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The actual version has been written by Anne Alombert, with the contributions of the Internation/Geneva2020 group. Translated by Daniel Ross. We warmly welcome new entries!
This term was proposed by the Nobel Laureate and chemist Paul Crutzen to describe the geological era that commenced when human activity began to have a significant global impact on Earth’s ecosystem and the future of the planet. The opening of this new era occurred in the late eighteenth century with the industrial revolution and it now brings the very possibility of life continuing on Earth into question. The Anthropocene can be described as an ‘Entropocene’ insofar as this period corresponds to a massive increase in the rate of entropy at the physical level (dissipation of energy), the biological level (destruction of biodiversity) and the psycho-social level (destruction of cultural and social diversity).
Anti-entropy is a tendency towards structuration, diversification and the production of novelty. It is explained by the fact that the organization of living things locally and temporarily opposes the law of the inevitable increase in entropy. Anti-entropy is in this respect the process that characterizes life insofar as it struggles against the dissipation of energy and the disorganization that is its result, and insofar as it produces, among other things, new functions and new organs. The notion has been generalized to describe everything that tends to create difference, choice or novelty in a system, everything in the development of a system that tends to self-conservation and/or transformation towards improvement.
Capabilities / Skills
The development of capabilities (or ‘capacitation’) is distinct from the acquisition of competences or skills.
• Skills to be acquired precede the individual who is supposed to acquire them: they correspond to predetermined behavioural standards to which the individual is required to conform (two individuals may individually acquire identical skills, in which case they become interchangeable). Employment is based on the use of previously acquired skills, and skills are acquired for the sake of employability.
• Capabilities, on the contrary, correspond to each individual’s singular possibilities of existence, which individuals can exercise and actualize only starting from the moment when they individuate themselves collectively, that is, starting from the moment when an individual practices and shares knowledge with other individuals, and thus capabilizes himself or herself (capabilities are expressions of the singularity of individuals, but they presuppose, in order to develop, the collective practice of a knowledge). Capabilities are developed during work activities.
Supplement: automatisms (skills) and dis-automatization (capacitation).
If the individual only applies pre-established rules or repeats acquired behaviours, then no knowledge is exercised and no capabilities are developed, since the individual merely utilizes automatisms and skills. Automatisms and skills are obviously necessary for the practice of knowledge, but they are not sufficient: for there to be a genuine practice of knowledge or the development of capabilities (and not just the application of skills), the individual must be able to invent, create and produce novelty (and not just repeat the same). Knowledge is defined above all by the possibility of dis-automatizing acquired automatisms and the possibility of inventing new capabilities, rather than merely exercising automatisms or putting skills to use.
The thesis proposed by the contributory economy model consists in arguing that the productivity increases made possible by automation could free individuals from a certain number of proletarianizing jobs, and thus open new fields of capacitating and contributory activity. The goal of such an economy is to take advantage of the gains in time enabled by automation in the productive sphere, in order to develop processes of capacitation and contribution that enable the producting and sharing of the new knowledge necessary to face ongoing technological evolution (and its psychic, social, political and ecological impacts).
• individuals to choose to participate in a capacitating activity;
• the creation of a social/practical/therapeutic value through the exercise of this activity (which must produce ant
*Supplement: contributory economy versus market *
Where the market economy is concerned with the producer in terms of the maximization of profit, and the consumer in terms of utility function, and is based on use and exchange values, the economy of contribution is characterized by the fact that:
• economic actors are no longer separated into producers on one side and consumers on the other; they are ‘contributors’, that is, they share and produce knowledge that is useful to a society and a region;
• the value produced by contributors is not entirely monetizable; it constitutes a positive externality that cannot be reduced to exchange or use value because it is not exhausted over time.
