Saturday, March 31, 2012

How the New Forms of Common Value Creation Challenge Both the Market State and State Capitalism

These evolving dynamics — the decommodification of common goods through co-governance and the deterritorialization of value through co-production — are shattering the liberal assumptions which underlie state capitalism. The emergence of this new kind of management and valuation for the preservation of natural and social assets is posing a momentous crisis for the Market State, imperiling the functional legitimacy of state sovereignty, national currencies, domestic fiscal policy, international trade and finance, and the global monetary system. James Quilligan

James Quilligan has written an extraordinary and must-read mini-essay, that has also been published for On the Commons: Beyond State Capitalism

1. The challenge of decommodification and deterritorialisation

“In considering the essential problem of how to produce and distribute material wealth, virtually all of the great economists in Western history have ignored the significance of the commons — the shared resources of nature and society that people inherit, create and utilize. Despite sharp differences in concept and ideology, economic thinkers from Smith, Ricardo, and Marx to Keynes, Hayek, Mises and Schumpeter largely based their assumptions on the world's seemingly unlimited resources and fossil fuels, their infinite potential for creating economic growth, adequate supplies of labor for developing them, and the evolving monoculture of state capitalism responsible for their provision and allocation. Hence, in the Market State that has emerged, corporations and sovereign states make decisions on the production and distribution of Earth's common resources more or less as a unitary system — with minimal participation from the people who depend on these commons for their livelihood and well-being. Because our forbears did not account for the biophysical flow of material resources from the environment through the production process and back into the environment, the real worth of natural resources and social labor is not factored into the economy. It is this centralized, hierarchical model that has led to the degradation and devaluation of our commons.

Over the past seventy years especially, the macroeconomic goals of sovereign states — for high levels and rapid growth of output, low unemployment and stable prices — have resulted in a highly dysfunctional world. The global economy has integrated dramatically in recent decades through financial and trade liberalization; yet the market is failing to protect natural and social resources, the state is failing to rectify the economic system, and the global polity is failing to manage its mounting imbalances in global resources and wealth. Without a ʻunified field theoryʼ of economics to explain how the commons is drastically undervalued and why world society is amassing huge debts to the environment, the poor and future generations, policymakers and their institutions lack the critical tools and support to address the massive instability that is now gripping the global economy. Businesses and governments are facing the Herculean challenge of reducing climate change and pollution while alleviating poverty without economic growth — a task for which the Market State is neither prepared nor designed to handle.

Meanwhile, the essential ideals of state capitalism — the rule-based systems of government enforcement and the spontaneous, self-regulating social order of markets — are finding direct expression in the co-governance and co-production of common goods by people in localities across the world. Whether these commons are traditional (rivers, forests, indigenous cultures) or emerging (energy, intellectual property, internet), communities are successfully managing them through collaboration and collective action. This growing movement has also begun to create social charters and commons trusts — formal instruments which define the incentives, rights and responsibilities of stakeholders for the supervision and protection of common resources. Ironically, by organizing to protect their commons through decentralized decision-making, the democratic principles of freedom and equality are being realized more fully in these resource communities than through the enterprises and policies of the Market State.

These evolving dynamics — the decommodification of common goods through co-governance and the deterritorialization of value through co-production — are shattering the liberal assumptions which underlie state capitalism. The emergence of this new kind of management and valuation for the preservation of natural and social assets is posing a momentous crisis for the Market State, imperiling the functional legitimacy of state sovereignty, national currencies, domestic fiscal policy, international trade and finance, and the global monetary system. Major changes are on the way. The transformation of modern political economy will involve reconnecting with — and reformulating — a pre-analytic vision of the post-macroeconomic global commons. Another world is coming: where common goods are capped and protected; a portion of these resources are rented to businesses for the production and consumption of private goods; and taxes on their use are redistributed by the state as public goods to provide a social income for the marginalized and to repair and restore the depleted commons.”

2. The Emerging Planetary Commons as the key task for the next two decades

“Although people's rights to their commons are often recognized and validated in smaller communities, scaling these lessons to the global level will require a new dimension of popular legitimacy and authority. The world community is rapidly evolving a sense of social interconnectivity, shared responsibility and global citizenship, yet the sovereign rights of people to the global commons have not been fully articulated. In declaring our planetary rights for these commons, we shall be confronting many decisive questions:

(1) Are modern societies prepared to create a framework in which the incentives behind production and governance are not private capital and debt-based growth, but human solidarity, quality of life and ecological sustainability?

