AN END TO MOVEMENTS by Douglas Rushkoff

An End to Movements
by Douglas Rushkoff

The national healthcare movement was doomed from the start. TV clips of shouting matches at town halls and fear-mongering by cynical politicians may be lamentable, but we are witnessing something more profound than the collapse of civic discourse. The failure of a movement that could rightly claim over 70 percent public acceptance just a month ago, exposes the inherent failure of movements of any kind to effectively address our society’s ills.

That’s right. Mass organization may just have been a twentieth century thing: collective actions of all sorts—good and bad—were responses to the corporatization of government and industy. As such, they took the form of the entities with whom they sought to do battle. But—like the top-heavy, highly abstracted creatures they were created to counter —they are proving utterly incapable of providing an alternative to what they would replace.

They did work for a time. When a corporation had the power to hire a police force to crush labor unrest, labor created its own collective, virtual structure to fight back: the union. When disenfranchised blacks faced Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement gave them a tent under which to organize, a charismatic leadership to follow, and a clearly articulated cause to promote. It was branded. Marches could be scheduled, buttons could be worn. And it worked.

Between the 1960s and today, however, the mediaspace through which these causes disseminated ideas and gained momentum has changed. The best techniques for galvanizing a movement have long been co-opted and surpassed by public relations and advertising firms. Whether a movement is real or Astroturf has become almost impossible for even discerning viewers to figure out. The question often becomes the new content of the Sunday morning news panel, taking the place of whatever real issue might have been addressed.

But the problem is not simply that we’ve lost the ability to distinguish between real movements and cynically concocted fake ones. It’s that they are functionally indistinguishable. They may as well be the same thing.

In our current position, when disconnection from the real world is itself a cause for concern, movements only serve to disconnect us further from the actionable. They give us content for websites, language for our bumper stickers, and faces to put on our ideals. But they distract us from the matter at hand, and worse, turn our attention upward toward brand mythologies instead of immediately before us to the people and problems that need our time and energy. In the place of real connections to other people, we get the highly charged but ultimately fake connection to an image.

This is why progressives are so disillusioned by President Obama. He was never anything other than a centrist Democrat. But “brand Obama” gave his supporters—a movement in the fullest sense of the word—an abstracted ideal on which to focus. At least until his election. Meanwhile, the real requirements of progressive activists to contribute to their neighborhoods, promote local business and agriculture, invigorate failing public schools, were again left to someone else. This is not the failure of a president, but the flawed functionality of movements themselves.

For while civil rights, suffrage, and many other causes were largely won through traditionally organized, long-fought, top-down movements, the scale on which these great battles were waged is one no longer appropriate to the tasks at hand. In fact, it is the scale itself on which we have been attempting to orchestrate human affairs that is suspect.

Activists would do more to fight Big Agra simply by subscribing to their local Community Supported Agriculture groups. We’d more effectively pull the rug out from under a corrupt financial sector by simply investing in one another’s businesses—our own town restaurants and drug stores—instead of outsourcing our retirement savings to Wall Street. We could more easily re-invent public schools by volunteering our time to them directly, instead of sending our kids to private schools while we sign petitions for government to re-prioritize. And even in health care, we’d end up cutting everyone’s costs by commuting less, smoking less, landscaping less, and, yes, hating less. For each of these actions triggers different responses, undermines industries, requires new legal structures, and so on. It’s tiny, but it’s almost fractal in its impact.

For as the alternative is now teaching us, one size does not fit all. Americans, in particular, have been living under the premise that there’s something to buy, vote for, or believe in that will simply change everything. And it’s certainly still possible that government could develop the single payer system that pretty much everybody knows deep down would bring the best of industrial health care to the most people.

But just as we are learning that industrially produced food is not ultimately nutritious, a top-down, passionately executed, and highly branded movement is not ultimately effective.

In fact, by creating and branding a movement, even the most well-meaning activitsts are disconnecting from terra firma, and instead entering the world of marketing, public opinion, and language selection. Potential participants, meanwhile, are distracted from whatever on-the-ground, constructive and purposeful activity they might do. They get to join an abstracted movement, and participate by belonging instead of doing, or blogging instead of acting.

