Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Michel BauwensMichel Bauwens (born 21 March 1958) is a Belgian theorist in the emerging field of peer-to-peer (P2P) collaboration, writer, and conference speaker on the subject of technology, culture and business innovation. Bauwens founded the P2P Foundation, a global organization of researchers working in open collaboration in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. He has authored a number of essays, including his thesis The Political Economy of Peer Production.

Reposted from P2PF Wiki, March 2022, with permission of the author.

Is the War in Ukraine a War between Systems?

The Ukraine Conflict as a Competition Between Rival Systems, Pointing to the Need for a Cosmo-Local Civilizational Framework

Michel Bauwens

Summary by ChatGPT: The essay by Michel Bauwens discusses the Ukraine conflict as a manifestation of systemic rivalry between a finance-dominated Western system and a state-dominated system seen in Russia and China. He reflects on historical wars as competitions between systems, highlighting the contrasting governance models. Bauwens suggests the conflict illuminates the need for a new, commons-centric global civilization model, moving beyond solely state or market-driven systems to prevent war and foster unity among nations and communities at a cosmo-local scale.
Peace beats war, and democracy, however relative, beats authoritarianism, but neither are sufficient. The solution needs to be systemic.

We should not forget this but most wars of the 20th century were not just competitions between nations and empires for supremacy, but wars between 'systems', i.e. different ways of managing industrialized societies. In the 20th cy, three systems faced each other.

The first system was the one of industrialized parliamentary democracies, exemplified by the US, Great Britain and various European nations. They were challenged by two radical societal alternatives: the alternative presented by the Soviet system, based on state property and central planning, which was the outcome of the 1917 October Revolution, and which largely abolished market allocation; and the fascist fusion of market and state, in which the market is subjugated to the state, a kind of 'corporatist' model. Both fascism and 'communism' were attempts to create a kind of societal unity against the fragmentation effects of market dynamics.

World War I had already abolished what remained of the pre-industrial imperial formats, doing away with the Habsburg and Ottoman empires, and generalizing the nation-state form. But it was largely an imperial war between nation-states itself.

World War II was also to a significant degree a war between systems, with the fascist alliance on one side, and the parliamentary states allied with the Soviet Union. The fascist alternative was definitely defeated, but the Soviet system emerged stronger, expanding its sphere of influence, and growing much faster than the Western counterparts, making substantial progress measured by social indicators such as literary and longevity. It was a strong attractor to the decolonializing nations of the Global South. As a way to manage industrialization, they were largely on a par with the West, and the Cold War was the expression of this rivalry of systems.

But whereas the Soviet system was performant in industrialization, informationalism defeated it. Red Plenty is an excellent 'factional' book (mixing factual history and dramatization in alternative chapters) that shows how the Russians invented the internet, intended for cybernetic planning, but shut it down when it became clear that it would undermine centralized authority. And this is where 'democratic capitalism' succeeded. The markets are familiar with distributed dynamics, and the emerging IT (the chip was invented in 1973, at the same time as the social welfare started going into crisis mode) revolution led to a global reorganization of capital and market flows, accompanied by the 'conservative' counter-revolution of Thatcher and Reagan.

After 1989, the Soviet Union went into a disastrous tailspin of disintegration, until Putin redressed the integrative power of the nation-state. This made Russia substantially different from the Western model. In the western model, financial power gradually dominated and substantially gutted democratic counter-power, and the market reigned supreme, but in Russia, the state took control of the market power, choosing its oligarchs, and it modernized the country around energy exports.

The Chinese ruling class were jolted by the collapse of the Soviet system and the loss of control by the Communist Party, and they initiated the reforms of Deng, which were largely inspired by the Soviet New Economic Policy which had replaced war communism and healed the Russian economy before the centralization efforts of Stalin. It is important to realize that land stayed in the hands of the villages, that 70% of industry belonged to the state, etc .. The marketization of China was always a controlled experiment, and the reproduction of the ruling class in China remains collective, processed through the Communist Party, not through private capital. That experiment was largely re-adjusted after 2013, when Xi Ping rose to power, with a number of strategic re-orientations. This time China is not reacting to the fall of the Soviets, but what they perceive as the societal and cultural collapse in the West, echoed to a large degree in China itself. Under the mutual banner of Common Prosperity and Ecological Civilization, the Chinese party and state retook control of many autonomous market processes.

Despite their difference, the central role of the state, and of state institutions like the CCP or the Russian secret services, makes both of them quite similar, they are state-centric, nation-centric.

This sets them apart from the finance-centric governance taking place in the Western and global system.

It also impacts the internal Western situation. In the West, we have seen an increasing revolt against globalization and neoliberalization, but paradoxically, the political polarities have changed. The 'left' is no longer aligned with the working class, but with urban knowledge workers, it is not longer in favor of civil rights, but aligned with Big Tech for more control and censorship, and it is increasingly adopting a socially racist attitude against the working class, under a neo-racist and neo-segregationist ideology, called wokeness (a triple reversal of the positions of the historical left). Hence, while the elites are working on their Great Reset, a new global power scheme of private-public partnerships under the control of financial interests, the working classes are moving to a national-populist understanding, and moving to the sovereignist right wing, which is organically aligned with the nation-centricity of the Russia-China axis.

It is with this context that the conflict around Ukraine can be seen as an expression of systemic rivalry, between a system dominated by the financial class, and a system dominated by the administrative class. In one system, the market is dominated, and the state is subservient; in the other, the state is dominant, and the market is subservient. Naturally, Russia sees the world in terms of nation-state dominance and relies on military power, just as naturally, the Western system seeks financial power and uses financial warfare. Both are as deadly to the populations subjected to them.

Both systems are equally flawed. The Western system leads to social atomisation, dangerous inequality and the destruction of the global environment; the nation-centric system has no power to create a credible global system and may lead to intense and warlike rivalry, even if it is more socially and racially inclusive than Western wokism. This context is an invitation for a third player, the global interconnected and commons-centric network of citizens, with the underlying cosmo-local model, which is a new model for a global civilization. You can find more about this model and its emergence in our latest P2P Foundation publication, The Cosmo-Local Reader.

This means that as commoners, even if we are naturally aligned against war and for the self-determination of people, we do not automatically align ourselves with the financial and state forces of the Western Empire either. We represent a third way, a new form of organizing the world, which avoids war altogether by creating a higher level of unity between citizens, nations, and biotic communities at a cosmo-local scale.

Peace beats war, and democracy, however relative, beats authoritarianism, but neither are sufficient. The solution needs to be systemic, beyond the inter-state and inter-market institutions that are failing us, towards global and local commons-centric institutions, the global magisteria of the commons.

This means that as commoners, even if we are naturally aligned against war and for the self-determination of people, we do not automatically align ourselves with the financial and state forces of the Western Empire either.

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