Gian Piero de Bellis

Polyarchy : a Manifesto

(2000)

 


 

Part III

Present/Future


 36.  The crisis of statism

 37.  Moral crisis

 38.  Material crisis

 39.  Political crisis

 40.  The new reality

 41.  The new seeds

 42.  The new paradigm

 43.  The new requirements

 44.  The new scenario

 45.  Polyarchy

 46.  Principles

 47.  Protagonists

 48.  Processes

 49.  Final considerations

 


 

36.  The crisis of statism  (^)

  Towards the end of the 20th century, statism entered a terminal crisis from which there seems to be no way out. This is because the state itself, its very existence and permanence, has come to be The Problem, i.e. the very source of most problems. And so, as the solution of a problem consists in overcoming the problem itself by eliminating its source, so the solution to the crisis of statism consists in going beyond statism itself through the progressive extinction of the state.

Too many hopes and beliefs about the state that too many people held dear for a long time are becoming too dear to hold anymore. Too dear in terms of moral corruption, material failure and sheer political idiocy.

  Let us examine the main points of the crisis. They involve at least three facets:

- Moral crisis

- Material crisis

- Political crisis

 

37.  Moral crisis  (^)

The most evident sign of the moral crisis of statism is its lack of any progressive values. Fake principles such as patriotism, race, military heroism and the like, having collapsed, they have been replaced by other fake messages condensed into catch phrases like 'public interest' and 'public welfare', convenient formulas used to cover up the hoarding and looting of resources by parasitic groups.

Nothing better exemplifies the moral bankruptcy of statism than the total replacement of morality with legality. The functioning of society is seen as the controlled implementation of all sorts of regulations and restrictions imposed from above and not as the free interplay of human beings endowed with morality and rationality. The result is that the states with more regulations and more policing are those with more disorder and social disease. As the drug addict sees in the continuous consumption of drugs the solution to his/her problems and does not want to acknowledge that this supposed solution is in reality the enlargement and deepening of the problem, so does happen with statism when it advocates more and more regulations and restrictions.

A further indicator of moral crisis is the belief in the thaumaturgic power of money. Statism believes that money can solve every problem arising from any situation at any time and in any place. The result has been the multiplication and intensification of moral problems, with the institution and insertion of powerful mafia groups and petty criminals as sub-sections of the state.

Within the dominion of statism there seem to be no limits to legal madness (e.g. miscarriages of justice) and money squandering (e.g. misappropriation and misuse of financial resources), especially when sustained by strong parasitic interests masquerading as general public interest. In this respect, at least, capitalism offered a less hypocritical and more open picture of personal interests, advocating (rightly or wrongly) that they would eventually work for the public good. More cunningly, statism deceptively portrays sectorial or egotistic interests as general public interests.

But the main difference between the two is that while capitalism was a progressive and productive period of history, statism is a parasitic one and there is no way that parasitism could ever be in the general interest. Furthermore capitalism was provident in the use of resources while statism is profligate.

And this fact leads straight to the second aspect: the material crisis.

 

38.  Material crisis  (^)

Statism has found favour with the masses because, in periods of deep misery and uncertainty (war, strife, famine, unemployment, etc.), very often produced or provoked by the state itself, the same state has either provided some semblance of security (albeit fake and ephemeral) or the impression of being the only organization capable of restoring security.

The main aspect of security provision has been the redistribution of material resources (goods) that entrepreneurs (risk takers), inventors (device makers) and workers (commodities producers) generated firstly through mechanization and later automazation.

The redistribution of resources has been the master stroke of statism  but it could also play a large part in its undoing. In fact it has created bigger and bigger expectations on the part of a larger and larger number of people. It has multiplied parasitism and parasitic occupations to a level never attained in human memory. At the same time, it has given people fictitious reasons to believe that they are performing useful activities that are essential in a modern society or that they are playing roles sustainable in a progressive society.

Lawyers, accountants, notaries, civil servants, welfare recipients, etc., most of them are part of a magma made of a mixture of illusion in the present and likely disillusion in the future. They are, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, part of a massive bureaucracy or, in other words, a vast parasitocracy.