(2) How soon — and how peacefully — will the subsystems of the Market State integrate their structures of value-creation and sovereign governance with the greater biophysical system of ecological and social interdependence?

(3) Can the global public organize effectively as a third power to develop checks and balances on the private and public sectors and establish the resource sovereignty and preservation value needed for a commons economy?

These issues will be filtering into mainstream discussion over the next two decades. Already the system of state capitalism is breaking down, threatening the entire planet, its institutions and species. When this collapse can no longer be contained and a global monetary crisis ensues, world society will have the choice of creating an economic system that follows the universal laws of biophysics and commons preservation — or accepting a new version of 18th-20th century mechanistic economics, obliging humanity to continue living off the common capital of the planet under corporate feudalism and über-militaristic regimes. Our decision will likely come down to this: global commons or global autarchy. As an economist, I don't pretend to speak for the conscience of humanity; but as a human being, my heart tells me that we shall see the beginnings of a commons economy in our lifetimes. The long-forsaken global commons are beckoning.”

Friday, March 30, 2012

Michel Bauwens, a Frontier of the Commons, Speaks at the Winchester School of Arts

Michel Bauwens is one of the most influential spokesmen of the Commons, the third way after capitalism and socialism (both modernist liberalism). Founder of p2p-foundation. Here's his own introduction to the lecture:

Sean Cubitt and Jussi Parikka, two academics at the very top of my list of people I respect, honoured me with an invitation to their school, the Winchester School of Arts.

Here’s a record of the talk, focusing on P2P Economics and the role of mutualist phyles …

The Commons, a big wave coming, ignored by a totally ignorant Norwegian media. Norway is simply a bobble of ignorance!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Home Alone: Depression Highest for Those Living Alone

The number of people living on their own has doubled, over the last three decades, to one in three in the UK and US. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health shows that the risk of depression, measured by people taking antidepressants, is almost 80% higher for those living alone compared to people living in any kind of social or family group. ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2012)
This is the fault of Modernism and the followers of its ideology, planners, entrepreneurs, politicians, and most of all architects! Yesterday we published an essay at the PRI-blog explaining the connections:

Geospatial Analysis and Living Urban Geometry

Image: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938).  A living urban geometry is the best medicine against loneliness. Unfortunately we see the failure of an entire discipline, the one of planners and architects. These modernists only know how to destroy the cityscape.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Community by the Numbers

- Community by the Numbers, Part One: Group Thresholds

Intimacy Gradient and Other Lessons from Architecture

- Intimacy Gradient and Other Lessons from Architecture

Pattern #127 - Intimacy Gradient:

Unless the spaces in a building are arranged in a sequence which corresponds to their degrees of privateness, the visits made by strangers, friends, guests, clients, family, will always be a little awkward.

Lay out the spaces of a building so that they create a sequence which begins with the entrance and the most public parts of the building, then leads into the slightly more private areas, and finally to the most private domains.

I Have No Brain!

It's a pity to learn that I have no brain, as I have no friends. Earlier I thought I had no friends because I'm so ugly, but worse, it's because I lack a brain. This make me even more depressed, as to be brainless, which mean I'm a completely idiot (IQ below 70), is the worst destiny I can think about. Wonder how my wife manage to stuck with me?
The study suggests that we need to employ a set of cognitive skills to maintain a number of friends (and the keyword is 'friends' as opposed to just the total number of people we know). These skills are described by social scientists as 'mentalising' or 'mind-reading'- a capacity to understand what another person is thinking, which is crucial to our ability to handle our complex social world, including the ability to hold conversations with one another. This study, for the first time, suggests that our competency in these skills is determined by the size of key regions of our brains (in particular, the frontal lobe). ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2012) 
No brain, no pain, no friends. Image: Sebastian023

- Brain Size May Determine Whether You Are Good at Keeping Friends

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trapped Between the Markets and the State

We see now that we the people are trapped between the markets and the state that sees its only role in governance is to “manage the economy” and administration of its population of homo economicus. Saki Bailey
We define the Commons as two part; it is both about reclaiming access to fundamental resources as well as the very democratic process that governs their distribution Resources that are fundamental to human life include both natural commons like water, food, energy and the atmosphere, as well as man made commons, like technology, medicine, the internet and culture. Reclaiming the commons also requires a reshaping of the democratic process as it stands today, offering an alternative to the model that has prevailed under state and market models. Governing the commons demands a shift of power from the centralized state and free market to local communities, placing the power to satisfy the long term needs of these communities as well as those of future generations, back into the hands of community member through bottom up, local and direct democracy. Commons Sense

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hans Rosling and the Magic Washing Machine

I got this video recommended from my auntie Tante Bitt. My objection to the video is the claim that every woman should have a washing machine, as this goes to the very core of the consumer economy, and is a contradiction to the sharing economy. In a sharing economy, in the new realm of the commons, every man and woman will have access to a washing machine within their community. Either this be a pocket neighborhood, an ecovillage or whatever.

