discussion on Facebook provoked by
 Adam Fish's post about David Graeber and anthropology's suicide at
Savage Minds turned to Marcel Mauss. Then Daniel Lende (whose 
neuroanthropology blog is a beacon) inserted this:

"I've been thinking a very little bit about what it might be like to organize economies that try to highlight more what (perhaps) Mauss said, or guilds and universities (in older sense) have done, and to not see the only alternative from Graeber's analysis as being anarchism/occupy. So, what would it take to turn Open Anthro Cooperative into more of a guild? Or to build on the social foundations of our social economies?"

To which I replied:

That's a very interesting idea,
 Daniel. Certainly the OAC needs to try any social model rather than remain the amorphous thing it is at present. I have been critical of modern universities as a hybrid of the guild and public bureaucracy under national capitalism. But maybe we could look again at the guild socialism of GDH Cole (via William Morris, another source I have been critical of, following Engels on socialism, utopian and scientific) who influenced Karl Polanyi.Mauss himself advocated an economic movement from below combining professional associations, mutual insurance and cooperatives. He drew on Jaures'
associationisme which has been developed of late by my friend and collaborator, Jean-Louis Laville. The 
Human Economy program at Pretoria (also a group here and
 on Facebook) is making an alliance with 
EMES, the European research network on solidarity economy and social enterprise, with the emphasis on the former.

Mauss was an Anglophile (he spent WW1 as a translator for British and Australian troops on the front line) and was close to the Webbs who advocated consumer democracy and formed the Fabian Society (and LSE) with the likes of Alfred Marshall who not only synthesised marginalist economics, but was a cooperative socialist and had a Hegelian theory of the welfare state. Beatrice Webb in My Apprenticeship writes of a working class civilization in Northern England built around the chapel, union and coop, each of which combined individual and social interests.

This is the main point. Rather than oppose individual and society, private and public, in order to be fully human they must always be integrated; and we need to devise institutions which serve those ends today. Sorry for the length of this, but I have and do think about it a lot. Maybe Facebook is not the best place to discuss the possibilities.

The OAC is such a place. Do any of you have any suggestions about a social model for our network? Is Copoperative the model we should be aiming at? If so, it is clear that we haven't yet achieved it. But perhaps another analogy would be more appropriate.

Views: 708

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The Wikipedia entry on cooperatives begins with the following statement,

cooperative ("coop"), co-operative ("co-op"), or coöperative ("coöp") is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit.[1] Cooperatives include non-profit community organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the people who use its services (a consumer cooperative) and/or by the people who work there (a worker cooperative)

Reading through the entry, I recall that I once belonged to a cooperative, a place called Howland House, a student cooperative in East Lansing, Michigan, where I lived and worked as Tuesday night cook for my sophomore through senior years at Michigan State University.

Founded by WWII veterans who were looking for residential alternatives to dorms and frat houses, Howland House was a residential cooperative. The rules were as follows

  1. Admission required an application and vetting by the current members
  2. Members were required both (a) to purchase a share in the cooperative and pay a monthly contribution to expenses and  (b) to perform five hours of work on behalf of the house each week. Said work was assigned by the governing committee and failure to perform it cause for expulsion from the cooperative. 
  3. Members were required to sell back their shares in the cooperative to the cooperative on graduation from MSU.

Work on behalf of the house included cleaning public spaces, mowing the lawn, maintenance, planning menus, purchasing and maintaining an inventory of food and other supplies, setting tables, serving and cleaning up after meals, and, the job I did, cooking meals for the forty men who lived in the house. Most jobs were assigned on the basis of two shifts per week. The evening cooks, of which I was one, did one shift a week. My memory is fading, but it was either one to six or two to seven p.m. As my assigned task, I would check the day's menu, retrieve the necessary supplies from the pantry, prepare and plate the meals. The serving crew would set the dining room tables, distribute the food, and clean up afterwards. 

Reflecting on this experience as a possible model for OAC I note the exclusiveness (there were only forty spaces and vetting was required for membership), the financial commitment (the ownership share and monthly contribution), and the labor commitment (five hours a week, come rain, shine, sickness or hangover — though in the latter two cases, it was normally possible to arrange a swap). 

Would similar conditions and commitments enliven an on-line community that otherwise becomes a mass of listless, lurker exploiters of the commons and the few who provide all the necessary labor? It might be interesting to find out.

In answer to Keith's question, I would answer YES.

As a comparative beginner in these topics I will try my best to both not be a lurker and also share something

Both this thread and the Anthropology's Suicide thread seem to be on path for a shatter zone that asks what happens when anthropology, the web, and socio-based subsistence modelling are trying to be coherently brought together? And the fire in this combination is that they each ask pressing questions of each other.

