Society of Mutual Self-Creation

When economy and politics is to be subordinated human development, then the model of a new society will have to be aimed at the requirements of a non-alienated individ-ual, who is orientated by Being. (Fromm 1976/2005: 214).
Fancy a Future?

There is a caricature showing a lot of people standing in front of a poster that shows hungry children. With a sigh, each of them says: "I by myself can't do anything" and goes away…

But sometimes, in rare moments, all these people meet in revolutionary situations and then the situation can be changed by revolutionary actions. We went through such a moment in the former GDR in 1989.

But there is much more to moan about nowadays. More and more children are hungry in the world - especially in the poor countries, but also in our "rich" countries. Wealth and productivity increase - but poverty, misery and hopelessness for more and more people on earth are rising much faster. All these processes are accompanied by increasing ecological and climatic problems. Worse: the ecological diseases and the climatic change seem to be caused by our economical activities. In the 90s of the last century, many people believed that the dominant form of society on earth, capitalism, might become ecological as it became a "social market-economy" in some high developed countries. But 15 years later it is obvious for all those who don't put their hands over their eyes that capitalism is loosing its social character. The ecological efforts that have been made are too limited to areas which are profitable. In 2002, the springtime-torrent in Germany was called a "century-torrent" and experts tried to explain that such torrents were a normal variant of weather in our region. But in 2005 and in 2006, the abnormal hot summers led to the realisation of the inner connection to climatic changes. "Katrina" and the fate of New Orleans were crucial events which marked a new era. We know now, that there will be a climate change with immense effects on agriculture, that means on our supplying of food. And we have to go through this in a society, in which the weaker people, such as people without waged work nowadays, will be suppressed. Writing this I sigh and say: "I by myself can't do anything"…

Are these prospects of a desired future? As long as we are too hopeful, as long as we believe it will not become worse, we deceive ourselves. In Germany there is an interesting pun. Having liberated ourselves from deception, we are "disappointed", because the German word for disappointment means "not to be deceived". Therefore disappointment, i.e. not be deceived, is a requirement for the development of new hopes on a new basis. Therefore a hopeful person needs to be disappointed, in order to be not deceived.

Robert Jungk, a famous future-explorer said: "I'm a pessimist who tries, together with others, to invent new possibilities against our pessimism." Jungk invented a method for "inventing new possibilities": "Future-Labs", in which all people can take part and in which they can invent and decide without hierarchies about problems of their future.
The participation of all people is the crucial point in inventing a new Utopia, a new conception of a desirable future. Societal[1] relationships should neither be determined by reigning people, nor by abstract rules like the "law of value" (in terms developed by Karl Marx). Instead, each individual should be part of a co-created societal form of living. This is a new conception of society, neither based on a general law, nor based on individualistic egoism. Therefore it is hard to imagine such a society.

We want to declare such a society, which never has existed, but can exist, if we want it to - a "Society of Self-Development" on the basis of Mutual Self-Creation. Why such a society is focused on the individual self-development and what it means will be explained in the first part of this paper. Obviously, a human life is only possible within a non-destroyed nature. We need work and production in order to satisfy our needs as human beings, but there are requirements for an appropriate relation to the natural basis. The second part if this paper is about such an "alliance" with nature. The third part will show that a true human and ecological life needs non-hierarchical structures of organizing human life. Such structures are known as "self-organising".

But is a non-hierarchical way of self-organising, based on individuals, possible at all? Even in economics, the area of satisfying our needs? Ernst Bloch, a German Philosopher, called imaginations, which are not only pipe dreams, but possible chances, not simply "Utopia", but "concrete Utopia" (Bloch PH: 179, 226, 727). In the last part of this paper we will show that requirements for our Utopia of Self-Development and Mutual Self-Creation exist and how we can realise our Utopia in a Blochian sense.

