Sunday, January 17, 2016

Awaiting the emergence of a +N sector (Part 1 of 3) — an update

I continue trying to track and verify this implication of TIMN. Accordingly, the rise of +N — i.e., information-age network forms of organization and related philosophies, technologies, and activities — will eventually lead to the creation of a +N sector, alongside the established +I (public) and +M (private) sectors. Then, quadriform (T+I+M+N) societies will take shape and supersede the world’s aging triform kinds of (T+I+M) societies.

Recapitulation of basic T+I+M+N dynamics

As for how a new form arises and takes hold amid earlier forms, here’s a reminder drawn from an old briefing slide titled “General Dynamics — Which Should Recur Anew With Spread of +N Actors”. What’s below is deduced from looking for general dynamics that recurred in the progressions from T, to T+I, to T+I+M types of societies across the centuries and around the world. If TIMN is correct, these dynamics will recur anew with the growth of +N:

— With rise of any form, subversion precedes addition
— Addition brings creation, consolidation of new realm [i.e., sector]
— Combination restructures, strengthens overall system
— Combination depends on regulatory interfaces, norms
— Balanced combination of forms/realms is imperative
— Combination improves comparative advantages
— Each form has both bright and dark sides
— Each form has — but cannot realize — its ideal type
— Control must eventually give way to “decontrol”
— Incomplete adaptation may be best for evolution

For discussion, see the pertinent sub-section in the overview I presented in 2009 (here).

By now, I think I have other points to add, scattered around this blog, but I can locate only one readily. It’s about differences between tribes and networks. And it stems from constant outside comments that the tribal T and +N network forms seem awfully similar, so much so that there may be only three cardinal forms, not four. While I have a long answer about this, the only observation I want to make right now is about system-change dynamics.

My observation is that every TIMN form has a tribal tone at first. This goes without saying for the tribal/T form. Next, it is true for the hierarchical institutional/+I form, for it grew out of clan-based chiefdoms and hereditary claims to rule, long before it became a professionalized form of organization. It appears to be true as well for the market/+M form; for many early trading, banking, and craft enterprises were family-based and kin-biased. Therefore, it makes sense that many +N proponents act today as though they belong to special new tribes, bound by memes rather than genes. Decades may pass before this nouveau-tribal tone dissipates among +N actors, and the +N form’s deep nature, systemic significance, and professional standards become fully evident. For elaboration, see an earlier post (here).

Seeking a name for a +N sector

As for what a +N sector might be called, I’ve collected the following. All say that a new sector is emerging alongside the established public and private sectors, and that it consists largely of non-profit civil-society NGOs: Peter Drucker (1993) calls it an autonomous “social sector”. Lester Salamon (1994), Jeremy Rifkin (1995), and Ann Florini (2000) prefer “third sector”. William Drayton used “citizen sector” (acc. to Bornstein, 2004). Paul Hawken (2007) deems much of it a global humanitarian movement that has no name and does not yet know it is a movement (much less a sector). Paul Light (2008) added “social benefit sector”. David Bollier (2008) proposed “commons sector” — a concept promulgated by Michel Bauwens as well.

Lately I’ve spotted new additions to this compilation: Henry Mintzberg (2014) calls it “plural sector”. Ina Praetorius (2015) suggests “care sector”.

Other terms include “public-interest sector” and “civic sector”, as well as “nonprofit sector” and “voluntary sector”. Actors defining them are sometimes said to be “social entrepreneurs”, some manifesting as “benefit corporations” (“B Corps”).

Meanwhile, John Keane (2008, 2009) has proposed that “monitory democracy” is a key implication. But he has not specified that a “monitory sector” is coming into existence.

My own hypothesis remains what I’ve long said: Aging contentions that “government” (+I) or “the market” (+M) is the solution to particular public-policy issues will eventually give way to new ideas that “the network” (+N) is the solution.

For now, I think that commons sector is the most promising of the foregoing ideas. Even so, I remain uncertain what a +N sector may end up being named, what its key purposes will be, and what actors will define it. But I have some inklings, as discussed below.

Seeking a purpose for a +N sector

From a TIMN perspective, the T form is mainly about maximizing dignity or pride in one’s tribal / familial identity. The +I form is mainly about maximizing hierarchical power and authority. And the +M form is mainly about maximizing profit through exchange. (Note the prevalence of terms starting with the letter “p”; I admit that this plays into my penchant for alliteration.)

What then will be the key purpose / motivation for +N? What will it seek to maximize? I can’t tell for sure. But the pertinent NGO networks around which this new sector may revolve seem especially suited to addressing social equity, care, custody, stewardship, sharing, monitorial, and/or justice matters that state and market actors have tended to downplay or been unsuited to resolving well. This has occurred partly because the successes of these +I and +M actors have generated the very problems that now need resolving in advanced T+I+M societies, often in the form of “negative externalities”. (I think all four TIMN forms generate negative externalities, and that another system-change dynamic waits to be identified in that regard — a topic for another post someday. Meanwhile, for an engaging discussion of market-system externalities and system change, see post by John Michael Greer here.)

