Open-Sourcing Civil Society
34 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 13, 2019
This chapter discusses the relevance of Tocqueville’s insights about the importance of civil society, as a foundation for democracy and as a counter-force to both government and market power, in the context of the challenges and opportunities created by the internet. What role does civil society play in managing the effects of creative destruction? What are the prospects of open-source social networks? Can new technologies like the blockchain enable the rebirth of mutual aid societies? I argue that we can draw broad lessons about how to build communities in the internet era from the successful operation of open-source projects. Open source is successful because of a technological infrastructure that enables people to interact in particularly productive ways. I discuss the limits of open-source and ask whether the same kind of infrastructure can be adapted for social purposes, and for expanding the operation of non-profits.
Keywords: civil society, non-profit, NGOs, social norms
JEL Classification: A13, D8, H4, L31, L33
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