Human Beings as Societal Individuals

Individual human beings are in the centre of our conception of a new society. Therefore, no one will be able to constitute the rules and the principles of the interaction but the individuals who will live in them. We can not develop a "perfect model" which is to be realised. Even now and in the past, society was the medium of interactions between individuals. But where did the order of society come from? We know societies with personal reign and we know a society with more abstract rules, i.e. with reign of the "law of economic profit". But will it be possible to constitute an order without the subordination of individuals under personal reign or abstract economic laws?

In order to answer this question, we have to claim that individuality doesn't mean an egoistic and isolated existence. In the ruling form of society, capitalism, all individuals are condemned to feel and act like isolated beings, especially against the interests of other people. As a participant of markets, i.e. as a worker in the labour market or as an enterprise, everyone of us mainly has to fight against others. Therefore, we learned to think and act as isolated beings against others, and in this form of society it makes sense to think and to do so. Even the bourgeois philosophy understands individual freedom mainly in separation from other persons. Under these circumstances, the development of each person is an isolated and fighting-against-others process. Such a development doesn't achieve true satisfaction. (Therefore, we usually search our satisfaction in all kinds of material wealth, of entertainment and so on, and merely intensify our isolation.)


But sometimes we catch a glimpse of another possibility: The development of all one's abilities, of all one's potentialities needs a creative environment, needs that other persons can freely develop themselves too. Everybody's development is interweaved with everybody else's. An isolated growing is only an alienated growing, but not human development in its full potentiality and wealth. In German, we often use the word "Selbst-Entfaltung"[2] to distinguish this rich and true form of development from its alienated forms. Alienated development is only possible at the expense of others, but Selbst-Entfaltung not. I can not develop myself in a non-alienated way at the expense of others. And vice versa: The others can not develop themselves in a non-alienated way at the expense of me or of others or even at the expense of our natural environment. Human individuality as the centre of our conception of a new realisable Utopia always means this non-alienated "Selbst-Entfaltung". Therefore, Hobbes' problem, which claims that the natural state of human beings is a perpetual struggle against each other , does not exist. That's why thinking about order in society does not need such things like the "Leviathan", sovereigns or economical rules and anonymous market-laws.

Relation of Individuals and Society

There is a difference between small communities, in which people can interact directly and immediately with each other, and society as a whole, in which such a direct interaction is not possible. Society is not only the sum of individuals or their interactions, but is constituted by systemic forms of order that emerge out of these interactions. This seduces us to compare society as a system with other systems, e.g. technical or organic systems. New sciences like cybernetics or more modern theories of universal properties of order like theories of self-organisation try to unite knowledge that is true for all systems. This leads to an abstract view of society. Either one removes human individuals from the system (Niklas Luhmann), or either individuals or their actions must become constituting elements of society as a system. In such abstract views, the individuals are elements necessarily submitted to the rules of the system. The system comes first and the elements have to function in order to constitute the system in accordance with its rules. Sometimes the rules change, forms of society may develop (from feudal forms to capitalistic), but each system seems to be constituted by elements functioning according to the rules of the system.

But there is another view of the relation of individual human beings and society. This view is related to the dialectic of Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel[3] . In the highest form of dialectic (the "logic of notion"), a whole is not only more then the sum of its elements - it creates its moments itself. Its moment would not exist, if the whole did not exist. Relations between moments and the whole in a more abstract view can be (Immanuel Kant): first the external reflection (in German: reflektierende Urteilskraft), when given parts constitute their whole, and second the positing reflection (bestimmende Urteilskraft), when a given whole subordinates its parts. In an Hegelian view external and positing reflection are united in the determining reflection (bestimmende Reflexion). Here, one of the sides (parts or the whole) has its own being in the other, they can not even be thought as separated at the beginning and united later.

