From now and then, there are voices talking about the digital media and the possibilities they bring - the driving force behind the new socialism era. But the question is whether the possibilities created by the digital media make socialism possible, or whether what we see is the rise of the new capitalism.
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Socialism (latin societas - community) is the ambiguous term, referring to attempts to reduce social inequality and the spread of social services, treatment or management of social control through state institutions, local government, corporation or cooperative). What's common for various types of socialism is partial or total rejection of the idea of capitalist free market, the restriction of private property and promotion of the idea of social justice. The aim was to build a socialistic society without poverty, where market forces are not the primary mechanism for distribution of wealth and where the functioning of society is based on common ownership, mutual cooperation and altruism. Beautiful idea but never proved to work (or fail - as it is not compatible with human nature). We are herd animals, but every herd needs the leader and clearly defined roles to ensure the proper functioning and survival of the group.
The whole problem with socialism is that the idea of socialism looks good on paper:
You have two cows. The government takes them and puts in the cowshed with other cows. You have to look after all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.
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Then you have the real socialism (which I experienced and would never recommend to anyone as one of the most humiliating systems to an individual and humanity):
You have two cows. The government takes them and puts in the cowshed with other cows that is taken care of by a former poultry farmer. You
have to deal with the chickens, which the government took away from the farmers who are in charge of cowsheds. The government gives you as much milk and eggs as law allows, not as much as you need.
Third option is the national socialism - total exploitation, mean capitalism in disguise:
You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to care for them and sells you the milk with the flag state.
Sharing, cooperation and collaboration that are
characteristic for the social media aren't quite working in the
socialism, because there are always institutions watching and controlling the sharing or collaboration and trying to regulate those with laws. Maybe not a bad idea, but where regulations and power are involved, the inequalities usually emerge.
Of course there are also some positive sides in socialism, because it focuses on the common good but I can't see its chances to thrive in the world where people value their privacy and right to property. We are too independent and focused on our own success and own profits, driven by our needs. The value is YOU. Youniverse & Meritocracy are what drives the digital media evolution.
What we observe today is the rise of the new networked capitalism with intellect as the form of social capital that increases with use and the new digital opportunities are facilitators that drive the intellect growth. The value of the corporations in the new capitalism era - cognitive capitalism - comes from their ability to create new communication tools (Google), connect people (Facebook, Twitter), etc. Personal drivers as taste, creativity plays a huge role in the production process (Nike ID, Aston Martin). The property rights in relation to intellectual property also dramatically change (Napster).
In the industrial capitalism machines sucked workers in, depersonalized and automatized work, today computers / software sucked our knowledge, mashed it up and customized it getting it available and usable / reusable at every click. The question is not longer how much you produce but how much you manage to seed. The more you seed the more growth you create. What justify the existence and enhances the power of our ideas are their ability to spread and inseminate other minds (self-promotion happens to be quite effective insemination technique when used right) - twitter, blogs etc. being the tools helping on the way. It means social media has nothing to do with socialism except first 6 letters, they are the new capitalistic means of production and seeding. The question whether they contribute to the common wealth or satisfy egoistic needs and ambitions, I will leave open for now...
Image by diankarl*www.diankarlina.com* via Flickr