Uwe Christian Plachetka / Tagebuch / Aldeas Globales Populares /
Versión Inglés







Telematic spaces and Global Subsistence: The theorem of the Global Integrated Village Environment (aldeas globales populares)

Initial speech for another "global village"

© Franz Nahrada 1996

Telecommunications is not only a key technology for global commodity production. It could also play a key function in the emergence of resilient habitats with high human carriage capacity - beyond a world market competition which leads to social erosion, crisis and decay. "Subsistence" in this sense would not be the defensive and dubious way back to (imagined) roots of an idealized past, but the consistent and quite challenging next step - from the now-obsolete labor society into a decentralized interlaced world of a "non-destructive, sensually aware kind of reason ".

The term of the "global village" has increasingly absorbed a strange flavor. It was once coined by Marshall Mc Luhan in the sense of by far not a positive utopia, but as a typology of a peculiar new - in Mc Luhan’s understanding quite painful - quality of the medias omnipresence. This new quality and its glorious name has become an evident coincidental signal of the fact that the world market became directly the functional territory of people depending and their economically doing. They now are exposed directly to international competition by productivity benchmarks without the once protecting frontiers of “national economies”.

These is the Global Village that can be characterized as “Aldea global elitista” or “Aldea global pituci” design [1]]

So, on the one hand the quite innocent label of the "global village" has become the synonym for the world market, on the other hand it stands also for all hopes and promises that the development of the world market would also guarantee regional development and economic prosperity. Actually the bright opposite occurred: national modernization and development hopes had to be crossed out by the dozen, the once finely possible assortment of "first, second and third world" fuzzes away in favor of a kind of archipelagos of winner regions in the midst of an ocean of losers. This global crisis of accumulation results not in a "village" but in exclusion and heterogenization.

The price for the maintenance of competitive power in the present world system is the externalization of risks and damages and costs of the crisis, which Alvin Toffler labels as the “revolt of the rich”.

National infrastructures are considered as creating uneconomic costs and what doesn’t obey the “Return of Investment Calculus” will be trashed.

The economical profitability calculation, which over-rampantly grows increasingly throughout all political organization forms, destroys the planetary areas of life against all evident forms of reason: on the one hand by centralization and concentration, on the other hand by the permanent global productivity competition – that’s but two sides of only one medal. Constantly growing "competitive" metropolises propel the degradation of the whole world to the hinterland of some business affairs, without caring for the rest.

This leads to the paradoxical phenomenon that whole industrial areas dissolve, while other industries are forced to lump together due to the imperative "lean production" and "just in time" manufacturing in megacities.

As a collateral damages peripheral regions find themselves into the situation of a permanent emergency sale. All conventional conceptions of spatial development appear as having dissolved into a "space of flows", in which small-scale segments of global production are incidentally linked to a permanently changing patchwork which has nothing to do with the necessary reproductive functions of society any more.

The telematic space

Telecommunications technology developed so rapidly, inasfar; together with the transportation technologies provide important means of global access of economical to economic resources such as raw materials and workforce (needless to say that war is again the father of all things, here concerning the systems of strategic logistics). It strengthened economical cores and frustrated any hope for mitigation of structural heterogeneity: "in the global village Marshall McLuhan the periphery will at best stay in an subordinate position of the Economic World Order and the village will be but a metaphor for a connection of information flows among urban economic cores of the World System. They have not only the big economic players at their disposal and their structures to use the New Information and Communication Technology efficiently, but they have also the capacities needed for entering these markets created by those new information and communication technologies. Possible consequence: Large enterprises in population centers increase their market shares at expense of small and medium enterprises in rural regions”. This process is interconnected with the desterritorialization within metropoleis themselves: Enterprises separated into functional segments, which are linked by data communication. Front Offices move for customer contact and representation into the city; Back Offices into the cheap suburbia with high workforce potential at low costs, production on the rural side, supplied with commuters from the periphery - if not at all into poor countries of the “3rd world” were wages are extremely low. Segmenting operational production is the largest industrial revolution since the invention of the factory system, and that would be inconceivable without the blister of road transportation at the expense of the rail systems - and without telecommunications as a mediator between the segments.

The collapse of modernization

The global free-market economy manufactures in such a way on side a universal reproduction connection and destroys all local, limited exchange ratios by the lever of the competition. On the other side it excludes a dramatically increasing part of mankind from its food, since their use is bound to the acquisition of money. "the absurd system contradiction that with ever less work profitable work Subsistence

