S. Flor describes the local markets of the year 2029 which complement
the established global market system.Economic activity is not restricted
to the world of Dollar, Yen, Euro or whatever anymore. It was back in 1987
when I received the first message of S. Flor. Until now I am not sure what
is really behind these "reports from the future" - I leave it open whether
they are conveyed by means of a time tunnel or it is just a simple fake.
For anyone who believes that the social and ecological challenges of our
time will result not only in technological, but also in profound social
innovations - this contribution will be exciting news.
Social Fiction - S. Flor
1. S. Flor: Reports from the year 2029
a) Flatlander - a report from New-Borderland
As a utopian writer I sometimes feel like Abbott’s poor friend from Flatland whose reports from Spaceland were condemned by his fellow citizens. It consoles me that this was the fate also of those visionaries whose imaginations later proved to be facets of our present two-dimensional, dual economy.
Beyond the former totality of the global system economic transactions are nowadays also facilitated in local markets, an institutional arrangement which has probably become too self-evident: Sales are recognized only as far as they level with expenditures; at the end of the year the balance is drawn and treated like a non-local credit or debit – subject to income or value-added tax it is payable in global currency. Certainly, local markets depend on the global system - only the traditional economy generates both, the capital base which is necessary for local production as well as the minimum income in global currency guaranteed to anyone. But there is also a reverse dependency - only the local markets offer sufficient opportunities for occupation, and thus the social stability which again is a precondition for the efficient operation of the global market.
Since any of our local currencies is absolutely non-convertible,
these markets form a second dimension of our economic structure. The comparison
to the one-dimensional structure of the last century where high-tech production
or financial services were treated like labour-intensive ecological food
production or social services reminds us of the first voyage of Abbott’s
friend to Lineland where the message of a second dimension also remained
(Flor refers to Edwin A. Abbott "Flatland. A romance of Many dimensions" originally published 1884)
Introductory remark by Rolf Schröder:
The following "contribution of an accountant" might not be entertaining for anybody,
however, whoever wants to grasp the approach must get through this page - good luck!
b) S: Flor: Organisational Essentials of the Dual Economy
When the old style market economy collapsed in the Great Crisis of the year 2004, a number of initiatives mushroomed on the local level. For some it might have come as a surprise, but with the economic recovery these entities did not vanish but ultimately proved to be an important counterpart of the world market system. The consolidation of the provisional post-crisis institutions in 2009 contributed to this upturn; in that year the various administrative arrangements became harmonized. The most important rules fixed in 2009 are still in force and are recapitulated in the following:
c) Extract from "2009 - 2029: 20 Years local economy" (R.S.: first SF publication in "Contraste", Nov. 89, p. 14)
Twenty years have passed since the institutionalization of the local markets. At that time - in the year 2009 - the provisional grassroots organisations which had been developed in the aftermath of the Great Economic Crisis became consolidated and were promoted. Whereas in these days hardly anybody considered the institutions as more than a mere remedy to the crisis, they have become by now a natural part of the dual economy.
It is nowadays hardly conceivable that so different things as for instance food or modern telecommunication products are mediated in only one economic system.
This development becomes understandable only if one looks back to the one-dimensional economic structure of the era before the crisis and takes into consideration also the social and ecological implications of this structure. Quite nteresting in this context are early attempts to develop alternative forms of organising the production process. Much of what existed in the old market economy only in the shadow became later usual practice. In particular for many younger citizens it is hardly understandable that these positive initiatives did not lead to a reform of the market economy. However, one has to be aware that in particular the ecological challenge was something completely new sixty years ago. The "limits to growth" ...
(Unfortunately, the full text is available in German only)
2. Writers workshop
This guest page provides anyone with the possibility to present his or her view of the year 2029. Write something of your own experiences, impressions, opinions which supplement the describtion of S. Flor. I would also be pleased to hear about other "reports from the future" and, if possible, integrate them into the linklist of this website. The next spot can be yours!