To feed and sustain this parasitocracy, the states, all over the world, have accumulated huge debts that they will hand down as a legacy to future generations. To keep the façade from falling down, the states are hurriedly selling assets previously grabbed and monopolised, desperately promoting gambling (lotteries and all sorts of money games) and are pushing as ever for consumerism, to keep the flow of tax revenues running.

To every free and rational human being the state appears, more and more, as a tentacular racket based on extortion, corruption and fraud.

It is a moral and material disaster.

The bubble will burst when the perception of a moral and material crisis becomes more palpable and is compounded by a political crisis, the overdue discovery that the king is not only stark naked but flaccid and wretched.

 

39.  Political crisis  (^)

The veil of fiction that shrouded and supported representative democracy has finally fallen.

Representative parliamentary democracy should have been more appropriately called manipulative totalitarian statocracy, as the state has intervened to regulate (or tried to regulate) each and every aspect of people's lives, drinking habits and sexual practices of adult couples included.

In any case, transformed or not, the electoral process no longer represents, if ever it did, the will of the majority, entrusted to honest and faithful delegates and translated by them into reality through appropriate and well-thought out measures.

In fact, even in the past, this idealtype portrait of representative democracy did not correspond to reality, as we had a majority of people electing an élite and, almost submissively, without much interference, accepting to be run by it.

Now we have reached the point where a minority of the population elects and delegates everything to a micro élite. It makes the old belief that the electoral process is an expression of the will of the majority appear not just fictional but farcical.

Faith in the polls has collapsed. The ballot box has become an empty box.

The crisis of political representation is a crisis of politics 'tout court', or of politics as it has operated throughout the period of statism, which is to say of parties, lobbies and pressure groups busily selling votes, putting on masks, setting up smoke screens, manufacturing lies, manipulating minds, again and again, ad nauseam.

At present, there is such frustration and desperation with politics that whoever appears to be saying something new with a new tone of voice and a new posture attracts interest and followers, at least for a while.

But the way out of this mess is not any longer (if it ever was) through preachers and followers of new Gospels.

The way out consists, first of all, in a personal awakening to and awareness of a new reality and of the new seeds of potential empowerment it is nurturing and bringing to life.

 

40.  The new reality  (^)

The new reality exposes, in many subtle but unequivocal ways, to all whose eyes are not blinded by a vested interest, the unremitting decay and obsolescence of the state.

The state is on the retreat, everywhere, on all fronts. It has had to give up its role as producer/operator in nationalized industries amid mounting debts and incompetent management. As patronizing distributor of public resources, the state is heading towards disaster as the growth in resources does not match the increase in expectations and demands. As controller of the life of people the state is totally impotent except in culturally poor and technologically backward societies.

Many tasks and powers that were the prerogatives of the national state have been taken away by international organizations or recaptured by regional communities.

The nation state is under pressure from above (globalism) and from below (localism) and is gradually being minced up by the concomitant action of these two powerful jaws.

Certainly the state and its parasitic strata are not about to go gracefully, without putting up a fight.

Revenues lost in one sector are balanced by a more stringent fiscalism in another sector (i.e. reducing direct taxation while increasing or even doubling indirect taxation). The right hand routinely recovers what the left has conceded or lost.

Reality is multi-faceted. For instance, as far as state control is concerned, the same year (1989) that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of dictatorial states in eastern Europe, witnessed also the Tien-an-men massacre with the strengthening of Chinese state dominance. The same year saw also the coming on the scene of the World Wide Web, which sounded the death knell to any future attempt at the control and fixing of borders by the state.

So, with ups and downs, this more and more useless and dangerous entity that the state has become is vainly struggling against the new seeds sown by the ingenuity and resiliency of human beings all over the globe. These new seeds are making the state superfluous and are hastening the moment when the state will wither away as a bygone remnant of past ages.

 

41.  The new seeds  (^)

Even while statism was on the rise, new seeds were being sown that would lead, in the long run, to its demise.

It is all to do, as often in history, with going beyond actual or artificial borders. Nowadays it is happening with a speed and to an extent that is quite remarkable.