Indeed, (unlike exchange value) the value of knowledge does not increase with scarcity, and (unlike use value) is not exhausted over time: on the contrary, it develops and becomes richer with time. The therapeutic effects of knowledge build up progressively and over the long term, and its value increases to the extent that it is shared and practised collectively: individuals who exchange knowledge are mutually enriched, by transforming and diversifying their ways of life and by improving the quality of their milieu and their everyday lives – in short, by expanding the possibilities of their existence and by capabilizing themselves. Hence it will be necessary to develop new conceptions of value and utility (‘contributory’, ‘societal’, ‘practical’, ‘therapeutic’ or ‘anti-entropic’ value or utility), and, especially, new indicators by which to measure it.
The economy of contribution does not exclude other ways of producing and exchanging, but combines with them, accepts the rules of the game of monetary exchange, is concerned with investment choices (particularly those leading to the production of public goods) and makes giving a possible modality of participation.
It must take into account:
• the productive model, which must deal with the finitude of natural resources and the cumulative character of resources related to cognitive activity;
• the relationship between the contribution function and the recasting of solidarity, beyond the social insurance solidarity of the welfare state;
• the territorialization of the contribution function, which involves a redefinition of conglomeration effects and a reassessment of public policies;
• the requirement to establish new measures and indicators of value.
Contributory income and intermittent contributory employment
The role of the contributory economy model is to equitably distribute among citizens the time made available by the automation of production, and to put this time at the service of the capacitation of inhabitants (remunerated by contributory income) and their contribution to the anti-anthropic development of the region (within the framework of intermittent contributory employment, that is, intermittent employment in projects designated as contributory).
To that end, two tools are proposed:
• setting up a contributory income scheme will serve to remunerate the capacitation time of individuals (during which they collectively share, practise and produce knowledge);
• individuals can, however, receive such income only if the knowledge and capabilities developed in this way are intermittently used in the context of casual employment in projects designated as contributory for the region (individuals thereby allow society and the region to benefit from capabilities that are developed during their periods of capacitation).
Supplement: the model of casual workers in the performing arts.
The functioning of contributory income is inspired by the scheme set up in France for casual workers in entertainment and the performing arts [intermittents du spectacle]: the financing of preparatory capacitation activities is conditional upon the return of the fruits of this work to society in the form of employment in designated projects. Contributory income is distinct from universal basic income (UBI), although it can be complementary to it: it may indeed be a right, but it is nevertheless conditional upon participation in the contributory economy as it is inscribed in the region. This participation requires knowledge acquired during the capacitation period to be utilized in the context of employment in the service of projects designated as contributory or anti-anthropic by and for the region – which assumes the development of institutions for this designation, which will enable collective deliberation and decision-making about the anti-anthropic or contributory value of an activity. In addition to being a financing process, intermittent contributory employment enables the contributor to gain capabilities, enriching the region thanks to the new knowledge produced, and transforming jobs into work activities (always both capacitating and contributory.
Disruption refers to the upheaval of social organizations and institutions (from the family to government via businesses, languages, law, economic regulation, taxation, etc.) through the highly rapid development of new technologies (radical and permanent innovation). Disruption results from the fact that the evolution of the technical system is occurring far quicker than the evolution of social systems. This disadjustment or disconnection between the evolution of the technical system and the evolution of social systems is not new (Bertrand Gille describes it as typical of the industrial revolution). Today, however, these technical transformations occur so quickly that they leave the political and social realms behind, as well as public power in general, so that no new viable model of long-term social and economic development can emerge. Regulation, legislation and knowledge always arrive too late in their attempts to appropriate the new: the resulting constant expansion of legal vacuums and theoretical vacuums is without historical precedent.
The tendency towards disorganization, destructuration and disorder. Taken in its broadest sense, beyond thermodynamics, an entropic process is one that involves the tendency of a system to exhaust its dynamic potentials and its capacity for conservation or renewal. Supplement: entropy, a transversal notion.
• The concept of entropy appeared in the nineteenth century in the field of thermodynamic physics and was initially devised as a way of describing the irreversible dissipation of energy, leading to the generalized disorder of the universe (the universe being understood as an unfolding process of expansion, which becomes increasingly disorganized until its disappearance at infinity).
