A ‘Transcender Manifesto’ for a world beyond capitalism
This piece was originally published on the blog ‘Digital Anthropology‘.
If this makes sense to you, you may well be working along these lines already – I hope it is encouraging. If it inspires you, then seek out others who feel the same, and rewrite it together. Make it yours. Make it specific. Publish it. Act on it. Forge relations with other groups. Federate and interact across the world.
There is no transcendism, there are no transcenders; this manifesto can only be enacted by groups coming together; designing, seeding and developing networks of transcendent social relations.
We seek not to destroy capitalism, nor to reform it, but to transcend it – to consciously and rapidly evolve past it. We acknowledge its current hegemony, and accept that this arose as a result of its dynamism, adaptability, and ability to offer value to those who built it (while also recognising its inherent violence towards the people and places which it so forcibly transformed). But the law of diminishing returns has set in, and the future negatives now dangerously and imminently outweigh the historic positives.
We will enact and intensify social relations that produce a human culture which supports the abundance of the biosphere, in confidence that this will require human flourishing that transcends what is considered possible under capitalism.
An existential requirement
Many justifiable and insightful critiques of capitalism have been made, but what drives us now is a single, specific and urgent analysis: that the multiple crises facing humanity – crises which carry high existential risk – cannot be resolved under capitalism, or by any reformation of capitalism. That the social relations which have developed over the past two centuries under capitalism directly produce the civilisation-threatening destruction which humans now inflict upon the carrying capacity of the biosphere.
It is clear, however, that the world-impacting capacity of the interaction of technology at a scale of 7 billion plus humans cannot be adequately mitigated on the basis of any emergency response. The Law of Unintended Consequences is the only certainty of complex systems, and the biosphere of the planet is the most complex system we know of – upon which we depend for our whole existence. The only safe direction of travel is towards our wisest, deepest vision of utopia – even as we acknowledge that no such condition can be attained, and that we will need to keep our vision itself under review as we go.
We choose transcendence rather than revolution or reform for a simple reason – where revolutions are about dislodging the current elite through violence, and reforms are about preserving the existing system through adaptation, transcendence is about system transformation.
Transcendence requires us, simply, to build the best possible future, starting right here, right now. Where it can, it avoids unnecessary conflict, without being naive about the inevitability of resistance. It works with the deep structures of what is in place (in the knowledge that these can only be transformed, through interaction, over time), while engaging to the minimum with superficialities, and avoiding to the maximum its injustices. In this way we waste as little time, space and energy as possible, achieving maximum systemic change impact.
We believe that, for the first time in recorded history, human culture has produced at the least an outline of all the capacities required for us to begin to consciously direct our own cultural evolution for the better. It’s not that any group has a complete collection of this outline – simply that it exists, and is increasingly discoverable and accessible.
We are under no illusion that changing the world is easy, that we have all the answers, but we believe that this undertaking is the best work we can do, whatever circumstances may bring.
Transcendence requires that we begin where we are – here, today – in a culture where persistent aspects of pre-capitalist cultures form a matrix which has been more or less suffused by capitalism. On a planet whose ability to support our civilisation is collapsing in real time as a result of aggregate human activity. This is reality.
Transcendence requires us to accept this reality in its entirety, while at the same time knowing that the basis of our understanding of reality is conditioned by our culture. This dual acceptance opens up the possibility for us to transform reality by transforming our culture.
Our measure of progress is the development of human capacity to undertake this work of transcendence as a conscious endeavour – the degree to which we transcend blind evolution and grow a capacity to evolve our culture purposefully, with increasing wisdom.
Direction of travel
We are guided always by direction, rather than any specific end point. Our means must be our best ideas for moving ourselves in the direction we choose. We choose and refine our direction by imagining it at its utopian extreme, and asking ourselves if we want to go there. This is a perpetual exercise, always subject to review. We always need a direction, though, so we must always have made a choice.
For now, simply, we choose life, more abundantly.
We understand humans as a particularly intense and dynamic pattern in the biosphere that has transformed this planet over three and a half billion years – always, always tending to expand the zone of life – to increase the density and scope of life-like processes and patterns; from an initial few cubic centimetres to the whole surface of the planet, in a zone tens of kilometres deep.
We consider the carrying capacity of the biosphere to be the best deep metric with which to compare and choose between proposals. For now, this seems to work in both the short term – in addressing the crisis of the biosphere, and in the longer term – as it requires a culture of developing care, dignity, justice, self-realisation and sociality which moves beyond narrow humanism.
We consider developing our individual and collective heuristic capacities to judge ‘life-like’ characteristics to be the most fundamental educational endeavour.
Transcendence works through the process of building new social relationship networks which take us, through direct experience, into the future we wish to see. We cannot proceed without enacting these; we cannot proceed appropriately without thoughtful design, and we cannot proceed effectively alone.