Douglas Rushkoff is the author, most recently, of Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back.

41 thoughts on “AN END TO MOVEMENTS by Douglas Rushkoff

  1. These are just more reasons that corporate speech should always be regulated as commercial speech, whether it is in the form of campaign contributions, astroturf, or any other form of political spending on behalf of a for-profit entity. Put the for-profits back on a more level playing field with the non-profits and natural persons!

  2. Overall I agree with the thesis of this article–that movements have themselves been co-opted by marketing (for example Seth Godin’s very popular book Tribes, which is basically about creating movements around consumer brands, and even re-interpreting politics as branding).

    I’m not as sure about the conclusion as to how to best address the problem, however. For example, when you say “But just as we are learning that industrially produced food is not ultimately nutritious, a top-down, passionately executed, and highly branded movement is not ultimately effective.”

    There have been several studies lately that lend some skepticism to the argument that organic food is more nutritious. I still purchase organics, but for the ecological consequences of pesticides and fertilizers, and the hope that organic farming takes better care of our Earth. But there are also arguments pro-industrial agriculture from economists that argue that we cannot feed the existing 6.7 billion, let alone the estimated 9.1 billion on small-scale organic farming, which is far less productive (even if more sustainable).

    I do find your writing compelling however, and look forward to more articles.

  3. I totally agree that it is impossible to distinguish between grassroots movements and astro-turfing, but I think that’s because there never was much of a difference.

    The “authentic” Vietnam War protests of the 60s as a youth rebellion against their war-mongering parents, but few people realize that people under 30 were far more likely to support the war than people over 30. The older generation who have fought and lived through WW2 were much more anti-war than the youth.

    The portrayal of the protests as the voice of the youth speaking out against an unjust war that they were being drafted into was effectively anti-war astroturfing in the same way that these “ordinary Americans” anti-health care reform protesters.

    So here’s a question: what if they aren’t astroturfing? Does it matter? Not to me. The fact that the “voice of the people” is speaking up in favor of system that is (to me) manifestly unjust doesn’t bother me one bit. In the same way that I am prepared to “undemocratically” enforce the rights of gay people to get married, I am also prepared to enforce a right to healthcare. This is a representative democracy, and we should get try to get this through congress with or without “the people”.

    The right hasn’t “co-opted” populist movements so much as realized that it can be harnessed for conservative causes just as easily as it can for progressive ones. Or at least, it used to be so. Today, everyone knows that all supposedly spontaneous protests are part of well-coordinated propaganda efforts, so they don’t work any more. The Left still want to justify progressive policy with superficial appeals to populism, and I think the lesson is that we should stop doing that. A majority of people thought interracial marriage should be illegal until very recently and a majority oppose gay marriage. And it doesn’t matter!

    I think it is precisely this unwillingness to use power to achieve a more just society that leads us to abandon politics in general. The idea that we can fight BigAgra by making (slightly) different consumer choices is an exact replica of Bush’s suggestion that the best way to help the country after 9/11 is to go shopping. This is a suggestion to abandon the political field to the right wing (even more than we already have), effectively conceding that the capitalist system is here to stay and we should best think of ourselves as consumers rather than citizens.

    I do subscribe to my local CSA – how does it help the billions of starving global poor?

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  5. I just don’t see what’s new about this. Single-issue movements have always been co-opted by organizations with a broader agenda including communists, fascists, churches, mosques and self-interested businesses. And can anybody name a political leader who hasn’t sold out in the eyes of their active supporters?

    As for the health care ‘debate’ in the US, from this side of the pond, it seems to be a case of a simple answer to a simple question being rather more complex than it appears. Ask the question: Should everybody have the right to basic health care? Of course most people will answer yes. They’re not being asked about paying for or administering the health service.

    Think about other questions you might ask US citizens. Do you think people should be prevented from killing each other? I’m sure the answer would be the same for supporters of gun control and members of the NRA.

