Well I’m no Thomas Friedman and no, I am not a communist. The reason I’m writing this post is because I wonder if two famous communist rallying cries are actually coming to pass in our world today.
(1) “Workers of the world unite.”
(Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels)
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx believed that communism would arise from a revolution of the international (my italics) working class. He believed that each person’s work, and how they worked was entirely personal and individual, and that the capitalist mode of production necessarily alienated the worker class because it forced the worker to essentially give up his inherent creativity to produce in his own fashion. (Click here to read more.)
This for Marx was tantamount to being alienated from one’s own nature – a spiritual loss.
Look around at the daily frustrations and anxiety of modern life. Doesn’t this indeed seem to be the case?
People medicate, or distract themselves with TV, drugs or sex to relieve the frustration and anxiety they feel from Marx’s predicted alienation.
Marx understood work as a social activity, and that it was the social relationships that people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production, that shape history.
The tensions produced by any particular mode of production would lead naturally – depends on whether you think of revolution as natural – to another mode of production.So for Marx, it went from feudalism to capitalism to communism.
Look at our world today.
Are we in the midst of an international revolution?
A case could be made that we are that a revolution is underway and people are getting hurt emotionally and financially because of it. Like most revolutions, things will be radically different after it’s done, but unlike most revolutions there need not be bloodshed.
The means of production are now accessible to everyone. Everyone can manufacture, market, produce and sell products and services.
And that’s no exaggeration.
All they need is the will to acquire and use knowledge. (And a computer with a high speed internet connection.)
Whether you like it or not, workers of the world are uniting, and they’re calling it globalization. Read “the World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, and “The four-hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris. The last book in particular may help you be a revolutionary rather than a casualty.
(2) “From each according to his ability, and to each according to his need.”
Probably no statement chills the heart of the free market capitalist more than this one.
Who knows what one’s true ability is, and who decides what any single person needs?
A totalitarian system of government was the Soviet answer, and we know how that worked out.
No argument there.
What intrigues me though is there seems to be a naturally occurring form of this happening all around us; due to the rise of the personal computer and the internet.
There are open source software platforms where extremely talented people from all over the world collaborate and give of their time and knowledge to produce software platforms and applications that are shared for free with anyone that “needs” them.
There are also little applications that you can download for free to your Smartphone or computer.
People are writing content and sharing information for free all over the internet.
Of course there are still economic engines driving a lot of this freeness or sharing, but not all of them, and you are seeing more and more that people are producing value to be shared with anyone that “needs” them.
This phenomenon more than anything is what made me think that a new form of communism, NOT the totalitarian, central-controlled, religion-excluding, Soviet-style communism, but a kinder, gentler, sustainable and bourgeois-friendly communism is emerging.
Something is happening to the way we collaborate and coordinate our actions at home and at work and it is occurring naturally – no bloody revolutions – in a distinctly “social” context.
From the “sharing” of digital content that can now be produced by anyone without the need of major entertainment studios, to the sharing of renewable energy for the security of the free world and survival of our planet.
I don’t know what is coming next – how all this will play out – but I don’t think we can call it Capitalism.
People will no longer be driven to consume for consumption sake because the new system will be driven by genuine social and environmental concerns.
Profits will be alive and well for the foreseeable future but they will not be the sole driver of business behavior.
Perhaps Marx was just ahead of his time.
Technology along with a higher consciousness is allowing everyone to not only produce according to their own amazing abilities, but to also choose for themselves to give it away.
If Communism 2.0 won’t catch on, what would you call it? Capitalism 2.0? Fine with me. Thomas Friedman where are you when I need you? There’s another best seller here.