This going beyond borders concerns three main aspects that are drawing people together:

- expressing (talking) : individuals are connected to and are communicating with the entire world more and more freely, easily, and cheaply than ever before

- exploring (travelling) : individuals are moving all over the earth, navigating and criss-crossing it physically and virtually

- exchanging (trading) : individuals are exchanging with the entire world not just material goods but also ideas and projects.

Through this universal expressing/exploring/exchanging, human beings and the communities of which they feel to be part are progressively becoming nationless and stateless as they grow more and more acquainted with the different cultures and familiar with the various localities and societies they go through, stop at, live in, trade with and so on and so forth.

In fact, it is not the talking, travelling or trading in itself that is noteworthy or the simple fact that this is happening on an unparalleled scale, but what it could lead to and is already leading to in terms of a new conceptual and empirical paradigm.

 

42.  The new paradigm  (^)

A new reality, following the coming to fruition of new seeds of opportunities, must be matched by the emergence of a new paradigm, that means a new, more appropriate way of seeing reality and seizing possibilities.

This new paradigm conceives the world as made of small interconnected cooperating communities instead of big monolithic separate blocks (the nation states) in opposition to one another.

It is based on the concepts of:

- micro : through communication, space becomes smaller and time shorter; people can virtually be almost anywhere in space (ubiquity) in a fraction of time (instantaneousness). Miniaturization of components and downsizing of instruments go hand in hand with increase in power and scope for each human being. Many individuals  already have at their disposal tools that not even the rich and powerful possessed not so long ago.

- poly : the empowerment offered by new small devices at incredibly reduced cost leads to a multiplication of decision centres, to a diffusion of knowledge and power that gives birth to a polyphony of voices, in a vast universal network on a worldwide scale.

- continuum : this polyphonic universal reality can be seen as a continuous network of communities in which sounds (languages), colours (bodies), tastes (attitudes), etc. mingle and blend like on a spectrum  of gradation and variety. For this reason, the entities composing a networked world are not any longer to be seen as opposing dualities within distinct borders but as interconnected cooperating pluralities (rich entities) on a borderless continuum.

In brief, the world is becoming a planetary polyphonic network of micro-societies, a continuous variety of hamlets inhabited by cosmopolitan individuals and communities, in touch with one another and in charge and care of their own reality.

 

43.  The new requirements  (^)

The passage from big monolithic clashing blocks to a continuum of small polyphonic interconnected entities demands the fulfilling of some requirements and their continuous refinement.

These requirements can be summed up as:

- variety : as smallness feeds plurality so plurality feeds variety. The variety of situations and entities replaces uniformity and is accompanied by the need for versatility.

- versatility :  this means flexibility and adaptability in responding to a rich and various reality. It replaces rigidity and is accompanied by the need for velocity.

- velocity : this is promptness of intervention, especially to avert a disaster or to avoid a nuisance and to solve a problematic situation without being hampered or blocked by irresponsible procrastination or meaningless procedures.

These requirements of variety/versatility/velocity are not and cannot be met by statism and its bureaucratic way of thinking and acting, based fundamentally on exactly opposite principles, that is to say:

-  uniformity instead of variety

-  rigidity instead of versatility

-  rituality instead of velocity

The new requirements, emerging out of a new paradigm, demand and foster a new scenario.

 

44.  The new scenario  (^)

An imbalance has become more and more visible towards the end of the 20th century. On the one side we witness the ever growing power of individuals to express, explore, exchange (talk/travel/trade) autonomously and universally whilst, on the other, they are still subjected to strains and strictures imposed by the state rulers and their bureaucracies. This cannot last.

A new scenario is already beginning to appear.

This new scenario is based on and fosters:

- dis-intermediation : direct access/action replaces filtering and delegation;

- de-hierarchization : knowledge-rich doers/actors get direct access to the information and become decision-makers;

- de-massification : personalization and customization advance as individuals and communities take the leading role instead of classes and masses;

- de-concentration : diffusion (of people, ideas, utilities) becomes possible at no extra cost and without disadvantages or diseconomies;

- de-centralization : there are no central nodes as the network becomes more important than any specific point;

- de-compartmentalization : artificial borders recede and finally vanish;

- de-monetization : national state currencies disappear and are replaced by electronic compensation units.