    The danger of looking at these arguments and saying, “you can fool most of the people, most of the time,” is you relinquish responsibility for supporting anything you believe in. There’s never been a time when the ignorance of the masses hasn’t been an argument for doing nothing.

  6. “I do subscribe to my local CSA – how does it help the billions of starving global poor?”

    I understand what you are saying, MrTeacup, and you do make a number of good points. However, it seems to me that any form of hierarchically structured authoritarian power, be it a Government (left or right wing) or as what has happened in our global society, a Corporate-run power, the power that is generated is always concentrated at the top of the pyramid. Hence, the billions of starving people the world over.

    We have observed that exerting power and enacting due process against the power elite by sending crooked CEOs and stockbrokers (or even politicians) to prison merely serves to cut the head off of the hydra; there are always more crooked CEOs, stockbrokers, and politicians who will rise to take their place because that’s how the rules of the game are setup.

    Doing what we can to support our local economies ever so slightly siphons this power away from its concentrated precipice where it serves to create the artificial scarcity that is responsible for so much of global starvation. It may seem like supporting our local CSA does nothing immediate to affect larger, global problems. But as Douglas says in his article, these little changes act like fractals. They become viral and build outwards. More and more power being taken from the global elite and put back in the hands of everyday people, who when catalyzed enough and given the proper tools (mostly tools of the mind) will start doing a far better job than any top-down power scheme.

    As a result, global famine (as well as countless other ills) will begin to diminish.

  7. This makes me think about how the concept of movements relates to the concept of franchise activism common in anarchist and anti-authoritarian organizing. Food Not Bombs, Critical Mass, and a handful of other projects involve shared goals, strategies, and even media and marketing materials (flyers, posters, websites, stickers, buttons), but also hold as a basic principle that anyone can start their own chapter without anyone else’s permission. These chapters always do something, but the details vary and of course it’s always a point of debate how different you can be from a typical Food Not Bombs and still honestly call yourself an FNB chapter. It seems like franchise activism might combine some of the social cohesion that movements provide with the actual activity from which they often alienate their members.

  8. @WakingSleep, thanks for reading and responding. I appreciate the opportunity to share ideas!

    I think it’s worth pointing out that the organic food industry in the US is $40 billion+ market. It makes up nearly 10% of the total food industry, and has very strong growth. A similar point could be made about alternative medicine: allegedly taking power away from traditional medicine, but it’s a $45 billion industry and growing.

    I’m skeptical. One obvious point is that organic food is also run by corporations, just different corporations we like better (right now). What if a large multinational started acquiring smaller organic food corporations? Immediately there would be cries of “co-opting”, but does that make sense? Acquisitions are the rules of the capitalist game which we decided to play with, and as soon as it works against our larger goals we call foul and say its not fair? Sorry: if you sleep with dogs, you get up with fleas.

    A second scenario: an organic food company is discovered to have made some compromises with its practices to increase profits. No doubt activists will try to generate outrage, call for a boycott, but what will really happen? We like the organic food industry (and it is an industry) because “ethics” (somewhat vaguely defined) is part of the brand, and the gamble is that somehow we can use existing brands, marketing and consumer behavior to fix the world’s problems.

    But there is always a gap between the aspiration that the brand represents and actual consumer behavior, because brands are always about constructing our identity through signaling to others what we are about. SUVs are positioned as rugged cars for the outdoor-loving consumer who love to blaze their own trail, but of course this doesn’t happen, there are people who wear only “outdoorsy” Patagonia or North Face clothing, but never leave the city, etc.

    Nothing new there, we can play that game all day. But is ethical consumption any different? A survey of prius owners showed that the single most important reason they bought a prius was to tell others that they thought the environment was a very important issue. I think we can conclude that ethical consumption tell us “You can change the world just by signaling your good intentions. And here, we will sell you the means to do it.”

    We don’t have to do anything except make some slightly different consumer choices, and hey, aren’t they much better (more delicious, fresh, nutritious) anyway? This is a pseudo-ethical lifestyle that requires absolutely nothing from us except that we live life and enjoy our pleasures more fully and promises us that the world’s problems will all resolve themselves without us having to lift a finger. We think we can just “make our voices heard”, just signal our deeply held beliefs (without judgmentally imposing them on anyone) and hope that someone else will do something about it.