This means that there is never a human individual without sociality within. Children do not have to be "socialised" in the sense, that they existed without sociality at first and that they are "socialised" later in their development. A human being is not a merely biological being with a frosting of sociality. Neither is society a sphere, which is lifted off from the real life of human beings. Human individuals have their being in their societal life and society exists only in the lives of human beings. Therefore, each human individual is societal itself. Karl Marx spoke about the "societal individual". The forms of society and the societal individuality change with time and have their own history. The ruling capitalism creates "real appearance" of isolated individuals and of a separation of individuals and society. In capitalism that means: The societal being of an individual determines it to feel and to act as an isolated being. It is this concrete capitalistic form of society that makes isolation and egoism real. But this form of live is an appearance of the capitalistic essence of society. Each individual has to follows constraints in its economical behaviour: It has to act as a single individual against the interests of the others. Social interactions, the sociality itself emerges rather through unconscious relations and rules (economic laws) than through conscious agreements. Each individual has to act as an isolated one against others within an anonymous system of societal rules. This situation is usually admitted as the naturally given relation of individual and society. That makes it hard to imagine a society in which human beings are autonomous but not isolated and in which society emerges from free and conscious agreements. But we need to remember that this situation is only ruling in one historic stage of human development (capitalism). It came into being about 200 years ago and it can disappear. It is only one, an alienated form, of human being in society. It's a historical task to change these circumstances, to emancipate. Marx defined what emancipation should be: "All emancipation is to put the human world down to human being itself." (Marx 1943: 370)

The "Specific Possibility" for Human Individuals

Generally, the relation of individuals and society is not that the individuals have to exist in order to constitute the whole. On the contrary: Society as a whole is the basis for individual freedom; freedom is not defined as "free room against the other". Instead, other human beings are "the precondition of widening of our individual freedom" (Hegel 1801: 82). Marx and Engels explained: "Each individual gets the means to develop its abilities in all directions only in society; personal freedom becomes possible only in society." (Marx, Engels 1846: 74)

The existence of society is a result of contributions by individuals. Society would not exist without "enough" contributions, and there are necessities for reproduction of society as a whole (from the standpoint of the whole). But from the standpoint of individuals, these necessities are no more necessities, but only possibilities (refer Holzkamp 1983: 35). This is an essential change of standpoint, connected with the above mentioned standpoint of emancipation. From this standpoint, individuals are not determined by their function for the whole. It emphasises the "specific possibility" of human individuals referring to societal necessities.

What does "specific possibility" mean? Even animals have various possibilities to behave. But the behaviour of human beings has a special quality: it refers to the conditions of their own life, to conditions which are changed by societal acting and working. (Animals change their life conditions merely in a non-conscious way and to a very limited extent.) Great changes of the life conditions of humans are caused by the work of many of them. And what about the possibilities of an individual?

Assuming that there are two types of possibilities: First, possibilities within a given frame of rules and within a given form of order (within a wall), and second, the possibility to change this whole order (to overcome the wall). Now, the individual has various possibilities to behave: 1. I can follow the mainstream within the given rules; 2. I can use all possibilities within the given rules, trying to avoid mainstream and to scratch the walls and 3. I can try to overcome the walls.
Nobody can live completely outside of society. Therefore, overcoming the wall means changing the rules of the given society, changing the form and the essential order of the society. And this is only possible in actions of an amount of people, not of one individual. But the individual is able to decide whether she or he will act in the direction of overcoming society or not. Two main types of using the specific possibilities remain: We often manage to be as comfortable as possible within the given rules and walls. This is the normal behaviour in our everyday life and each of us does it again and again. Since it is restricted, such a behaviour is called "restrictive ability of acting" by Klaus Holzkamp (Holzkamp 1983: 413). The other typical possibility is trying to overcome the restrictions, to act in the direction of changing the rules and the order, to emancipate. This is called "generalised ability of acting" (ibd.: 398). This behaviour does not only mean to really do something, it also contains thinking. One can never act really depart from the rules. But one can understand the rules and that the rules are based on conditions which can be changed. Each individual always has the freedom to decide in which way she or he thinks and acts. No one has the right to judge the decisions of the others in a moral or political sense. This is not the question. But the point is, that each individual - from its own standpoint - has the right to decide in which way it wants to think and act.

