These two papers come to us from Kevin Carson at the Mutualist Blog and Center For a Stateless Society. Carson describes himself as a “free market anti-capitalist” and examines many issues around economics, technology and production in an anarchist context. Fiercely critical of the unchecked power of non-state tyrannies (corporations, patriarchy etc) in right-wing libertarian theory, but also of the tendencies of left-wing libertarians/anarchist to fall back into the authoritarian traps of Marxist-style command economies. His works touch on an unbelievably vast amount of historical and technological research, so it isn’t for the feint of hard, but few other writers compare in terms of his grasp of current trends in alternative and appropriate technologies.
In the first paper, Carson describes both traiditional models of local, independent production and emerging networks and technolgies which bring high-tech manufacturing capabilities within the reach of individuals and small groups. With an investment of a few hundred or thousand dollars amateurs have been building a wide array of small-scale manufacturing technologies such CNC mills and 3D-printers out of recycled spare parts for a tenth or a hundredth of what similar commercial-grade machines would cost. By producing open-source designs with open-source hardware, as Carson explains, individuals and communities can reduce their dependence on the wage economy for income while creating cheap, flexible and highly capable network or producers working out of garages and community workshops. In the context of a faultering global economy and unsure energy future, he examines both the possibilities and barriers to these kinds of systems, and how they might fit into a future stateless society.
In this second paper Carson describes the role of local-scaled decentralized production and it’s role, both historically, presently and in a hypothetical stateless future. He brings up countless case studies of how traditional local economies (such as the Tuscan Villiage) and experimental worker’s co-operatives and barter networks (like LETS) can create functioning local alternative economies which can help communities weather the storms of recessions, depressions and grand-scale political changes. It’s long and pretty complicated (36 page .pdf, ouch), in terms of history and economics, so you may wish to just check out his web sites and read some shorter pieces (such as Another World Was Possible, about the collapse of the Berlin Wall and fall of Apartheid). If you can slug it out, though, it brings up a lot of issues and touches on a lot of important thinkers and organizations, such as Kropotkin, the Knights of Labour, experimental alternative currencies, Robert Owen, Gandhi, hacklabs, the open-source movement, urban farming, “Venture Communism”, local production, Transition Towns, and Ecovilliages.