New Mutualism

January 17, 2012 4 Comments

I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections

– Stowe Boyd

Today, Curtis Odgen and I will be hosting an LLC Webinar on Collective Leadership.  We are talking about a significant shift in how we organize our work for social transformation.  Stowe Boyd, the net’s social anthropologist, recently posted what he calls the beginnings of an elevator pitch on “New Mutualism.”  I found it resonant, relevant and tremendously exciting; here it goes:

In a world where our traditional institutions — and their leaders — are hopelessly out of date and failing at insuring our well being, we know that something new has to take their place. And fast.

Whatever the individual paths that led us to this insight, we need to first find solidarity in a challenging and chaotically changing world, because the financial and political forces that are increasingly influencing our economic and political systems seem to have small concern for us. Consider the growing income inequality in the US, as an example.

We, those of us that have come to realize that we are living precariously, living at great and increasing risk due the actions of failed institutions and broken policies, must rapidly move past the passive, consumerist, individualist mindset of the industrial era.

We, the Precariat, need to create alternative institutions, controlled by us and dedicated to investing in activities that will benefit us, rather than global corporations and the magnates that control them. We need to find common cause and grow local, regional, national, and international mutual associations, owned by the members and dedicated to decreasing the staggering risks that confront us, individually and in common. These organizations can be as diverse as unions dedicated to protecting the interests of freelancers (like the Freelancer’s Union), local food cooperatives, or international policy organizations.

Mutualist Manifesto:

We need to commit ourselves — individually and collectively — to finding common cause and the general recourse to a mutualist response to problems that confront us at every scale: in our neighborhoods, cities, regions, nations and globally. We can’t wait to be saved by others.

Core mutualist principles:

  1. Ownership and governance of new institutions by members.
  2. Benefits-based, not profit-based, organizational principles.
  3. Cooperative orientation toward asset allocation, investment, and distribution of benefits.
  4. Mutual support of the activities of other mutualist organizations.

What do you think?


  • chad says:

    magnifico, ‘mano. la llamada y webinar fueron stupendo, llena de cuentos de ti y Curtis, ideas y maneras de organizar un grupo, o una red.

    as for this blog on the mutualist, two thoughts: the elevator speech is too long. and what is the Pretariat? if that is a hybrid of proletariat and another word, what does it mean?

  • Gibrán says:

    Always good to hear from you Chad! Were you able to tell that I’m quoting Stowe Boyd here? His words… you are right, too long an elevator pitch, but a very good length for a blog post. I understood the term “precariat” to refer back to precarious… as in this paragraph:

    “We, those of us that have come to realize that we are living precariously, living at great and increasing risk due the actions of failed institutions and broken policies, must rapidly move past the passive, consumerist, individualist mindset of the industrial era.”

    I’m into this!

  • chad says:

    on the other hand, the Manifesto is too short. too little. leaves me longing for more. the 4 principles remind me of the 7 principles of cooperatives. (as i’ve just learned from wikipedia, the Rochdale Principles that date back to 1844. damn!)

    the Mutualist Manifesto is so succinct that it leaves me wondering how relevant are these to our immediate needs + current reality? i do not want to get bogged down in a discussion of concrete/abstract, but i’m curious of what are some other examples or applications of the New Mutualism. i know the Freelancers Union well, yet the FU is still unknown to the very people, populations, regions that would mirror it.

    there is a breakdown in how well such ideas, manifestos and visions are disseminated to larger and broader audiences. i hope that New Mutualism can find a viral marketing or guerrilla marketing path to becoming widely known. if we cannot make breakthroughs in how to reach more people then i think that so many wise ideas cannot respond to the urgency as institutions collapse around us.

  • Gibrán says:

    I’m finding the manifesto pretty straight forward. Emergence works through “simple rules and feedback loops” – which gets to your bigger point, the relationship between practices – actual examples and the spreading of ideas.

    I think Boyd is provoking, inviting into a future that he is sensing into. Yes, there are examples of cooperatives and mutualism, but a lot of these still exhibit industrial patterns of organization. How to apply the logic and technology of networks to the mutualism that is emergent?

    Approaching this next phase through a networked approach is more likely to help the ideas spread beyond the privileged corners where experimentation is taking place.

    But just as important as making the ideas accessible is the actual engagement in mutualist experimentation. Dorchester, my neighborhood, is launching a Food Co-Op, I’m hoping to increase my involvement.

    Appreciating your thinking and prodding Chad Jones!

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