We develop capacity
The culture around us and within us resists the work of transcendence. To be effective, we must develop sufficient capacity.
- Look for others to collaborate with.
- Develop the social relations of our group as a transcender culture in action.
- Assess and seek to develop our group capacities: people, wisdom, will, skills, resources and tools.
- Document and share our development and capacities as we can.
Transcending a global culture of deep complexity and diversity is not a singular project, but can only be the outcome of an enormous multitude of projects, each individual, specific, appropriate to time, place and desire, at all scales. Diversity and multiplicity of approach are not failings but necessities.
- Identify places and spaces where human desires and characteristics are ignored or suppressed. These are not hard to find: Dignity, Love and Care, Autonomy-in-community, Place, Mutuality, Respect for ecosystems, Learning for life – fully satisfying any of these entails working against the grain of our culture. People will welcome and seek out modes of living that embody these more – on one proviso – that participation does not come at too high a cost: bringing one’s children up in security will always trump less immediate needs, and the current model will always seem the most obvious in times of stress.
- Assess the practical scope for action; domain, lifespan, depth, intensity – on the basis of our capacities.
- Find ways to make the provision and satisfaction of these needs have an economic value. Do not misunderstand the meaning of this. Economy is NOT money. Economy is the civil organisation of capacity in the service of life. Civilisations exist through economic relations as communities exist through social relations. Transcendent relations (including money systems) are designed to make care, trust, dignity, and respect for life provide more well-being – on a full-spectrum that explicitly includes what we would now describe as economic security.
- Understand that value comes from flow, from movement, from exchange. Design for these, understanding different timescales.
- Plan for human scale: transcendent social relations cannot ‘scale’ in the way that we have become used to considering a fundamental requirement for ‘success’. Anything that scales the way capitalism does will not move in the desired direction. Life always has appropriate scale.
- Plan for interoperation without subordination: transcendent culture will be both local and at the same time support and build the complex communication chains that make civilisation viable.
- Embed wise, person-centred, equitable governance.
- Communicate the base intent of our design in simple, deep story. Evaluate choices by how they elaborate and strengthen the story.
- Design for simplicity and interoperability: life works by knitting together networks of relatively simple interactions to suit particular niches. We avoid over-elaboration and over-complication.
- Respect and do not underestimate the adaptive capacity of capitalist culture, and its hunger for new energy. Design always for inherent structural resistance to absorption. Resist only to the degree that attacks can be absorbed. Dissolve and regroup rather than fight to the death. Transcender culture depends more upon people with their wisdom, will and skills than it does on resources.
- Plan for maximum interaction that is mutually reinforcing. Network effects build culture. This applies equally to interactions with capitalist culture. Transcender culture cannot and should not think it can replace the existing culture – only suffuse it more and more thoroughly. Interactions that offer value to capitalist culture while simultaneously transforming it are especially to be valued – although design around these must be especially careful.
- Build on the experience and systems developed by other groups.
Transcender Groups build networks of social relations designed to produce new social value that lives outside capitalism. As such networks multiply, spawn, grow and interact, the space of a new culture expands and becomes increasingly self-reinforcing.
These networks will take on every form, scale, quality, mode, and character imaginable – all of global culture requires renovation. But in the early stages, it will be vital to develop networks which address the fundamental stories of capitalist culture, to transcend these with new stories which open up further possibilities.
- Enact the social relationship networks we are designing, understanding that we need to transcend our own cultural inheritance through lived experience, and that personal experience of these relations will be the primary source of design feedback that will feed our evolution.
- Understand our networks as eco-systems. That their carrying capacity consists in the flow of energy through their structures – which energy comes from the people and sub-networks that engage with them. That all participants are contributing, all are valuable. That we can develop wisdom in nurturing them, intensifying them, understanding how they become healthier, how they sicken.
- Structure and document our design, our learning, our experience, our operations – preferably using transcender culture tools – so that other groups can adopt, adapt and develop compatible networks.
- Seek to grow through federation and interaction with other compatible networks. Support the spawning of such networks.
- Refine our operations continually in the direction of life-like character – the strongest cultural realities are embedded in the most everyday exchanges. We seek to become the everyday.
- Consciously design and evolve on a continuous basis. Capitalism has proved its capacity to adapt and incorporate new ideas at a rapid pace. We need to move faster – not in terms of growth, but in terms of development. This is hard: capitalist culture has a single, crude metric to optimise. Our metric is life: this is why we understand that developing the capacity to judge ‘life-like’ quality – to trust ourselves on this – is important. We are always asking; ‘Do our networks provide more life-like experience and abundance to participants?’
- Revisit our core story and consider its relevance, and how well our everyday practice enacts it. One day, it will be our network’s time to be superseded – overlaid with something wiser, even more life-like.
The origin of this Manifesto was a need to communicate to myself a coherent foundational framing for the deep intent that drives me.