The reason I brought up the term 'socio-based subsistence modelling' is that I am trying to place in one term, what is elusively appearing as multiple. Are you asking Keith for a social model, or a socio-economic model? I am aware that many forms of exchange would not separate the two, so I would like clarification of whether you are? I just want to be sure, as I believe it is socio-economic from your post and therefore it suggests that OAC would have to explicitly and coherently demonstrate the 'use-value' (Taussig) of its co-productions to its 6000 members as a cooperative. Not because it doesn't have use-value but because otherwise it's MOP's are mystified, and so the majority of inhabitants do not 'take them into their own hands' and co-create.

(As I understand Hardin's 'Tradegy of the Commons' (that means throwing it in the bin and re-writing it as the Tradegy of Enclosure as a means of disrupting Commons, and Hardin claiming that they were Open Access Areas), then the OAC is an Open Access Area and so the sheep will eat all the grass until its all dead, which means once the few hardcore commenters move-on.)

Anyway, I don't need to 'teach my grandmother how to suck eggs'. What I wish to bring, apart from commenting on other peoples comments, is that I am very fascinated by what people will bring to this thread as I am planning what to do post-uni and one aspect of that is an effort to have some sort of socio-organizing model (between me and some of my fellow students) with which we can use anthropology engagingly in different projects and perhaps grow a socio-economic model over-time too. Hence I resonate with this thread.

Lastly, riffing off Will Reichard's comment "how to organize in a flattened world", I was reminded of Zoomia (James Scott), where a simplified implication is organization in flat land (in the SEasian context at least) is hierarchical State, and if you don't like that you migrate to the bumpy land. What that means in this context I am not quite sure.

Abraham, could you say a bit more about "socio-based subsistence modeling"? The phrase produces a kind of grey fuzz in my brain and a few more details would be helpful to be sure that I know what you are writing about.

OK. It does seem to me that we need a purpose before an organization. So maybe one problem is our failure to articulate a mission statement. One reason for this was that we hoped to let a thousand flowers bloom without central direction, but perhaps that was unrealistic.

I don't mind that many members just sometimes read what is here or have forgotten their membership. We can still reach most of them with a targeted message and, as Abraham's group showed, this can produce a flurry of activity. This method of communication should not be overused, but it is quite potent.

The scale of our network probably rules out Cooperative as its central organizational model. Certainly few of us work here and very little of that is coordinated. The nearest thing to it was the Wiki which attracted sporadic attention at first and has now lapsed. The OAC Press ticks over as an enterprise with some lasting achievements. One theme early on was how much we wanted to encourage chat and how much more durable products. But of course the site is an archive of great variety, even at source the content is often ephemeral. Perhaps the OAC should be seen as a holding operation for several semi-autonomous activities, not just one thing.

The suggestion that we should be formed as a guild raises the issue of making membership conditional on accepting closer guidelines for participation. It is not obvious to me that the model of association has to be economic in spirit or practice. The idea that people have to perform labor or pay something before they will take anything seriously needs to be interrogated, even if there is something in it.

I have a preference for taking account of historical or actually existing examples when planning a new organization, as my introduction to this thread makes clear. But that may not be everyone's cup of tea. This note introduces some clarification of the question from my point of view, but is not intended to preclude other angles.

I have a preference for taking account of historical or actually existing examples when planning a new organization, as my introduction to this thread makes clear. But that may not be everyone's cup of tea.

@Keith: I agree, I remember when working for a specialist in community intelligence, that he would usually suggest that the participants come up with a 'shared vision' that people may have an extra personal part to, but a shared part that can always be used as a guiding point (which itself can be changed overtime). It generally comes from each participant explaining clearly what there vsison adn expectations are and then common ground being found. But as I am sure you know there are many examples of such as covered on sites such as Shareable

 I have been critical of modern universities as a hybrid of the guild and public bureaucracy under national capitalism.

@keith: I am always interested to see that on the materials I get for each course a link to the OAC is always included. I used to believe that perhaps there was some possibility in engaging in circumstances such as these to create a more co-productive relationship. I am unsure now.

Rather than oppose individual and society, private and public, in order to be fully human they must always be integrated; and we need to devise institutions which serve those ends today

Well perhaps I should not be so unsure and that there is an angle in this discussion for a vision to be partly around an explicit anthropological learning space. 

could you say a bit more about "socio-based subsistence modeling"?

@John: What I was trying to cover in this phrase was something similar to your cooperative example I believe. Where the organizational and directional modelling a group of people use to go in the direction they imagine, also takes into consideration its participants need to live. Thank you for asking because when I wrote it I had an idea of what I meant, but in trying to explain it has become less clear. Originally I believe it was derived from a misunderstanding of moka exchange in PNG.