• In the twentieth century, these questions of entropy were taken up by Erwin Schrödinger in the field of biology. In What is Life?, he describes the activity of living organisms as ‘negentropic’, that is, a process opposing the global entropic process, which enables us not to escape it (every living organism eventually dies) but to temporarily and locally struggle against it. Negentropy thus characterizes life as a struggle against entropy.
• Finally, the theory of entropy has been taken up in the fields of information theory (in Shannon’s work) and cybernetics (in Wiener’s work). Putting forward the notion of informational entropy, these authors argue that information can be defined as a relationship between entropy and negentropy: in this case, negentropy refers to what resists the unsignifying character of information (the fact that information does not inform me).
Hermeneutic web and the deliberative social network
• A hermeneutic web is one that enables individuals to practise active interpretations and singular expressions, unlike the internet of platforms that operates on the basis of capturing data and treating it through intensive computing. • A deliberative social network is one that enables the constitution of peer groups, and rational deliberation and debate between these groups,
unlike the dominant model that links individuals to other individuals according to their data and profiles, thus isolating them within fragmented and hyper-personalized informational environments (‘filter bubbles’).
The creation of a hermeneutic web and deliberative social networks would enable digital platforms to serve the creation of capacitating communities, rather than the capture and treatment of data by the data economy.
Supplement: the functionalities of the hermeneutic web and deliberative social networks.
The creation of a hermeneutic web and deliberative social networks entails rethinking network architectures and data formats, in order to introduce new contributory and interpretative functions into current web formats and already existing tools.
• graphical annotation and shared categorization functions making it possible for active users to compare note-taking and content interpretation;
• data analysis algorithms based on qualitative recommendation through the analysis of annotations enabling the constitution of groups of interpretations or affinities;
• new types of social networks founded on linking groups rather than isolated individuals (and based on Simondon’s concept of collective individuation), enabling the conflict of interpretations, controversy and reasoned discussion, all of which are essential to the exercise of public debate and the constitution of knowledge.
Knowledge (of how to do, live and conceive)
All knowledge (whether it is work-knowledge [savoir-faire], life-knowledge [savoir-vivre] or theoretical knowledge [savoir théorique]) may be described as a ‘transindividual’ process: it exists only to be transmitted, practised and transformed by many individuals, sharing a certain number of common rules, themselves transmitted from generation to generation and transformed over time, as individuals practising knowledge modify it by inscribing bifurcations via their singular practices, that is, by dis-automatizing these rules and by inventing new ways of practising knowledge (in this sense, knowledge presupposes a normative capacity, capable of transforming existing rules and practices and of inventing new rules and practices).
Supplement: knowledge as the practice of neganthropic care.
• The practice of a form of knowledge is always social/collective and requires a technical milieu capable of supporting it (how to do/make, live, design/conceive). If the practice of different kinds of knowledge has value for a society, region or territory, it is because such practices are always ways of taking care of oneself and others, by cultivating an artificial milieu and the social relations that unfold within it. Whenever there is a practice of knowledge, it involves individuals collectively developing capabilities enabling them to take care of an artificial milieu that could prove to be dangerous for them. Different forms of knowledge amount to so many ways individuals have of binding together socially through the mediation of an artificial milieu, and of collectively adopting this milieu by organizing themselves socially. Knowledge implies a dynamic and normative relation between individuals and their milieu: the individuals and the milieu transform themselves during the relationship, by collectively inventing new norms (for example, new ways of producing, cooking, educating, dwelling, living together, counting, measuring and so on).
• The practice of knowledge thus produces organization within communities sharing rules (rules that are more or less explicit or internalized), but it also produces diversification and novelty from out of singular bifurcations and controversies between peers. Knowledge (of how to do, live, conceive) varies according to the ways in which it is practised by individuals and groups, ways that are always local, differentiating it across time and space, and constituting diverse epochs and cultures: forms of knowledge thus contribute to the dynamic evolution of societies. In this sense, they can be considered anti-anthropic processes: as long as they are practised and transformed, they are agents of cultural and social evolution and diversity (socio-diversity).