    The logic is “Look at all the environmental devastation, exploitation and violence against the poor! These are terrible moral tragedies & something must be done – but let’s not tell anyone how to live.” Even in the worst cases of genocide, like Darfur, people still say “We need to stop this! But, the US can’t go in alone and impose power on them, it must be a multilateral effort led by the UN, etc.”

    I think we care about the issues, but are afraid of getting our hands dirty, so we instead choose consumerist modes of activism: individualized, personalized, safe lifestyles that don’t risk imposing power on anyone else. This is just Consumer Reports activism where nothing is fundamentally altered.

    I think we should take a different approach – against this individualized lifestyle activism, we should instead decide collectively to exert power in the name of justice.

  9. @Duff

    If you do some more research, those studies have been quite controversial, and if I remember correctly may have been funded in part by Monsanto. But even if organics don’t have more nutrients, I was under the impression that most people eat them not because of what they do have, but what they don’t, i.e. chemicals that may be harmful to the body (in addition to environmental reasons, as you mentioned). As for organic food not producing enough yields to feed the population, Bill McKibben has a great section in his book Deep Economy that shows that organics can actually have much greater yields, they are merely more labor-intensive rather than fossil-fuel intensive, and in the long run are more beneficial as they don’t deplete the soil.

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  11. Perhaps we’re having the wrong debate. What if instead of focusing on health care, we took away the limited liability and “citizenship” of all corporations? Then they would have a lot less influence over government and lot more reason to be concerned about harming the public and our environment.

  12. @mr. teacup:
    “we should instead decide collectively to exert power in the name of justice.”

    Who decides what ‘justice’ is and how that ‘power’ will be exerted? Sounds like an oversimplified brute approach that always ends up being just as top-down as the ‘injustices’ it originally fights against.

    See: dictatorial ‘socialism’ in the 20th century which always started as a populist movement deciding collectively to exert power in the name of justice.

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  14. “Who decides what ‘justice’ is and how that ‘power’ will be exerted? Sounds like an oversimplified brute approach that always ends up being just as top-down as the ‘injustices’ it originally fights against.”

    Yes, indeed. But do you notice how we’ve learned this lesson today? We consider someone who has strong convictions to be basically a kind of a dictator. As if the problem of Stalin’s gulags was that he was too “top down” and judgmental of other people. Perhaps we are so traumatized by this history that we’re incapable of taking a true moral/political position at all, all we have are our lifestyles.

    What is so great about “bottom-up”? They are just as capable of horrific violence. But do you see how when we advocate bottom-up change, it let’s us put ourselves outside of the political sphere? We can duck the dirty business of telling people how to live, and just provide a neutral platform from which the people’s authentic voice can be heard, etc.

    So we end up not really having a political platform, mostly we just want to make sure politics is more democratic and then celebrate the (rare) occasions when they make the choices we agree with as a victory for the people. And what if the people make the wrong choices? Their true desires have been obscured even to themselves by media brainwashing and corporate propaganda, of course!

  15. I’d normally let PirateBay have the book, but I see it as too big and anonymous a structure. As anyone who cares to find out knows, the book is available for free to anyone who asks. But they must actually ask. I preferred to let people ask for the book, just so there was some acknowledgment that value was being exchanged, person to person. There is great time and energy put it into the book, and while I understand many people cannot even spare a single cent to pay for the experience of reading it, I do prefer to give it directly as this medium will allow.

    PirateBay is a great great way to respond to a giant organization, but not a way to interact with an author like me who already gives everything away.

    As for the discussion on movements – it all comes for me out of a long consideration of what’s real and what’s not. I don’t think all movements have to go away, not truly. It’s really just that the balance seems to have tipped. Belonging to big things isn’t quite the same as doing real (and necessarily) little things – because people are actually little.

    I just feel like people join movements and climb into the big abstract entities to do media battle against corporate dragons. And when we do that, we’ve already lost because we have accepted the disconnection from terra firma as a prerequisite for our activity.