Standpoint of Subjects and ""Selbst-Entfaltung"

Under the premise that each individual decides for itself and acts accordingly to these decisions, relations between individuals get a new quality. No goal, not even abolishing capitalism, can be set above the concrete needs and interests of each participating individual. There is no whole that can demand subordination of the individual; but the whole has to support the development, the "Selbst-Entfaltung" of each individual. When capitalism is to abolish, all human beings will understand this and act according to their understanding and interests. Of course, it is no automatism that this will happen. Maybe people are too alienated to understand their interests beyond the capitalistic being. Then mankind may ruin itself and no institution and nobody has the right to rescue people from their own decisions.

It is necessary that the premise of the priority of individuals proves itself also in groups, that want to act politically. This means that participating people must not use each other as means (must not "instrumentalise" each other). No individual is allowed to be used for other interests, not even "interests of mankind". Doing something together has to support the existence and development of each participant. The common ground for being together can not be a goal which has nothing to do with the development of the participating individuals. Such a common ground emerges only from individual needs to develop or to create the own life and to support each other in this development and self-creation ("Selbst-Entfaltung"). In such situations, freedom gets its true meaning: Freedom exists only on the foundation of the freedom of others, not against them. Other human beings are "the precondition of widening our individual freedom" (Hegel 1801: 82). "Selbst-Entfaltung" differs from many forms of self-development in history and in capitalism: It will not occur, if one develops her- or himself at the expense of someone other. Outcomes at the expense of others damage myself, because they destroy my own basis of self-creation("Selbst-Entfaltung"). The creation of individuals and the creation of society are nearly the same things. In each individual, new societal capacities are created, and development of society improves the possibilities for individuals But in a free society, the individuals have the crucial role, they have the priority. Such a standpoint of the subject (so called by Holzkamp) is the foundation for an "association, in which the free development of each is the precondition for the free development of all" (Marx, Engels 1848: 482).

New Culture of Mutual Self-Creation in Free Cooperation

In some small groups like families, this foundation may already be realised nowadays. Groups or teams in business may often look like "families", but they violate the principle of "Selbst-Entfaltung", because they are based on the economic concurrence against others. Unfortunately, groups in politics mostly inherit this problem from the principle of capitalistic democracy which is mainly the fight against others. Therefore, it is the greatest task for political activists to create a new culture of mutual "Selbst-Entfaltung" in their own activities!

These new culture characterises both the way of emancipation and the goal: a non-capitalistic, free society of "Mutual Self-Creation". Besides, this corresponds with the anarchist principle that the means and the goal have to correspond to each other. Also, in their conceptions of goals, the above citated Marx ("association…") and the anarchists have an affinity. Kropotkin demanded: "The aim is the most complete development of individuality, connected with the highest development of the free association under all aspects, in all possible degrees, for all goals: an always changing association which assumes the form which corresponds best to the manifold of thought and wish."

This picture of association emphasises the possibility of continuous change. The goal is not a static, perfectly balanced organisation, but a structure following the changing interests and needs of the people. Such a structure must not become established by normatively given principles. Christoph Spehr developed his concept of Free Cooperation in this way: "The theory of free cooperation does not give instructions or rules. It accepts that individuals and groups will refuse or restrict cooperation, if they are not pleased with them, without any objective instance that could prevent them. But it also accepts, that individuals and collectives can make certain ways of behaviour or rules a precondition for cooperation, as long as they can not force or dictate this" (Spehr 2003: 56).

From all this follows, that it is not task of an "avant-garde" to lead the people. It is nobody's task to "create conditions" for other people. If we wanted create conditions for other people we would treat them as objects of our acting, not as subjects themselves. This corresponds to the well known paradox that we can not give someone the order to be spontaneous. If she or he follows the order, she or he won't be spontaneous and if she or he is spontaneous, she or he won't follow the order. There can be no conditions, defined by others, for self-determination.