I hope that it chimes with you, and even more that it encourages and affirms your own drive for change. If it makes sense, please do copy, adapt and elaborate this in any way that works for you.
A Director at Lowimpact.org and NonCorporate.org, Dil Green was an architect and builder for 30 years, working on projects from an extension to London’s Science Museum to an award-wining eco-surgery. He now works away at systemic leverage points around Governance, Wisdom: Pattern Language, and Economy: the Open Credit Network, . He lives in Brixton and blogs at digital-anthropology.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1sorrell robbins March 17th, 2019
LOVE THIS ARTICLE! Thank you for this awesome piece of writing. I am sharing. I am also working in this way with my skills in shamanism and with artists – visioning a better future with others.
2Dominic Russell March 17th, 2019
Dear Dil Green,
I am another yourself…As we all should be, for each other, all 7 billion plus!
I humbly acknowledge the power, resonance,
and crucial importance of what you propose
for the human family and Mother Earth.
The transcendent symbiosis that once existed between the beings inhabiting our planet and the planet itself, has long since disappeared,except in rapidly diminishing pockets of the people considered still primitive in their ways, by the established world order. In order to understand that union and apply that understanding with wisdom and love,and utilise those qualities for the way for all to unite in a common cause needs to be established, a way must be found.
You propose such a way, and as a fellow human “being” I acknowledge its validity
and crucial importance. I would like if I may to make a humble observation that hopefully joins with and enhances your important manifesto,in a small way.
We , humanity, can do nothing as Machines.
We exist in an increasingly complex and materially based society, where we have created, and are created by, a technology that is rapidly absorbing our humanity and destroying the biosphere of our home planet. The bad in this scenario, heavily outweighs the good,namely the obvious benefits of that same technology.
If it can be possible for an individual to focus all their energy on improving the spiritual strength that lies within each of us, then working to understand our mechanicalness
and transmute it into self awareness and positive action.must be a prerequisite for anyone feeling the wake up call that is coming from deep within us.
We can only do what we can do, but…. We can always do much, much more, with the right power of will and conscience.
Yours, humbly I hope, and with great respect.
3annbeirneanimalwhisperert March 17th, 2019
This really warms my heart and soul and I will pass it onto my friends and family. This is what I have been trying to find for so long.
Peace and Love to All.
4Eloïse Sentito March 17th, 2019
Lovely Dil, thank you.
I’m thinking of all the many wonderful initiatives that embody, or at least have or had this ethos, from tiny fringe projects like the Green Cloth Collective, through more established ones like lowimpact.org, Transition and Compass, all the way to the NHS – to name but a very few. (Now I want to also name the Green Party, the Green New Deal, Corbyn, Sanders, and all the municipalist initiatives of Spain, Greece, Sardinia…) It’s happening, and non- or positive monetary systems can free these initiatives up to make maximum impact.
5Eloïse Sentito March 17th, 2019
6Dil Green March 17th, 2019
Ann, Eloise, Sorrel,
Thanks so much for these lovely comments. It’s taken a long time (a lifetime!) to gather and connect the threads that helped me feel ready to write this. And indeed learning about and thinking through the projects Eloise mentions have been part of that (and many more). It is wonderful to know that what I meant is recognisable and strikes a chord. Thanks again, Dil.
7Going Batty in Wales March 17th, 2019
At a recent meeting where I wanted to be supportive but was struggling to see how I could fill any of the roles that needed doing someone pointed out that my skill was networking because I belong to several groups with overlapping interests. It saddens me to see lovely people so busy doing whatever their mission is that they have no time or energy to realise that there is another group who who are doing something similar or related. The result is duplication of effort and reduced efficiency. But to stop and look over the fence at what is happening in other places can be difficult and to make time to engage with them more directly is demanding. Even getting emails and newsletters from lots of groups can feel overwhelming. Belonging to many groups means that it is hard to be in the inner core of any. Only when the role is valued, as it was in that meeting, will It stop being an isolating one and become a happy one.
8Jeff Kent March 17th, 2019
Your article is very interesting, Dil, and has strong similarities to our independent Mercia initiative at http://www.independentmercia.org and through Facebook’s Independent Mercia group. Perhaps you’d like to check it out and share it with others. Best wishes, Jeff Kent (Convener of the Acting Witan of Mercia).
9numblock June 19th, 2019
Yes! Using this as a blueprint for setting up our tech co-op.
Thanks so much for this!
10Dil Green December 3rd, 2019
@numblock – wow – that’s really encouraging! Best of luck. What’s the co-op?
11numblock December 3rd, 2019
@Dil We’re (still) working on setting up a coop of developers in Amsterdam. It’s slow going, but we’re getting there. And the process itself is really meaningful (and fun!) ?
12Dil Green December 9th, 2019
@numblock. If it ever seems as if a caring external sounding board might be interesting, I’ll be happy to help. I have been building my capacities around wisdom around governance, wisdom capture and dissemination, and incentives/value flows.