  16. I feel one of the reasons for the disconnect, as you put it, is based in centralization of power in this country. States’ rights have been undergoing erosion in this country since the days of the civil war; this has grown by leaps and bounds as the federal government has decided to take away the power of addressing societal problems from local governments, in order to administer it themselves.

    Every time a massive new entitlement is granted (Social Security, Medicare), the voice of opposition is not only pushed farther away from those who are most affected by it, but the flow of power and money is concentrated more in the hands of the few in Washington. It’s not particularly surprising; when the federal government confiscates billions of tax dollars from citizens (and therefore out of their hands as well as from state and local governments), that naturally is where the lobbyist industries and various other leeches are going to congregate.

    In addition we have seen the erosion of representative government in the U.S. The House was originally meant to maintain a representative-to-citizen ration of around 1:40,000. Since the number was fixed at 435 several decades ago that ratio has grown to nearly 1:700,000. 435 people cannot hope to adequately represent the interests of over 300 million people. Therefore they attempt to be everything to everyone, and will restrict access only to those interests who will fund re-election campaigns in exchange for favorable treatment.

    Merely one symptom of this problem is the various reports of representatives and senators who have been canceling town-hall programs or outright insulting constituents by equating their protests with “astroturfing” methods, or worse, with Nazi Germany. The disconnect goes both ways; the average citizen feels they cannot effect any change, the powerful separate themselves from those they claim to represent by isolating or insulting those with legitimate concerns.

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  20. “I’d normally let PirateBay have the book, but I see it as too big and anonymous a structure..”

    The venue is really not all that important to me, as long as the book is licensed as open source and is available as a free download for all. The Pirate Bay (or Scribd) is an indexed open library for all to use. To say that Pirate Bay is too big and anonymous a structure to be used as a distribution network seems a rather peculiar argument. I suppose, next you’ll argue that the internet is too big and anonymous to be used as an open distribution network, and therefore shouldn’t be used. The only conclusion I can draw, is that your book contract uses the same copyright laws that you claim to be against, and that’s real issue here. That doesn’t do much for your credibility, Doug. Copyright law = Intellectual lobotomy.

  21. The best techniques for galvanizing a movement have long been co-opted and surpassed by public relations and advertising firms. Whether a movement is real or Astroturf has become almost impossible for even discerning viewers to figure out.
    Those underlined 2 sentences are a beautiful summation of the current predicament. The fundamental failure of your reasoning however is one sentence further down when you say “But the problem is not simply that we’ve lost the ability to distinguish between real movements and cynically concocted fake ones. It’s that they are functionally indistinguishable. They may as well be the same thing.”

    The problem is “that we’ve lost the ability to distinguish between real movements and cynically concocted fake ones”, or more precisely that ability has been diminished or overcome by the best and brightest that money can buy who work in those PR firms. It would be naive to think that even a reasonably intelligent and well educated person or group of people would stand much of a chance against an army of experts in industrial psychology and manipulation.

    To say “They may as well be the same thing” is perhaps to admit ones inability to distinguish the real from the fake but it is certainly untrue. We live in an increasingly spun and manipulated society. Our very language (fundamental means of communication) is being doctored. Our natural ability to interact and cooperate with each other has been reduced, by design. To say organizations based on manipulation and coercion may as well be the same thing as organizations based on the common good is perhaps just to miss how extensive and pervasive the former are and how rare the latter.

    The bulk of humanity has a highly organized, top down opposition with basically unlimited resources. Whether they are, or you call them, the enemies of humanity, organized and concentrated wealth and power, the military industrial entertainment complex or whatever, they are winning the game of life in a huge way, that is if life is about the accumulation of resources and the securing of privilege and power.
    The problem is there is no solution (so far as I am aware of anyway). You have just made a pretty sharp insight into the workings of the big scary monster that is stealing all our lunch money, and then come to the conclusion that if we just focus on helping our neighbor or cleaning our kitchen we can overcome. Perhaps in some spiritual way that is true, but not in any functional way that might significantly hinder the entities (perhaps human) who are bent on enslaving the bulk of us (mankind).

