21st Century Economy: Socialism Revisited?

Wired Magazine’s latest cover story “The New New Economy” includes an article “Socialism Revisited” by author Kevin Kelly that outlines online collaborative work and creative commons licensing as comparable, though not identical, to socialism as political/economical idea. The descriptions in the article hint at a detached economy that has reached a certain mass to become important even in the work market of the networked society.

However, this description of a no-state, detached, grass-rootsy economy leaves room for doubt in two areas. First of all, at least in Europe, many of those careers take place in a state of precariousness that is only possible because of a state subsidies for start-ups in what’s still being referred to as “New Economy”, as well as subsidies for the arts, grants for research projects etc. This would still account for a significant attachment to the existing political structures.

Secondly, the question whether or not this “New New Economy” does indeed have the chance to overcome the era of industrialization has not been decided yet. After all, the technological basis for this economy – network servers, routers, mobile computers, cell phones, digital cameras, etc. – is being produced in economies of scale in countries that are just entering the age of industrialization. Without China’s low-wage, low-standard workforce, there would be no $300 netbooks.

In the end, even the whole idea of socialism as a role model for the next New Economy is questionable. So far, the economical ideas are not creating an egalitarian mass, but an audience that knows what to pick for which purpose and that requires diversity, at least in content. Socialism as an image to reach beyond industrialization seems improbable at this point in time.
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