I don't think I really have been having much to say as of yet, am in middle of finishing and a bit gooey in the head.

Hi, Keith.  I'm still scratching my head about organizing economies.  I do understand what a social model is.  I just think that organized economies are end results of strong social structures.  So, maybe we should concern ourselves first with the organizational goal and model.  The goal I think that is interesting is something about liberalized, globalized, and socialized anthropology where anthropology is no longer a navel-gazing activity within the confines of academia.  

The structural model I can think that is almost reality-based is globalized regionalism.  In this highly globalized world, identities are in peril.  Regionalism solves such crisis.  In literature, for instance, there are anthologies by Caribbean writers, South Asian writers, African writers, etc.  They are published with the common intent of tapping the international readership.

To operate globalized regionalism,  OAC can create regional sub-groups.  Example, OAC - South Asia, OAC - South America, OAC - Europe.  They will have their own anthropological activities.  Due to location and proximity, they can meet and greet.  We in this mother board, OAC, will be their audience.  When the time comes OAC has to evolve into an organized economy, we will become their market.

I think.


Thanks for the clarification, Abraham. Your contributions are much valued, so don't go away even if you are stuck with finals. We do have different sources of inspiration. I agree that some of these might come from other contemporary experiments and perhaps also readings of anthropological literature. It is clear that we need some common focus and the opportunity to develop multiple initiatives that have the potential to diverge from and converge on those common purposes in time. I have a preference for moves that take minimal effort, since we do have a labour problem when it comes to making infrastructural changes.

For various reasons, I respond warmly to M's proposals. The first reason is her brief description of the kind of anthropology we aspire to promote here. The second is that the ethnographic model of doing anthropology was closely tied to the rise of the nation-state as the dominant social form.

We live in a moment when for the first time universal means of communication have emerged to disseminate universal ideas. But world society is being made by money, markets and telecommunciations without effective political and legal regulation, a recipe for disaster if left unchecked. There are other social principles at work in our world. One is federalism -- which is as old as nationalism -- another is empire. Apart from huge federal states like the US, Brazil, Russia, China, India etc, regional federations have been formed, such as NAFTA, ASEAN, Mercosul, AU and the EU is the most ambitious and currently vulnerable of these.

So I like the idea of a federal organization or globalized regionalism as you call it. In the OAC's early days, we had a number of groups using a variety of languages. Any regional organization would have to have its own language policy, while the common structure would probably still be dominated by English. the question is should we leave it to members to propose regional associations on an ad hoc basis? Do we have any alternative? There is a start to this in the groups. The regions need not be pan-continental. Let's consider this proposal in greater depth.

"liberalized, globalized, and socialized anthropology where anthropology is no longer a navel-gazing activity within the confines of academia"

I have published several versions of this, more often in the past than now, but I hesitated to propose my own vision as that of the OAC. I do believe we have to bite the bullet on this one and come up with a short mission statement that the bulk of those active in this conversation feel they could sign up for. The OAc should not be exclusively shaped by the interests of anglophone academics and their apprentices, even as this constitutes our demographic core, especially when it comes to active contributions. I believe that our makeup is unique and that we have to come up with a goal and organization that reflects its best potential. This should privilege our global character, ability to transcend local and academic restrictions and yes, the social principles we adhere to. These would be informed by an interpretation of what it means to be open and free in this context.

One other thing. The main guiding principle should be one of extension, not one of coming up with a constituional blueprint for the whole thing. What piecemeal, practical steps can we take now that would take us nearer our ultimate goal and who is willing to implement them? Rome was not built in a day. We have already achieved a lot. We should take stock of where we are coming from, what we are now and where we want to go when planning any immediate moves.

Have you considered who it is that you are targeting to join in this "co-op"?  The majority of the discussions that I have read and or commented on, are written in academic vernacular.  The language we choose to employ will often limit who is willing to join a discussion.  When I was first introduced to this site, I was impressed at the simplicty of the expaination of what I considered to be the mission statement.  The idea that anthropogy is such a young discipline, and that it's roots are founded by anyone who traveled and made observations; led me to inquire for admittance dispite the fact that I chose geology over anthopogy. 

Back to the point at hand... You are considering a new "social model", why?  What do you really want?  If what you want is more discussion, or more varied points of view, or more web traffic, or simply more involvement; than make that statement.  You may find that many people may have ideas that you may wish to consider if the problem is made clear. 

