About This Book

The Homebrew Industrial Revolution is based on a series of research papers on industrial history I did at Center for a Stateless Society.
In writing Organization Theory:  A Libertarian Perspective, I found myself most engaged in researching the material on micromanufacturing, household microenterprises, the alternative economy, and the singularity resulting from them.

A major part of the material in The Homebrew Industrial Revolution is drawn from Organization Theory, but was imperfectly tied together and developed there.  I attempted to draw these themes together into my first C4SS monograph, and then found myself developing them in a series of followup papers.  Those papers gradually took shape in my head as a book.

One theme is the rise and fall of Sloanist mass-production in light of Mumford’s paleotechnic/neotechnic periodization and his theory of the cultural pseudomorph, and the rise of networked manufacturing as (in the words of Michael Piore and Charles Sabel) the rediscovery after more than a century of how to integrate electrical power into industry.

Another is the contrast of Sloanism to the leanness, agility and resilience of the alternative economy, with low overhead as the central conceptual  principle around which my study of the latter is organized.  Large inventories, high capital oulays, and high overhead have the same effect on mass-production industry that shit has on a human body bloated by constipation.  The higher the fixed costs required to undertake an activity, the larger the income stream required for a household or firm to service that overhead; the enterprise must either get big or get out, and the household must have multiple sources of full-time wage income to survive.  The alternative economy, on the other hand, operates with almost no fixed costs, so that almost all its revenue is free and clear and it can survive prolonged periods of slow business.  Because it’s organized stigmergically, with modular open-source designs, innovation costs are spread over the widest possible product ecologies with a minimum of transaction costs.  The alternative economy is breeding the rats in the nests of corporate dinosaurs.

20 Responses to “About This Book”

  1. The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto Says:

    […] writes: The Homebrew Industrial Revolution is based on a series of research papers on industrial history I […]

  2. Homebrew Industrial Revolution and Other Worthwhile Titles | Open Source Ecology Says:

    […] Carson, Research Asociate at the Center for a Stateless Society, just published a book called The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto. This is a progressive review of industrial history, culminating in the present option of […]

  3. Maureen Says:

    This book is such an achievement and treat. I have only skimmed through the fourth chapter so far and already I am chuckling and feeling so much more clearer and more optimistic about the changes the changes.
    I’m a total fan!

  4. freemarketanticapitalist Says:

    Thanks, Maureen!

  5. Mike Says:

    Great job!

    I like the work you did on chapter 6 about money, E.C. Riegel and Tom Greco the best.


  6. Nathan Says:

    I think the beauty of this book is that it brings together a huge amount of information together in one text, saving people such as myself the time of hunting it down. To start with I thought that having quite long liberal quoting was unusual, but it is bridging the gap between “original” content and something that is almost like a “mashup”, so the book is not exactly written by one person as such. That probably applies to anything that depends on masses of citations in any case…

    I think the danger with the traditional “scholarly text” (perhaps more in the area of economics) is a lack of quoting that supports the assertions of the author, because a good writer can lull the reader into a false sense of security, where in fact there may be an awful lot of dubious interpretation of “facts” going on.

    Kevin, I quite enjoy the various “lapses” into profanity, but I still think it might put off people who are more on the periphery when it comes to anarchist philosohpy. Probably won’t make much difference to state leftists but anarcho-capitalists on the fence might be ready to tip over to the other side and get distracted by a bit of capitalist-bashing. Still, thinking about it, someone who can’t see past that to the substance is probably a shallow fool…

    Still working through the latter chapters, probably the most thought provoking read I’ve had since going through your previous book.

  7. James Jones Says:

    Hi, I have commented on this elsewhere, but I thoroughly enjoyed the analysis, as it helps “connect the dots” of how we ended up in this mess, and shines a light on the path to a more humane society. My humble effort is “CubeSpawn” a set of initially small scale, light duty, open source automated manufacturing machines.

    As one of the “rat farmers” in the corporate dinosaurs nests I get a steady stream of smiles out of the parallels between that analogy and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steele Rat character

  8. stefanie Says:

    Excellently thought out, but unless I missed something, how do you create the equivalent of a modern, third-tier hospital on a backyard or community level? As someone who wouldn’t be alive without that technology (and the economy of scale which makes it possible), I’m curious as to how this fits into the schema you present.