Further, in the future washing machines should be produced locally by the commons, like it now happens more and more, even for cars.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Strong Property Rights Promoted Slavery and Discouraged Manufacturing Progress

Strong enforcement of property rights is good for economic growth, says the conventional wisdom. The link may not be as clear cut, says Suresh Naidu. He and co-investigator Jeremiah Dittmar are digging through court records and newspaper ads on runaway slaves to come up with a measure of property rights enforcement. The hypothesis is that weak enforcement of property rights in people – slavery that is – discouraged investment in slaves and encouraged investment in manufacturing and infrastructure instead. A new angle on the link between property rights and economic growth – this is new economic thinking. - Suresh Naidu 
Yes, slaves were property, and the slave states had a greater interest in the protection of property than the non-slave stakes. The narrative of the economics of property is much larger than slavery. In the legacy of Adam Smith’s The Wea…lth of Nations, labor, land, and capital are properties. This meant the privatization of the commons, the taking of land from the native Americans, as well as the enslavement of Africans. In Anglo-American history, I think one can do worst than beginning with the philosopher John Locke, who based human freedom on owning one’s self, and he wrote this while investing in the slave trade, so in a sense, human freedom is defined as not being a slave. 
Still, I think property rights are important in a civic economy. The issue is whether property owners or civic members administer them. Property rights, in other words, should be embedded in a system of justice rather than our system of justice being grounded in property rights. We need to turn things right side up, because from Smith to the present, they have been up side down. - Marvin Brown 
- Video of the Day: How Strong Property Rights Promoted Slavery and Discouraged Manufacturing Progress

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Kinds of Parents Will We be if, God Forbid, Our Children are Forced to Share Bedrooms?

As it turns out, pretty good ones. Because, when they do, a number of positive things can happen. Consider:

They learn to share and cooperate. The one certainty about your child’s life ahead is that it will be filled with interpersonal challenges. There will be no shortage of difficult people and circumstances and countless days filled with situations that require collaborative decision making. Learning the skills of negotiation, compromise and sacrifice now will serve them well in the long run.

They find ways to solve problems through the help of someone other than… you. That’s right. You’re not always going to be there. When you’re not, they need to know how to leverage other people and resources to navigate problems. An easily accessible sibling is like training wheels towards self-reliance.

They’re more inclined to entertain themselves, which plays a huge role in how they develop their interpersonal skills, broaden their creativity, and master a talent painfully lacking in our modern world: the ability to self-edit.

They forge stronger family bonds. While children may prefer the easy road, the hard work of relationship building breeds lasting respect and commitment. Closer siblings are more inclined to model behavior for each other, raise the bar on performance, and hold each other to established family standards.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Norway, the Second Dumbest Country in the World

It is also dangerous to judge the resilience and success of our current living arrangements solely by our level of wealth or health. We are using up the natural capital upon which our very survival depends more rapidly than it can be regenerated. It's true that one can experience the illusion of great wealth by spending all one's savings in a week. But life after that would become quite precarious as a single large expense, say, a large medical bill, could send one to bankruptcy court. Kurt Cobb
Norway is the second country in the world to tap its oil resources most rapidly, next to Great Britain, and we're now having a big party. We seem to be the second dumbest country in the world.

The narrowing window for a transition to a sustainable industrial society

The second dumbest country in the world. Credit: Fonadier

A Holistic-Phenomenological Approach to Architecture

In this Video Architect Nili Portugali will present her particular interpretation of the holistic- phenomenological worldview in theory and in practice, a worldview which stands in recent years at the forefront of the scientific discourse and is tightly related to Buddhist philosophy, in projects she designed and built in Israel for more than 30 years.

