A 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.
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.
Those are terrific suggestions, Jason. The OAC obviously caters for a wide range of interests and the online seminars undoubtedly are a fine achievement at the academic end of the spectrum. What matter sis opening up this kind of discussion, even if many will feel deterred from participating. At the other end, the link to Facebook and other activities on the main site should be able to cater for more popular approaches to anthropology, follpowing the suggestions of Todd, Will and Ashkuff. I am still uncertain about the advisability of hooking up with mainstream bureaucracies like the AAA.
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.
OK folks, how about concentrating the grey matter on how to take this idea forward?
Yes, I think Jason has come up with some excellent pointers to the way ahead for us. Keith is right to be cautious about hooking OAC into bureaucracies like the AAA. I think the small-triple-a is a better model, and the Prickly Pear Press shows us what can be done with very little to promote very big ideas. The line that jumped out for me in this discussion is Beatrice Webb's vision of the chapel, union and coop, combining individual and social interests. In our times an interesting model of a social movement that has used a variety of methods to share ideas and concerns is the climate change movement. There is much to learn from the successes and failures of the climate change movement. It combines religious, scientific and social activism in a very potent combination. Its main defect, I think, is that it has got bogged down in international politics and UN bureaucracies. This has diluted sharpness of debate and has dampened the enthusiasm of activists. We should try to avoid the same mistake.
While I think I see why linking up to the AAA might have some advantages, I do not think the AAA is the way forward for the OAC. Besides being an American-centric, which the OAC isn't, the AAA is a troubled organization whose actions in the last ten years or so have spawned a great deal of resentment and distrust among anthropologists.
Whatever everyone does, the goals have to be clear. I hesitate to speak too loudly since I have not been very involved for the last year or so. I'm not sure what is going on. Subjectively it seems that the OAC is more active in more interesting ways than ever before.
I would say it could use some type of economic model and a clear mission statement that would help people do things like getting published, acquire funding for existing (and future) research projects,
It could function as a reciprocity network that has legitimate legal (and or social) ramifications for any material breach of contract.
As an example, person "A" writes grant proposals for persons "Z", "T" and "G"- in the grant proposal itself person "A" would have to be a principle or have some active role so as to deserve allocation of a part of the of the disbursement of the grant. In most cases the grant writer has control over this anyway. The same for publishing or any other economically viable product produced by collaborators on this site. Some logistics may be required and some people (the ones with experience/talent) may need to be appointed to particular commissions/positions etc. for this to be cohesive- and it would be nice if we could provide the person nice enough to create this site a way to derive some type of reward("s"), financial or otherwise for putting the OAC together in the first place.