In wondering about additional new terms for identifying +N’s overall purpose, I’ve noticed that +N may turn out to be mainly about maximizing prosociality or providence or provisioning. My main source for “prosociality” — David Sloan Wilson, writing a synopsis of Chapter 8 of his new book Does Altruism Exist? (2015) — defines it as “any attitude, behavior, or institution oriented toward the welfare of others and society as a whole” (souce). But his view is broadly evolutionary, spanning all four TIMN forms. That information-age network (+N) forms in particular may enhance prosocial behaviors is more explicit in Yochai Benkler’s The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest (2011) — e.g., where he states that “When we design systems of cooperation, we can use that tendency as a way of encouraging people to choose prosocial behaviour” (p. 145 — h/t Jean Levien summary; also see Wikipedia page here).

Personally, I think “providence” or “provisioning” have more potential for identifying +N’s key purpose. I’ve seen “providence” defined as "timely preparation for future eventualities” (source misplaced), and as “divine guidance and care” (Merriam Webster online). That is indeed what many pertinent NGO networks’ activities seem oriented toward maximizing. The term “provisioning” is often used in posts at the P2P Foundation blog (e.g., here) to express what commons-oriented P2P networks seek to maximize. It too suits +N’s likely nature, in my view.

Accumulating strength around +N’s growth

Whatever the exact name and purpose, +N actors appear to be growing. The issues they care about — environment, rights, privacy, health, poverty, consumer protection, disaster relief, information policy, insurance, etc. — are intensifying. The roles they play — as heralds, monitors, sensors, watchdogs, advocates, recruiters, knowledge and service providers, etc. — are expanding, as are their abilities to affect the agendas of state and market actors. These +N actors also have a longer reach than ever before; instead of standing alone, the usual case in the past, many now operate in sprawling multi-organizational collaborative networks that are said to represent the rise of “global civil society” and “monitory democracy”.

Despite setbacks and counter-currents in recent years, optimism remains especially among social activists in liberal democracies who believe that a new sector is emerging that can bring radical change. In some enthusiastic accounts, civil-society NGOs could serve collectively as a “second superpower” to counter American power (Moore, 2003); and they could merit their own representative body in or alongside the United Nations (Attali, 2005). But according to other accounts — the ones I prefer — this new sector’s potential as a counterweight to aging political and economic actors will be less significant than its potential as a new complement and collaborator with other actors in new modes of governance that learn to include +N.

Current sources of impulse and articulation for +N

As for who is presently thinking about these slowly-unfolding matters, my observation is that mainstream conservatives generally don’t recognize or understand +N, while mainstream liberals don’t know what to make of it yet. This is evident in the debate rhetorics of the presidential candidates for both the Republican and Democratic parties. While I still believe that America will be the first to achieve a +N transition and next-stage society, the current presidential campaign rhetorics have muddled my hopes, as well as stoked my apprehensions that, if a Cruz or Trump wins, +N will be put on hold or suppressed for a long while.

The cutting-edge energy behind +N is mostly located farther on the Left, especially among theorists and activists grouped around P2P and pro-commons ideas. Many of their ideas (e.g., for “platform cooperativism”, and for “Assemblies of the Commons” and “Chambers of Commons”) look promising for the development of quadriform societies. These proponents also keep coming up with solid critiques of what I’d call nouveau-triform notions (e.g., for “conscious capitalism”) that don’t really engage +N. For example, see recent overviews about The Top Ten P2P Trends of 2015 (here), and What the P2P Foundation Did in 2015 (here).

Yet, to my eyes, many (though far from all) P2P and pro-commons writings and activities seem heavily oriented to economic and business matters — they seem more about radically reforming +M than distinctively building +N. There may well be good tactical and strategic reasons for this. But my view of TIMN is such that their emphasis on economic and business matters looks somewhat off-course strategically. They may be on-course from a neo-Marxist perspective, for many such writings are from the Left and concern P2P’s potential implications for creating alternatives to capitalism. That is to their credit. But if I’m right about TIMN, that is ultimately not the central matter.

Capitalism will be radically altered by +N, but the market system (+M) is here to stay, albeit in modified form. The main arena for +N will be about other matters (some noted above, such as the commons) that, to my eyes, are more social than economic in nature, and more suited to being separated out and organized into a distinctive new sector.

Or so my view of TIMN goes, in part because TIMN is far more Darwinian than Marxist. Darwin provides a better guide than Marx for thinking in TIMN terms. Which I shall discuss in the next post, before drawing some general conclusions.

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