She will demonstrate how this approach, as well as her unique planning process stemming from it were implemented in a selected public and private projects designed and built by her in relation to the physical, cultural and social reality of the place they were planned and built on, an Israeli reality which reflects a unique interface between the orient and the west, a cultural interface she personally represents.

Nili Portugali is a lecturer at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology Architecture department, Haifa (until 2006 at the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Architectural Department, Jerusalem), and a practicing architect working in Israel for more than 30 years. Her work has focused on both practice and theory, and is tightly connected to the holistic-phenomenological school of thought. 

She is a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture (A.A), London. 
She did postgraduate studied in Architecture and Buddhism at the University of California in Berkeley, and worked and participated in research with Prof. Christopher Alexander at the Center for Environmental Structure in Berkeley. 

Her firm is involved in a variety of projects in unique areas of historic or environmental sensitivity, in urban design, architecture, landscape design and interior design, disciplines she regards as one continuous system.

She has recently published her new book, which was nominated for The RIBA International Book Award Architecture Prize -- 2007.

The Act of Creation and the Spirit of a Place
A Holistic-Phenomenological Approach to Architecture /Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart / London 2006
For more details on Portugali's work see:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Solar Cell Panel on Your Roof doesn't Necessarily Make Your Home Green

It was a bonanza for manufacturers of certain kinds of high tech panels to jump in, sell solar panels, selenium and so forth at high cost. That’s arguable: maybe the high cost was OK because that’s just the first stage in the development of a new idea. But the form these panels took were very rigid pre-fabricated panels which crucified the roofs of the buildings they were put on. First of all they are incredibly ugly, a significant issue in itself, which ought to be addressed within the boundaries of sustainability but isn’t. More important, they interfere grossly with adaptation. In other words, the more high tech the panels and materials are, the less possible it is to fine tune the shape, geometry, slope, modifications and extent of any given roof that they are put in. Suddenly you’ve got the very ugly and biologically dangerous phenomenon of the part driving the whole, rather than vice versa, wherever those roofs are built. However, it became a social statement –  if you were “with it,” you had to have solar panels. - Christopher Alexander
Photo: Túrelio

My intention is to work this quota into an article in accordance with the working title.

The Center Missing Lifelessness of Suburbia

We have seen that living structure occurs when centers unfold from the whole and form complex binding schemes in which larger centers emerge from the whole, intensify the life of whole, and are built from smaller centers that are created (demonstrated). - Christopher Alexander
My intention is to work this quota into an article, according to the working title.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Group Pattern Language

Always inspiring when a new pattern language enters the stage, here with the "group pattern language", summarized by Michel Bauwens from P2P-Foundation.

The Group Pattern Language

Sacred Economics with Charles Eisenstein: a short film

Sacred Economics (2012) - short film by Ian MacKenzie, a teaser on the ideas of Charles Eisenstein and the return of the gift. 
Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. 
Today, these trends have reached their extreme - but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being. - Ian MacKenzie
Related reading:

The Greek Experiment

Learn to Live the Not-So-Big Lifestyle

Interview with Sarah Susanka, Christopher Alexander follower and New Urbanist, author of the "Not So Big House"-series. Very recommended reading!

Learn to Live the Not-So-Big Lifestyle

Eating Wild: Foraging Safely in a Modern World

ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2012) — In an expanding "foodie" culture, people go to great lengths to get the best ingredients, seek out the most aesthetic desserts, and buy natural and organic. Less noted, though, is the movement of "foragers": people who "eat wild" on a regular basis, supplemented by naturally growing, edible plants for which they search in their local communities, whether urban or rural.

"Foraging as part of a lifestyle is not really new," says mycologist Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology. "Guidebooks for food foragers have been around for years, as well as publications like Mother Earth News."

Still, more and more people are taking to the woods -- and streets and parks -- to find common plants and fungi such as dandelions, chanterelles and berries. Chefs at boutique restaurants have also picked up on the trend, as the push to use local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients grows. But, as Snetselaar points out, foraging isn't for everyone and shouldn't be taken on as a casual hobby.

"People new to foraging have to be very careful. There are many plants and fungi that are poisonous or have parts that are poisonous," she says. "Wild parsley looks a lot like poison hemlock, for example. The growing environment is also a factor, because plants will sequester toxins that are introduced to the soil or fall on their leaves, like pesticides."