Under these conditions of a global crisis it is no wonder that forms of subsistence economy could become accepted as a possible way of live. The propagandists for this alternative way of life on an instrumentalist level (e.g. Claudia v. Werlhof, Maria Mies) or seen as a form of development critque (e.g. Gustavo Esteva) drew the same radical conclusion concerning the free-market economy. However the disadvantages of a return to self-sufficient and self-work, propagated by them, has some blemishes: On the one hand their conception of subsistence is based on constant comparison with conditions of life before productive resources of the society were universally subjected commodified. Today it quite frequently occurs in the metropolises of the third world that members of the excluded social classes [or: marginalized classes as it was the jargon during the time the original version of this article was written, U.C.P.] return to rural life, which they had left once driven by economic stress or voluntarily. However, they are faced with the fact that there is no free land left for them. Their search for subsistence ends as hopelessly as the revolt of the Campesinos of Chiapas [in Mexico]. All cultivable land is a commodity and therefore a private property by the act of purchasing at least an outlet for producing and earning money under the conditions of the World Market, that dictates making money even by mass of production. This connection can also be expressed negatively: As the winner islands are forced to cut uneconomic costs – that are the costs for services of the biosphere, the peripheral regions receive increasingly the status of dumpsites, so that nature remains relatively in working condition in the centers. [At least the poor countries pay the costs of human society]. This is by far not an adequate soil the plants of subsistence farmers will grow allowing a good harvest. In addition to, by its search for new markets beyond the classical strategies of market expansion and marketing, the agents of market economy are searching ways to prohibit the free use of the biosphere. Copyrights and patents on living forms, biopiracy etc. is the last frontier of a market economy that finds no markets. So market exchange can quickly turn into market blackmail. On the other hand even the less complex societies based on subsistence economics could exist in a kind of a closed habitat like a fish in an aquarium, but on networks of regional and even interregional exchange and protection relations interwoven by an extensive net works. Highways and ancient routs stemming from the dawns of time are a strong indicator for the needs of local communities to import certain products of strange origin and climatic zones, which are certainly few in number. These communities were then embedded into "protecting" social meta-structures such as early states or Feudalism. However, beyond the periphery of the global free-market economy, there is an increasing number of external proletarians, populations whose way of life is not based on subsistence but on plunder. The "case Rwanda" or the "case Yugoslavia" can be taken as show-cases as well as the street-gangs in the deregulated metropoleis: Hobbes’ Bellum omnium contra omnes, disguised as fundamentalism and tribalism, transfers the costs of human society down the social hierarchy of Global society. They struggle for survival and not for a network that would allow collective subsistence. Thirdly however, and that is perhaps the most substantial argument, subsistence farming means hard work and by no means the permanent party economy as it is portrayed by academic spokeswomen of this “alternative way of life”. Subsistence farming – and not hunting or gathering – reduces the family’s purchase basket to articles of primordial needs. In most cases, the free-market economy needn’t to force to turn peasants into workers, in order to drive humans out from their small farms as their agricultural bases of survival. In comparison to the face-to-face community in a peasant village, the social conditions of the cities allowed to increase one’s quality of life. A direct return to the subsistence economy simply ignores this development of the human individuality and needs grown over many generations.

The global village

This is the dilemma: The increasing impossibility of the maintenance or expansion of the free market at present terms The impossibility of returning to the subsistence village community and the kinship based modes of production. As these two options are not viable, perhaps there is third possibility, which is outlined here concerning the relevance for landscape planning and landscape architecture becomes evident. In order to lable this third way, we redefine simply McLuhans? "global village"; describing it as a place of access to global information available in the cyberspace which becomes thereby a new and most important basic condition of local development. This concept of the "Globally Integrated Village Environments" (GIVE) or the "TeleEcoCommunity?" or the "Connected Community" differs from the usual development models for the rural area by the fact that "country" and "city" are not separate units, but ends of a communication line; so ideas such as "development of the rural area" or "reproduction of the rural identity” are rejected as epiphenomenon of the dilemma described above. In contrast of these epiphenomena the "global village" faces the fact that the globalization of the markets blows away the past basis of our existence; commodity or work force on sale but with no markets. This doesn’t mean that regional exchange circuits will cease to exist but under present conditions of commodifying everything they cannot develop due to the restrictions of global market concatenation. The trend towards farmer markets of regional products for regional customers makes it foreseeable that the advantages of local cycle economy are clear to both: The "producer" and the "consumer". This local cycle economy is still depending on access to general-purpose money so it depends on imported solvency, i.e. wage-earners, which can just as well fall off e.g. in times of unemployment or financial crisis. The concept of the global village is based on increasing the environmental carrying capacity of such a village while allowing a virtual face-to-face exchange relations mediated by the new media providing material concentration (mobilizing local renewable resources) and cross-linking to a real cycle economy. The basic thesis is that due to the modern technologies the initial position for a development on the basis of local resources (and thus releases from the problem of the solvency in the long run) is not worsened, but improved dramatically. The growing use of solar energy is a clear indicator for this process as well as the glasshouses of the agricultural laboratories of New Alchemy, in which the food supply for a town can be manufactured by intensive use of new technologies on a smaller area ever before. The basic obstacle is that a world society integrated by the market may not be capable to foster the development of these technologies that are the backbone of a post-market society. How can present societies develop an interest in co-operation with areas, which are organized in a way that doesn’t match the patterns of market behavior? The "global village" is an attempt to overcome this obstacle by the fact that the "complex relations structure" (Wytrzens), which is based on division of labor, is intensified between city and country, by local ecologic cycle managing that allow the integration of cores of urbanity into rural exchange networks. By telecommunications these urban micro-cores can be connected to a "urban network work", and only within this urban network there is such a thing like "global free-market economy", i.e. the monetary exchange system between production and service units. Cities and urban institutions, capitals etc. extend their "markets" within these urban network far beyond its past "territory" - and have such a most vital interest in this market of post-market age products: They can supply fundamental technologies as basic tools for forms of local production. The relation between the micro cores and their local village communities it is not monetary in the sense that completely consciously the improvement of the human carrying capacity and the improvement of the use of local renewable resources in one’s habitat produces economic growth within a Global Village network. From the point of the Global Villagers the urban micro cores are "general-purpose money earners" By their integration into the immaterial activities in the context of "global" production they earn the cash for importing high-tech tools for local production, helping to improve the local reproduction. If it concerns the organization of this reproduction, small money circulation is just as conceivable as beard ring or complementary community production based not on the division of labor but on division of local specialization. The competition around the information services and fundamental technologies for the "city satellites" - this concept should become generally accepted - will create a totally new market. The market for factors of producing local sustainability", could be the last and most spectacular new market of World History.

[1] In Latin America there had been the problem of cheap internet access known as "digital divide or digital gap" - now known as "broadband gap" in rural Europe. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to emphazise this in a clear way