• Knowledge is an open system: it always contains a capacity for countering entropy, whether it is work-knowledge (what I do or make is stable and does not encourage chaos, referring in particular to expertise), life-knowledge (enriching the social organization in which I live without destroying it) or conceptual knowledge (conserving and transforming/enriching collective memory).
The Neganthropocene refers to the new epoch that could succeed the Anthropocene: given the massive increase in these rates of entropy (at the physical, biological and psycho-social levels) characteristic of the Anthropocene, entering the Neganthropocene requires the implementation of an economic model founded on systemically valuing the production of anti-entropy (at the physical, biological and psycho-social levels). Such is the ambition of the ‘contributory economy’, which is based on valuing and remunerating anti-entropic activities (also referred to as ‘contributory’ and ‘capabilizing’ – see the corresponding definitions).
Proletarianization refers to the process by which individuals (producers, consumers, conceptualizers) are deprived of their knowledge (knowledge of how to do/make, how to live, and how to conceptualize and theorize). An individual is proletarianized when he or she fails to reappropriate/re-interiorize knowledge that has been exteriorized (and often automated) in a technical support. Indeed, the transmission, learning or apprenticeship of or in a form of knowledge always presupposes that the knowledge which has been psychically interiorized by some individuals (those who transmit it) is technically exteriorized (in a medium, a memory-support), in order that it may be psychically re-interiorized by other individuals (those who learn), who internalize knowledge by collectively practising the supports or media within which it is conserved. ‘Proletarianization’ occurs when the re-interiorization of knowledge exteriorized by psychic individuals in technical supports is made impossible, to the extent that these memory supports are not socialized or practised. Individuals then submit to the exteriorized knowledge contained in these supports, instead of using these supports to transmit and share knowledge.
Supplement: stages of proletarianization and generalized proletarianization.
Three stages in the process of proletarianization can be distinguished (corresponding to three stages of capitalism):
the proletarianization of work-knowledge in the nineteenth century, which occurred through the development of industrial machinism and the implementation of the scientific organization of labour (productivist capitalism);
the proletarianization of life-knowledge in the twentieth century, which occurred through the development of the cultural program industries – mass media such as radio, cinema and television (consumerist capitalism);
the proletarianization of conceptual knowledge in the twenty-first century, which is occurring through the development of digital and algorithmic technologies – and of what is called ‘artificial intelligence’ (computational capitalism).
• In the nineteenth century, the development of industrial machinism, which marked the beginning of the Anthropocene, generated a first process of proletarianization: the first individuals affected by proletarianization were workers, and what they were deprived of was their work-knowledge, exteriorized and automated in machines (supports of mechanical knowledge), to which labouring bodies submit in the functions of production.
• During the twentieth century, however, what is proletarianized is no longer just the work-knowledge of the producer: it is also the life-knowledge of the consumer. Indeed, consumers are those who do not produce their own arts of living or modes of existence: their ways of living are imposed by marketing and advertising, through the capture of their attention by the mass media, based on analogue technologies (cinema, photography, television). Arts of living are thus transformed into consumer behaviour.
• The twenty-first century has shown that it is now also designers, conceptualizers and decision-makers who are proletarianized, through the application of intensive computing to massive quantities of data (‘big data’), which bypasses theoretical elaboration, or else through computer programs providing ‘automatic decision support systems’, which short-circuit processes of deliberation, interpretation and decision-making.
Rather than unfolding one after the other, these three stages overlap and combine, so that what we are witnessing today amounts to generalized proletarianization: every kind of ‘knower’ finds themselves dispossessed of their knowledge (exteriorization and disintegration combining for all types of knowledge). This is why a generalized de-proletarianization (or ‘capabilization’) is necessary (and possible, thanks to the economy of contribution, which values the practice of knowledge).
