and Marx himself. They had not used an abstract and self-reinforcing model, but had had to explain and model why existed commons in a good part of the arable lands in Europe and, above all, why the peasants didn’t want privatize them. The history of the nineteenth century in large countries like Russia, Spain or Italy is the story of governments like that of the Spanish minister Madoz, trying privatize the commons by force, with little success. It was a drama for the liberals of the times, who thought that without individual property rights, the countryside would never become technological, nor would enough labor flow to the cities to make industry viable. It was a theoretical problem for Marx, who was continuously asked by those in Russia what to do with the countless peasant commons there, and whether they could evolve “directly” to an economy of abundance without going through privatization.

omontenonsevendeBut, by 1968, when Hardin writes “The Tragedy of the Commons,” the commons is no longer a political problem. It is simply a settled reality that economic theory could explain easily, without the need to include internal regulations or external, whether with game theory, modeling the commons as Nash equilibria, or even with neoclassical theory, including the way that would make Gary Becker famous, models of long-term rationality.

Only in the Anglo-Saxon world, where the nineteenth-century amortizations were really effective and put an end to common ownership of the land, could Hardin’s story come to be “common knowledge,” because by 1968, nobody in the USA or Great Britain co-existed with common lands and shared usage. But in reality, these were part of the everyday geography of millions of inhabitants where neither had the liberal revolution ever totally triumphed in its agrarian policies, nor had Soviet or Chinese socialism been imposed — a large area which included, on a continuum, places as disparate as Indochina, Galicia, Mexico, la Araucania [Chile], or South Africa.

The self-interested sanctification of Elinor Ostrom

olstromHowever, in 2009 the Swedish Academy gave the Nobel Prize in Economics to a political scientist, Elinor Ostrom, for having “challenged conventional wisdom [sic] by demonstrating how local property can be managed by a local commons without regulation by central authority or privatization.” Ostrom soon became a sort of patron saint to all those in universities who were interested in the community experience in general and the commons in particular. The central idea they took from her work is that the management of the commons requires a complex set of norms and equilibria that remain “artificial,” products of a very sophisticated social construct.

This is true, but their political-academic claim is not disinterested: when a social organization is described as “artificial” and “sophisticated,” it is implicitly being argued that it is necessary to have “special,” academic, or “technical” knowledge to make it work. Ostrom thus became excuse to argue the guardianship of groups of theoreticians and academics over the social process, with their consequent industry of advanced degrees, courses, and seminars for training “specialists.”

Reality is stubborn

indianasBut 2009 was also the first real year of crisis in Europe. Millions of people were left without work. In countries like Greece, Spain or Portugal, thousands and thousands of families lost their houses. Spontaneously, the social network — first, families, and then, communities — started to reorganize for survival. Hundreds of small “communes” appeared, houses that were shared between families that had been left without regular income, in which everything that that was obtained went into a common fund. Nobody needed design or certify a sophisticated set of rules. While it was a precarious response to an emergency situation, the “naturalness” of the process is noteworthy. The model already was there, in the cultural inheritance and in the traditions of the working classes.

And that’s really the key: the community is, in point of fact, a sophisticated cultural construction. And what’s more, so are the traditions of sharing that are profoundly embedded in popular culture. When an egalitarian community is born, when we create a new commons to be shared, we’re not starting from zero. We are putting “into production” all that code, all that community rationality that we inherited from the learned reactions and way of managing common belongings in our families. That is why we experience it as “spontaneous,” why it feels “natural,” and why it appears again and again in such different environments all over the world. Our “rationality” is definitively not what Hardin and the neo-Malthusian theoreticians of degrowth attributed to us when they presented the irrational destruction of non-renewable resources as a product of our “nature” and not as the result of over-scaled corporations dedicated to looking for rents at all costs.

No, to understand the shared economy, to work together to manage the needs of all in a community economy, we don’t need great treaties or consultation with university technicians. We just need to go back home.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 86 ~ March 16th, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 0

A collaboratively developed ideological map of the P2P world

During the last week, after discussion in «La Matriz», we proposed our friends and readers to discuss and collaboratively produce an ideological map of the p2p world. The result is just a partial result, a «working paper», but it clearly expresses a new world coming. First of all, we couldn’t use a unidimensional criteria, as in the old world uses to be the liberal-conservative axis. Two criteria emerge: the abundance-degrowth axis and the centralized-distributed one.

Almost any contemporary group could be positioned on this two axis based in its proposals and practice on economy and network architecture. Some well known firms and experiences as Mondragon, Apple, Ubuntu or Google were included in the graphics too as a reference.

p2p ideological map

You can download the .odg file, position your group and discuss it with us (you can use English language in la Matriz, our GNUsocial node).

Mayra Rodríguez Singh

Mayra Rodríguez Singh 1 ~ March 6th, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 3

“Sharing lies”: five lies about the Sharing Economy

topicos sharing

Talking about the collaborative world these days is as dangerous as walking on shifting sands. Under the “sharing” and the “co-whatever,” there hides a wide minefield of concepts and phenomena mixed together. To be immersed in the world of the collaborative economy today is, often times, contradictory and surprising.

Of course, there are classifications and dictionaries that give it all order and help us explore, and neither should we forget that all this forms part of a much broader process, of which “sharing” consumption and access to resources is only one very small and superficial part, within very powerful changes and perspectives.

