I have spent the week grappling the problem of pitching an idea whose essence is a social revolution but whose initial (VC investment) audience cultural field is based in the ideas and myths of capitalist production and technological innovation.
The inherent belief seems to be that social revolutions cannot be about ‘making money’ even though, if not semantically in the same sense, that is exactly what this idea does!
Perhaps it is a cynical belief that nothing really changes (in terms of power relations), we just acquire new ‘masters of the Universe’ (or the old ones prove remarkably resilient). The Greeks had the idea of ‘regime’ change built into their religious beliefs, the current gods being the result of a internecine corporate takeover and they in turn fearing their own doom at the hands of some new upstarts exploiting their own (very human) weaknesses. It seems that the death of god has not stripped off the ‘roof of the world’ merely decked it out in a modern glass ceiling of consumerism. Our ‘grand designs’ have become limited to expressions of domestic bourgeois isolationism or monumental but ultimately empty ‘consumer experiences’.
Perhaps it is that ‘revolutionary critiques’ have become too literary and ‘think tanky’ – too obsessed with their place in the intellectual ‘hierarchy’ - with the requirement to be engaged with and sponsored the lords and masters, rather than being able to think the sort of thoughts that made a quick trip to France a necessity of life and death not just a jaunt on the Eurostar to enjoy a coffee and a Gauloise. Gandhi certainly recognized this in his sometimes contradictory and controversial interpretation of ‘moral force’ – disobedience to the state which always teetered on the edge of violence, even if that was the threat of violence to the self rather than others. He recognized the dangers that creating a moral vacuum in place of religion generate in terms of an apathetic, unempowered and passive society of individuals.
Perhaps revolution is just another commercial opportunity to turn a profit from consumption? Certainly the experience of deep hanging out on May Day parades at the beginning of this decade demonstrated how such revolution from within could tear itself apart by its own contradictions. Rather than protest, here was a form of contemporary performance art – all ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
Which brings me back to the nature of the revolution which needs to happen. In my conversations with Richard Duvall, an anti-establishment guy who understood the possibility of a new point of view (his premature death a massive loss to the world of innovation and beyond) we used to talk about the individual revolution. Such a revolution is not a concept, nor it is merely a structural force, revolution is based on the creation of new and competing praxis through which values and ideals are embedded into everyday life and action.
The individual revolution will arise out of what we do, not from the creation of new institutions telling us what to do. More specifically it will arise out of what we can create as individuals - enabled by social media technologies that resist hierarchy and provide swift retribution for those who lord it in such contexts.
And for any venture capitalists who might be reading – there is real value to be made from the sponsoring of such a revolution (and perhaps it will achieve the absolution of one or two bankers along the way!).