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Re: [ox-en] Subsistence, dependence, industrialization (was: Re: Autonomy)

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As usual, I'm reading conributions in reverse chronological order, so I might be missing things.
  Is anyone familiar with the neo-subsistence movement? (see )
  I think that Stefan makes an important point. Our current level of  wealth is the consequence of a highly developed interdependent division  of labour. This is the good part.
  But, the current system is not sustainable, it destroys the biosphere.  Does this mean that we must go back to pre-industrial levels?
  Can we have such a complex level of human organisation without  destroying the biosphere? I'm pretty sure humanity will want to try  this one out, before accepting any reduction in complexity to  pre-industrial levels. So if any (neo)subsistence movement wants to  have any chance at being an alternative, it must have an answer to this.
  I think Daly sheds a lot of light of this, by clearly distinguishing what is abundant and what is scarce.
  Within the field of scarcity, the material economy, we can still grow  technologically by  growing in efficiency. It does not matter 'how  much we take' as long as we put back just as much.
  "A commonwealth is a resource created either by nature, or by  aggregate human effort.  Natural resources would fall into the first category; knowledge belongs  to the second. Sustaining our commonwealths means using with  maintenance.  We must realize what the maximum amount of a resource we can consume  while still maintaining our commonwealths.  The problem in the current economy is that nature is treated as a  non-scarce resource when it is in fact scarce.  Knowledge has the opposite problem, it is treated as scarce when it is  in fact non-scarce.  
  In economics, goods are either rival or non-rival, and excludable or non-excludable.  
  A rival good is one where if I consume it, that prevents you from consuming it.  Clothing, for example, is rival. Sunlight is non-rival since my consumption of it doesn't prevent you from enjoying it.    
  Rivalnessis a physical property.  Excludability is a legal concept. Excludable goods can be made private  property, such as a private residence. Non-excludable goods are those  not privatized.  
    Rival, excludable goods are the ones the market was made for... market goods.  
    Non-rival, non-excludable goods are public goods.  
    Rival, non-excludable goods give way to the tragedy of the commons.  These goods, fishing rights or clean air, are rival, yet because there  is no way of making these excludable, each party will try to consume  them before another party exhausts the resource, leading to competitive  depletion instead of cooperative conservation, which would be in the  best interest of all parties.  
    Non-rival, excludable goods, such as knowledge, result in the tragedy of artificial scarcity.  Sustainability is not a problem with the commonwealth of knowledge  because knowledge is a non-rival resource. For existing knowledge,  since there is zero opportunity cost for its use (my use of a piece of  knowledge does not prevent you from using it) its price should be zero.  However, there is an expenditure of rival resources for the pursuit of  new knowledge. Some pieces of knowledge, such as the discovery of  subatomic particles, may come at a high cost. Others, such as  Descartes' fathoming of analytical geometry while staring at his  ceiling from his bed, may come at no cost. The acquisition of a new  piece of knowledge may also be for the delight of discovery.    
    However conventional wisdom says that without a profit motive, no  new knowledge will be created. The production of new knowledge requires  extrinsic stimulation and to this end it is made artificially rival  through patents and intellectual property rights. However, since new  knowledge is created from old knowledge, if old knowledge is made  artificially expensive, then the production of new knowledge is  hindered. Not all knowledge is equally beneficial to mankind, and the  interests of private profit isn't always the best filter. The profit  incentive has given us liposuction and Viagra, but no cure to AIDS or  malaria. We should drastically cut back on intellectual property rights  and rely on public funds and the human drive to learn for the continued  production of new knowledge. 
  Nature, on the other hand, is rival, but treated as non-rival.  Rival goods sometimes become non-rival if demand is low, and my  consumption does not hinder your consumption. Water used to be such a  resource. Some resources, such as timber, are rival generationally,  since within a generation there is only a limited supply, but can be  non-rival in the long-term if exploited at levels of sustainable yield,  that is if only income and not capital is consumed. It is necessary to  protect these fundamentally rival goods by making them excludable. The  commonwealth of nature needs to be protected by individual or social  property rights, not open access.  
  The market solution to this is the cap-and-trade system. Rival  resources such as fishing rights or polluting rights would be capped at  an ecologically sustainable level, and then traded on a market. The  cap-and-trade system brings up the questions of scale, distribution,and  allocation. The decision of where to place the cap on the scale of the  use of a resource must be a social and ecological decision. The market  assumes a preexisting scale and has no mechanism for setting one. The  market also deals very little with distribution, since the market takes  ownership as a given."  