But putting things in context is not to let just anything happen. It is also being clear that the “hype” that’s being built with a number of lies that will inevitably lead to disappointment. These are, in my judgement, the five big ones:

  1. airbnb comunidadPlatforms are communities. That’s a lie. Whatever definition of community we use, Airbnb, Uber, Zipcar, Blablacar, and the many clones of all of them are not communities. Adhering to conditions of use doesn’t even point towards “community standards.” Let’s be honest, the large majority of collaborative consumption platforms are markets. Barter markets in some cases, non-profit markets in others, traditional labor markets in still others, and even markets of restoration… but, markets: places where transactions are made, even if some are relatively cheap and others even at zero price. They’re still markets. And a market is something completely different from a community, and the two provide experiences that are nothing alike. Or do we really think the start-up world could be expected anything other than bid us “Welcome to the Jungle?”
  2. eat withThe “sharing economy” creates conscious consumption. That’s a lie. We’re told that it’s better to reuse than to be compulsive buyers, and that it’s time to be conscious of our consumption. And that’s true. But if the boom in the sharing economy coincides with the longest economic crisis in the history of capitalism, it’s not by chance. With the middle class seeing its buying power reduced, sharing has grown because it offers to maintain something like the standard of living of the “good years.” Travel, but stay in a stranger’s room or in a little tourist hotel outside of State regulation. Go out to eat, but to the apartment of a chef who organizes the meal, rather than to a restaurant. Go by taxi, but pay less, because the taxi driver works under the table and the car is private. Now everything’s OK again! But the argument is a fallacy. I don’t believe that consumption is more conscious if it takes advantage of people’s precariousness and the shortcuts that so many people have had to take to survive the crisis.Sure, they’ve painted it with a little amnesia, and they’ve put new labels on it to make sure it’s still cool. One of the many examples is vintage fashion, because sharing clothes with your brothers/sisters is not the same as buying it second-hand. If your jacket was once your cousin’s, you weren’t in fashion. But now, second-hand clothes and accessories have gone from being looked down on to being cool, and you can bet someone will ask you for the address or website of the store you shop at, so they can go get stuff like yours. It’s not that the obsession with buying, the famous consumerism, has disappeared. It’s simply been adapted and started valuing things that used to be seen as being “for the poor.” The longstanding flea market that people used to want to relocate now becomes an obligatory Sunday stroll. Stores that were once on hidden streets now reappear in maps of exclusive sites and are the creme de la creme.
  3. fabcafeThe “sharing economy” is a new mode of production. That’s a lie. To present the P2P production as part of the “sharing economy” is to confuse things by equating ways of creating wealth that are very different and erasing what P2P really represents.P2P production is centered on the creation of the commons. That’s what transforms the nature of capital and the market. But is that the way it really is in the thousands of “Ubers” that enter the risk-capital market? Does Airbnb create anything resembling a commons? Obviously not. And to confuse things only leads to the things that matter most losing meaning. Quoting Natalia:

    Collaborative consumption is not part of the transition towards a P2P mode of production if isn’t in the framework of the development of the commons and P2P production, in the same way that consumer cooperativism does not create democracy in an economy if it is not in the framework of a cooperative industrial community.

  4. airbnb barcelonaThe businesses of the “sharing economy” promote economic activity that displaces capitalism and promotes a new use of the city. That’s a lie. If we study the “Airbnb effect” in a city like Barcelona, we’ll see that it moves us farther away — a lot farther — from the “sharing city.” The difference between Airbnb and Hilton is not not even the difference between a business of the direct economy and a large, inefficient corporation with the strength of over-scaling. Airbnb, Uber, Blablacar and others are not behind the substitution of independent SMEs for the industrial fabric of big businesses whose decomposition is gutting the productivity of cities. In fact, as Bruce Sterling pointed out, by promoting highly centralized models, these business fit into and promote the worst of “smart cities,” deepening precariousness and taking sovereignty from people and the city as a whole. As Sterling asked, “do you think San Francisco or any big American city would let its new taxi system be run by a business located in Barcelona?”
  5. manifestacion conductores uberThe activity of the businesses of the “sharing economy” strengthens community bonds and helps resist the social effects of the crisis. That’s a lie. The type of human relations built by the best-known “sharing” platforms are far from creating community or establishing links that strengthen social cohesion. On the demand side, they support the economy of precariousness, shortcuts, and “anything goes,” while on the demand side, they eliminate the need for collaboration and real human relationships, replacing it with interaction through a platform. That is why, as Caro said not long ago in a chat:

    [It’s not even] enough to develop independence from centralized platforms. The simple solution to our problems of access to goods or services through sharing does not create the type of interrelationships and responsibilities that characterize the commons. Just the opposite, generally — the use of platforms in exchange exempts us from the responsibility for building relationships, for observing community needs and organizing to respond to them.

So, is the “sharing economy” bad?

car sharingNo. Absolutely not. It’s just that we must distinguish, and not accept the lies of the “hype” uncritically or in all cases. There are models of couch-surfing that really are communal, and do not create the disasters of Airbnb. There are models of car sharing that don’t try to sell themselves as an alternative mode of production and that were able to evolve from the commons to a business, and from there, be integrated into public services, helping to reduce traffic. Because in reality, the main contribution of the “sharing economy” is to transmit a culture of efficient use of durable consumer goods.