Juniper berries, perfect for gravy. Photo: John Tustin

Snetselaar offers this advice to novice foragers:

1. Educate yourself. Photo guides and iPhone apps do not sufficiently show plants and their parts for those unfamiliar with vegetation to distinguish the subtle differences that prove a plant edible or poisonous. Instead, learn the terminology associated with classification and rely on a more academic guidebook that has diagrams and shows a plant's relative size.

2. Learn from an expert. Taking a seasoned forager as a guide is a safer and more informative way to learn what to pick.

3. Forage in untainted environments. Though people have been known to forage in urban settings, be wary of vacant lots and roadsides, where unknown pollutants can lie both underneath the soil and on vegetation itself. Do not forage where fertilizers and weed killers have been used and always wash plants before eating.

4. Check ordinances in parks and protected lands. Many state and national parks do not allow visitors to disturb protected environments by removing plant life and endangering regrowth.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Everything is a Remix Theory of Creativity

Kirby Ferguson, creator of the absolutely outstanding Everything is a Remix series, explains his theory of creative inspiration, remix, and cultural commons, citing some of history’s best-loved “individual” creators and explaining how what they did was a remix, an extension and a part of the work that came before them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Interview: Bill Mitchell on Modern Monetary Theory

Bill Mitchell is the Research Professor in Economics and the Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle, Australia. The following is an edited transcript of the interview, conducted August 15, 2011.

Thanks for joining us, Professor Mitchell. I wanted to talk with you today about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)—the theoretical approach you’ve been integral in developing—and its relevance to current debates over public finances. I know you’ve been quite scathing of mainstream economic discourse. For example, you wrote in your blog recently that “the economics media is dominated with financial issues – too much public debt; debt ceilings; fiscal sustainability; sovereign risk; and all the rest of the non-issues that have taken center-stage.” Could you take a moment to explain why MMT renders these things non-issues?

The most important misperception is that MMT is in some way outlining an ideal or a new regime that could be introduced. The reality is that MMT just describes the system that most countries in the world live under and have lived under since 1971, when the US president at the time, Richard Nixon, suspended the convertibility of the US dollar into gold. At that point, the system of fixed exchange rates—in which all countries agreed to fix their currencies against the US dollar, which was in turn benchmarked in price against gold—was abandoned. So since that day, most of us have been living in what we call a fiat currency system.

In a fiat currency system, the currency has legitimacy because of legislative fiat: the government tells us that’s the currency and then legislates it as such. The currency has no intrinsic value. What gives it value, what motivates us to use the currency that the government suggests, is the fact that all tax obligations are denominated in and have to be extinguished with that currency. We have no choice. If you live in America, for example, you have to pay American taxes to the IRS with American dollars. So demand for the currency, otherwise worthless bits of paper, is driven by the fact that all tax obligations have to be extinguished with that currency. Once you consider that, then you immediately realize that the national government is the monopoly issuer of that currency. That means that the national government in such a system can never be short of that currency; it can never run out of money. It doesn’t need you or I to lend it money or you and I to pay taxes to get more money. It can never run out of money. That’s the first basic insight of MMT: governments are not constrained in their spending by a need to raise revenue.

- Read the rest of the interview here.

- Read excerpts here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Battle for Ordinary Human Existence in Our Time

Upon the completion of his four-volume work, The Nature of Order, Christopher Alexander talks with Traditional Building about his vision for our future architecture. 

Christopher Alexander interviewed by Kim A. O’Connell.

In the 1970s, architect Christopher Alexander, along with his colleagues at the Center for
Environmental Structure in Berkeley, California, published a trilogy of books—The 
Timeless Way of Building, A Pattern Language, and The Oregon Experiment—centered
on the theory that people can and should take back the design and construction of their
towns and cities. By distilling natural patterns into an understandable grammar for the
built environment, Alexander advanced the belief that, in building something, one could
“also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place
becomes more coherent, and more whole.”

Three decades later, Alexander has expanded on the concept of wholeness in The Nature of Order, a four-volume opus in which he presents an organic approach to architectural theory and practice. Instead of subscribing to the artificially rigid constraints of current construction—a typically linear progression from architect to builder to subcontractor, with often banal or outlandish results—Alexander proposes a humanistic, scientific, and artistic methodology, in which buildings and towns are created through a natural, unfolding, living process. His work celebrates traditional buildings, not out of superficial nostalgia for historic styles or details, but because they are often the best examples we have of such holistic process at work, and are therefore highly instructive for a futureoriented profession that has, in Alexander’s view, largely lost its way.