The priority of individuals must not be misunderstood. We speak about societal individuals and it is clear that the form of society determines the frame of possibilities of behaviour for the individual. In capitalism, it is normal to behave as an isolated, egoistic being. But this is not the "universal nature" of human beings. We hope that we can build a society, in which Mutual Self-Development ("Selbst-Entfaltung") will be the main principle of societal self-organisation proceeded from free societal individuals.

And what about Gender?

Social differences like ethnic groups and gender are problematic nowadays. In a situation in which all people are mostly determined to fight against each other, their differences form an important "weapon". In a society which is based on individual self-development, such differences will become a source of mutual completion, a source of the increase of all forces of Mutual Self-Development. Sexual orientation will also become a joyful source of special individual quality, which enriches all of us. "Social utopia is to reach a state, in which the demand of equality becomes superfluous, because the human being who has all possibilities to unfold itself within a community is not equal to another, but can be different as she and he want to be." (Dithfurt 1995). In order to become such free individuals, we have to destroy the meaning of all group-related identities. "The coming-into-being of individual subjects requires the destruction of the category of gender beforehand." (Monique Wittig, cit. in Butler 1991: 41).

Satisfaction of our Needs in Alliance with Nature ("Economy")

Human beings work in mutual cooperations as individual subjects. Therefore, no other external forces to guide the cooperation are needed. Even ecological demands don't come from the outside - it is in our own interest not to live and develop on the cost of nature. It is also valid for my relations to nature that I can't develop myself fully on the cost of the nature! If I do something against nature or other individuals, I will harm myself. Therefore, we need such forms of economy (to satisfy our needs) in which no external forces such as profit-making determine the goals of work. Neither directly personal forces as found in feudalism, nor "abstract" forces like capital and not even abstract rules and norms like "ecology" or "solidarity" should be determing our actions. Individuals and groups of people, who determine their own aims and goals, don't benefit from the exploitation of other people or from destroying nature. Free people will develop suitable forms of free agreements about their cooperations and the use of their resources themselves, depending on the concrete situation. If we don't have faith in this, if we think that there must be given rules or a system of norms, we will have no future at all. We will incapacitate other people and ourselves, if we ask for rules and normes in advance, like: "Be ecolocigal!" or "Declare your solidarity!". Since such behaviour is (already) integrated in real Selbstentfaltung, it does not need to be an external demand.

Ernst Bloch called the technology, which we can use and develop in this way : "Alliance-Technology" (Allianztechnik). Such a technology is a "release and mediation of those creations which are latent within the womb of nature". It "utilizes the root of things in a co-operative fashion".(Bloch 1985: 813).


Many social sciences are based on a mechanistic conception of human relations. This means that freedom is connected with isolation. Societal relations are considered to be something outside of the individual, to be something foreign or alien. Then rules would exist independently from concrete needs and wants of humans which we call an "alienated" situation. This means that societal structures are not considered as a result of the own acting, but as external laws from the outside. If it was impossible to imagine societal structures without such "alienation", liberation would mean to abolish society as such; then any form of society would seem to be a prison for individuals. An alternative to socially mediated life could be seen in the existence of direct and immediate relations between human individuals only. But it is not productive to see only this contrast between society and immediate relations. It is possible to have societal relations without alienation.

We can imagine such societal relations by using our knowledge about new theories of self-organisation. In self-organising structures, there are neither direct connections nor external relations which are put over the individuals. Self-organising structures are networks. Self-organisation refers to the fact that complex structures and relations do not only emerge due to direct and immediate contact between the elements of the structures but that under certain conditions (supply of free energy, export of entropy, and existence of fluctuations) "the cooperative acting of the parts at the system can lead to complex structures of the whole system" (Ebeling/Feistel 1986). This means that the produced structure is more than the sum of the direct interactions of the elements. There are not only direct connections between the elements, but overlapping and long ranging coherencies emerge during the process of self-organisation as well as the elements themselves. This is valid for nucleid acid in the hypercycle (Eigen, Schuster 1977/1978) just as for human beings as societal individuals. We cannot say that either the parts or the whole was first - the parts and the whole are built within their interactions. Every part contains the whole as a necessary moment base for its emergence and change. The connections are not given by external relations, but by the processes inside. This is valid even for non-human, natural structures, but especially for societal individuals.