Although being a pensioner by now, I am still active in my profession - having studied agricultural science I always worked as marketing expert for natural food products. Over the last years I contributed to the development of distribution channels for these products in the Cologne area. It may sound somewhat immodest, but I am certainly a witness for a process which commenced in the seventies with enthusiastic experiments, followed by a phase of professionalization in subsequent years, and led to the establishment of completely new structures over the last decades. I remember quite vividly the feeling of disillusion I had at the turn of the century. Sure, the label "biological" was well established at that time and the "market segment" produced satisfying growth rates. But I was well aware that this niche provided a good excuse for a development in the conventional food sector which was bound for disaster. And the niche itself? Certainly, our certificates proving the "biological" content of our products weren`t a trick. However, the overall production process was far from being in accordance with ecological principles: consumption pattern forced us to offer "convenience products" wrapped in materials described by my colleagues with the euphemism "compromise"; if all input resources like package or transportation would have been taken into account the overall "eco" balance would not have been very favourable. Today I would confess that it was us, the activists of the first hour who had made a living out of their initiative, were responsible for the paralysis of the first ecological wave. Only the modified economic conditions of the last twenty-five years allowed us to develop a natural food production which really deserves this label. It is the demand on the regional level which propels innovations in this field, certainly a process which has not come to an end. Before having read "Flatlander" by S. Flor I might have considered the last sentence to be a good conclusion. But this short "message" reminded me to understand progress not only as something which goes on and on on the same track; we have to be prepared to jump!
3. Comments by Rolf Schröder
a) SF - The concept for "social fiction"
Sorry to anyone who expected to find under SF something about Science
Fiction. The "social fiction" concept strives to go back to the roots of
"utopias" more closely related to the tradition of Thomas Morus. Since
the publication of his book in 1516 the way utopias are constructed has
been changed and will, we are convinced, continue to be changed. Presently,
visions are high in demand, but where can one find the actual view towards
a new dimension? This may also be due to the fact that the term utopia
comprises such a totality that its meaning tends to be turned into nothing.
Therefore it was decided not to use it in this concept. A feature of the
approach presented here pleads in favour of "new borders". SF is not purely
fantastic literature; it is rationally constructed - you can believe this
to be the future. However, to set a border is always an arbitrary act.
Thus, there are many examples of good Science Fiction which fulfil the
above criterion; Eric Frank Russel "... And Then There Were
None" is a good example. Many classic Science Fiction authors were driven not only by possible innovations in Science and Technology, but also in social life. For "social fiction", however, man comes definitely first (critics may express their protest, but nobody has shown yet how to overcome anthropocentrism). SF looks for the NEW not in the infinity of outer space, but in front of our feet.
This is a response to the social and ecological problems of our time. It is meant to be an offer to those who are not satisfied with the practical results of their private, professional, scientific or political activities, who are discontent with the exclamation marks put behind top-down solutions provided within the existing institutional framework. The dual economy of the year 2029 described by S. Flor illustrates the concept of "social fiction". Hopefully, it will motivate readers to present their view of the future, whether it will be in accordance with the reports of S. Flor or show a different picture. The example of a dual economy also shows that "social fiction" is not going to be instrumentalized by existing institutions. Utopia, New Perspective, Vision - these terms have become trivial, because they are utilized for the business plans of whatever enterprise. It has to be emphasized that the SF-concept will hardly be useful in promoting individual careers and helping to earn a six-digit annual income!