So, I think it is necessary to put the “sharing economy” in context, not to lose the critical view of the talk about their businesses, and above all, not forget that if they contribute to changes of real importance, it won’t be because they tried to be more than they really are, but by taking on a deeper perspective.

Translation by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega 7 ~ March 3rd, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 0

Is GNU social decentralized or distributed?

Topologías_de_redBefore giving an answer to the question of whether GNU social is decentralized or distributed, it would be interesting to give some definitions, because it is important to answer this question and understand its consequences. The distinction between network topologies is an old Indiano tool to understand the major social changes of the last decades.

This use of the distinction between network topologies helps us to understand how information flows through a network from one node to another, which nodes of the network are capable of retransmitting information to other nodes, whether there are nodes whose the survival the network depends on, and whether some of the nodes have the ability to filter and control the information that the others receive. In summary, the debate on network topologies addresses the autonomy of nodes and structures of power. Not coincidentally, one of the most famous slogans of the cyberpunk movement reminds us that

Under every information architecture there hides a power structure.

The search for and distinction between different network topologies played an important role in the birth of the Internet. In 1962, a nuclear confrontation seemed to be an imminent threat. So, Paul Baran received an important order. The Rand Corporation asked him to define a structure to use to set up communication systems that could survive a first strike of a nuclear attack. The main result of Baran’s work can be seen in the image shown above to the right.

Robustness and network topologies

baran_arpanetIn 1966, Paul Baran, in his famous report on Darpanet, presented three different network topologies and their characteristics. The main difference between the three network topologies is how robust they are during a nuclear attack or, in other words, to what extent can they tolerate disturbances without suffering a total collapse. We could have a long, drawn-out discussion on this topic and give a wide-ranging presentation on the measurement of the robustness of a network but, in summary, let’s just say that the more robust a network is, the fewer nodes are disconnected by extracting any given node.

This, plus a look at the image above, allow us easily figure out that the first two topologies, which is to say, centralized and decentralized networks, are highly dependent on the centralizing nodes — the centralized network at the global level, and the decentralized network at the local level. In the centralized network, the loss of the main node would result in the collapse of the whole network, and as a consequence, the surviving nodes would not be able to continue communicating between each other because of the lack of the node that interconnects them. In contrast, in distributed networks — the third topology that appears in the first image of this post — each node is independent and the fall of any node would not disconnect any another.

The social nature of distributed networks

socianaturo_distribuitajretojThe originality of the Indianos was to use network topologies to explain the major features of social evolution since the eighteenth century as a function of the dominant media in each era (the post, the telegraph, the Internet). In the book The Power of Networks, we can read a broad historical tour through the last centuries and easily understand how technological advances gave life to new information structures which, in turn, created social changes. The key to the historical tour that we can read in The Power of Networks is in seeing people and connections between people where Baran saw computers and cables.

But, if through Baran’s view of a network topologies, we can technically measure the robustness of networks, what emerges from the view that David proposed to us a decade ago now in The Power of Networks?

This view quickly makes it clear that in distributed networks, the non-existence of central nodes not only makes it possible to have a network that is much more robust, but hierarchies also disappear, autonomy is favored and the control over others becomes impossible.

As a result, the nature of distributed networks is completely different from that of decentralized ones. A distributed network is not a more decentralized network. This is why it’s very important to answer the question of whether GNU social has a distributed or decentralized structure.

What is GNU social and what is its structure?

On the net, there are several descriptions of GNU social. Most of them present it as an alternative to Twitter or, more generally, as a microblogging service. Certainly, the current functions and options that GNU social offers are mostly characteristic of microblogging services. But in practice, what we find is that conversations quickly flourish once again, and that more and more new functions appear that reduce the validity of these descriptions.

What is GNU social?

goboardThis conversation and especially the message below put us on the track of a broader and more appropriate answer.

All microblogging and social networking sites are using selectively flawed ideas and should be transformed. Nobody needs ‘microblogging,’ they want socialization.

The desire to socialize and connect with each other shows the fact that all these systems and sites are not social networks in themselves, but tools that, like instant messaging and mail services, are used by social networks, which is to say, networks of people.

So we see that GNU social is a free tool for interconnection and communication used by different social networks. What functions will it offer, and what we will exchange through GNU social? That depends on what the social networks that use it want.

GNU social also has a particular characteristic that interests us especially, and it has to do with its structure. So, we return to the question, What is GNU social’s structure?

Is GNU social decentralized or distributed?

gnusocial_distribuitajretojWe’ve already presented widely on this, because it is important to answer this question. What will help us distinguish clearly between the three basic network typologies is the interdependence of the nodes that are part of the networks. Interdependence tells us whether the individual nodes depend on others to be able to communicate with others, and therefore, defines how robust they are under attack.

The nodes in a network driven by GNU social are the different installations like (lamatriz.org, loadaverage.org, quitter.se, etc.). A quick look at the image next to this paragraph us clearly shows that the nodes of GNU social do not depend on each other to communicate, and that the fall of one of them does not endanger the survival of the network at all. As a consequence, GNU social has a distributed structure.

Conclusions

From all this, we can draw two important conclusions. First, we realize that it is not necessary to look for a strict definition for GNU social, because what can be done with it will depend on what its users want. Secondly, GNU social has a distributed structure. This is an important distinction, because thanks to it, we see the birth of a social nature in which autonomy, privacy, and conversations are paramount.

Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega 7 ~ February 20th, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 0

Island in the net or an alternative to the net?

Mar_de_floresAt the end of 2010, we published several posts on the nature and the consequences of the FbT-model, that is, socialization on Facebook + Twitter. The conversations that fed these posts were born of the question of whether new, free systems, thought of as alternatives to Facebook + Twitter and with a distributed structure, could create a different logic and dynamic from these born on centralized services.

We knew well the general dangers of centralized services, but beyond that, it became clear and obvious that the FbT-model had serious consequences for the culture that was born on the Internet. Little by little, it endangers the birth of conversational communities, and consequently limits the birth of new identities and social models.

Three years later

Not long ago, we installed two nodes of GNUsocial, one of these alternative systems. The two nodes are lamatriz.org and pluvio.net. In these first days of experience with GNUsocial, we learned a lot and begin discover interesting and important contributions to the above-mentioned conversation.

David: On the other quitter nodes, I think there is less sharing of links than on Twitter, and more characters and conversation.

Jacinto: How nice to have a space for calm conversation without all the noise.

First David and later Jacinto made reference to the existence of conversations in the nodes of GNUsocial. Reading their messages and rereading past posts, I believe I have found the key to understanding where this difference comes from.

It’s curious that when service is thought of for a real community and the software on which it is based is released… it loses its centralizing role (like Facebook’s), because it focuses on the building of an “island in the net,” provides tools for others, and distances itself from the totalitarian idea of making an alternative to the net.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Esperanto)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 86 ~ February 13th, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 0

Full speed ahead with GNU-Social!!

la Matriz

Almost five years ago, thanks to the Garum Fundatio, we began the development of our first program based on a distributed server architecture: Bazar.

ficha empresa bazarThere were two objectives: on the one hand, to give a tool with free code and a distributed architecture to all those SMEs, cooperatives and communities that decide to take the leap into the market. On the other hand, to start on the path towards a global alternative to the centralized and misnamed “social networks” and their culture of adherence.

Learning from doing

But with Bazar, we made a mistake: developing it in Ruby assumed that groups that were interested in installing it in Spain, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil demanded an installation, administration and maintenance service that the Foundation couldn’t offer and that we should have avoided developing in PHP.

The next distributed development, Letxuga, was built on Python. The idea was to create a standard free program to manage networks of consumers of ecological products. Having been developed for the very concrete needs of a very concrete client, it was developed rapidly for functionality, specific needs, and detail, leaving aside things like the graphical interface, which were unnecessary for daily use, but very important for expanding its use.

Joshua de EnspiralAs we were starting discussions with our friends from Enspiral about how to integrate Loomio into WordPress, we became aware that while all this was happening, “Status” had successfully been migrated to PHP and had become GNU-Social.

Why not turn Bazar and Letxuga into plugins for GNU-Social?

We’re on it. GNU-Social can become the basis of a whole new free software on distributed architectures. We’ve decided to make our contribution with new plug-ins that allow the new distributed architectures to find the direct economy.

Full speed ahead with GNU-Social

But to become familiar, we’ll begin with the most simple, most basic functionality: microblogging in 1000 characters, reviving an old Indiano site originally opened in 2007 as a first distributed response to Twitter: lamatriz.org.

On La Matriz [which translates into English as “head office,” “matrix,” or “womb”], because the GNU-Social server architecture is distributed, you’ll be able to connect with users and other GNU-Social servers, like quitter.is, BlogSoviet, quitter.se, quitter.no, quitter.is, Vinilox, gnusocial.of or gnusocial.no. So, we’re waiting for you to share in the daily conversation and organize your own networks!

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 86 ~ February 12th, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 4

Time to make a revolution

nat tedxgijón

Last night in TEDxGijón, we witnessed one of those magic moments that occur once a decade… if we’re lucky. Natalia had twelve minutes to tell the structural origins of the crisis, reclaim Boulding, distinguish neoliberalism from the globalization of the small, explain several success stories from the direct economy and propose P2P reindustrialization

tedxnatThe result was much more than that. Even in practice, she had surprised us. As Nat talked, the public, made up mostly of other conference-goers and their friends, paid more and more attention and at the end, broke out in applause — the only case we saw where that happened.

In spite of being scheduled to speak at night, when the public already was very tired, the effect was amazing. Natalia, alone on the stage, got excited, improvising parts of the speech she had previewed for us in the morning. She started directly and got right to the point. She presented Asturias, the “natural paradise,” as a place of productive desertification, not very different, and for similar reasons, from Eastern European countries. But her focus was somewhere else: on turning away from dependence both on grants and on financial capital. And she brought a warning: the “saviour business” isn’t coming, and start-ups won’t rebuild industry or create employment.

She started to give examples, models from the vuvuzela to BQ, outlining a true small-scale, large-scope program for local reindustrialization.

And she had an uncomfortable message for the dominant nationalism and localism: abandon the obsessive idea of “from here,” and put a real effort into “attracting developers, engineers, designers, makers…” that feed a cooperative fabric that makes a place for an unemployed generation and feeds large repositories of free designs.

