Speculative Functional Eco-Socialisms

you will live in the pod and you will eat the bugs.

I’ve always thought Marx’s warning against making speculative social blueprints both insightful and kinda silly. He was a scientist in the disenchanted universe – so of course he understood that Darwinian mechanisms are ‘bottom-up’ rather than ‘top-down’, blindly iterative rather than planned and teleological. No creature ever pre-existed its own contingent emergence from the nexus of ecological forces. No social project in history was ever the product of any blueprint either – to imagine otherwise is the rankest idealism. And no plan ever survives contact with the enemy – or the conditions – not without evolving anyways.

So blueprints – ‘top-down’ and intrinsically teleological – are dumb, and even dangerous.

But still we have to use them all the time.

The old man isn’t wrong. It’s utopian to make castles in the sky, and it’s pointless to make plans that can never be carried out. Conditions can change along with the implementation of the plan in a way that’s possible to track and analyze but not predict – some plans can only be idealist, forever ideas.

But Marx’s thought was many turnings of struggle ago, and he didn’t really get the mutual interdependence of nature’s bottom-up spontaneous emergence and humanity’s reliance on conceptual mappings.

Sure they’re completely different processes – but insofar as we are materialists, the latter emerged from the former. Having done so, there must have been a way that they did. How did the capacity for blueprinting come to be generated by blind iteration?

Blueprints are a part of ‘nature’ too.

And it’s silly to deprive yourself of useful tools.

And they’re useful for other things than planning. And I need a positive (but non-utopian, materialist) vision along with all the ruthless analysis and doom.

So we’re doin this anyways.

A blueprint for eco-socialisms.

Sorry old man.

Here’s what we know an eco-socialist project must not have:

  • social reproduction dominated by value dynamics and class hegemony.

Not much explanation needed here. The value form is biosphere poison and it must go. We do not need to be making endless garbage all the time, and the division of labor can’t have any element of conscious intent in it without liberation from value dynamics. Most people are stuck doing stupid useless omnicidal bullshit their entire lives right now, regardless of how much exergy they are allowed to dissipate with their toys on the weekends.

The production of stuff will no longer be the point of social existence, so we’ll have more time for other activities – including active self-conscious political participation in the ongoing negotiation of the divlab.

The end of class hegemony is necessary because the advantages of structurally enforced material egalitarianism will be 100% necessary for this type of social project. You need willing, liberated, educated individuals voluntarily forming alliances and building adaptive bureacracies – not the structural alienation and resentment of materially enforced class antagonisms.

  • mass produced consumer goods made of finite materials.

Yeah, sorry – I can’t find a way around this one. Our everyday goods and tools will have to rely on stuff we can reproduce with the biosphere, for the most part. Mass production will happen only in singular instances for things that it is found necessary for everyone to have, or for public ends. We will live in buildings made out of wood and leather and leaves if we have to – but industrial commodity production as it exists now must end, and making our everday life necessities out of rare, irreplaceable materials is a no-go. We will be terraformers and bioengineers and scavengers, not consumers – and hands on contact with the biophysical world as a constant part of our personal lives will help keep us terraformers.

Tools I’m not sure – metal tools will never not be necessary. And fuck it – there will always be plenty of rocks, and there will be lots of scavenge from the ruins of the capitalist cataclysm.

We will be trying not to lose technology and science – it will just be publically owned and democratically controlled. Most metal and mineral industry and tech and everything associated will have to be done on a much smaller order of magnitude and be built to be durable over deeper timescales. Instead of having a disposable phone with hundreds of rare earth minerals in its construction in your damn pocket – you will get on your wood scooter to go to the train to go to the library to use the networked database terminal of the only computer for miles around, or something. Cars (insofar as they still exist – we will definitely be making far fewer of these in the very near future) will be rented from the polity. And electronic consumer gadgets are terrible for us anyways. Goodbye videogames!

I should mention that there is the potential for artificial bio-materials that intentionally and positively recycle themselves back into their enabling conditions – so we may end up with entirely new kinds of personal goods and tools.

  • fossil fueled agriculture.

This one’s tricky too. The current thermodynamics of our agricultural system plus its dependence on finite fossil fuel reserves make it a terminal patient. (I know that technically these reserves regenerate, but they do so on a geological timescale, and we are draining them as fast as we can on an historical timescale). But reverting to pre-industrial agriculture would be a disaster, possibly an irreversible one. You can’t have much specialization with 70%+ of your labor capacity doing grunt agricultural work – and that’s what you have without fossil-fueled agriculture.

So what industrial capacity there is (all public this) would have to be integrated into the agricultural system in a way that both supports enough non-agricultural specialization and obviates as much fossil fuel dependence as possible – and in the post-holocene climate, we’re gonna have to be figuring out how to make food production weather independent. Nuclear powered bioengineering is definitely a part of this future – but I don’t have enough specialist knowledge in these areas to do much speculation of the how and why. Once again Julian Cribb is wonderful here.