From his home in West Sussex, England, Alexander recently spoke to Traditional Building about his feelings on completing The Nature of Order, his critique of the “supermarket approach” to sustainability, and his charge that New Urbanism, while wellintentioned, is not deeply different from other forms of technocratic Modernism. Although he recognizes that The Nature of Order demands a monumental shift in thinking – one that could take decades to be fully accepted, Alexander’s message is ultimately one of hope and faith. It is the nature of living beings, after all, to support those systems that sustain life, and this includes built communities that are vital, logical and beautiful.

Traditional Building: The Nature of Order is the culmination of many years of work and thought. What are your hopes for the books? What effect would you like to see them have?

Christopher Alexander: My intention with these books is to modify the way architecture is thought about, altogether. The reason for the ugliness and rigidity and pretentiousness we’ve encountered in the last few decades is that the general understanding of architecture is so far off the rails that it’s virtually impossible to build an adequate architecture for our time. My main goal in The Nature of Order is to do all I can to explain the vision of architecture that is in these four books so that it can be carried into everyday practice by all people and communities concerned with building. It is a very large task. But if we are to have life on earth, it is a necessary one.

To get there at all, the first thing is for people to grasp what the main problem is. The creation of a world that is beautiful and in harmony, adequate for the people who live in it, supporting both the personal and the community, urban life, plant life, animals and rivers and all the world we treasure, can only happen if what takes place in the formation of buildings and towns is a continuous unfolding of the whole. That is the way that nature works, and of course necessarily so. For thousands of years all traditional architecture also went forward like that. Briefly it may be called “adaptive morphogenesis.” It’s an adaptive process which allows the whole to guide the formation of the parts created within in it, so it all fits together comfortably. It allows minute adaptations at many points going forward.

The system of planning, regulation, design, and production that we have inherited from
the relatively early part of the 20th century makes all of that impossible. CNU is a
strongly motivated and in part highly sensible way of addressing this problem. It has
arisen from highly sensible people, architects, who are  now in a panic because they see
the problem, want to do something about it, don’t really know what to do about it, and so
they try to hark back to history and historical forms. Their motive is completely
understandable, but their means cannot succeed, because they hope to do this within the
same technical means of production that are producing the most far-out and absurd
postmodern concoctions. Harmonious order cannot be produced by copying the shapes of
the past, although I suppose it might be mildly better than indulging in the very horrific
architectural fantasies that are deliberately intended to shock. But at root it is the system
of production and the processes of production which are at fault. Until these are changed,
architecture cannot get better.

This is a very large undertaking. My main reason for having faith that this insight will
gradually become a common insight, and be carried forward in the next few decades, is
that both complex systems theory and biology already understand these things in their
own ways. But oddly enough, the very large community of architects, planners, and
ecologists committed to sustainable architecture, building, and planning have not yet
really understood the concept of wholeness. It’s the crux of the well-being of the Earth
and also the crux of the well-being of human cultures: and it has always been so. Whether
people understand it or not, or are willing to believe it or not, that does explain why I
have  spent the last 27 years writing these four books. It has taken every ounce of energy
I have to put it together in an intellectually comprehensible fashion.

TB: In Book One of The Nature of Order, you detail 15 properties of wholeness, 
including levels of scale, strong centers, boundaries, and simplicity, among others. Do you view them as a hierarchy? Are there properties that have primacy over others?

The Tragedy of the Commons

The Commons (Video)

"The Commons" was produced by Christoph Knopp from Das Programm in Germany and the talented Berlin artist Burkhard Piller. There are also versions in Spanish, German and Italian, with a French one on the way. The animated line-drawings are wonderfully understated yet expressive. In five short minutes, the neophyte can get an amusing introduction to the commons and the many areas in which it applies -- nature, culture, community and beyond. - David bollier

The Unholy Trinity of Landlords, Developers and Politicians

I don't think there exist a more destructive unity in today's world than the unholy trinity of landlords, developers and politicians. This trinity is anti-God, anti-nature and anti-human, making our villages, towns and cities to simply instruments of the Market and State. This practice is degrading human life to its lowest possible esteem, the abstract human being.