Natalia was on fire yesterday. There was hope in the embraces and congratulations from the public. It’s time to make a revolution. It’s time for the revolution that a generation dreams of to become a productive revolution.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 86 ~ February 4th, 2015 ~ 9 ~ 0

Community and abundance

limonero

The big lesson of the twentieth century for commonards was to discover that collective decision-making is a “lesser evil,” a response to scarcity that must be limited to situations in which this is inevitable. It’s not necessary for everyone to vote on a uniform if everyone can wear what they want. It’s not necessary to agree on a menu if several different things can be cooked that will completely satisfy everyone.

That is, where one person’s decision does not drastically reduce others’ possible choices, the sphere of the decision should be personal, not collective. Collective choices, democratic methods and voting are ways of managing situations where, more or less explicitly, there is a conflict in the use of resources. They are a “last resort” imposed by scarcity. The point is to avoid, as much as possible, the homogenization that they involve.

That’s why, in a community committed to abundance, the wealth produced is measured by the extent of the personal decision-space. It’s no good to create more goods and income if that doesn’t have an impact on everyone’s option-space. It’s no good to defend individuality if resources are not created to make it possible without conflict.

To gain ground against scarcity, build abundance and therefore continuously enlarge the material base of personal decision-space is the objective of economic activity of an egalitarian community that works. We want be more efficient and more productive to be more free.

Conflicts between community and business

primera comunidad kibutzOne of the ways that commitment manifests economically is in prioritizing the needs of the community and its members over the business. It sounds nice, and it is. It’s also difficult, but not for the reasons normally imagined. In an egalitarian community, no one will hesitate to sacrifice opportunities or savings to support members, their families and their surroundings. The problems don’t come from there. The issue is that producing is absorbent. And we tend to forget that the cooperative is a tool that serves the community, is not the objective of the community.

We all know people who needlessly dedicate more hours to work than they should. Many times, it’s a form of refuge. To allow oneself to be absorbed in work is a more or less unconscious way of not confronting insecurities about family, partner, or friends. A similar thing happens to communities as a whole. When a community doesn’t “notice” priorities other than those of business, it’s no different from each of us when we “substitute” time in those life tasks in which we feel most insecure with work hours. By doing it, we are evading part of our responsibilities to ourselves.

That’s why the cooperative “spontaneously” tends to be the central concern and enforce its logic beyond what’s advisable on things that remain instrumental. This is why almost all communities establish principles to detect, as automatically as possible, cases in which collective decision-making would prefer to be “anti-economic” and take on, with different scopes, a rationality that is different from business in favor of their members, family and surroundings. This principle acts on schedules, spaces, time dedicated to children, funds for training on topics not linked to production, and even about the choice of lines of business.

Conclusions

La fabrica de hallacasThe magic of a community lies in its capacity to make us feel abundance through personal improvement and the enjoyment of sharing. The most everyday way is learning: feeling that we are learning new things, and that this knowledge makes us more autonomous, wiser. The most subtle is coexistence. If a community is functional and its deliberation prospers, their members will shine more and more as they overcome their fears and stand out through their contributions, wherever they are.

But the economy also contributes. The meaning of what we make is not only born of the fact that the knowledge that it incorporates is available all over the world as free software, blueprints or cultural objects. Nor is it limited to the way our products are made being radically different and the human relations that make them possible “bringing a new world.” We have to feel that our work and our contributions ensure the welfare of those we love and improve the life of our surroundings. And that won’t happen if we don’t go out into the market.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

Natalia Fernández

Natalia Fernández 13 ~ January 29th, 2015 ~ 17 ~ 0

Beer, video games and local culture

beer diariesSeveral weeks ago, Obama became the first president to write a line of code. It wasn’t his first nod to the leaders of the coming change. His first contact with the direct economy was through beer. A self-declared fan of this drink, the president bought a beer-making kit, and assigned his cook and part of his domestic team to begin to experiment with home recipes. After several attempts, the White House proudly announced the creation of two beers  and made their recipes public.

obama cerveza artesanaHomebrews and start-up microbreweries have been taking hold in the market, and also expanding as an industrial business model of a new kind: small scale, linked to the surroundings, with value added in design and brand-name positioning.

More than a million people produce beer at home in the US. By 2020, artisanal beer will reach 20% of the US market. The microbrew revolution has already crossed the line from hobby to a new sector that, in 2013, created a hundred thousand jobs. This fact, this industry is beginning to make it viable to launch services for microbreweries and artisan producers.

From video games to beer

Greg ZeschukIn 2012, the founders of Bioware, one of the largest videogame companies, announced their departure from the company. Both said they had lost their passion and enthusiasm. They made it clear that they would maintain a link with the business but would dedicate themselves completely to the launch of new projects. One of them, Ray Muzyka, devoted himself to support for social businesses in education and of health.

The other, Greg Zeschuk, who was fascinated by artisanal beer and the microbrewery movement, created “The Beer Diaries.” His objective: create value for the brewers and their products with a model of direct economy services.

Sense and sensibility

Local Heroes Beer GuideThe Beer Diaries is an online television channel dedicated to artisanal beer, which is continuously searching for new beers, and with each new episode, they expand their map of manufacturers, kinds, and favorite brands. The brewers gain publicity, and the show’s producers discover new flavors. They also publish guides and reviews, promote consumption, and put together live events. If you like their show, you can pay to enjoy it live. They are a communications agency of a new kind, but also an audio-visual producer and product marketing business.