    I am trying to point out that you do not have an answer. I do not have an answer but I think it might be useful to just sit with that for a while. Things are going pretty badly for most of the planet and a few bright bankers and there minions are having a fiesta. I can’t believe that I see no solution, and perhaps it is useless to even try to define the problem, but I would not rule out that a solution may come in the form of a mass movement.

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  23. Exposing an astroturfing campaign isn’t as hard to do as you make it out to be. Just look to whatever pot Edelman PR has its grubby hands in. That’s usually a great jumping-off point.

    Seems Edelman is all up in the API’s (American Petroleum Institute) latest astroturfing effort… that of faking and staging rallies to oppose climate change legislation. And why not? With millions of dollars paid out to astroturf really well, there are plenty of folk who will do anyone’s fake business. Just follow the money.

    Edelman is shown here with API’s internal blogger:

    http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/117058

    API’s plans for fake rallies are here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/14/us-lobbying

    Help yourself!

  24. It takes 5-10 minutes on google to determine the funding, staffing, organization and history of any movement. I’m baffled by your comment that people can no longer distinguish between real and Astroturf.

    That said, I agree with your point that they’re functionally the same thing.

  25. A few things…

    Mika – Rushkoff isn’t saying Pirate Bay doesn’t function well as distribution system, but that it is more anonymous than he’d prefer. He already has the Internet as an efficient distribution system and will give the book to whoever asks for it.

    This whole article is about being connected on a human level, staying grounded, not being swept into abstract movements or corporate entities. So his desire to be connected as a human to the people that want his book is completely consistent with his thesis.

    Will – I think you make a good point that they’re ability to fool us, does not make them the same thing in essence. And I even like your lunch money metaphor.

    So consider this: We start making alternative lunch money. It is only accepted at our own food carts, and participation is completely voluntary. The corporate theive/bullies/thugs/raiders can only use it for lunch in that community and there’s only so much lunch they can eat.

    However, if they can’t use it to buy up real estate, bribe politicians, make speculative investments, build their empire of power an anonymity, then it isn’t worth their time and energy to steal.

    Humans are susceptible to a particular kind of magical thinking that verges on pathological. Specifically, it has to do with having a magical item that give you a kind of universal power. For alchemists and conquistadors it was gold. For modern Americans it is MONEY.

    You can hold it in your hand, and use it to get ANYTHING! This is a temptation that attracts the greedy, the power hungry, the corrupt. Heck, it attracts almost all of us, but some go too far while under its spell.

    The sooner we learn that we actually do NOT want our currencies to be universal power objects, the sooner we can get back to having those currencies be designed to fill different niches and meet the needs of our distinct communities and repel the conquistadors.

    Rushkoff didn’t say it in this piece, but much of this boils down the the corporatization of our money. It’s time to think for ourselves about currency. The bill of goods they’ve sold us about it is bogus and is designed to feed their hunger and increase their wealth.

    We can learn a lot from from nature. Notice that each organism has its own currency / circulatory system. And that the lifeblood is mostly not interchangeable. Human blood is not the same as dog blood or tree sap. The more universal items of value (such as water and air) are not scarce.

    What would currencies and economies look like if instead of being designed to benefit a few power-mongers, they were designed to support diverse communities and people?

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  27. Well, should anyone ever read this “late to the party” comment, I always wonder why we bother electing representatives who are supposed to do this job. AND why we don’t can them if we are going to have all these “grass root”, ad Hoc, Astro-turf, ineffectual fringe groups, and get representatives that are as “influential” as the corporate lobbiests?

  28. Arthur, if Douglas felt that the book did not stand on its own than what’s the point of publishing it? The argument of requiring this supplementary personal contact with everyone that wishes to read the book for free, seems to me to be little more than sophomore sophistry used for the purpose of limiting free access to the book. Why is it that no such requirement is needed for people that purchase the book from the publishers? Again, the only conclusion I can draw, is that Rushkoff’s book contract uses the same copyright laws he claim to be against, and that’s really the real issue here.