We have to fight down and kill dead this three headed monster of landlords, developers and politicians, to replace it with a human scaled P2P Urbanism, for Peer to Peer Urbanism. We must reclaim the right to the city
So how can the commons help make our cities more liveable, ecologically friendly places?  I argue that the very framing and language of the commons helps us assert our values. These values are:  
--That cities must be human-scale, pedestrian-friendly, sociable, lively and fun. 
--That planning and design of cities should be open and participatory.  
--That our built landscape should be adaptable to changing circumstances, along the lines of open-source software.  Why should future generations be cursed with the costly mistakes of the top-down, centralized planning of a bunch of idiots today? - David Bollier
Please read David Bollier's fantastic essay: Re-imagining Urban Design and City Life

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Relationship Between Form Languages and Pattern Languages

A while ago I had a discussion about the relationships between form languages and pattern languages. Until now this relationship has been somewhat blur to me, but after watching the following slide show by Nikos A. Salingaros, I think I see the connection between them quite clear.

- Form Languages and Classical Mouldings, lecture at the ICAA, New York City, 25 May 2011 

Debt: The First 5000 Years: Review

Debt: The First 5000 Years covers a vast sweep of history, anthropology, and political economy, arguing not so much for a single thesis as for a braid of complementary ideas. Among them are:
  • That money originated as “social currencies” used to rearrange relationships among human beings (marriage, funerals, blood money, and other social functions), and was not used to buy and sell things. Indeed, this kind of money is to be found even in societies without a significant division of labor.
  • That the first money used for commerce took the form of credit: tallies of transactions and loans denominated in a common unit of account and periodically settled by delivery of various commodities.
  • That the conflation of these two different kinds of money led to debt peonage, slavery, the demotion of women's status, and other iniquities that one might expect to happen when human relationships are mediated by the same currency as commercial transactions.
  • That much of the psychology and morality around money traces its origins to the violence and slavery that have been part of creditor-debtor relationships for thousands of years. War and slavery were crucial in creating the economy we know today, which should not be surprising, as our economic habits still encode the anxiety one might expect from such origins. As well, they perpetuate violence and, if not outright slavery, debt servitude to this day.
  • That history has alternated between periods of credit money and coinage, with the latter corresponding to times of greater violence, social chaos, slavery, and the repression of women. So for example, the Middle Ages saw the virtual abolition of slavery and the flowering of complex credit relationships facilitating trade across the Indian Ocean and beyond. Coins were seldom used. Compared to the Axial Age that preceded it, it was a time of relative peace and prosperity, ending with the rise of Europe and the influx of vast amounts of silver from the New World. A new age of coinage began.
  • That markets have never been “free” in the sense of being separate from government, but, to the contrary, were created by governments to facilitate their acquisition of various goods (especially for their armies). They have been intertwined ever since.
  • That all major world religions grew in response to money, whether informed by the beliefs of people living in a money economy, or in reaction to its evils.
  • That the origin of capitalism as we know it today is “the story of how an economy of credit was converted into an economy of interest.” Debt, he says, is the primary instrument of colonization whether internal or abroad – keeping in mind that behind the man with the ledger is a man with a gun. Moreover, the enforcement of debts is key to maintaining the political power relationships the prevail today.
  • That the invasion of market relations into every sphere of life has always been accompanied by violence. War, debt, and the market are inextricably linked. Even today, our money system is based mainly on the monetization of government war debts. If there is one persistent theme to this book, it is that our association of debt repayment with morality is false; that, indeed, the debt relations that hold today are rooted in a history of violence; that debt and money itself are social creations and not unalterable facts of nature; that our understanding of human nature is deeply colored by the market-based, debt-based world we live in. The world could be different. We are right to want it to be different. - Charles Eisenstein

Related reading:

Er avkristning i toleransens navn usunt?

Nedenfor gjengir jeg et meget klartenkt innlegg på, av Benthe Haukås:

En engelsk muslim mener at det som har hjulpet henne til å bli en god muslim, er at landet hennes, England, har hatt en kristen identitet. Hun tror at vi kan lære å leve sammen i ekte toleranse kun dersom vi ikke, i toleransens navn, vanner ut landets hovedreligion.

En utvannet historisk hjemmehørende religion i et land, ofret på det sekulære alter derimot, gir i følge den kvinnelige muslimen, Sayeeda Warsi, usikker identitet fordi man i de forskjellige religøse grupperinger, både innen hovedreligionen og innen de andre religioner som har etablert seg i et land, trakker rundt i et miljø hvor man ikke kan være seg selv (min tolkning av henne):

"What truly enabled me to learn about my faith and to practice it was that my country – the bed over which the river of my faith flowed – had a strong Christian identity. This defined, shaped and gave me confidence in my own faith which, combined with the confidence of my country’s principles and values have since been evident in the decisions I’ve taken as an adult. (...) But I believe that where interfaith dialogue does not work is where faiths are dumbed down in order to find common ground. Just as the European language of Esperanto, which attempted to build a new tongue, neutralises our component languages, a common language between faiths risks watering down the diversity and intensity of our respective religions."