Every human society is the result of self-organisation and that means that there is a permanently developing process-structure. Many forms of societal self-organisation, which differ greatly from each other, have existed in human history. Their development is based on the possibilities given by the historical situation based on the development of individuality, of societal productivity and the possibilities for organisation, based on these preconditions. In the past, society was mostly organised by personal forces and feudal structures. Nowadays, direct personal power is mostly replaced by an abstract medium of force: the capital (i.e. money that has to become more money).

Both forms are power over human beings, either administrated by other people (feudalism) or by the increasing capital as an end in itself. Now we need to find a new form of societal self-organisation in which people will keep their power and in which they can organise themselves "form below" according to their needs. This ideal contradicts the old image of isolated elements which would sink into a chaotic mess without any influence, which puts the system in order.

In contrast to that, an "order without reign" emerges on its own in some self-organising systems.

"Order without reign" is symbolised by a network of fractals. Fractals are mathematic models of self-organisation.

Utopia of a non-alienated, self-organising economy

The question is now if such a self-organising economy "from below" will be possible and how it can become reality. In modern societies all processes of division of work have to be precisely coordinated. The centrally organised economies of the formerly socialist countries were not appropriate for that. But the capitalistic organisation by investment of capital does not satisfy the needs of most of the people on earth either and therefore its claimed effectiveness should be questioned.

The French communist Simone Weil came to Germany in the 20ies of the 20th century and worked on assembly lines in a factory. She found that such a working practice makes self-determination of people nearly impossible. Therefore, she asked desperately: "Is there any organisation of production thinkable that is incapable to abolish the natural necessities […], but that allows to work without the destroying suppression of mind an body?" (Weil 1975: 170). She suggested a "progressive decentralisation of societal life". But the prevailing assembly-line-based and factories organised in a tailoristic manner were the complete opposite to such a decentralisation.

Decentralisation became first relevant in the 70ies. The so-called "Alternative Economy" removed hierarchies of power in production and work without bosses was realised, especially in crafts. Areas of responsibility were rotated among the involved people.

Furthermore, the necessary ecological way of production demands a more decentralised way of organisation (see Vester 1984). Eco-villages and communities comply with this demand for the decentralisation of life. But until now they were not successful enough to resist capitalistic economy and to establish a new form of life and production. Should these dreams therefore be put aside?

Let us summarise what an utopia of an "economy from below" is: It's about realising production and consumption starting from the concrete needs of individuals. The structures of organisation emerge from these needs and have not been given from outside or "from above". This means that we will have a global network of local-made production-consumption-infrastructure where its building and development is based on the self-organisation of individuals, groups and regional entities.

One of the main goals will be to produce the means of production in this way. Also gaining resources and agriculture has to be changed extremely. Nowadays, the initial stages are worked out, i.e. in projects of "Global Villages" (Nahrada 1995).

Needs for individual development ("Selbstentfaltung") are the sources and foundations in such a self-organising society. On each level - the level of individuals, groups, regions, and in a global range - it is in the very own interest of the involved people to handle their actions in an effective and ecological way. We don't have to worry about this, we don't need to work out "plans for fulfilment of ecological or social requirements". If Selbstentfaltung in the explained meaning (i.e. Selbstentfaltung cannot develop on cost of someone or something else) is the aim of al actions and relations, people or regions cannot be played off against each other. "Space with Places for many Worlds" will emerge and cause the development of many different forms of organisation, of different ways of life and production, of which none will become the dominant one.