All these aspects of the new scenario are part of a shift in power that has been going on subterraneously for quite a while.

The result of this shift is Polyarchy.

 

45.  Polyarchy  (^)

Polyarchy is the organization/diffusion of power in the age of universal electronic communication and ubiquitous cybernetic regulation.

While capitalism was based on machinery (capital) and production and statism on employment (labour) and consumption, Polyarchy is based on activities in which human beings rich in knowledge and wisdom interact with artefacts endowed with data and information, promoting the freedom and well-being of individuals and communities.

Polyarchy, advocating liberalism (freedom) against dirigism (restriction of freedom), does not mean a return to capitalism, for many reasons, moral and historical, the simplest of these being the fact that some of the components that produced capitalism (e.g. mechanical devices) are no longer there. We have gone, in social and technological terms, far beyond capitalism as a mechanical physical world has given way to an electronic virtual one and the central place occupied once by capital (stock of machines) has been taken by ideational activities (flux of creative ideas).

As statism had replaced capitalism, so Polyarchy is replacing statism which was/is the organization/concentration of power proper to a world dominated by bigness and brutishness, run by a bureaucracy that impeded variety, abolished flexibility and quite often obscured rationality.

Polyarchy is the organization proper to a cybernetic world of

- nodes (individuals, communities)

- nets (networks of communication, coordination, cooperation)

- paths (plurality of means of connection and forms of expression).

It is based on the empowerment of individuals and communities on a scale never before attained in human history.

While statism relied on the division of power between élites, in a centre, within the state, Polyarchy is based on the diffusion and multiplication of powers to individuals and communities, everywhere, without the state.

In fact, Polyarchy, fostering the ever wider and deeper spread of technology (e.g. communication) and consciousness (e.g. participation), challenges the very idea of centre and periphery and certainly its crystallization.

Through the multiplication of centres, Polyarchy aims at overcoming two historical divisions:

-  the centre-periphery division  (also known as the town-country division) : each community becoming an active node (a centre) in the network

-  the dominant-dependent division  (also known as the manual-intellectual division) : each individual becoming a protagonist (a player) in the community and in the network.

Whenever and wherever compulsory and crystallized divisions of this type survive in the future, this would point to the persistence of statism, even if disguised by new phraseology.

Besides this focal point represented by the multiplication of centres, Polyarchy is based on specific

- principles

- protagonists

- processes.

 

46.  Principles  (^)

Polyarchy advocates the following basic principles :

- autonomy : individuals and communities should be free to do everything that is not expressly declared as damaging another community or other individuals. This is in contrast with statism in general and the authoritarian state in particular where, through a proliferation of prohibitions, restrictions and impositions, we had reached the point where all that was not expressly allowed was forbidden.

- equity : while equality could mean uniformity, equity aims at fairness amongst individuals, that is acting in a reasonable, equitable, honest way.

- care : state welfare is replaced by individuals and communities caring for each other and propelling each other towards self-reliance instead of being pushed towards dependency. Leaving aside exceptional cases, the roles of caring and cared for are not permanently confined to the same individuals, as is the rule under bureaucratic statism, but are interchangeably played by everyone.

The putting into practice of these basic principles requires the proliferation and consolidation of new active protagonists as opposed to the many withdrawn and indifferent figures vegetating under statism.

 

47.  Protagonists  (^)

Polyarchy is the result of and will result in

- polyvalent cosmopolitan individuals

- multi-cultural, multi-ethnic communities.

These two protagonists give life to a dynamic reality made of networks of

-  cooperatives of production and distribution;

-  local (regional, sub-regional) civic bodies (agencies) to provide for basic services (e.g. maintenance of roads) and to implement basic regulations (e.g. food safety).

The distinction between individuals and communities has nothing to do with the old ideological (i.e. fake) opposition between private and public that originated as the contrast between people deprived of access to state sinecures (i.e. the private person) and people granted them as state privileges (i.e. courtiers, sycophants, etc.).

Also the distinction between national (native, local) and foreigner (alien, stranger) loses any juridical relevance and becomes meaningless as everybody is free to move everywhere without any barriers being imposed by the states to impede/restrict their movement.