The user trusts their knowledge and selections. It is a buying guide in a market where new sellers continue to join and in which the product identity itself (small batches for local consumption) makes it difficult for the new brands make themselves known. The producers have a themed channel of communication, whose audience is their future customers.

Criteria, not ranking

the beer diariesIn their business model, the accent is on their knowledge of the product and their ability to bring it to the consumer via the Internet. Their niche, for now, is beer, but what makes their viewers loyal is the criterion of selection.

That’s where the strength of their business and their unique contribution reside. Criteria based on ranking, like like Robert Parker’s wine rating system, serves to promote homogeneity at the expense of culture, and increasing demand at the expense of complexity. In other words, Parker-style ranking depends on the irresponsibility of the consumer and promotes an industry of impossible scale and impoverishing standards.

In contrast, to publicize, map, share knowledge, organize parties, and to value the diversity and culture of the product encourages the industry without promoting its concentration or devaluing the meaning that is created at small scales. Probando la cerveza de Michael PatitucciThe model is staked on reinforcing the ability of the brewers to tell their story and on valuing consumers’ responsibility.

And it’s profitable. “The Beer Diaries” is not only a business model, but an ethical model. A way of being and working that promotes the values of an nearby industry. That’s why it’s an excellent example of what services mean in a world of the direct economy.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 86 ~ January 29th, 2015 ~ 9 ~ 0

«Selling out» is a misnomer: How communities are transformed from making the sale

presentacion comercial ventaIn a working productive community, it is everyone’s responsibility to go out and “make the sale”. Selling is, to most people, the scariest form of communication there is. The culture in which most of us are raised radiates fear to go out to the market. It is yet another residue of the authoritarian society. In this case, our “conscience” and the “private logic” will join forces to tell us “we are not good at it”, and that this “it” – selling – is very close to deceiving. But this is false. Selling is a radical act of empathy: it requires us to put ourselves in the other’s shoes, understand her needs and honestly explain her why and how we think our work can help her in what she is trying to achieve.

familyBut it has another side, which is even more difficult and intimate: face our own fear to be rejected, to not be given value to. Our products are a projection of ourselves, of our values and of our work. They have value, and in the end this value is instantiated as a price. Defending a reasonable price, that covers all costs and reflects the value to be received by the client, is not easy. We need to empathize with the person we are dealing with. At the same time – and quite reasonably – she attempts to make the most of her money, that is, in the end, the result of the effort of her work or that of her organization. For her, trying to reduce the price, is her way to show respect for herself and her colleagues. For us, showing firmness in the value of our offer, reducing the amount of work associated to a reduced price is the way we, as sellers, respect our own work and that of our partners. But it is not easy. Our sense of inferiority will surface in the tension associated to the negotiation, and our fear to be discarded will try to take control to achieve “a sale at any price” or, even worse, “a pilot”, “a free sample”… to convert a sale in an involuntary gift will only make things worse.

vendiendoThe trouble with selling is not in the act of selling itself, it is in us. Selling requires courage. Courage to be firm in our honesty, to not doubt the value of our community’s work, and our own. Selling requires us to be moral.

The salesman of the folk tales, the charlatan, the word-quick manipulative person that “sells a comb to a bald man” reflects the archetype of another counterproductive strategy: the survival instinct. Speaking without pause, constantly trying to take the buyer by surprise, offer her something different at the first sign of doubt… all these are expressions of fear. And no, they don’t work. As many combs as we might sell, can you think of any charlatan that ever managed to achieve a comfortable life?

Ganador de la competición de robots 2013We live in a society where the word “merchant” is derogatory. Like many derogatory words rooted in tradition and in religious culture, it is really trying to achieve a sort of exorcism. Demeaning the basis of one’s personal autonomy in an area so important as the market, allows the person pronouncing it to escape a challenge he or she is scared of. The more desirable she, deep down, sees this autonomy, the more she will be comforted by demeaning it.

A small or medium enterprise, a family business, a community that starts producing, needs to secure as soon possible a diverse client base, but selling is also a true test that challenges everyones’s moral fiber.

Selling honestly and respectfully, selling with meaning, attaching the appropriate value to human labor, is an act of self-improvement. It requires confidence in ourselves. It requires consistency with our own compromises. It requires we overcome our fears. And in a community, or a SME trying to bootstrap itself, it simply must be a shared responsibility, something that everybody needs to be able to do, with everyone else’s support. So, nothing reveals the solidity, the intimate strength of a community like its positive attitude towards its commercial, mercantile activities.

(Translated from the original Spanish text by Alberto Cottica and Noemi Salantiu for the Edgeryders community)

What is «las Indias»?

la Matriz

Natalia Fernández13 ~ ~ February 22nd, 2015 ~ 0

Own the change

A few days ago Shareable published a post about a new documentary that seeks to promote cooperativism and show how local economies based on cooperatives contribute to creating more resilient surroundings. It’s noteworthy in the first minutes of the documentary that the main idea, the drive shaft that connects pieces of the story, is none other than ownership.

A cooperative explained in the very simplest terms is an organization that, in an egalitarian way, practices the formula of one worker, one share, one vote. Our emphasis on this message, without a doubt, has to do with our fascination with discovering a form of organization that, traditionally in the English-speaking world, has been used for consumption. Transferred to production, cooperativism in the US is coming together as a real option to recover the economy of the great industrial cores devastated by the crisis. And also the world of professional services, of commerce, or healthcare.