Food variety will be vastly reduced and diets part of the social plan. This will make us healthier and have a dampening effect on the generation of aesthetic fetishism.

And here’s what eco-socialism must be able to do:

  • reproduce or improve its enabling conditions.

The exigency itself. The only way we’ll ever really know if this is possible or not is by doing it – but it is theoretically possible within the parameters of the disenchanted universe, considering we’re lucky enough to live in a quasi-negentropic biosphere. (At least I’m p sure it’s possible but again, only testable in practice. There are pre-capitalist social projects that have left enhanced soil and biodiversity behind them). If this is a priori impossible then all we can do is delay the inevitable.

…which is still better than the alternative.

The divlab will have to be designed to do this first and above all else. This will be the foundation of any constitution. From each, to each – but including the biosphere as an equivocal part of that mutual reciprocity.

  • structurally limit individual exergetic dissipation.

This goes with the ‘personal lives of biomass’ thing – giving individual primates disposable technologies (ICEs, battery powered gadgets) made out of irreplaceable raw materials that dissipate vast amounts of exergy for fun while spewing heat entropy into the atomosphere is just not something you can ever do with primates. It’s just a terrible idea. What the fuck, why did we do this. Never again. Sorry kids, it all has to go – and by getting rid of all this shit and not making anymore we can structurally enforce the elimination of this obsolete and omnicidal social practice.

  • democratically, scientifically plan the division of labor.

This is again 100% necessary but difficult to explain in a Holocene political context. Having a planned division of labor is often crudely understood as rank dictatorship – but our current division of labor is run by the dictatorship of a psychotic algorithm. (Poverty is being ‘told what to do with one’s life’ by this psychotic algorithm, which is why poverty is so dehumanizing, and liberalism impossibly naive and hypocritical in its evaluation of itself).

We need to get that algorithm to work for us in the interests of biosphere restoration. This is not a dictatorship – it is a reversal of the current dictatorship of abstract time.

I’ll use first-person to explain this. You will have two jobs – a rotating generalist job (everybody will rotate these) and a specialization. You will not be paid to do them with any currency – other than social recognition and basic necessities. You’ll probably end up doing a little bit of both of them everyday in some capacity.

Choosing your specialization will be an inviolable right, but the structure of the division of labor itself will be democratically planned (ideally with the help of AI), so which specializations and generalist positions exist to be chosen will be part of the plan. You’ll stay long enough in one generalist position to accumulate a certain amount of persistent experience and accomplish certain milestones. Then you’ll get switched to your next position. All the socially necessary manual work will be done this way. Your specialization will stay that way, because that’s how specializations grow and deepen – but you’d be able to switch too if you didn’t like it.

Negotiation between the needs of the project and the needs of individuals would be a constant feature of political life, but insofar as we’re serious about perpetuating humanity the project will have to come first.

Competition will also be a core feature of this social practice – but we will be competing for social recognition through our concrete contributions to the project and our reputations as individuals, instead of for money and things.

The generalist divlab must be planned because it must be oriented towards biosphere restoration and social reproduction at once, but would (ideally) be a plan that everyone is able to participate in democratically – with the help of AI (failsafe killswitched, ofc). While there would be certain inviolables – the divlab will have to be able to be dynamic, responsive, creative, flexible.

With everybody participating in the generalist core of the divlab, necessary social experience and knowledge will be widely distributed. Everybody will have personal experience of the core of the project (the absolutely necessary for survival shit that everybody shares doing) and this will help make them effective contributors to politics and divlab admin, with direct hands-on knowledge of the systems and processes they will be influencing.

This would be your third social function – politics. Participation would be voluntary to the extent that it can be (everything we do is political, but this would be a culture conscious of this). There will have to be a ‘militant/citizen/civilian’ distinction along the basis of democratic participation. Not everybody can or would ever want to. And if you can achieve a solid level of egalitarian material support, the militant/citizen/civilian distinction could become a primary social structure, overriding class antagonisms. The more effective your political participation as an individual, the more influence you have over the divlab.

A society like this will spend more time socializing and politicking, and less time working – at least ideally. Conditions may force labor necessities that are unavoidable – but the value form no longer will.

Material egalitarianism is the only basis upon which real democracy could ever flourish.

  • regulate its own population

You knew it was coming. 100% necessary for this kind of project. Political participation would involve a lot of negotiating about this too. Birth control probably would have to be democratically regulated. Sorry bodily autonomists – humans are extremely dangerous things and more is not always better. (And if you think you have any kind of ‘bodily autonomy’ now while eating commodity food, then wait until you find out about microplastics). Everything about reproduction would have to be designed around aiming towards the exigency – so it would always be a political issue. Concrete numbers would have to be agreed on globally, so some means of global communication remains a must.

The best option here would be bio-reproduction that is decoupled from sex and romance entirely, bodily autonomy-wise – cloning, or artificial wombs, or something. This gets into gender shit too but that is not my wheelhouse, and I’m very deliberately leaving cultural stuff out of blueprinting. It will develop organically on its own.

