Megapolitics and Web 2.0
[W]e argued that the most important causes of change are not to be found in political manifestos or in the pronouncements of dead economists, but in the hidden factors that alter the boundaries where power is exercised. Often, subtle changes in climate, topography, microbes, and technology alter the logic of violence. They transform the way people organize their livelihoods and defend themselves.They listed four revolutions in human affairs, each driven by technological change (apologies that this is partly from memory as I still haven’t organized my books since moving four years ago; in particular this is Euro-centric while the authors were not so narrow):
- The invention of agriculture changed a loose hunter-gatherer society into an ordered society around private property.
- The invention of the stirrup made it possible to fight from horseback without being thrown off. Enter feudalism.
- The advent of gunpowder put an end to the feudal castles and led to the modern nation-state.
- The invention of the microprocessor made it possible for organizations to become much smaller, causing a breakdown in large systems — such as the modern nation-state.
I didn’t hear about their first book when it came out, but I did read the second, The Great Reckoning, cover to cover in both editions (very unusual for me, particularly for a 600-page book!), and it’s one of the books that has most profoundly shaped my thinking over my life to date.
Now to the Web 2.0 connection. In Mark Kuznicki’s recent post Search for a 21st Century Ideology he theorized the possibility of a “post-industrial New Deal” that appeals to members of the Creative Class. Since that post he’s begun a survey among members of the TorCamp community and others associated with the global BarCamp phenomenon, which it seems to me is effectively the World Association of Those Advancing Web 2.0. His objective is to help answer questions such as these:
Around the world, are there differences in the Barcamp political orientation? Are we all anti-authoritarian equality types who self-select to join ad-hoc unconferences based on the values of equality and the idea that leadership can come from anyone? As the Barcamp pattern continues its march around the world both within tech and increasingly in non-tech communities, what does this imply for a political dimension of this emerging global community?
The theory of megapolitics suggests that it is no accident that those at the forefront of the Web 2.0 revolution are anti-authoritarian, because a consequence of the revolution is that, unlike in the past, an authoritarian approach simply will not work effectively in the future.