We discovered it with Evergreen a few years ago. Cooperative pride has a lot to do with making business ownership accessible to many who never dreamed of being able to move on from being employees, or of the possibility of modifying and transforming the productive system. It’s exciting!

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

Manuel Ortega7 ~ ~ February 22nd, 2015 ~ 0

An inevitable collision: Centralizing networks against personal autonomy

warm_bodies-wideIn recent years we have been through “a zombie attack” against the socialization and culture born in the Internet. This is known as the stage of recentralization, whose best-known proponent is the FbT-model. This is a socialization model that cut off conversations, wherever they took root, and the birth of new identities and the abundance of the Internet generally. There was no lack of strategies, and in fact, the distributed world worked for the creation of vaccine against the virus. But the response to this attack finally came from something much more basic and fundamental: Personal autonomy. Already, the debate on net topologies is a debate about the autonomy you have to participate in the creation of information, the definition of your agenda, and the possibilities you have to be authentic. The collision was inevitable, and — just like in the great movie “Warm Bodies,” something was alive in the zombies, they weren’t completely dead — our desire for personal autonomy was still alive. This explains the birth of, perhaps not numerous, but more and more islands in the net that are betting on a distributed world. The key words of the future are autonomy and sovereignty.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Esperanto)

David de Ugarte86 ~ ~ January 13th, 2015 ~ 0

The New Global Militant

ucraniaYesterday I watched a PBS documentary about the rise of ISIS. Around minute 43, a phrase caught my attention. Explaining how ISIS arrived to a tipping point in recruitment, the script noted that the group itself had been surprised at the massive response of a generation who

wants to be part of something special, they want to be part of something successful

Today, an report in “El País” quoting “Le Parisien” includes a statement of the lawyer of one of the murderers of the massacre of Paris describing him as:

a clueless guy who did not know what to do with his life and who met people who made ​​him feel important

I guess it is quite clear in jihadism but in reality is the generalization of these feelings that make militant movements of all kinds reach their tipping point. What happens these days is that we are nearing the time when the new political movements begin to be credible winners. And people are pointing to star in a historic change… the most credible in every different place or circumstance.

Of course will not produce the same results if is ISIS who capitalize that feeling in Syria and Iraq or if it will be the new PKK in Kurdistan. And if we look at Europe Ukrainian nationalism has not the same values than SYRIZA or Podemos. But from the point of view of network analysis it is a very similar phenomenum: The protagonist of the great social movements is changing worldwide.

The time of the young European jihadist who was able to destroy himself as a way to defy an unquestionable power has passed away as the time of the cyberactivist who wanted to change social consensus promoting new social conversations.

Lets remember two slogans from the quotes: “feel important” and “be part of something successful”. Those will be the magic words of all the mobilizing discourses during the coming years.

Manuel Ortega7 ~ August 24th, 2014 ~ 0

“Not-English” is the world’s most spoken language

bla_blaIn many conversations about the expansion of languages and the use of English as a lingua franca, we hear statements about English being the most spoken language in the world. It is important to remember that the reality is quite different, the most spoken language in the world is “not-English,” i.e., all the other languages. The figures, which can be found in “The World Factbook,” clearly reflect this reality. In the light of this fact, it should also be noted that beyond the figures, the important points to note in the discussion about overcoming language barriers and the adoption of a lingua franca, are others, namely the rents and power structures supported by the adoption of a national language as a lingua franca, in this case English, and its limitations beyond superficial interactions.

Functional English, like all jargon, is useful for superficial interactions. For example, when a waiter in a cafe in Antalya describes the view of the sea as very beautiful. But it reaches its limits in the context of university education, a higher intellectual function that fully mobilizes our language skills. Because only on rare occasions do we see the same level of precision and nuance in a learned language as in the mother tongue. That iron law of linguistic competence is confirmed even in countries known for their knowledge of English.

David de Ugarte86 ~ July 26th, 2014 ~ 1

Bruce Sterling against the disguised recentralization of the “Sharing Economy” and “Smart Cities”

brucesterlingWhat happens if the taxis of major cities are replaced by Uber? What if a central part of your urban transportation system depends on an app based on California? Do you think that a city hall could stand up to an multinational with the kind of battles it wages against taxi unions? What happens when your streets and your cars are commodities that are coordinated thanks to software and a set of rules that you don’t control? And perhaps the most clarifying: Do you really think that in California would let its transportation system be run from Barcelona?

All these questions are part of the conclusions Bruce Sterling draws about “Smart Cities.” The discourse on the “Sharing Economy” has detoured the debate and hidden the project of recentralization of networks and the power of the Internet giants. But it’s still there. And as the father of cyberpunk reminds us, it not only has political consequences in the city, but globally, and geopolitically.

So, does Sterling want to close the door on the “Sharing Economy” or the “Smart City?” Absolutely not. He’s simply reminding us that is a battlefield on which the different subjects must recognize what network structures and what architectures of power create a world where we have space. And in recentralization, there’s no space for citizenship.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte86 ~ ~ July 13th, 2014 ~ 2

Community and happiness

imageThe Philosopher’s Mail, the blog of Alain de Botton and the followers of atheism 2.0, published an article about the Epicureans. Its most interesting aspect is that, in a nutshell, it proposes that Epicurean communitarianism is based on its founder’s minimalist definition of happiness:

With his analysis of happiness in hand, Epicurus made three important innovations:

Firstly, he decided that he would live together with friends. Enough of seeing them only now and then. He bought a modestly priced plot of land outside of Athens and built a place where he and his friends could live side by side on a permanent basis. Everyone had their rooms, and there were common areas downstairs and in the grounds. That way, the residents would always be surrounded by people who shared their outlooks, were entertaining and kind. Children were looked after in rota. Everyone ate together. One could chat in the corridors late at night. It was the world’s first proper commune.

