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A book by Alexander Dolgin

Manifesto of the New Economy

Institutions and Business Models of the Digital Society

Money can buy happiness

Alexander Dolgin has issued his new book "Manifesto of the New Economy. The Second Invisible Hand of the Market": the philosopher believes that "second" money will save our culture while creators will be evaluated not with the number of editions or distributions, but the "quantity of the audience’s happiness"

Mr. Dolgin starts with Marxism: "A spectre is haunting the globe" for the modern economy’s pluses are far from compensating for the minuses. Modern economy "does not identify" a person so he is rebelling and that leads to a crisis. It is crucially important that these metamorphoses occur only in souls of "well-fed homo sapiens", as Mr. Dolgin defines them. Economists did model a hungry man; however this is too far difficult to get the measure of well-fed homo sapiens. What traditional economics misses: people’s motivations, tastes and cultural codes and the psychology of a "well-fed homo sapiens" – these are the subject of the new economics, which is called "happiness economics".

We should note that Alexander Dolgin, the author of "Symbolic Exchange Economics" (2006),differs fundamentally from his colleagues being a humanist and optimist, which is a real scarcity among economists and sociologists. Mr. Dolgin writes that due to the new economy the differences between people are if not erased completely, but softened. It becomes clear that Mr. Dolgin wants it to be so. So that’d be easier for people. The author puts faith in a good person and golden deeds. Oh and why wouldn’t a person be good? Actually, this is the key thesis of the book with all economic aspects. Today it sounds almost sensational: postmodernism was based on people being neither bad nor good, and it was alright then and considered convenient and safe, and mass culture was designed for this kind of person - average, empty, "none". Also, there can be another explanation for the crisis: a man is tired of his own emptiness, tired of being none.

Moreover, Mr. Dolgin by no means condemns conspicuous consumption, on the contrary: he believes it is vital to us. If we do not consume in excess or conspicuously, the "fire of desires" will fade away, therefore, the whole economics will collapse. Besides, consumption today is also a way of communication: actually, people send important messages to each other via things: I am reliable partner; I am faithful husband, etc. Neither Mr. Dolgin condemns popular culture, which is kind of a fence that separates the minority from the majority.

In a remarkable manner Mr. Dolgin balances idealism and faith in market: he proposes more sensitive to a human economics (at least in culture) which is the solution for both economics and a human.

The author identifies two key problems of a modern human: excess of free time and lack of possibility to realize himself, to become a personality. In the world where machines do all the work, a "well-fed human" has nothing to do, and the standard ways to "kill the time" proposed by an industry are boring very quickly. As for the personality, it starts with its recognition by other people, and where to get these "others" so they at least heard you?

Mr. Dolgin thinks that Network, or rather people’s interaction on recommender services, can help to solve both problems. The author is supported by the experience of the Russian Imhonet (with over 500.000 users): users give grades to goods and products, including cultural; thus they serve as experts to each other. This is not a commercial, or experts’ opinions you put value to, but users just like you, whom you trust. And users who care about their reputation on the Internet will never lie for short-term commercial benefits. The recommender service works on the principle of people’s talk, noise-free. Such resources are the "system for exchanging subjective experience" – therefore a "subjective opinion turns into a product", and is considered by other people and not burning out in vain. Recommender services take free time and provide opportunities for anyone to be heard. Besides, they save a lot of time searching what you need among plenty of what you don’t need. Can a crowd be an expert? Can a crowd (collective action, crowdsourcing) be "wise"? Mr. Dolgin believes it can.

Finally, the important thing: due to these services there exists an opportunity to assess alternative art. Money, says Mr. Dolgin, is a poor measure for non-use objects. A Tarkovsky’s DVD costs as much as "Salt" DVD, however, isn’t it absurd to compare them at all? What intellectuals commonly complain about – "everything is measured in money now"- is not true: it would be correct to say that you cannot measure true art with money, because money is not equivalent to the feeling of fulfillment, happiness, etc. To measure arts "other money is needed", says Mr. Dolgin, and this is one of the main theses of the "Manifesto". Second, "other" money needs to be artificially cultivated, and the "old" money must be given a new feature.

This is what a so called post-factum or gratuity payment system may provide. A person has read a book or listened to a concert and he got satisfaction which can never be compared to the price he paid. Why not thank an actress not only with applauses, but money too? It sounds wild, but just imagine this is the norm. For thousands of beginning actors, directors, and writers this will be not only a huge moral but also welfare assistance, which is important too. A man is to learn to thank with money for art. This is too patronship, and not individual one, but massive. By a penny. People’s micropatronage.

You might ask how it helps to arts.

The thing is – and this is where we started – that non-bespoke modern art which is being manufactured with set parameters is not bringing happiness to people anymore. It’s not giving joy, feelings. And what is happiness? Happiness, as Mr. Dolgin writes, is just having a good - quality time. How to identify the quality? Very easy: this is the time you didn’t notice to flash by. When attending a concert or reading a book or watching a film you were so deeply happy, you forgot about the time. And you are grateful to the author for he helped you to forget yourself. At once, you encourage rooted, non-trivial art that imprints in our souls. You save art from a
conveyor, and an artist from ruin.

At the same time, post-factum payment allows to "measure outcomes of culture", that is to evaluate the work's intensity, no matter the number of editions or distribution of a motion picture. And this is what makes any creator to suffer: his success is measured by a number of sold copies only. And with an alternative qualitative evaluation system we may find out that a "film for billions" did not bring happiness, while something copied to three discs and distributed to three cinemas made audience happy (due to the Internet and other resources, we can count all the aesthetic evaluations of each participant of the market). Thereafter, we will know how much one is ready to pay for happiness: given that it is never enough, there will be megabucks. If only there were what to pay for.

Andrey Arkhangelskiy. Ogonyok
03.11.2010