Free Software is a "Germform"

There is already one example for very complex products which are produced in such a self-organised way without central plans or capital investment and profit orientation: The Free Software (see Meretz 2000): In the past, everybody believed that complex products need planning like the construction (planning architecture) of a cathedral. But the practice of Free Software shows that a production, driven only by individual interests, can work productively. There are individuals who are interested in using new software and there are enough individuals who are interested in producing it. There are no problems in organising their connections without central or external control. It works without money, it works emerging from self-determinated activities of individuals. The same development occurs in the emerging Free Culture (Lessig 2005).

Of course, software is not an everyday necessity and therefore it is unusual to consider it as an type of Alternative Economy. I.e there is a conception of "Common-Economy" that wants to secure the satisfaction of needs with as little work as possible in a local area (Möller, Peters 1990: 19). The aim is to built up cycles of a new economy outside the capitalistic "free market" in order to depend less and less on the money- and capital market. But why didn't these conceptions and the practice on these fields grow in the wished extent?

Historical Possibilities putting Utopia into concrete terms

There are different opinions about the question which advantages a new social conception needs in order to receive enough acceptance and backup from the people in order to be realised instead of the old, more and more failing system. Only military power is not decisive and neither is only the economic power. Most of us already know that the capitalistic economy is crumbling. It leaves burned ground in many regions of the world, like in Detroit after the 80-ies. These regions are robbed and the remaining people have to built up new communities, in which new forms of life are developed (see Boggs). The first "plants of hope" are growing in this way.

But there is one aspect which is usually not given enough thought: It's the productivity of work. Productivity of work was "in the last instance the most important aspect for victory of the new form of society" (Lenin 1919: 261) for Lenin. But in the time after Lenin the productivity of work often became an end in itself and it was forgotten that productivity of work is not the goal itself but only a means for another goal: a better life for all human beings. At the end of the German Democratic Republic, a socialist country, it was noticed: "The winner was always that form of society in which there was the best possibility to develop the individual subjectivity" (Söder 1989).

The question of Efficiency

In which sense is the productivity of work essential for the development of individual subjectivity? The aspect of efficiency is essential for each form of society. Efficiency means the proportion of the extent of satisfaction of needs compared with the amount of resources used. But productivity ( the proportion of the result of production compared with used quantity of labour) is also important. Some people may want to do work that takes a lot of time, i.e. they want to sew individual garments themselves. But other people, who don't want to do this, need a productive machinery. We need many different technologies in order to use them in the best way for each purpose. The decision has to be made by the people themselves, not by "technical constraints" ("Sachzwang"), i.e. the technical constraint needs to be minimised as much as possible. Then participating in production can become a need in itself and will not be only a necessity as it is nowadays. In the end, we do not only have consumption-needs, but also a need to produce, to be active (see Fromm 1955/2004: 232, 305). We are the subjects of our actions and therefore we want to determine the expenses of time which is needed for the work - of course within the range of technical possibilities. Technology for all levels of productivity has to be available; only technology which is damaging nature and is harmful to humans has to be excluded. On this basis, a new unity of work respectively reproduction and life will become possible.

This unity will not be dominated by labour as it was in the past. Back then life had to adapt itself to the requirements of necessary production. To "waste time" by reading books was frowned upon as laziness. The need of reserves for more playful and more creative actions is another reason for a productive way of working in great ranges. We will need a high level of average productivity, if the work shall be playful and not under constraints of shortage and neediness. Only on the basis of such a high productivity can open spaces for self-determination in the production process emerge. Productivity will then increase not as an end in itself but in order to increase human wealth as a variety of human needs.

We do not know, if the historical possibility for such an orientation of productivity was given in the past. But we know that it is given now. We have experiences in self-organised production in alternative projects, we know about tendencies of network-decentralisation even in capitalistic production processes. Such decentralised and self-organising networks are more effective than centralisation. We also know that even highly complex products like software can be produced in new self-organising forms. Now the task is to prepare the production of all the other products in such a way. This purpose does not need a central organisation by plan, state or capital-investment-decisions. Some characteristics of such a form of production are: no production of economic value (in the sense of the definition of "value" by Karl Marx), self-determination and Selbstentfaltung as source and goal of production, and a form of decentralised self-organisation in networks.

