The new [digital] Socialism?

Posted by on May 26, 2009 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Curious piece by Kevin Kelly in this month's wired about the re-emergence of socialism as a political and business idea (in the US and elsewhere in the developed world)

"[we] may not be politically immune to the rising tide of sharing,
cooperation, collaboration, and collectivism. For the first time in
years, the s-word is being uttered by
TV pundits
and in national newsmagazines as a force in US politics. Obviously, the
trend toward nationalizing hunks of industry, instituting national
health care, and jump-starting job creation with tax money isn't wholly
due to techno-socialism. But the last election demonstrated the power
of a decentralized, webified base with digital collaboration at its
core. The more we benefit from such collaboration, the more open we
become to socialist institutions in government. The coercive,
soul-smashing system of North Korea is dead; the future is a hybrid
that takes cues from both Wikipedia and the moderate socialism of

The last time I mentioned the S-idea here, I got a few hostile comments; KK seems to preempt this in his longhand version, wisely. But I'm not sure his comment box will escape – there are loads of angry anti-socialists here in Internetland e.g. here.

What strikes those of us like me who grew up outside the US is – the "s-word" aside – how natural  these ideas of collaboration, mutuality and connectedness seem to be: how human "us" is in the light of our modern scientific understanding of homo sapiens and human nature and how commonplace they are in our webworld stuff; and yet, at the same time, how provocative they are to many other folk  (this despite the long history of collective ownership of infrastructure in US agriculture and the sterling work done by US-based or funded scientists in the behavioural and cognitive sciences to populate and evidence e.g. the social brain idea).

It's not just simple errors like the conflation of State Communism with the s-word that irks me here; nor the poor grasp of historical fact that e.g. old ideas of central planning were an essential part of 's-ism' (curiously central planning seems to have been imported by Lenin and his gang to the USSR from Fordist USA); no, the S-word seems to reach deep into the heart of the story many of us tell themselves about what it is to be American or modern or just "one of us"; into what Durckheim might have called the "cultural ideology" of the developed world (those ideas about the world that have become so central to how we see things that they have become part of the world as we see it).

What KK's piece usefully does is show how the idea of 'us' rather then 'I' is being reinvigorated by the technology so central to our modern world: it's revealing homo sapiens as a "we-" rather than a "me-"species. A collaborative and "necessarily interdependent creature" as Gandhi put it.

And at the same time the tensions this causes with some of our other ideas. Whatever you call it.

UPDATE: and interesting to see how much of this is part of the world-view of the man who wants to be the UK's next leader


  1. Padraig
    May 26, 2009

    very interesting.
    It makes me think of how many things in our society can be done so much better now thanks to technology and the social movement online. These systems do away with unnecessary admin and bureaucracy.
    Ironically the government websites are the worst websites around, because of their admin and bureaucracy! Perhaps it will be funnier when we look back in times to come, and can see how obvious it all was to us:)

  2. ggtg
    June 5, 2010

    This is the Albanian Socialist party’s symbol.