  In fact, with the extinction of the state and of its bureaucracy, these false distinctions and hostile oppositions disappear and are replaced by the interaction of individuals and communities on a network continuum : from a maturing individual to a fully developed individual, to many individuals, to a small community, to many communities, to a world community made by a world of communities.

These rich and various interactions between protagonists (individuals, communities) animate the dynamic processes of Polyarchy.

 

48.  Processes  (^)

Polyarchy is based on self-regulated, multi-regulated processes, at various interconnected levels.

In contrast with statism, which relies essentially on top-down decision-making processes, Polyarchy is built on reticular flows (information, decision, action) in which there is no visible centre or acknowledged fixed top.

The different hierarchical levels of bureaucratic statism have to be disposed of for the general principle of autonomy (self-rule) to be implemented. This principle simply advocates that those affected by the regulation should also be those who affect the decision concerning the regulation.

Furthermore, polyarchic entities, like biological organisms, react on a permanent basis and in real time to imbalances (by feed-back) and as thinking organisations, forecast and anticipate ways to solve problems (by feed-forward planning).

Reality is so dynamic that the state static way of solving problems through post factum administrative or legislative measures that take ages to propose and produce (let alone to implement) appears more and more to belong to a past era.

Now, the sclerotic administrative paraphernalia of statism must give way to the cybernetic processes of Polyarchy. They consist in the development of autonomous nodes interconnected by reliable nets through fast and flexible paths, where the variety (of situations) is matched by versatility (of actions) coupled with velocity (of decisions).

Polyarchy is the proper way for communicating/coordinating/cooperating in the age of the networked society, when inner moral principles replace once again outer imposed princes and principals and the human being is not any longer a cog in the machinery of the state, performing the same task time and time again, but the protagonist of a new inspiring play on the world scene and in world history.

 

49.  Final considerations  (^)

The Zeitgeist of the 20th century has been the myth of the state, the protector, the dispenser, the 'alma mater' of the angst ridden masses. The angst has disappeared and the myth is falling apart. Only the state survives, by inertia.

But still, an intense struggle is going to be fought between the state and human beings/communities advocating Polyarchy. State bureaucracy will keep trying, till the end, to strike and fight autonomy with all sorts of old ideological weapons, shouting their litany against individualism, 'private' interest, anarchy. It is the same old game : to fabricate and spread hatred and fear; to promote and feed irresponsibility and foolishness.

It will find the usual band of old cronies, the authoritarian communist, the self-deluded liberal, the fake anarchist, the angry trade-unionist, the nation loving patriot, all under respectable banners (anarchism, ecologism, internationalism, anti-authoritarianism). Under these disguises they will try to pass and impose the usual stinking bag of monopolism, protectionism, paternalism, in a word, state strangulation. And, as usual, they will do this in the name of those they pretend to defend (the working class, the people in the developing countries, etc.) but whom they actually corrupt morally and oppress materially.

Human beings and communities need to be/become conscious of this ideological trash in order to unmask what lies behind it, i. e. the arrogance, greed and abject parasitism of the state.

We have to build our way out of the dead end triangle made by bureaucrats and politicians, degenerate and servile intellectuals, fake and corrupted welfare recipients. We must put an end to parasitism and pillage and replace it with production and participation in the enjoyment of goods and services conducive to ever more widespread well-being.

The nation state is decaying rapidly and we can already smell its incipient decomposition in the many cases of sleaze, corruption, misappropriation, injustice and violence that have been, and more and more are, part and parcel of the daily life of these huge parasitocracies. We must be careful about what replaces it because parasites have many tricks up their sleeves and they can invent many ways to keep people subordinate, morally, mentally and materially.

The master-slave, egoism-altruism dynamic, goes on forever. The pursuit of emancipation and liberation is a never ending strive.

Even Polyarchy is not the definitive solution. It will be only a period in history. Globalism and localism might very well change their meaning, giving way to further dynamics.

Probably the multiplication of centres will not be enough and there will be a move from Polyarchy to Panarchy, when every single individual and small community will aspire to become more and more a protagonist, a flourishing centre in its own right.

History carries on until the end of time.

 

Human Beings and Communities of the World

awake, associate and act.