Chris Carlsson, Nowtopia: How pirate programmers, outlaw bicyclists and vacant lot gardeners are inventing the future today!
Oakland, C.A. and Edinburgh: AK Press, 2008
Published by an anarchist press and printed on recycled, acid-free paper by unionised labour, Nowtopia is about walking our talk. It's a book that refuses to separate private from public, thought from action, ends from means, and it presents an argument in which small, local, individual and collective actions have wider public and political significance. Indeed, they might even change the world ... a bit.
Nowtopia is a good example of a growing phenomenon in the world of utopian experimentation and activism. This phenomenon involves a shift of focus from changing the future to changing the now, from grand and long-term planning to immediate action. It involves a desire to create a better (not perfect) world today, in the here and now, which is situated immediately outside (and sometimes inside) our own front doors. It is a utopianism of the now and a politics of the local. I call it a 'politics' because, for me, politics is about change, power and the social distribution of goods and resources, but this phenomenon is, in many ways apolitical. It eschews conventional vehicles of change (like political parties). It often rejects ideology. At the same time, it is profoundly anarchistic, rejecting hierarchical structures and drawing on the belief that we can learn to run our own lives. This phenomenon is observable inside intentional communities, autonomous social centres, local regeneration programmes, and this book offers a new batch of case studies, drawn from experiments within DIY culture, emancipatory practices and egalitarian ethics.
Nowtopia emerges from and comments upon this growing trend. Carlsson is not just an observer of life on the margins. He is active: participating, forming and moulding 'nowtopia'. Like many of the people in his book, he's a busy man: he 'is' a writer, graphic designer, publisher, community organizer, founder of 'Critical Mass' (an outlaw cycle movement), and director of 'Shaping San Francisco' (a multi-media project)--http://www.chriscarlsson.com/.
The book provides interesting and sometimes uplifting introductions to activities that transgress conventional relationships between work, labour, and money. These include vacant lot gardening, an 'alternative' art festival, outlaw bicycling, free software and alternative (fuel)...