A few months ago their was a post that some of OAC were lamenting the loss of deep discussion.  What changed that may have been a precursor to the loss of discussion?  I cannot answer these questions, as I am too new to OAC to have an understanding of what was.  I do understand that the current atmosphere of OAC is overwellmingly academic.  If discussion is desired from non-academics, the simple answer would be to change the atmosphere.  What do I mean?  How we say something can be more important that what we say.  An ancient proverb states, "A wise man makes knowledge acceptable."  By speaking (writing) in layman's terms, you invite participation by those who do not have a complete knowledge of anthopological vocabulary. I am not implying that the discussions need to be "dumbed down", the ideas and the concepts hold the importance.  Like most of you, I have the priviledge of having many friends from other cultures who do not know english well and have only a conversational understanding.  They would be excluded, not because they do not have opinons or valid points of view.  They would be exculed because we are not wise enough to make our conversations acceptable to a wider audience. 


If I am wrong in my assumption that the non academic point of view has value... forgive my diatribe.

Your basic point is well-taken, Todd. There is a continuum from academic to non-academic language, from writing to speech, from specialized jargons to English as a second language. I have long tried to push my own communications towards the second pole with variable success. It would be interesting if you could point in the comments of John, M, Ashkuff or me above to how academic jargon might repel readers or prevent them from joining in.

But you are right, the sense of the OAC being an academic club is palpable, as is the fact that some people dominate discussion here. Is it more or less excclusive than other anthropology blog sites? Take Savage Minds for example which always struck me as being tied to the US academy. But someone there recently referred to the OAC as being "European". So language is a proxy for lots of ways that outsiders feel excluded from something. M raised the possibility that the anthropology we promote here be less academic. Another member in a previous discussion argued that our exchanges should be more precise and linked to specific texts. In the end, we have to make do with what active participants choose to do and hope to extend the reach somehow.

The reference to a social model came from Daniel Lende who hasn't even showed up here to follow it through. The issues are always more diffuse, but it seemed like a good way of soliciting comment to me. The OAC now has a group page on Facebook with getting on for 100 members who joined recently. Fran has been working on bringing this main site and other social media together for our purposes. It is a technical as well as social question.

You ask what we or perhaps I want. This has always been the problem. the OAC was launched as a kind of social movement with many disparate voices and those responsible for running it felt that we could not take a strong hand in directing the network. This may have been a mistake. Now participation is a lot quieter and it may take some stronger initiative on behalf of someone or a few who say this is where we want to take this place. I am always up for that, but I have always lacked committed support for it. This is another sense in which the weakness of the existing social model shows itself.

Another simple idea to help people let loose their voices, is two fold.  First set forth and interesting question, theory, or observation.  Then play devils advacate, go off the deep end and allow others to "correct you".


An example may help...

A few weeks ago I joined with a group of dental studets from USC on a trip to Guatemala for the purpose of putting on a week long dental clinic.  One of the students, Amir, is from Persia.  We would call it Iran, but I was corrected.  It appears that Iran is similar in composition to what Yugoslavia was.  Iran consists of mutliple people groups/cultures forced to live under a flag that none of the cultures have given their primary allegence to.  Amir is from Persia, which happens to be within the boarders of Iran. 


So, If a conquered people maintain there identity and keep themselves seperated; are they truly conquered.  Is it good or bad to maintain seperate cultures within a country?  Would division create mistrust and lead to racism?  (Now for devils advacate.)  Could one cause of racism be the failure of the conquered culture to submit and integrate into the larger state? 


Tell me people would not have a desire to tell me what an ignorate fool I am, and correct the fallacies in my logic!  How could I blame racism on the percecuted?  What a nut!

Perhaps, rather than switch abruptly from what is perceived as dominant academic model to more a popular approach aimed at the general public, we could make more explicit use of the Facebook page for the latter purpose, leaving the main site as a more eclectic repository of styles. Remember also to build links in both directions using Twitter (marking posts as #openanthcoop) and Facebook.

If we wish to identify our goals more clearly, we could start by discussing how the present mission statement (what is the OAC?) under the About tag in the menu bar should be modified. Any thought about the main page top left introduction:

"OAC is open to all with an interest in anthropology. Read, share, debate, collaborate, make friends. Click "About" (above) to learn more."

I would build the OAC around what has been most successful. I would count the OAC Press/Online Seminar series one of your successes. Unlike the brief and often inane content of a twitter or micro-blogging post, and more serious than most ordinary blog-posts (even good ones), the OAC Press/Online Seminar series is perhaps the only place I know where entire academic-oriented but generally accessible papers are presented, discussed, and debated and where participation is fully open to the public.

Other than that, I would suggest instigating some open process whereby some series of projects are proposed and chosen, projects with tangible results, and organize future activities around the development of those projects. There are all kinds of open-source software projects out there that thrive on volunteered effort.

Reply to Discussion



OAC Press



© 2020   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service