This website contains also present-day information about the work of Rolf Schröder. This is not an integral part of the SF-concept, it is an example of the interaction between SF and one of many domains, in this case economic theory. The sketch below (not in Download version) illustrates the concept of SF as a meeting point: bring in your own experiences and creativity, meet people with different backgrounds, and carry SF-visions back into your own domain. Your participation is welcomed by the SF organizer: RolfSchroeder.H@t-online.de .
b) A Book
This book is available in German only:
Rolf Schröder: Jenseits des Marktes. Ansätze öko-sozialen
Wirtschaftens aus neo-libertärer Sicht
Mit einem Nachwort von S. Flor
Haag + Herchen, Frankfurt/M. 1992
Social systems are like sand-glasses - they have their time and then need to be turned around. This is important in respect of the social and ecological challenges of our time which cannot be solved within the existing institutional framework of state and market. In particular the epilogue (of the year 2029) illustrates the opportunities beyond this established spectrum. The perspective of a dual economy allows also to take a fresh look on what covers the very first pages of almost all economics textbooks: the neo-classic economic theory. It is deplorable that the dispute with regard to these theoretical fundamentals has become a static exchange of positions whether they are (neo-classic) "pro-market" or "pro-state". Taking up these positions Schröder explains them in the historic context of their origin. The book is an important contribution to turn the sand-glass around.
c) The following article will be published in: "Theory and Science" 1 (Summer), 2000 www ...
Towards an Understanding of the Global Market System
A new Perspective for Economics
d) The work of Rolf Schröder - Selected References
The approach presented here is not part of any existing theoretical
framework; the titles
mentioned below are to be seen as coordination points which may help to pinpoint the
contribution of Rolf Schröder.
Becker, Gary S.: The Economic Approach to Human
Behavior, The University of Chicago
Press, Cicago und London 1976
Douthwaite, Richard: Short Circuit, Strengthening local economics for security in an
unstable world, The Liliput Press, Dublin 1996
Hirsch, Fred: Social Limits to Growth. Harvard University Press, Cambridge/Mass. 1976
Gershuny, Jonathan: Social Innovation and the Division of Labour, Oxford 1983
Polanyi, Karl: The Great Transformation, 1944
Schumacher, E.F.: Small is Beautiful. Abacus, London 1974
Weber, Max: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1972
(Original 1921, 1922)
e) More Links ... A Selection
The Utopian Pathway Association provides a selection
of links to "Utopia":
A German linklist to "Utopia": http://mitglied.tripod.de/GZSBLIZU/
Roy Davis collection of fiction related to the world of finance: http://www.ex.ac.uk/~RDavies/bankfiction/
"... AND THEN THERE WERE NONE" - Eric Frank Russels story is a good example that good "science fiction" may also be good "social fiction". It might be difficult to find a printed version of this story; under the address mentioned below an online version can be found: http://www.abelard.org/e-f-russell.htm
PS: The following biographical note can be found under www.crosswinds.net/~rolfschroeder/index.html
Rolf Schröder - Vision of an Economist
Many years ago, I was occupied
with issues regarding the global market system, focusing in
particular on the stability of international financial markets. During these studies I became
aware that economic theory did not provide me with the tools to comprehend the global
market system as a whole; it is - using metaphors - about "trees", unable to comprehend
"forest". S. Flors description of a dual economy allowed me to take an outside view. The local
markets with their non-convertible currencies were, in a sense, markets on their own.
Theoretically, this provided me with an Archimedic point to understand the old-style global
market system in a new way and, even further, to think about economic systems in general.
In order to share my fascination one has to take just a quick look into the first pages of an
elementary economics textbook. It usually commences with a presentation of the
fundamentals of neo-classic economic theory. Of essential importance is the distinction
between production and consumption, between means and ends by the institution "market".
Sure, the neo-classic theory provides the basis for the (national) "free-market" crusade, for
good reasons opposed by (national) pro-state advocates. I am convinced that the profound
social and ecological challenges of our time cannot be tackled within the framework of this
Obviously, the local markets described by Flor (as well as the already existing Local
Exchange and Trading Systems) are "forests". They provide a new dimension in the
distinction between production and consumption, and open the horizon for a new
understanding of (economic) rationality. Based on liberal principles this perspective goes
beyond state and market - a truly libertarian approach.
For more information: RolfSchroeder.H@t-online.de