[ox-en] Re: compulsion
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 02:17:25 +0100
Hi Graham, Kermit, all!
I think some points in my last post apply here also.
Yesterday Graham Seaman wrote:
On Sat, 9 Feb 2002, Kermit Snelson wrote:
Why not? Metabolism. The facts of biology are such that living things need
to work in order to eat. Even plants compete for water and sunlight. If
you don't work and still stay alive, that just means that somebody else has
done the necessary work for you. That's what child-rearing, pensions,
charitable institutions and foundation grants are all about. Richard
Stallman, for instance, lives on foundation grants. But somebody along the
line had to do the work to grow or slaughter whatever it is that Stallman
eats. That's why only a few of us can be privileged to live on foundation
And in anticipation of a possible response, I'll go ahead and say now that
we can't automate every aspect of sustaining life. That's just a variation
on the old, thermodynamically impossible argument for a perpetual motion
machine. Somebody will always have to work in some form or another, and
social justice requires that it be all who are capable of it.
Yes, not everything can be automated. Though the pressure to automate
everything which a) is too unpleasant for people to want to do and b)
which can potentially be automated, would be much greater in such a
society. Things which people do want to do can be done by working on
them, on the free software model. The problem for me is with your last
'Someone will always have to work... andsocial justice requires that it be
all who are capable of it'
which for me is one huge can of worms. A closely related phrase with
more historical resonance is:
'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs'.
I agree very much with Graham here. In short: "Who does not work may
not eat" - the old curse from the bible. *That* is what we need to
abolish. The technical basis for this is readily available more or
less IMHO. We just need to apply it right.
So I prefer the Oekonux version, which IIRC goes something like - 'give
what you want to, take what you need'.
If you look even closer to it, the giving and taking looses its
importance. For instance if you write a program you use lots of ideas
which are not genuine yours. However, we usually don't say that we
*take* something from others. In reality there are countless flows of
(at least) information we all use on an every day basis on nearly
everything we do. At the same time we make available information for
others in one or another form. This is just life and a description in
terms of giving and taking seems pretty artifical to me.
The real underlying problem
hasn't gone away though - suppose the total of what people want to
contribute is less than the total of what people need? Then there
will be at the least social pressure (if not legal or state) pressure
on people to do more.
Lately I had some thoughts related to his. They are not mature yet -
I asked myself why you didn't need structural coercion (i.e. money) in
feudalistic societies to make the people work for a living. The answer
seems simple: They worked directly for their own existence and of
course you don't need to force anyone to work directly for hir own
existence. This will be dictated by the will to survive.
This changed with increasing division of labor. The division of labor
made it possible, that a person works only in part directly for hir
own living and in part only indirectly for hir own living. Capitalism
organized this process in a way, where people needed to be structural
coerced to do this indirect work - wage labor. The reason for that
seems to be, that the work needed in industry implied human beings
being just an add-on to the machine. Alienation at its best.
This changed however dramatically over time. Today machines become
more and more add-ons to human creativity. So the structural
alienation inevitably embodied in the technical means available
A GPL society building upon the reached amount of division of labor
now needs to completly remove the alienation so people do not need to
be coerced in any way to do the work only indirectly related to their
own living. We say, that Selbstentfaltung is the way this already
happens in Free Software (but in other fields too BTW). Art, the lust
felt in engineering work, and so on.
And now the relation to your question. A member of a society based on
the division of labor only *on average* needs to do any type of work.
As a concrete single member one may not work at all and live
nontheless. We see that with rich or jobless people for instance.
(However, BTW, if we look closer, there are really few people who do
nothing at all. Personally I think humans are not made for doing
nothing at all. But your worries went into another direction.)
Now, our worries are, that the average might be too low and we think
about which mechanisms may result to keep that average high enough.
One answer is to drive the "high enough" down by automation and the
"on average" up by saying that selbstentfaltung will do the trick.
Well, it might be, that in a society based on the division of labor
anf thus no direct incentive to do something "productive" there may be
no final answer.
This is the point that I'm stuck on at the moment.
The 'selbst' in 'selbstentfaltung' is great as an emphasis on people doing
things because they choose too, linking personal with social because
the unfolding of the self is only possible in a social context. But in
a sense it seems like wishful thinking: it works perfectly for free
software, which people aren't physically dependent on. But what happens
when the things we physically depend on are produced in this way too?
I don't think the difficulty lies in things we physically depend on.
Sure most of the time lack of these things is more lethal than lack of
Free Software, but I don't see that it makes much sense to separate
needs ("Bedürfnisse") along this line.
I can imagine at the least a tendency for the neighbours to be commenting
"you know so-and-so in number 33? Hasn't done a stroke of productive
work in years, claims she's inventing some abstract mathematical theory
but I reckon she's just taking it easy and living off everyone else's
work. Did you ever see her on the local garbage truck?"
This is thinking in terms of justice: Who does not work may not eat. I
said a lot about that this evening ;-) .
And that kind of
thing could build up to quite an unpleasant environment where everyone is
monitoring what everyone else does and things become very conformist.
This might be the case. However, why not imagine a society where
people see it as their type of selbstentfaltung to care about basic
needs of the society as a whole. Such people will care about it.
Personally I'm always saying, that if I am able to reach the GPL
society, I'd like to help manage the rail system. After helping the
birth of a new society, this seems the next interesting challenge to
meet for me ;-) .
And BTW since humans are social beings, people on average like to do
something for the society they live in. Sure they do it less if from
mother's breast on they get told that this is a silly thing to do, but
even in capitalist societies there is a basic need to apply your
abilities by helping others.
I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see any structural guarantee
that 'selbstentfaltung' will be maintain itself;
I guess there will never be a structural guarantee. But actually I
trust mankind to solve such problems if finally freed from ideology
preventing them from doing that and having the technical means to do
I would like to think
that it would, but I'm afraid it might turn out to be a modern equivalent
of 'liberte, egalite, fraternite': all deeply believed in, enough to
motivate many people to support a revolution, but in the end more
ideological than factual.
Stefan? Have there been discussions on the German list around this point?
Well, there are always people which make that point and of course
there *is* a point. However, at the moment I guess this can't be
resolved until tried out...
Mit Freien Grüßen