Michel Bauwens: Rebirth of the Guilds

Economics/True Cost, P2P / Panarchy
Michel Bauwens

Essay of the Day: Rebirth of Guilds

A return to guilds as an organizing force for the worker of the future will bring with it another medieval institution: a return of ownership of means of production to the individual. In our surveys of distributed workers over the years, we have noted a consistent finding. Workers report that the technology they have in their home offices is more advanced and sophisticated than what their employers provide in the central office.

Dr. Charles Grantham, Norma Owen and Terry Musch have written a five part article series reconsidering the Guilds as an appropriate form for current organisations in the p2p age:

“This series of blogs traces the history of guilds and the modern forces driving their re-emergence: failure of industrial institutions, technology that speeds up learning, a search for intimate community and the de-evolution of power from the central state. Further, the need for social change is discussed along with a prescription of the functions these new guilds can perform, and those they cannot. We conclude this series with a brief discussion of how modern guilds can offer ownership of the means of social preservation to workers of the future.”


Driving Forces

There are several forces, which are driving the rebirth of guilds as a way of organizing talent pools. While there are a myriad of social, economic and political pressures on the 21st Century global economy. We feel four are of particular interest.

· Failure of industrial institutions

After a nearly 500-year lapse, we are seeing fundamental changes in society once again. We believe the printing press was the primary cause of this transformation in the late 15th century. While fantastic inventions and technologies have come along since then, nothing else has come close.

Until the Internet. And the Internet is prompting social change of the same nature and magnitude as the printing press as we head into the 21st century (Bressler and Grantham, 2000).

Without a doubt those institutions which served humanity well in the industrial era, have reached the end of their useful life. Just as feudalism fell away with the Enlightenment, and royalty with the rise of the modern nation-state, so too are industrial capitalism, tribal governments and supporting establishments.

· Technology speeds up education and continuous learning

The invention and diffusion of radical technology inevitably changes how we live, work, and learn together as a human race. Technology, especially when it influences how we communicate with each other, causes a change in our sense and experience of time and space. This change, in turn, brings about a change in our mental energy (or how we pay attention to things) and this finally results in a change in how we interact with the world—our behavior.

While the Internet is completely changing corporate business models and how customers can connect with companies, none of this comes close to matching the broader human change we are on the verge of seeing. And we believe we have a precedent for this—the world after the introduction of Johan Gutenberg’s printing press. All the way from E-learning to the Occupy Wall Street movement, we are being led to a Fourth Turning in our global society.

· Search for community that is intimate

It is hard to argue against rise of a sense of need for community around the planet. The Arab Spring, ascendancy of an Asian superpower, crisis in the European “Union” and political gridlock in the United States, all have at their root a renewed sense to work together in community—not against each other in power struggles.

Historically (in the West), community structure that existed in the small villages and towns was traditionally centered around a parish church and one or two eating establishments, where people would gather to be with one another and exchange ideas and thoughts. With the concurrent rise of mercantilism, the wealth that was created in these rural areas were sucked into the larger urban areas where wealth focused on the construction of these large structures and monuments.

The basic unit of social organization, and hence community, was organized by the church. However, the church’s penetration into every aspect of community life was not total. Community was based on tradition and it celebrated events that signify the rhythms of agricultural life.

Community was important to people as they entered the industrial age. Community was the social glue that held everything together, gave people hope, and provided them with a psychological anchor in times of trouble. And that’s’ where we are again. Just as the world was getting bigger and people felt connected to a broader world, community became much more local and amorphous than it had been when it was decreed from some central authority. Indeed history does repeat itself.

· Devolution of power

We content that political power is devolving from massively centralized structures to a loosely knit network of community federations. During the Middle Ages, government and religion were intertwined. One could not easily separate the two. It depended on the area of the world in which you lived as to which of these two basic social structures had primacy in your everyday life.
So, the sub-plot of this story is that a major impact of the printing press was the beginning of a movement, which continues even today, of the separation of government and religion in terms of how they regulated every man’s life. The function of both involves the influence and regulation of behavior and what people can and cannot do. Underlying all of this regulation and control lies a belief system that is agreed-upon and shared. So when belief structures change, eventually so does the governance structure. And at this point in human history, these beliefs are changing once again. Government is next.

The change in government in the Middle Ages, or, more accurately, the government structure of society, was generally a move from a feudal form to empires and nation states. Society began to organize itself around shared believes, fears, values, and desires as a group that was significantly larger than what they had been able to experience directly in one day’s travel time.

The underlying value shift that occurred was that people went from protecting the territory and resources surrounding them to focusing on upholding their beliefs and controlling what mattered most to them. So people went from standing at the gates to ward off invaders, to looking further out—hoping their beliefs would be adopted by others so their common culture could grow in size.

The Rebirth of Guilds – A Brief History [Part 1 of 5]

The Rebirth of Guilds – The Driving Forces [Part 2 of 5]




Financial Liberty at Risk-728x90