Secondly, everyone in the commune stopped working for other people. They accepted cuts in their income in return for being able to focus on fulfilling work. Some of Epicurus’s friends devoted themselves to farming, others to cooking, a few to making furniture and art. They had far less money, but ample intrinsic satisfaction.

And thirdly, Epicurus and his friends devoted themselves to finding calm through rational analysis and insight. They spent periods of every day reflecting on their anxieties, improving their understanding of their psyches and mastering the great questions of philosophy.

Epicurus’s experiment in living caught on. Epicurean communities opened up all around the Mediterranean and drew in thousands of followers. The centres thrived for generations – until they were brutally suppressed by a jealous and aggressive Christian Church in the 5th century. But even then, their essence survived when many of them were turned into monasteries.

De Botton forgets that that Epicurean, familiar, and mixed monasticism of the 5th century, common and even dominant in places like the Iberian peninsula and the island of Ireland, was gradually enclosed from Rome and finally removed with the Gregorian reform. The spirit of Epicurean communitarianism would then begin to thrive in a very different environment. But that’s another story.

Translated by Alan Furth from the Spanish original.

las Indias21 ~ May 17th, 2014 ~ 1

Market activism

Aesires en acción (From Indianopedia) Market activism is our term for the design and trade of products with the goal of spreading values and ideas. The name was coined in 2012 by Juanjo Pina from “aesirs,” based on a previous debate on entrepreneuralism held by “las Indias Group of Cooperatives” since 2009, linking the idea of the phyle to the medieval arts and guilds:

We believe the kind of knowledge that enables us to make beautiful and socially useful things cannot be reduced to technical knowledge. It must contain a social meaning, a work ethic and a worldview. Goods offered in the marketplace carry with them a vision of the world, of social projects and a moral points of view.

Some examples

  • In 2007 the indianos combatted «rankism», a narrative on the blogsphere spread by the media that we saw as a danger to its distributed structure. As a response, we developed feevy, the first dynamic blog-roll for blogs. It not only made it easy to link and share audiences between blogs, it made it obvious that the “star blogger system” was just a media myth. Feevy had soon 60,000 users/blogs, making it possible to map hundred of thousands of blogs in Spanish and how they were connected. We called this map the map of flowers, and was, itself, a refutation of the narrative imposed by the mainstream media. Feevy, carefully developed not to use personal data, was programmed as free software, and its platform sold later to a a big firm.
  • Since 2011, the whole “neovenetianist milieu” did its best to transform its knowledge into useful tools to combat the European unemployment crisis:
  • In 2010, Alain de Botton launched his atheism 2.0. His main tool would be “The School of life,” an international chain of stores supplying consumer goods, courses and motivational seminars for businesses

las Indias21 ~ April 22nd, 2014 ~ 0

Vote for Guerrilla Translation in the 2014 OuiShare Awards

Our friends of Guerrilla Translation are among the nominees for the 2014 Ouishare Awards. You can vote for them or in any case know a little more about them and this Awards.

las Indias21 ~ February 11th, 2014 ~ 3

The fruits of an interesting life

festival-de-las-linternasToday our front page has a new banner: series. That’s what we have called the thematic threads that have been forming since we started to focus “El Correo de las Indias” on the idea of an interesting life. And in fact, the first series tries precisely to answer the question what is an interesting life? This leitmotif that was born in another series, the only one now finished: “Towards a new narrative,” by Juan Urrutia. And of course, we can’t leave out our love of cooking, our pulp heroes, and Go. They all continue growing and will appear again in the future. For the moment take a peek, and we hope that you’ll like them.

(Note from your translator: if there are older posts you want to see translated, please leave a comment!)

David de Ugarte86 ~ February 7th, 2014 ~ 0

What’s left when the state falls?

These days, the press all over the world is talking about the Michoacan self-defense movement, since the Mexican State is confronting them, after letting the “Knights Templar” camp there for years. This mafia was the beneficiary of decomposition, accelerated by the State itself, of the formerly, and sadly celebrated “Michoacan family.” The debate is now the typical trap of decomposition between the defense of the monopoly on violence by the state and the verification of a captured and corrupt state that for years abandoned the life and treasure of thousands of people to a terrible mafia.

So rather than entering the debate, I’d like to draw attention to an element of “self-defense” and the form that its process of legitimation took: the reemergence of a series of forms, like open town councils, which come from the birth of urban democracy in medieval Europe.

These forms are not “natural,” but rather cultural and historical. Born with urban development, they became revolutionary in community revolts, and reappeared in the open crisis of the Napoleonic wars – which led to the birth of the Mexican State – and during the large civilian conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. And now they return in the middle of decomposition. Quijote told Sancho on the path to the island of Barataria to “be careful of your vassals or they will take the government from you or form communities by themselves.” The “Long live the commoners!” shout is heard in the Michoacan town halls. In my view, there are issues here to reflect upon and learn from.

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