The BarCamp/TorCamp community is circulating a survey to discover this rapidly emerging global community’s political orientation. The project was inspired by my recent post Search for a 21st Century Ideology. The results so far indicate that these are strongly individualist, socially libertarian people with varying degrees of economic leftiness. Not surprising perhaps for a group of people who come together in ad-hoc unconferences where we are all equal participants and where leadership can emerge from anywhere.
In discussing the above-mentioned survey, Tom and others have commented on its flaws and the “false dichotomies” in its design. One can distrust both multinational corporations to do good in the world and the ability of governments to effectively address economic and social inequality. Which reinforces my question, what is a relevant political ideology for the 21st century?
Rohan makes some connections for us, and points to the book “The Sovereign Individual” which argues on the basis of “mega-politics” (large political shifts due to technological change and its relationship to the logic of violence), that individuals, enabled by information age technologies, will escape the sovereign clutches of the nation-state which will eventually lead to the collapse of the welfare state. I haven’t read these authors before, but the argument resonates with my question, if in a dystopian Children of Men kind of way. (If you’ve seen the film, watch the commentary by Slavoj Zizek on the Children of Men site. If you haven’t, go see it.)
Those of us who live in the social media world online have a certain amount of confidence in the new technologies and embrace them. Meanwhile, many who do not occupy social media space fear what this radical new world represents in terms of a new, frightening, society of millions of chaotic individual voices. Cultural commentators decry the decline of the cultural reference points of quality in this massively participatory new cultural playing field. It represents a loss of power, and in that loss of power, a loss of a certain sense of identity and stability that underpins our society.
In a boiling sea of technologically enabled individuals, neo-tribal confederations may emerge to supplant the nation-state and other social institutions. However, rather than a Mad Max dystopian future, I see hope in this transformation. One of the reasons for my hope is that online communities and social media technologies allow for the expression of our true multidimensional human nature. We don’t belong to one tribe, but to many, both in virtual and physical space. Our loyalties are therefore federated in a neo-tribal sense within the individual. We belong to business networks and markets, cities and communities, social and political causes and movements, families and national and religious affiliations. There are two implications of this:
- The knowledge that violence by one tribe of which I am a member may damage another tribe of which I am also a full member changes the calculus of violence
- Social media may be the medium of both the expression of these multidimensional identities and the mode of negotiating new social contracts among sovereign individuals.
This is early thinking, but I think it moves forward the discourse on 21st century ideology a bit for me.