Urbanity and the right of the city
Urbanity refers to both the character of a space and the character of a social relation: urbanity means firstly that space enables a maximum of interactions of all forms, and is also defined by social civility. Spatial urbanity is correlated with the social and political interactions that shape urban space. According to Lévy and Lussault, urbanity is not fixed but has different levels, which have been defined as ‘urban gradients’: a level of urbanity depends (among other things) on the number of public spaces, the social mix and the functional mix (the presence of all kinds of activities: housing, transport, commerce, leisure, etc.).
The ‘right to the city’ is an expression used by Henri Lefebvre to designate the right of residents to participate in the collective production of their city and to share the wealth thereby produced. According to such a conception, the right to the city is that ‘of urban man for whom and by whom the city and his own daily life in it become oeuvre’ (Lefebvre, Writings on Cities, p. 180): the city constitutes the work of its inhabitants, and the right to the city is above all a right to work in and for the city.
Supplement: digital urbanity and the right to the city in the context of smart cities.
In the context of smart cities, the reconstruction of urbanity and an urban fabric depends upon making the efficiency of automation serve the freeing up of energy and time for the production of new urban knowledge and urban deliberation, taking advantage of the new forms of cooperation made possible by contributory technologies.
It is a matter of turning digital infrastructures into a contributory and capacitating urban milieu, within which inhabitants take care of themselves and others by collectively developing the capabilities needed to locally adopt new urban technologies. This new urban knowledge and these new urban occupations should therefore be developed in the framework of contributory work activities (producing value that is practical and social and therefore shareable for the region) that are valued by a contributory income.
In the context of smart cities, the access of residents to the ‘right to the city’ depends upon fostering a massive acculturation and capacitation of the various inhabitants (industrialists, citizens, elected officials, professionals, scientists) into the challenges of new urban technology, in order to invent new ways of life within the new urban milieu, and to collectively identify the technological innovations necessary for sustainable economic development and for the individual and collective ‘better life’ of its inhabitants.
Work / Employment
• A work activity involves the transmission, circulation and practice (always necessarily collective) of knowledge, during which the individual individuates (transforms, capacitates) by transforming their work environment and by co-individuating with their work colleagues (or peers), that is, by forming with them an associated milieu. By working, individuals organize themselves collectively in sharing knowledge, each individual developing their singular capabilities and thus participating in the transformation of knowledge itself, by producing knowledge, by making knowledge bifurcate in new directions. In this sense, work can be considered a negentropic activity (one that produces differences and novelty).
• Insofar as employment (or a ‘job’) traditionally relies on the performance of tasks or the application of previously determined procedures and the controlled use of previously acquired skills, it tends to lock the employee into pre-established behavioural standards to which they must adapt their behaviour, according to productivity requirements that they find very difficult to change. Employment is based on the transformation of labour force into exchange value, and not on the exercise or practice of knowledge: it thus tends to ‘proletarianize’ individuals (to dispossess them of their knowledge) and to encourage the repetition of the same – in this sense, employment can be considered an entropic activity.
Supplement: work, employment and automation.
• Consequently, the (standardized and repetitive) activities mobilized in the context of employment may easily be automated (based on the repetition of programmed tasks that can be formalized and implemented in an algorithm). On the other hand, the (singular and evolving) activities mobilized in the context of work are difficult to automate (since they presuppose precisely the ability to dis-automate acquired automatisms and to produce unpredictable novelty, through the practice and transformation of transmitted knowledge).
• In a context of permanent technological innovation and given the pace of the development of AI, we can foresee the automation of a considerable number of jobs, and in many sectors of activity: this does not depend on the sector (industry, service, education, health), since any job that does not involve the exercise of knowledge and the production of novelty (hence artistic work) can in principle be automated. To cope with this progressive disappearance of jobs, which sends the Fordo-Keynesian model of redistribution (based on wages) into crisis, a solvent economy will need to encourage giving value to work activities and the production of knowledge – this is the object of the contributory economy, which proposes to remunerate work activities through a contributory income, conditional on the development of intermittent contributory employment.