Stefan Merten <smerten> wrote:  -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----

Hi Franz and all!

Last week (7 days ago) Franz Nahrada wrote:
Thus autonomy ends up in a subsistence which in turn means a standard
of living I guess 90+% of the people in industrialized countries
simply don't want.

Nobody here is advocating subsistence in this limited way. That is a
complete phantom and invention.

I don't know about each other here but I understand that you don't
advocate this. So we have something in common :-) .

Global Villages style of living e.g. must be an increase in quality or it
wont exist! Call it "Global Subsistence" or whatsoever.

Well, to me the question is whether this is possible with concepts of
subsistence. To give an useful answer to this question again I tried
to find out what others think about the notion of subsistence.

Webster on "subsistence":

  1 a (1) : real being : EXISTENCE
      (2) : the condition of remaining in existence : CONTINUATION,
    b : an essential characteristic quality of something that exists
    c : the character possessed by whatever is logically conceivable

  2 : means of subsisting : as
      a : the minimum (as of food and shelter) necessary to support
      b : a source or means of obtaining the necessities of life

Webster on "self-subsistent":

  subsisting independently of anything external to itself

Wikipedia has no entry for "subsistence" itself but only a redirection
to - IIRC - "subsistent life styles":

  (Redirected from Subsistence)

  Subsistence means living in a permanently fragile equilibrium
  between alimentary needs and the means for satisfying them; or in
  common parlance, it means "just getting by".

  The following is a list of subsistence techniques:

      * Hunting and Gathering techniques, also known as Foraging:
     o freeganism -- involves gathering of discarded food in
       the context of an urban environment
     o gleaning -- involves the gathering of food that
       traditional farmers have left behind in their fields

      * Cultivation:
     o Horticulture -- plant cultivation, based on the use of
       simple tools.
     o subsistence agriculture -- agricultural cultivation
       involving continuous use of arable (crop) land, and is
       more labor-intensive than horticulture.

      * Pastoralism, the raising of grazing animals:
     o Pastoral nomadism -- all members of the pastoral
       society follow the herd throughout the year.
     o Transhumance or agro-pastoralism -- part of the
       society follows the herd, while the other part
       maintains a home village.
     o Ranch agriculture -- non-nomadic pastoralism with a
       defined territory

      * Alternative ends : people devote their time, resources, and
 energy to five broad categories of ends -- subsistence,
 replacement, social, ceremonial, and rent.
     o Subsistence fund -- work is done to replace calories
       lost through life activities.
     o Replacement fund -- work is expended maintaining the
       technology necessary for life.
     o Social fund -- work is expended to establish and
       maintain social ties.
     o Ceremonial fund -- work is expended to fulfill ritual
     o Rent fund -- work is expended to satisfy the
       obligations owed political or economic superiors.

      * Distribution and Exchange:
     o Redistribution
     o Reciprocity -- exchange between social equals.
     o Potlatching -- a widely studied ritual in which
       sponsors (helped by their entourages) gave away
       resources and manufactured wealth while generating
       prestige for themselves.
     o LETS -- Local Exchange Trading Systems.

Interesting enough the adjective "self-subsistent" matches very well
what - in my initial ignorance - thought to mean "autonomy". However,
nobody talked of self-subsistence so far.

Well, I have to say that these definitions of subsistence meet quite
well my prior understanding of subsistence. I'm not sure about for
instance Franz understanding but "the minimum (as of food and shelter)
necessary to support life" doesn't sound like wealth to me - let alone
abundance. May be Franz can explain where in the list above his
understanding of subsistence appears or whether he just has a complete
different definition.

recently in another list I broiught a quotation by german philosopher
Ulrich Sigor, that I translate to English here:

"The right approach - which is by the way the opposite of the economic
approach -  is neither hostile to technology nor resource-depleting and it
also avoids all distribution problems of labour or goods: To bring in
living human labour capacity into a process of common design and
conceptualisation of goods BEFORE they are produced (by need of less and
less human labour) is not only almost indefinitely meaningful, but also
expands our flexibilities in comparison to persisting mechanisms of less
fine-tuned qualities.
 In a metaphor one could say "Order always pays off" but this has to be
rightly understood. Also the putting apart, the decoupling and the
autonomisation is a dimension of order, that also needs agreement like
networking. And conscsious networking is also always the undoing of
traditionally grown "meshworks".

