I read Tiziana Terranova`s artickle `Free Labor: Producing for Digital
Economy ` for the first time this evening.I want to see whether she
offers a particular arguement of why as Michel claims in his piecen
Ajazeera the pool ofattention of the users produce value for facebook.
Terranova claims the AOL was run by Volunteer labor. Can any one of you
explain this for me? Or email me please titls of books or articles?
Meanwhile, I enclose a piece I wrot eon facebook,
* Occupy Wall Street and the Peer-to-Peer Revolution: a discussion with
Michel Bauwens Part I
A brief response to Chris Landïs and Steffen Bohmïs Short Essay: ïThey
are exploiting us! Why we all work for Facebbok for freeï
The gist of the essay is the following hypothesis: The users of Facebook
produce value in the same way as wage workers produce it. Hence,
Facebook exploits users by expropriating this value.
Although I have a great respect for Landïs and Bohmïs good intentions
and sympathize with their anti Facebook sentiments their claim that
Facebook exploits users by extracting value from them is wrong.
Facebook definitely exploits someone. But whom? The answer is: the total
world wage labor which is exchanged with capital (variable capital),
including its own workers. This is Marxïs definition of productive labor
under capitalism. From the point of view of capital only the labor that
produces value and surplus value is productive. Only, in this limited
sense productive labor is equated with the wage labor, whether material
or immaterial, which is exchanged with capital. Otherwise, all labor as
far as it is a purposeful activity is productive, because it produces
something, whether material or immaterial.
A small part of the value expropriated by face book is produced by its
own paid workers, and the overwhelming rest of such value consists of
rents which are extracted from the worldwide wage labor (both material
and immaterial) which is exchanged with capital. Hence to claim that
Facebook users produce value is to deny the role of wage laborers and
their antagonism to rent-extracting entities such as faceebook and
Marx, in Vol. 3 of Capital, demonstrates how the surplus values that are
produced by different sections of working class become a total pool and
then are redistributed among industrial and commercial capitalists ( in
the form of profit), Bankers (in the form of interest ), and land owners
(in the form of rent). So the source of both interest and rent is
surplus value produced by the labor which is exchanged with capital. We
use banks on daily basis and banks lend our money (savings, pensions..)
to others in exchange for interests. It would be absurd to claim that
users of banks produce value for banks. We spend time and energy to use
bank services, even when we use credit cards. But this energy -time does
not produce value, because it is not exchanged with capital. Even when
users pay fees to banks for using services they, do not produce values
but buy values which are produced by bank workers. It is equally absurd
to claim that the users of Facebook and Google produce value. Facebook
and Google extract rents that are parts of the total surplus value which
is produced by the wage laborers worldwide, including their own workers.
Actually the knowledge economy in general rests on the shoulders of the
wage labor which is exchanged with capital outside it. The overwhelming
part of the value circulating in the knowledge economy is produced by
wage labor outside it, though knowledge workers themselves also
contribute to the total surplus value to the extent that their labor is
exchanged with capital (variable capital).
The thesis that users produce value for facebook may lead to the
following practical misleading conclusion. The users should build their
own p2p cooperatives of Facebooks and Googles, and sell information and
collect fees for adverts. According to the thesis this is a fair
exchange, because, the members of such cooperatives appropriate the
value they themselves have produced. But, such cooperatives only replace
Facebook in extracting surplus value in the form of rent from the wage
labor. The thesis foregrounds rentier forms of p2p communities. Hence,
the thesis is indeed a mystification of the exploitation of labor by
To conclude the claim that users produce value for facebook is a very
bad thesis. We should not fight to become rent suckers but to abolish
wage labor, surplus value, in all its forms including rent
omments are welcome, as I try to expand the essay.
Toni Prug 03/20/12 9:15 PM >>>
How do we run a city without accounting? A region? A state? How do
we collect contributions, as we do in the forms of tax and money
today? We ask for tax to be voluntarily donated and hope for the
How does Wikipedia collect contributions? Or Free Software? Or
WikiSpeed? They let the people contribute, because they want to. The
rest is organization -- which is done in the same way: by voluntary
It is a huge topic, so i will limit my response to this small bit.
Monetary contributions to Wikipedia and Free Software are such a tiny
part of the overall cost of those productions that it is hardly worth
mentioning - since the actual cost is not the cost of infrastructure and
core staff, but the cost of reproduction and spare time of all the
In other words, those economic activities that pay for the housing,
clothes, food and the rest of living costs of all contributors are the
activities on which p2p entirely depends - wages, studentships, parents'
funds, inheritances ... all earned or created in capitalist or other
existing systems based on commodities, exchange, labour, money, value.
To be more precise, p2p is an incredibly thin, but an important new (i
agree with the need to research it), way of producing voluntarily and
collectively. However, it seems quite inappropriate to call it a mode of
production, since it rests on top other modes and fully depends on them.
To put in simple terms (without entering economics or marxist
terminology): on its own, p2p can't build, mantain and develop a city,
nor can it organize division of labour and allocation of overall
produced wealth necessary for such achievements. While slavery,
feudalism, capitalism and socialism all could/can.
It's not a surprise that p2p theorists have not been able so far to
produce a plausible vision of how a p2p society perhaps might one day
delivery cities and rest that other modes of production delivered so far
and that we wish to improve on. Producing such visions is a task too
difficult for anyone or any group of humans - this is one important
thing to learn from social sciences (equally from Marx, or Keynes, or
neoclassical economics and political theorists): there are too many
Hence the need to stick with analysing the existing p2p practices, and
to recognize conditions in which those practices exist - the above
mentioned total dependence on other dominant modes of production being
the starting point.
Yes, you may rightly say, new starts its existence in the old. You may
also say that there are new phenomena which are able to boot-strap
itself out of the old and create a new totality on their own. The
problem is, nothing so far points out in the direction of p2p being such
a new phenomena able to become an overall logic of organizing the entire
society (mode of production, if you wish), due to its full dependence on
the existing modes of production - i'm speaking here as a p2p fan and as
a former and occasional p2p practitioner who would love to see any
evidence of the opposite.