The state to come: Co-opolism-III and a proto-manifesto

Until 2016, most political debates it seemed were somwhere on a spectrum of ‘market versus state’. Now with the return of populism and supremacy, we have to work with deeper layers of identity, respect or belonging. Clearly every penny of tax or spending counts, for the winners or the losers. But behind this are bigger questions. Are there alternatives beyond the either-or spectrum of market versus state, or the populist axis of local versus global? (see the ‘power dynamics’ below).

Far from being at ‘the end of history’ with the demise of state socialism, maybe we’re at the beginning of a new kind of history, waiting to be mapped and designed.

This ‘proto-manifesto’ appears in the ‘Politicals’ of Deeper City – the aim is to update and debate in real time.

(The first call is for ‘Cow-onomics’ – ‘in liberal democracy, you have two cows, but whichever you vote for the government gets in’ – and so on …).

This new kind of history starts with human co-evolution – the notion that humans have the capacity to design a system of collective political intelligence, based on collaboration, hence the working title of Co-opolism. This follows on ‘capitalism 3.0’, post-capitalism, and similar thinking all around progressive politics.[i] At the moment Co-opolism is a proposition for debate, a tapestry of many strands, woven from countless prototypes and debates around the world.

The case starts with structural megatrends and transformations… ‘Capital’ is becoming more diverse, networked, responsive and digitally smart. ‘Production’ is extending from material goods and services, towards social co-production of experience. ‘Consumption’ is driven not only by material need, but fashion, desire and cultural co-creation. Social institutions are not only tangible organizations sitting in offices, more like virtual hubs and platforms and networks. The nature of the ‘State’ is shifting, in an age of global informatics, networked finance and extra-state movements. And so on. Any political economy programme which looks forward, needs to look beyond previous assumptions of ‘market versus state’, and run with these megatrends and transformations.

Overall this agenda for Co-opolism is hugely ambitious – and why not? The stakes are higher every day. Existential collapse – climatic, financial, technological – seems just over the horizon. We have to be ambitious, to realize the potential, with a vision for a new kind of socio-political-economy, where all peoples have the right to all human potentials, with positive livelihoods, safe climates, active democracies and inclusive communities.

But in practice much goes wrong. Government is too easily captured by aggressive power and wealth, fixed into silos, a façade for elitism and corruption. The machinery of representation often gets in the way of its purpose (in the apparently democratic UK, the life-changing Brexit vote was won by just 37% of the electorate). Even if working efficiently, government tends to avoid structural changes, and by default perpetuates inequality and exploitation. Each nation struggles with a unique baggage: race in the USA, caste in India, post-colonialism in Africa, religion in Ireland, class in the UK.

Towards a proto-manifesto

As the situation is urgent, here’s a proto-manifesto, for debate, update, critiques and envisions. The focus is firstly on the ‘state’, meaning a governmental nation-state. But it’s also relevant for a city or region, a firm or organization, or any other unit with potential to learn, think, strategize and mobilize.


Capitalism is faced with existential crisis, from local to global. Climate change is disrupting our life-support systems, technology is reshaping economy and governance, finance buys out democracy, fundamentalism breeds intolerance, inequality grows without limit. Human civilization is faced with an urgent choice – to fulfil its potential for collective societal intelligence, or collapse into barbarism and self-destruction.

This calls for a new operating system, one of collaborative production, consumption, ownership, investment, participation and livelihood. We propose a working title – Co-opolism.

  1. Co-opolism is based on collective intelligence of social, economic and political systems. It is not a fixed model, but a learning process of co-evolution and transformation.
  2. It looks beyond materialist economics, towards other kinds of values, including social, ecological and cultural, and the synergies between them.
  3. It looks beyond the axis of ‘state versus market’, towards other structures which generate value: households, communities, cultures, territories, technologies, networks of all kinds.
  4. It looks beyond macro-scale systems of production and consumption, towards multi-scale resources and community value generation.
  5. production looks beyond extractive profit, towards recirculatory value, open source technology, circular resource flows and social investment.
  6. Co-opolist consumption: beyond corporate manipulation of false desires, towards synergistic measures of shared prosperity and well-being.
  7. Co-opolist livelihoods: looking beyond the exploitation of the many by the few, towards co-production of goods, services, infrastructures of all kinds.
  8. Co-opolist governance: designed to go beyond hierarchy and exclusion, towards collective learning and thinking, for co-production of public services.
  9. Co-opolist dynamics of change: a general strategy to resist, bypass or render obsolete the forces of predatory capital and elite hierarchy, by co-evolution and transformation.

And so on… As for progressive politics, in a time of turbulence and regression, it’s a fast moving picture… But here are some key pathways for an emerging Co-opolism, all to be explored and debated:

  • ‘new democracy’ socio-political pathways: new synergies between community and identity, local / global, physical / networked; 
  • ‘new livelihood’ socio-economic pathways: new synergies between work and livelihoods, enterprises / platforms, investment / collateral;
  • ’new deal’ political-economy pathways: new synergies between the state and citizens, for infrastructure / common assets, and for redistribution / social investment….

The graphic here visualizes this as a ‘system of systems’…


  • Technology / informatics is a disruptor but also enabler of new synergies
  • Ecological / climate change is a disruptor but also enabler of new synergies
  • Culture / psychology is perhaps the beginning and end of the loop – deeper qualities of identity and well-being, and a wider scope for how these can come about.

It seems the next progressive government (sooner or later!) will be one which can read the runes, run with the tides, out-manoeuvre the demagogues, trolls, war-mongers and oligarchs, and mobilize for co-evolution.  From the demise of state socialism, the 2008 crash, 2016 unravelling and now the Covid-19, it seems now there are huge gaps in political philosophy, open for truly creative-progressive ideas and agendas. It’s arguable and unknowable, how far such ideas can prevail against the overwhelming power of tech-enabled predatory capitalism and strong-man nationalism, on the lines of the MADDER and SADDER doctrines (‘Mutually Assured Destruction & Denial of Ecosystems and Resources’ – and – ‘Social-cultural Alienation & Disruption of Emotional Resilience’)…

They could seem near-impossible if we assume that people and communities are basically selfish and materialistic. But if we include for people and communities who can and will co-learn, co-envision, co-create and co-produce, against all the propaganda and violence and trauma thrown at them, then all this can move forward. The RISER and WISER potential is just emerging (‘Recirculatory Intelligence for Social & Economic Renewal’, and ‘Worldwide Intelligence for Sustainable Ecosystems & Resources’)…

Comments, ideas, visions, questions and critique are all very welcome in the Conversations.

<note>[i] Mason 2015; Barnes 2006

<note>[ii] Stoker 1998