Library Socialism: a utopian vision of a sustaniable, luxuriant future of circulating abundance

SRSLY Wrong is a "research-based comedy podcast" run by a pair of Canadian fellas with a background in radical politics, occupy, and the Pirate Party; in a three part series, hosts Aaron Moritz and Shawn Vulliez; in a series of three long podcast episodes (1, 2, 3), the pair elucidate and elaborate a utopian vision for the future that they dub "Library Socialism."

It's not clear that the hosts themselves know exactly what they mean by "Library Socialism" and much of the episodes — which take the form of didactic riffs interspersed with comedy sketches depicting life in a library socialist future — is taken up with thinking through its meaning and implications.

I just finished listening to about six hours' worth of this, and I'm very excited, though I don't know that I can crisply articulate a definition of Library Socialism, I can give you a sense of what they're getting at:

* First, libraries have some nexus with socialist principles; they are public institutions, devoted to efficient allocation of resources, through which you can get the benefits of owning vast quantities of books and other materials without the downsides of having to organize, store, or maintain them. They are available to all comers at no cost, and they are provided as public services.

* Second, librarianship is imbued with several ethos that are adjacent to socialist principles, such as "to each book its reader and to each reader their book" — that is, there's a book that suited to each reader, and a reader that's suited to each book, and librarianship is in part the art of consummating the encounters between books and readers.

* Third, libraries are already on a path to providing fractional access to many things (wifi hotspots, business suits and ties, tools, toys, etc) and we can imagine a future in which most of life's material needs are provided in this way, from suitcases to lawnmowers to speed boats. Such a future would give you access to untold material comfort and abundance, without running up against the limits of a finite planet that lacks the material wealth to produce one of each for everyone, which would then moulder in attics and garages most of the time. Moreover, something designed for library circulation could be designed to a better specification than something only ever used for long periods in storage punctuated by occasional individual use.

Library Socialism is connected to several strains in radical thought, like usufruct — the idea that property could be held in common, but that individuals could assume control over them as needed and enjoy both their use and the use of the fruits of the property, but on condition that they not destroy the property and that they return it when they're done with it.

Also connected is "the irreducible minimum": the commitment by a society to ensure that every person who lives in it must have the basics for happy, fulfilled life, regardless of their status.

Finally, there is "complementarity," the idea that the world can be improved by combining the things we find in it — just as different metals can make alloys that are stronger than the sum of their parts, the right combinations of our selves and our work can be more than any one of us can accomplish on our own.

These ideas are expanded in a series of science fictional sketches from a Librarian Socialist future, as part of a utopian project to get people to imagine a destination that is profoundly more egalitarian, sustainable, generous and humane than the moment we're in now.

This is definitely a work-in-progress, but I'm very impressed with it so far.

Library Socialism & Usufruct (MP3) [Srsly Wrong]

Library Socialism & The Irreducible Minimum (MP3) [Srsly Wrong]

Complementarity (MP3) [Srsly Wrong]

(Thanks, Michael Pulsford!)