[ox-en] Food production and Free Software (was: Re: Leftist project?)
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 22:31:22 +0100
Hi Claude and all!
4 days ago I Claude Harper wrote:
in any classical sense. IMHO Oekonux is clearly an emancipatory
project - which equally clearly not all leftist / Marxist currents
have been - and it's *beyond* leftist projects in many ways.
Particularly though many of us want to overcome capitalism it's not
really anti-capitalist in any classical sense I know of. We're not
fighting anything, we are not anti-something per se.
Well that's more of declaration than a description of it's actuality.
I thought of what we already have in the German part.
I am hoping to see is how what people have discussed compares and contrasts
to other theories of society for reference and perspective, not figure out
how to pigeon-hole you with a label. So far it seems more similar than
different to many things.
Well, when I say it's beyond, then that includes at least partly what
was before. It overcomes thesis and anti-thesis in a dialectical
manner. So it's easy to say "well, this and that existed before" and
this is right most of the time. I'm pointing that out a bit myself in
("GPL society - Past, Presence, Future").
However, this view overlooks important aspects. In short: The
important point in Free Software is, that for first time in history
"self-unfolding" becomes a relevant factor on the societal level.
Are they not simply a particular manifestation of something which came
before? Such as anarchist morality - Free Association, Mutial Aid, etc.
The big difference is the necessity of morality. Free Software doesn't
need morality - it works without that. That's one of the biggest
you misunderstand me, I don't mean morality in the sense you imply. I wish
I had left out Kropotkin's phrase and spoke of them as "principles" as you
call them. I don't mean a set of ideals that dictate behavior but the
qualities of Libresoftware that naturally occur that make it work. They
seem the same as those qualities which naturally occur in people cooperative
working outside of software, such as Free Association/Cooperation, Mutial
These things occur. However, capitalism and with it the morality of
reciprocity / competition / scarcity occurred as naturally as what
you're pointing at.
I.e. people develop Free Software for thousands of reasons and of
course there may be moral ones like the ones above. However, as the
open source faction shows us, you *need* no morality for Free Software
to work. The principles of Free Software are *not* idealist but have
clear material advantages. That's it what does qualify them as a new
model of production.
what are the "material" advantages?
The advantages are more metaphysical, like saving money. Money is not a
I meant material advantages in contrast to pure idealist advantages.
IMHO the main material advantage of Free Software is, that it is
better in many senses than proprietary software.
Regardless, that they have advantages and thereby a non-cohercive
I can't lookup that word :-( .
motivation, makes them an example of the principle of Mutial Benefit, which
is not a new model. Furthermore, we have had true material advantages, and
thereby a non-cohercive motivation to grow food, a long, long, long time
before free-software. So how's it new in anyway?
It's not new as a phenomenon. Money has not been new to mankind when
capitalism made it the core of the whole society. On contrast religion
does still exist but while dominating the feudal societies they don't
do this anymore. (At least this has been the case. I'm not so sure
about today :-( .)
And BTW: In the industrialized countries food production is rather
irrelevant today. Sure we all need food to survive, but the focus of
production has moved to industry long ago. You see that when you look
at the numbers of employees in the agricultural sector. So I'm
arguing, that in a GPL society the material production in contrast to
the production of information will be as irrelevant as food production
today is to industrial production.
Some people liked to do it, they had the means to do it and they did.
You're relating to the means - ok. But I think there are a lot of
means already distributed among people. Why can't a group of farmers
come to similar conclusions as software developers?
Would I say it's a good idea for something similar? yes. However, there are
authorities which prevent this and perpetuate alienation.
Well, I'm not an expert here, but which authorities prevent ecological
farmers from sharing knowledge? At least in Germany as far as I know
there are even magazines which do that in some way. What authorities
do hinder them to setup web sites?
Software does not
have to deal with many of these issues and there are fundamental differences
between the two (physical and virtual) so one does not necessarily provide
an example of how the other situation would work, or that the working
systems would share identical principles.
Not necessarily - agreed. But I think it depends partly on how you
look at it.
The volume of product generated in Software, is not limited by the labor and
land necessary to create it.
Sure it's limited by the work. Even Free Software needs work to come
into existence. Only its reproduction doesn't need work.
BTW: Joanne suggested, that in English "work" describes non-alienated
activity while "labor" describes alienated activities. Would you
native speakers out there share that suggestion?
This makes the benefits/beneficaries of
Libresoftware unlimited, whereas the benefits of food/physical production
are always limited.
Well, the benefit of a single physical product is limited - sure.
However, if you have at least as many physical products available as
you need, the benefit of these products at least meets your needs. And
I think that is what we should strive for.
If I understand you correct, then you're looking at things with
scarcity in mind. However, one fundamental feature of GPL society is,
that scarcity is abolished at least more or less. [I guess, this will
create a thread on it's own ;-) .]
Motivation to do something for free is related to
having a benefit to do so.
Every motivation to do something is related to the benefit of that
action. In alienated activities the benefit is an external one - being
rewarded by money being the main benefit in capitalism.
One of the most interesting features of the production of Free
Software is, that the benefit is inherent to the work. So you don't
need any external motivation. Free Software developers don't need
compensation because they have no loss in the first place.
The nature of what is copyable (with neglible cost) is fundamentally
different than that which isn't copyable.
From a technical point of view I'd agree. But if you have automated
machinery to produce all you need, the technical point of view looses
GPL achieves the equivalent to public/free land out of thin air. No one had
to give up private property for Libresoftware to happen and new land can be
To not be under domination of the capitalists society one (or realistically
one's community) must be self sufficient. Otherwise, within the capitalists
society large corporations can and do put you out of business and take your
land, thereby preventing you from producing food.
I think the level of wealth reached by capitalism is in no way
achievable on the level of self-sufficiency. I think the GPL society
must be at least as global as the current one.
In the physically world bullets can kill and sufficient coercion to control
is not difficult. In the virtual world, it's an seemingly impossible task
to control behavior in a similar way, like prevent a set of bits from being
copied/moved from one place to another (in a discrimmating, legal manner).
Software isn't necessary for life. Food, water, air and other physical
Ahm... What kind of life style are you suggesting here? For me
software *is* necessary for my life.
Mit Freien Grüßen