Can Social Networks Finally Make #Socialism Work?


Very interesting conversation last night between Steven Johnson – author of brilliant books such as The Ghost Map, Emergence (for which I owe him a huge debt) and The Invention of Air – and Brian Eno – who defies description or categorization.

They covered a lot of ground over the evening, but perhaps the best line that I came away with was Eno quoting GA Cohen who said:

It’s not that socialism doesn’t work, it’s just that we haven’t developed the social tools to make it work yet.

Cohen died a couple of years ago, and I wonder what he would have made of the rise of Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter etc. Personally, I think he’d have been really interested in the potential that they have, and I wonder if he, as I did, would have mulled on that quote and wondered if actually socialism might become more realised with the improved social technologies that we increasingly have available.

I’ve been of the opinion that people all basically start out socialist, it’s just that most realise quite quickly just how impossible it is to put into practice, and turn more conservative in their middle years as they have children and look to increase their own wealth and security.

But perhaps a technologically-funded socialism might actually allow things to work a little more effectively. What’s clear is that if it ever is, it’s not going to be the perennially silly, ad-driven crap-stream that is the current state of Facebook. But here’s hoping.


2 responses to “Can Social Networks Finally Make #Socialism Work?”

  1. Kes, there’s quite a lot of thought out there already that probably answers “No” to your question— mainly due to the predatory, exploitative and mutative nature of cognitive-capitalsim and how it utilises technology

    Check out Jodi Dean’s stuff on ‘communicative capitaism’, where the state no-longer has to engage with the circuits of digital debate, the shear abundance and circulation of political opinion has become detrimental. She also makes the point that information and data has been leached of its ‘use value’ and now is often considered more valuable as an object of exchange. This is a classic SocNet effect— your personal associations and affects traded in one big humongous retweet!

    Alexander Galloway is good too, he makes the subtle but important point that the Internet is ‘distributed not decentralised’. The net appears chaotic and anarchic but at its heart, there are ‘rigidly defined hierarchies’— DNS structure being a case in point. Virtually all net traffic must submit to this inverted tree structure, the apparatus and control of protocol.

    Welcome to the ‘vectoralist’ classes, those who control the knowledge flows.

    This is all good too,_or,_the_cooperative_nature_of_cognitive_capitalism

  2. it seems to me that socialism works best outside of legislation – in communities that willingly practice acts of mercy and justice and cooperative community life.