  • generate enough surplus labor potential for as much specialization as possible.

Kinda already talked about this. Pre-industrial ag will obviously always have a place, but by itself it can’t generate or support much surplus or specialization. And in the Post-Holocene we’re going to be have to be making some-or-most of our food indoors in controlled environments.

But being materially egalitarian here is again a huge advantage – you will be able to distribute specializations across as much of the population as possible. The combination of specialist and distributed generalist experience is (as far as I’m concerned) a transhistorical ideal for individual development worth considering as such, and you want your divlab to be geared towards generating exactly this caliber of person. Every comrade a terraformer and a scientist/artist.

Without wage renumeration and material bribing as motivation, meritocratic social recognition is going to be a big deal in this setup, so it’s possible that the best specialists get to minimize their generalist time – but we also can’t risk creating a separate group of only-specialists, as this leads back to class antagonisms and reduces the distribution of general social intellect and knowledge.

Every year, Elvis has to work in the mines at least one time.

  • have rigorous, life-long (and climate militant/ecocom) generalist education.

This kinda goes along with the purpose of the rotating generalist divlab – generating a shared eco-socialist culture and ethos. Rotating generalist positions is the only way to eliminate class hierarchies, and an egalitarian culture is an absolutely necessary part of any eco-socialism. Social antagonism may not be possible to eliminate – but it is possible to have intelligent, even self-conscious antagonisms, rather than materially enforced ones. This is also the basis for the existence of any truly democratic elements.

Rotating generalist divlab gives everybody shared skillsets, experiences, and distributes cognitive mappings of the social structures widely. This vastly contributes to political awareness and education. Everybody needs to understand how the social project works – and in practice, not just in theory.

  • stop ecotard outbreaks over long distances.

I haven’t really talked about the concrete geography of any of this yet. In my head it’s a few autonomous projects (dozens? hundreds? thousands? surely not more) – with a lot of non-human wild space between them by mutual agreement. The terraforming centers will be small (millions of people?) and ideally mobile – or at least, capable of projecting power across terrain strata. The planet will be dotted with these centers – with as much possible land given to ‘natural’ rewilding processes.

The rest will be up to us.

If there are ecotard developments that threaten overshoot, they would have to be detected and eliminated early by our comrade terraformers. IDK how to do any of that without shit like radar, missiles, planes – but I’m very unsure that tech like like this will be possible to generate or use much. It might have to be stuff that only gets built as necessary – but you would still need some kind of planetary information gathering and coverage for this to work. I mean, in a perfect world we’d still be able to field satellites for just this purpose.

Also ideal here would be for every eco-socialist terraforming tribe to have nuclear capabilites, or at least some form of M.A.D. – mutually assured destruction is the perfect way to keep wars from breaking out.

And this is (some of) what eco-socialisms would need to have:

  • people capable and willing to do it who aren’t dead.

This kind of speculative blueprinting runs into a chicken and egg problem pretty quickly. How do you make the people who reproduce the society without first having the society to generate the people, and whatnot. We sure don’t have them now.

I have no answer to this. The conditions will force the necessity of something like this over time, the question is whether or not we can adapt quickly enough. I suspect education and socialization are not enough and bioengineering/neuroprogramming might prove necessary, at least at first. The distance from what we are now to ‘eco-communist ego-ideal’ is vast. You have to want it.

The ideal communist ecoterraformer has wide hands-on experience working directly reproducing eco-socialism and restoring the biosphere. She also has at least one scientific or artistic specialization – if you wanna get really utopian, you wanna be aiming towards individuals that have all 3 – the most well-rounded, experienced, differentiated human individuals, widely distributed. (Communism is an individualism, after all).

Even if we don’t have the people now, our conditions are confronting us with the necessity of doing this or something very like it, so they will generate more of us all the time.

There are also massive logistical problems that will have to be solved. Hopefully bioengineering practice and resultant acquired biosphere knowledge will be able to replace most current medicinal drugs – because we will no longer have globe spanning trade networks to centralize the necessary combinations and amounts of raw and intermediate materials for much of a drug industry. Medicine will be local! So will a lot of things.

Some form of currency would probably also have to exist, if only for trading with other settlements – probably energy tokens, seeing as direct thermodynamic planning will be necessary for aiming towards the exigency. We’ll have to be able to direct more energy back into the biosphere than we take out of it to overcome the metabolic rift.

While so far this is all internally materialist and coherent as such, it all still rests on some residual idealism – because the only way from here to there is through collapse or revolution. Hence the chicken/egg problem.

What minimally post-holocene aware peeps need to be doing right now is building networks and communities with the goal of surviving collapse. When supply chains/power grids really start to fail, the most organized and well armed will have the best advantage. For ‘normal’ compeeps, it’s gonna be every man for himself, and you really don’t want to be alone when you find out what happens whan a society of alienated consumers suddenly loses access to supply chains.

Leave a Reply