This year I get to write a dissertation for my degree course. I’m going to blog the development of my focus of study and my argument here and use my wiki and other tools to share resources I’ve found useful. I can’t wiki my work though – it needs to be all my own effort! But I will be publishing here it after its been submitted – another 10,000 words to add to the global text pool that is the internet.

My work will be part political theory and part constructive criticism of contemporary political culture. I am attempting to reimagine politics through the rubric of free/libre open-source concepts. Yes I’ve dropped software from F/LOSS. This is because I’m not focusing on the technology, rather I am interested in the forms of relationship, social and economic, that f/los concepts and practice have conditioned.

What follows is draft; an emerging rough hack of my ideas that I will develop into a research proposal to submit in a couple of weeks. What will follow between now and April 2008 will be 3 or 4 ‘chapters’ to make up the completed dissertation. Comments and criticism welcomed. Reference your sources.

—————

Closure characterizes the political culture of liberal-democratic nation-states. The balance between these hyphenated concepts is delicate, leaving little but breathing space. Individual liberty is curtailed by democratic mechanisms. Yet democracy’s ‘people’, liberated from being cogs, now appear as little more than figures watching the machine continue its work without them. nations implode and states explode as peoples in conflict leave politics for violence. What was once ideal now seems like a bad idea. Worryingly it appears that these weakly linked concepts are the only ideas left.

Underpinning or central to or however your perspective orders all these hyphenated concepts and the institutions they configure are economic activities and social relationships. In some societies these are still quite distinct from each other, in others the distinction is blurring. The tendency is towards the subsuming of the social into the economic. Capitalism towers above `the market’, now large-scale, diversified and abstracted, and moves on seeking new arenas where transactions take place to capitalize. Embrace, extend and extinguish?

`i’ve never had it so good’, apparently.

is this to be the political settlement of the contemporary west? centricist politics for a figurative people, a depoliticised economy capitalizing the life-world and a fragmented society, only capable of uniting, `democratically’ of course, against whatever of whoever is momentarily defined as outside, a minority.

The “contemporary proliferation of political spaces and the multiplicity of democratic demands” (Mouffe, 2000, p.17) needs a new politics, a politics that works at the global and the local, the universal and the particular. New relationships of interconnectedness between people, communities, identities, things, locations and events need to be reflected in the political culture of our institutions. What are the dynamics of these relationships? Where are these new political spaces emerging in such a tightly closed political culture?

The meshing of the politics of the Hacker, the Artist and the Activist has crystallised into a manifesto for free/libre and open-source, f/los. Increasing contact with f/los artefacts, technologies and economies and the wider dissemination of f/los concepts is raising popular consciousness of emerging redefinitions for master concepts such as freedom, property and ownership. Freedom and openness are the two ideas central to the hacker culture and the movements it has influenced. These two ideas are by no means fixed definitions. Indeed it is the very flexibility of these ideas and the way in which they are redefined that is of interest to me.

My research project will explore the politics and economics of contemporary western societies demonstrating what I consider to be the rhetoric of openness and the reality of closure. My script with be both critical and constructive. I will reconsider the contents of the hyphenated `master concepts’ and consider their opportunity for renewal using the rubric of f/los.

References

Mouffe, C., (2000) The Democratic Paradox Verso, London