  9. freemarketanticapitalist Says:

    Stefanie: My focus in this book has been on the aspects of industrial technology and enterprise that are being decentralized, but I don’t mean to imply that there won’t be some portion of the economy that continues to require large-scale organization or capital-intensive methods. Microchip foundries are one example of something pretty hard to achieve at the neighborhood level. In the case of hospitals, I think a lot more stuff could be achieved by low-overhead cooperative clinics financed by some sort of contract practice system, and third-tier hospitals might be financed as a joint effort by federations of participating neighborhood hospitals. Obviously the most expensive and high-tech stuff would have to be financed by a much larger patient base than just typical primary care. I do hope, however, that eliminating a lot of the artificial scarcities and sources of artificial high overhead would at least go partway toward reducing costs and making things more affordable. I spent a week on the vent once with double pneumonia, so I’m also interested in having services available when they’re needed.

    Although I didn’t deal much with healthcare in this book, I did a quarterly research paper on it for C4SS:

  10. Todd S. Says:

    Kevin, have you read “Shop Class as Soulcraft” by Matthew Crawford? It’s been a while since I read it (and my libertarianism was probably more “big L” then), but I seem to remember nodding my head in agreement with him a lot – just as I do reading your stuff. I especially liked his treatment of the agency problem in today’s corporate workplace. It put words to my own experiences in working for such a company.

  11. freemarketanticapitalist Says:

    Paul: I remember reading it some time ago. The thing that sticks out in my mind was the discussion of how product design has been changed to thwart user repair and tinkering. A good example is the fundamental change in Apple’s design philosophy from the late ’70s (when desktop computers were sold with circuit diagrams enclosed and easy for the owner to open up and add memory) to the present (just Google “Dammit, Apple!” by Julian Sanchez).

  12. David Koepsell Says:

    Hey Kevin, looks like we’re on the same page: http://www.amazon.com/Innovation-Nanotechnology-Converging-Technologies-Intellectual/dp/1849663432/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288951967&sr=1-3
    my book will be out next summer, from Bloomsbury Academic, also under a cc license.

    well done!

  13. freemarketanticapitalist Says:

    Thanks a lot, David.

  14. David Ker Thomson Says:

    Who is this Kevin Carson? Keep seeing his stuff at CounterPunch. Really sensible. Typically I don’t know who an article’s by, then I says to myself, “Self, says I, this chap’s a sensible fellow, who is he?” and it turns out to be this Carson bloke. Must investigate further. Reminds me of that guy in Barcelona, what’s his name? Something like Gelderloos.

  15. freemarketanticapitalist Says:

    Sensible? My mom would never have believed it. Thanks, David!

  16. P2P Foundation's blog » Blog Archive » Podcast of the Day/C-Realm: Kevin Carson on enclosing abundance Says:

    […] talks with Kevin Carson, author of The Homebrew Industrial Revolution about the technologies that seem poised to end the dominance of capital-intensive production […]

  17. Carson on C-Realm | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG Says:

    […] talks with Kevin Carson, author of The Homebrew Industrial Revolution about the technologies that seem poised to end the dominance of capital-intensive production […]

  18. Carson on C-Realm – JumpSeek Says:

    […] talks with Kevin Carson, author of The Homebrew Industrial Revolution about the technologies that seem poised to end the dominance of capital-intensive production […]

  19. Michael Says:

    Kevin, I was hoping to know your view on something.

    Software is different from other media, because it is composed of source code, which can be included or left out of the compiled program. Audio and video can be edited with reasonable ease. Audio and video would be de facto copylefted in a free society. People could leave out source code, thus taking away people’s abilities to do the following:

    Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
    Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
    Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
    Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

    In the current system, the GNU GPL and other copyleft licenses use copyright against itself to guarantee that source code is kept for modified copies downstream, with all of the original freedoms associated with the original copy.

    Would there be a way to have copylefted software in a mutualist society?

    Thank you for any time put into reading and answering this. Your work remains a life changer for me.

  20. freemarketanticapitalist Says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Michael. Without copyright as the substrate for open licenses, I can’t think of any enforceable way to require anyone to share source code. I can only guess that the same communities that use open licenses now would choose to share source code for the same motivations, so at least there would be no reduction in sharing — plus software currently governed by the proprietary ethos would no longer be legally protected against reverse engineering.

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