Sunday, 29 May 2016

NOW Toronto, the "Trading Economy" and the New Commons - The Post-Occupy economy:Part 2

Perhaps in part as moral sanctification for its own ad-crowded "FREE NEWSPAPER" model, now almost universal in  the industry, Toronto's NOW Magazine, ever in search of a cool trend, in its May 26 2016 issue devoted its front page to what it calls the new trading economy. For all the compromises NOW, as a news magazine, must engage in in 2016, this recognition of emergent, let's call them "para-capitalist" economic trends  is important. A sizable portion of the population in all countries is now made up of 20-something  millenials with the baggage of high expectations, stay-in-school parental messaging and precarious employment. Ignoring the independent demographic variable of a large baby-boom generation dominating jobs still, the reality behind what is a substantive economic transformation, albeit a still "alternative" and largely sub-cultural one, is global economic inequality. The 2008 financial meltdown, its subsequent reactive Occcupy movement and lingering eocnomic inertia are evidence of the base behind the sociocultural superstructure TorontotheBetter and NOW are highlighting.

** How far we have come: with Canada's out of time former prime minister Stephen Harper, and now, thankfully, out of place, it is worth noting that TorontotheBetter began online in 2004 in an era of triumphalist neo-liberalism to make the point that economic models based on solidarity values, rather than "rational" individual self-interest, were both realistic and real. In 2016 the whole edifice of neoliberalism is under theoretical onslaught and some of its outlying stuctures are crumbling. Multiple collective forms, be they co-operatives, "benefit corporations" or online exchange fora, germinate and grow, accelerated by the key technological catalyst that is the World Wide Web. What is emerging is what TorontotheBetter sees as a new commons in which, as in the medieval version all "commoners" can contribute and beneft. That the venerable public library, as rightly featured in Carla Gillis' "Sharing Is Caring" section in Now, can vanguard this new economy is only one startling trend likely unnoticed by many in Canada's political and economic elites. In fact it was possibly prescient that one of  Toronto's municipal Ford clan took on public libraries as a threat to his Toronto. To point out that TorontotheBetter itself came from a co-operative with many of its occuppational roots in libraries could be seen as rubbing it in, but sometimes there is no alternative.              

All "new's" are usually of course "old's" too, and the barter, gift, and no-money behaviours of many of today's young (motivated, as in all  previous versons of the phenomenon by necessity), as cited in Now's article appeared in the multiple depressions, including the Great one of the last century. So there is a fair amount of same old in this new, but the whole here is in fact greater than  the parts. Together these trends point to a societal evolution that is puttting practical flesh to  what has been up until recently a preserve of conceptual futurists. This is the evolution from the private property dominated economy empowered by the land enclosures of the late 18th century to a post-private economy model, in which collective ownership is understood by increasing numbers, irrespective of their ideogical launch position, as more productive than its now increasingly outmoded, because narrow, predecessor. This is what Paul  Mason in an important recent overview published in 2015 calls "Post-capitalism" [to be reviewed in this space in future weeks]. Copies of his book may be purchased from TorontotheBetter for a respectable discount from the $31.50 list price - by emailing with "postcapitaism" in the subject line..

NOTE TO READERS: We are not fiully beyond old style trading yet, though at our discretion we will accept goods and/or ideas as well as money in this case. For the  record TorontotheBetter's book sales division offers discounts comparable to Amazon, but unlike that, yes "amazon" we are a locally based unionized worker co-op, so your feel good/do good factor should be higher than if you succumb to Amazon.                        

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