What has this to do with subsistence? In particular depletion of
resources works with or without subsistence. Look for instance the
people in the Sahel zone. They depend on self-subsistence *and*
destroy their foundation of life at the same time. History has other
such examples.

On the other hand hostility to technology seems to me a part of
subsistence as defined above. "The minimum (as of food and shelter)
necessary to support life" can indeed be had with rather little
technology. Thus I'd say Ulrich Sigor does not advocate subsistence.

Hmm... Something seems to be very confused here.

Real life in a modern society means being dependent on half of the
world. Only this type of dependence ends up in the wealth most of us
are lucky enough to enjoy - and I'm talking of use value here.
Autonomy on the other hand means poverty.

If you look at the state of the world today you see , excuse my language, 
what complete bullshit this statement is.

Well, when I wrote that paragraph above I thought exactly of the
moment when you read these words: You are sitting in front of a
computer monitor and are using *lots* of equipment to read my words.
If thinking about the *lots* please take the Internet into account
which transported my words to your desktop. Thus this equipment
certainly produces use value for you.

This equipment on the other hand depends on a high degree of division
of labor. Division of labor, however, needs lots of people. If you
think only about the zillions of raw materials found in a computer you
probably will agree that your use value depends on those who made that
equipment available to you in this form. And those people may not be
half of the world but are *very* many.

So to me it seems clear that at least a self-subsistent life style can
not deliver this type of use value. And also subsistence with its very
minimal definition of life doesn't offer this use value.

you want an example? look at industrialized agriculture:

look at Erwin Wagenhofers

or at Nikolaus Geyrhalters

It's good you use the term "industrialized" here because I think most
of the wealth - in use value terms - you, I and probably most here
enjoy is a direct result of this industrialization. IMHO feudal
societies in the end were overcome exactly by this additional wealth
industrialization were able to deliver.

this IS poverty disguised as wealth!

That is your opinion. AFAIK for instance in the US a majority sees
gene manipulation of plants quite differently. I think it is always a
bad idea to tell people what they have to interpret as wealth.

And it is directly linked to
industrialized ways of production and distribution.

Sure it is linked to industrialization. Even more so: Without
industrialization even the dresses of the guys walking around on the
pictures were not possible.

However, I don't think such a result is necessarily a result of
industrialization *as such*. IMHO it is a result of exchange based /
alienated forms of industrialization which so far are the only ones we
saw on this planet. Can you point out somehow that for instance in a
GPL society the downsides of capitalist industrialization are
necessarily reproduced?

I also want to quote the ISEW (Index of sustainable economic welfare)
debate that resulted in the factuality that, contrary to the enormous
growth in monetary indicators like GNP, the factual welfare or life
quality for most citizens of the world has declined since 1980.

how can you be that blind?

I'm not blind to this - as you probably know. IMHO this is a result of
the decline of capitalism - as I thought you'd share as an analysis.
Capitalism is less and less able to produce use value for the masses -
but IMHO this is not a result of industrialization and division of
labor but of the superstructure of an exchange based economy coming to
an end and becoming more and more dysfunctional even to its own

To summarize: I think indeed that industrialization is an important
basis for the wealth - in terms of use value - most of us here enjoy.
We are so used to it that we even don't see it any more. I can not see
why a massive reduction of industrialization should lead to a better
life - this is if you respect people's opinion.

Of course industrialization is *heavily* based on dependence on a lot
of actors. Industrialization without a highly networked society with
nodes depending on other nodes is probably not possible. On the other
hand subsistence as defined usually doesn't have wealth in mind. As
self-subsistence it focuses on independence so much that the wealth
coming out of the network is for sure not possible.

With autonomy-in-interdependence / Selbstentfaltung on the other hand
industrialization is perfectly possible. Dependency on others is not
seen as a reduction of own possibilities but as an extension of own
possibilities. Indeed I think this is a very important feature of
autonomy-in-interdependence / Selbstentfaltung. Of course this is only
real truth if there are no more alienation layers like exchange based

IMHO the very goal of a GPL society is to free mankind from those
alienation layers and to unleash the wealth which (today) is possible
by autonomy-in-interdependence / Selbstentfaltung.

Free Software in many respects is a very nice example on how this
works. All free software projects depend more or less heavily on other
Free Software projects but they make autonomy possible so they are
perfect autonomy-in-interdependence / Selbstentfaltung. In addition -
and probably even as a pre-condition - the alienation layer of
exchange is removed at least to a considerable degree.

      Mit Freien Gr��en


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