In present-day economic system, disasters and shocks are becoming a dominant object, exploited by the economic and political elites to reorganize societal conditions in line with the neo-liberal doctrine. Runaway objects are contested objects that generate opposition and controversy. They can also be powerfully emancipatory objects that
open up radically new possibilities of development and well-being. The Linux operating system is a well-known example. There are other, less known but potentially very significant new objects being created.
“In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless People’s Movement (MST) who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of ‘recovered companies,’ two hundred bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left.”
(Klein, 2007, p. 455)
Most runaway objects do not start out as big and risky. More commonly, they begin as small problems or marginal innovations, which makes their runaway potential difficult to predict and utilize. They often remain dormant, invisible, or unseen for lengthy periods of time, until they burst out into the open in the form of acute crises or breakthroughs.
LEARNING BY EXPANDING AN ACTIVITY-THEORETICAL APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENTAL RESEARCH (1987). Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.
Yrjö Engeström University of Helsinki