Technology is an answer - but what was the question?

Our relation to technology must be discussed and realised in a new way. In capitalism, technology is nearly completely subordinated to one goal: the generation of more money. Technology may also help to satisfy human needs - but only by generating profit as its main goal. In our new concept, technology is subordinated to human Selbstentfaltung and (such a technology) in this way it doe not produce alienation. This technology has to be developed by the people who use it themselves, not by money-making companies, alienated from ecologic and human relations. Some experiences to create such suitable technology are available already. In the German Democratic Republic there were "inventor-schools". People could learn to develop "canny-simple solutions" for their technical problems (Rindfleisch, Thiel 1994). Other experiences are known from projects of "New Work", e.g. in Africa. No experts from "developed countries" come to "help" the poorer people - the people themselves, rich in ideas and engagement, create and develop suitable solutions for their problems themselves (Bergmann 2004).

For 30 years the "left" and "alternative" people have created new "social innovations" (Jungk) which were orientated against the domination of technical innovations. But now the time has come for new technical innovations, that are connected with the social innovations. Social innovations without their own foundation in new forms of production to satisfy the human and ecological needs are not enough. The dream of "liberation from work" by complete automation was an illusion. But going back to primitive technologies is no solution either.

Community Fabricator

One of the most ambitious forms of new technology is the new "rapid prototyping"- technology (see Nebelung 2005). It is based on a technology in which the form of a product is built in an additive way: The material is built up from smaller units into the intended shape (Burns 2000). In this way, complex material products can be produced in an effective way without handwork and not in batch production. Sometimes the machines which is doing this is called a "3D-Printer", because they work similar to paper printers. Such 3D-printers will not stand in great factories, they can instead be used in communities and in an individual way as "community fabricators"
This new possibility to combine decentralisation with high efficiency and productivity makes this new technology very interesting. Of course this technology, like all technology in capitalism, was developed at first for making profit and not for satisfying human needs. But this does not rule out using it, in a changed way of organising production, for other needs in another social context. Because of the variety of materials it does not make sense to use such machinery in an individual way, but it is reasonable to use them in a coordinated way by communities of people.

In our conception of a new form of society, based on needs of Selbstentfaltung, the highly developed technologies are not used as an end in themselves. It shows that a new form - decentralised, without external forces of production and life is possible.

What to do?

There are some tendencies into the direction we wish to see: network-decentralisation, individualisation, productivity and so on. These tendencies d not lead to a new form of society automatically. In 1987, the future-researcher Ruediger Lutz believed that a "gentle change" into a more ecological way of production and life can occur. But this hope had to be given up (also by R. Lutz himself (see Lutz 2005/06); who died in 2006 in sad circumstances). The old system will leave "burned earth" in many regions, which we will have to repopulate. The main task will be to build new communities within the emerging barbarism and against it. What matters most is to keep and to develop our knowledge about the possibilities of a better life.

We cannot elaborate strong instructions; instructions would violate our main demand for individual Selbstentfaltung, they would be counterproductive. Only self-organising human beings will determine their way of life. We are part of this open process. I hope that this paper can make the horizon of possibilities sharper. We are not only forced to avoid dangers and to fight for survival- there is a direction in which human history may become more optimistic.


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[1] "Societal" is a new word that marks a difference between social life of animals and societal life of human beings. "Societal" includes the creation of own life-conditions by conscious work of human beings.

[2] "Concrete" doesn't mean that this Utopia will ever be realised in fact, in a sensual and direct form. It rather means that its requirements, its presuppositions are available and that the imagination is a possibility and can become an actuality (if we want it and act in a appropriate way).

[3]see SlideKeywordSelbstentfaltung (2006-09-07).

[4]see (2006-09-07).

[5]see (2006-09-07).

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