Les gjerne hele innlegget hennes her for ytterligere refleksjon:

Er hun inne på noe betydnigsfullt eller ...?

The Architecture Student that LOVE Arches

In Norway we have something so rare as an architecture student that love arches. Well, I guess most architecture students loved arches when they were children and even when they started their education. The problem is the finished indoctrinated architect, into who the modernist meme has been implanted. Once this meme is encapsulated the student has become a puppet of the dark force behind today's architectural establishment, a lackey with nothing than the pseudo-will of the cult.

But there are a few exceptions, remarkable students with a strong will, resisting the indoctrination. Kristian Hoff-Andersen is definitely one of these. Therefor, read his great new post on ARCHES!


Photo: dbking

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interview with Nikos A. Salingaros at Manner of Man Magazine

A fantastic sad interview with a glimpse of hope, with one of our times greatest architectural theorists, professor  Nikos A. Salingaros. PLEASE; PLEASE; PLEASE read it, and wake up your family and friends from the massively architectural indoctrination by the modernists cult. LET'S TAKE OUR WORLD BACK!!!!

- M/M Interview with Dr. Nikos Salingaros

Some examples of living architecture from the world as we left, a world full of nature, devoid of the modernists ego and wow!-effect:

Wat Chai Watthanaram, Ayutthaya Historical Park, central Thailand

A view over blooming cherry trees towards the centre of the Austrian village Fraxern in Vorarlberg. Rhinevalley and swiss mountains (Alpstein) in the background. Photo: Böhringer Friedrich

Town of Kašperské Hory with St Margaret church as seen from the Liščí vrch (794 m). Photo: Adam Hauner 

Chang Chun ("eternal spring") Shrine/长春祠 (pinyin:Chángchūn cí); Taroko National Park, Taiwan. Photo: AngMoKio 

The Lichtenstein Castle, near Lichtenstein, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Photo: Donald

The Greatest Speech Ever Made

The God of Christopher Alexander

Let everything you make become as if it were a gift to God (formulated by me) - Christopher Alexander 
A world in which there is something to believe in – not a religious thing – but a believable vision of God as the unity behind all things which guides us and impels us to act in certain ways. God not conceived of as a construct of any organized religion, but as a fact of nature and its wholeness. - Christopher Alexander
In early times the city itself was intended as an image of the universe – its form guarantee of the connection between the heavens and the earth, a picture of a whole and coherent way of life. - Christopher Alexander

The end of the Machine that Produces Fear?

There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist – most obviously, as ecologists keep reminding us, because it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet, and the current form of capitalism doesn’t seem to be capable of generating the kind of vast technological breakthroughs and mobilizations that would be required for us to start finding and colonizing any other planets. Yet faced with the prospect of capitalism actually ending, the most common reaction – even from those who call themselves “progressives” – is simply fear. We cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse. 
How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last 30 years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At its root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world – in response to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s – with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish or propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win. To do so requires creating a vast apparatus of armies, prisons, police; various forms of private security firms and police and military intelligence apparatus, and propaganda engines of every conceivable variety, most of which do not attack alternatives directly so much as create a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity and simple despair that renders any thought of changing the world, an idle fantasy. 
Maintaining this apparatus seems more important to exponents of the “free market” than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain what happened in the former Soviet Union? One would ordinarily have imagined that the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and the KGB and rebuilding the factories, but in fact what happened was precisely the other way around. This is just an extreme example of what has been happening everywhere. Economically, the apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and no doubt it’s yet another element dragging the entire capitalist system down – along with producing the illusion of an endless capitalist future that laid the groundwork for the endless bubbles to begin with. Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination. 
In other words, there seems to have been a profound contradiction between the political imperative of establishing capitalism as the only possible way to manage anything, and capitalism’s own unacknowledged need to limit its future horizons lest speculation, predictably, go haywire. When speculation did go berserk, and the whole machine imploded, we were left in the strange situation of not being able to even imagine any other way that things might be arranged. About the only thing we can imagine is catastrophe. David Graeber
Maria Yakunchikova "Fear" 1893-95

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