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  31. The use of the word fractal is great. It instantly conjured up the Nova episode that explained how structures in nature are often fractal. That is, the whole looks a lot like the individual parts themselves (i.e. heart rhythm sound waves, snowflakes, lightning, rivers, blood vessels.) Applying that idea to my personal actions makes me realize that I had better get back to work and stop writing this! Imagine if everyone spent their work days dinking around on the internet and indulging their collective self-importance by posting blog comments.

    By the way, sorry for the tangent; the article is most non-bogus. Plus: it refutes any lazy-brain excuses I might make to myself about waiting around for the right group to form through which I MIGHT try to initiate positive change. I live diagonally across from a public elementary school with an outdoor vegetable garden, fer (Dr.) Teets’ sake!

  32. Mika,

    I can’t speak for Douglas on this point, but I can speak for myself.

    Gift economies function according to different principles than commercial economies. In a commercial transaction no relationship is required nor inherently created. Anyone with 3 bucks can buy a box of nails at the hardware store and remain anonymous if they choose to. It is a tit-for-tat exchange which ends the moment it is done.

    However, if I walk across the street and ask my neighbor for a handful of nails, it is a completely different transaction.

    – It requires relationship. If I’m a bad neighbor he may not go out of his way for me.

    – It is a GIFT, not an exchange. Don’t fall for that lazy thinking that *everything* is an exchange. He doesn’t want me to hand him 3 bucks or to bring a handful of nails back next week after I bought more. He’s not trading it for the “feel-good” or to have me personally indebted to him.

    – It is an investment in a SOCIAL CONTRACT. Gift economies function by social contract. If you’re a good “citizen” according that contract, then we’re good with each other. My neighbor is investing in a neighborhood ethos where we do this stuff for each other. It’s a pay it FORWARD, ACROSS and only occasionally BACK economy.

    So… why does this matter. Because social contracts exist between PEOPLE WHO KNOW EACH OTHER. Given our current paucity of robust reputation currencies, they have not traditionally scaled beyond family/tribe/village.

    But this is a core part of the economic shift we are undergoing! We are using information age technology to create wide-scale social contracts, reputation currencies and gift economies! This completely breaks out of the box of all traditional “economic” models which assume everything is about exchange.

    Anyway… these are my words not Douglas’, but I’ll bet the spirit of it is at the core of his desire to have an actual connection with people he gives his book to.

    Anyone who wants to remain anonymous and disconnected can feel free to BUY a copy. But… What’s possible if we stop hiding behind money *pretending* to be independent and start acknowledging our joyous interdependence?

    When we set the money-making aside, we tend to take pretty good care of each other.

  33. “It is a GIFT, not an exchange..”

    Again, I see this as little more than sophomore sophistry. A gift is given freely without the other having to ask for it. Second, I completely reject any and all copyright laws and any argument for any such similar paradigm. Thirdly, because I completely reject any and all copyright laws, Rushkoff’s book would not even qualify as a gift. An exchange of thoughts, images, sounds, is not a commodity, nor a gift, nor a social contract, it’s a conversation. And I completely reject the commercialization of such. I find it absolutely ludicrous for any speaker to demand any kind of contract from his audience, and the only reply I will give, and the only reply that should be given to such a demand, is to tell such persons to go stuff their fat head where the sun don’t shine.

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  35. Political movements grow, crest, and (win or lose) collapse. It’s a natural process. When successful, movements give birth to political parties, labor unions, and other enduring organizations with dues-paying members, recruited militants and permanent officials. And like birthing, the transition entails love and power. Love between the community and naturally emerging leaders on the one hand and, on the other hand, the leaders’ access to power through large scale organization. This is democracy. Since the 60s, I have lamented the failure of most 60s movement to give birth to large-scale organizations. At best, we seem to have small elite organizations that are prone to recurring defeat, as those we are currently witnessing gasping for air against the tsunami of money assembled against cap and trade, health care reform, etc.

  36. Pingback: An End to Movements | Disinformation

  37. Pingback: » A leaderless movement Ninjaclectic

  38. Pingback: Volume

  39. Pingback: Douglas Rushkoff – Selhávají hnutí

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