Re: [ox-en] Re: compulsion
- From: Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org>
- Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 11:15:37 +0100
it seems to be an obsession moving such hard stuff. Must be
I'm not good enough in understanding and using english, so I'm not sure
whether I get your points. Please take this into account.
Graham Seaman wrote:
This choice is not of a type like choosing between TV programs, or shall
we eat fish or meat, or shall we make some nice selbstentfaltung today
or just hang around. I would say: life _is_ selbstentfaltung. The
question is: Can we live it? Selbstentfaltung is not an add-on, it is a
innate feature of humans. So the question is not: Will these ugly humans
self-unfold, the question is: how will they do it.
I think you are mistaking my use of 'choose' above, but it's not so
important - I will be happy with your expansion, providing you remove the
word 'innate' ;-)
Ok, remove it (because it is not explained here).
Today the answer is: They do it mostly in an ugly way - except in FS;-)
However these fs guys are normal people. They don't have anything
special in the sense of being/having a special character.
Yes. However, in terms of the polarity you started with, the answer now
has to be 'the true innate human character is revealing itself once
released from (some of) the framework of capitalism'. You can take the
fact of FS as a disproof of Hobbesianism, the other term in your polarity.
Sure. But only if you don't take 'innate human character' as a kind of a
special 'behavior' or such. What I mean with 'innate' is the potence to
live in a society by using societal infrastructures. I call this 'the
human is societal by nature'.
But this polarity has ruled out other possibilities: for example, 'there
is some new structure to (a small part of) society which is producing
humans of this kind', or the classic Marxist one that capitalism
eventually produces men with a need to work, that man's nature is a
product of his history..
IMHO there are two 'histories' with had to be distinguished. First the
history of evolving the societal human nature (phylogenesis). And second
the history of different forms of society which leads to different forms
of mediation between the individual and society (Vergesellschaftung). In
the following I use the german word vergesellschaftung
(societalization?). It addresses all questions on how society is
organized and on how an (general) individual participates in production
reproduction of its life and society. Schematically said the word
vergesellschaftung is neither on the side of society nor on the side of
the individual, it is in between, it focusses on the mediation between
My thesis is, that selbstentfaltung is part of the societal human
nature, which at first time in history had developed to a germ form in
free software. Yes: if released from capitalist vergesellschaftung all
potences of selbstentfaltung are revealing itself.
Doing this schematically I obtain:
In the first "natural" period the cultivation of ground was dominant. We
have a lot of forms of personal dependency. Selbstenfaltung was nearly
not needed, it was suppressed. The main forces of production were
directed to optimize the usage to natural ground. Means were developed,
but very slowly and restricted. It was mere a side effect than a
primarily purpose. Economically you can use C-C (exchange of goods), or
C-M-C (commodity - money - commodity) for those societies which had money.
Well you did say 'schematically': but even so, I think this is completely
wrong. For proof: go into any gothic cathedral and look at the
mix of personal expression and overall structure and design. There was
far more 'selbstentfaltung' in 'high' feudalism than most of capitalism.
This was not the right argument to pick with a William Morris fan :-)
I'm also not sure that this kind of super-abstraction of Marx' theories is
very helpful generally, because it tends to block actually looking at
the real history.
Benni made some points here, and I agree with him: 'the individual' is a
product of modern societies, and this is a precondition for
selbstentfaltung. Nevertheless you can find in all periods some tips of
'selbstentfaltung', but this could not evolve to be a carrier of
vergesellschaftung. It happened only isolated and was suppressed.
In the second "industrial" period, where we live in, the development of
means is dominant. The development of means is end in itself, because
the whole society is driven by this end in itself: To make more money
from money. In short: M-C-M' (money - commodity - more money). In this
period the increasing absense of personal rule is typical.
Agreed in general. However, it is possible to exagerate this absence. I
know that Marx talked of capitalists as the 'personifications' of capital.
But outside Marx' economic writings, he was extremely aware of the role
of personalities. To take a small example: the pressure to turn thought
into 'Intellectual Property' comes from the system; it is impersonal. But
the actual laws proposed, the details of the tactics to take to impose
IP law are very much affected by the personal history of the people
involved, and the tactics to take to stop those laws need to take that
Your example underlines my statement. Of course, if you go into
political struggles you always have to do with concrete persons. But
they embody general rules. If you kill one leader (terrorist strategy),
then maybe something changes - but nothing really important. E.g. it was
sad that Olof Palme of sweden was killed. He personaly played an
important role between east and west (long time ago). But in long run it
was irrelevant, even for sweden. Another example: We are happy to have
RMS and Linus Torvalds. But I am deeply convinced, that they "only"
fulfilled, what was historically matured to a point, where anybody could
pick it up. This does not underestimate their historical merits: they
You always have personal carriers of rules which are driven by
non-personal mechanism like the rules of the cybernetic machine and
resulting ways of vergesellschaftung.
And oekonux is a project which tries to find the points which had come
to historically mature. This is not easy. IMHO an historical perspective
on the overall processes helps to see the wood and not only lots of trees.
BTW: It was
(and is) an historical misunderstanding of the workers movement to fight
against personal power. It is hard, but we must say, that the workers
movement is a movement of establishing capitalism. The supremacy is a
subjectless one, it results from the selforganizing M-C-M'-mechanism of
the cybernetic machine.
Now you seem to me to have reached a position which I don't agree with at
all. In fact, there are two positions in this: the sentence in the middle
('It is hard...') seems to me to have no necessary connection with the
rest, so I can't argue with it - it's just a statement I don't agree with.
You don't agree that workers movement helped with(?) establishing
The rest of the paragraph I also disagree with, but I know why. You have
collapsed all of life in capitalism into a single level, the 'cybernetic
machine', and therefore lost all of politics, law, tradition etc. This
seriously limits what you can think about doing.
This is due to giving only this simple schematics. In contrary I think,
that you can better analyze politics, law, patriarchy etc. if you don't
make this traditional separation between basis and superstructure
(ueberbau) of traditional marxism. But I cannot point this out here.
However, it also make the structure of your thought hard for me to follow
(like I wrote at the top, I'm not completely sure exactly where the
disagreement originates, in which idea). Your paragraph is something which
taken on it's own I would say is pure Althusser: there are no 'people',
only 'supports' ('trager'?) of economic positions. But this is the theory
of Stalinism, which tries to kill selbstentfaltung wherever it finds it.
You are right, Stalin took the laws of capitalism to put them onto a
backwarded society in order to force industrial development (which btw
was important to fight nazi germany). With all that brutality and
pressure, not with free market and democracy. Your observation supports
me. What we had in so called socialist countries was not really
different from the west, they only collapsed at first;-)
Yet obviously this doesn't apply to you at all. So, if you have this view
of capitalism, I suppose selbstenfaltung HAS to be something innate which
is suppressed by the cybernetic machine, but bursts out when the machine
is taken away.
Not in the sense, that you only have to make changes of the economic
basis, and everything follows (the old basis-superstructure separation).
If you take this picture "cybernetic machine" for the entire mechanisms
of vergesellschaftung, then: yes.
And now: the new period we can see at the horizon and in most
contradictions we face today is the period of the third factor in this
DFP-triangle: the development of human as an end in itself. Or in short:
selbstentfaltung. So you see, that this selbstentfaltung was and is
always present. Without it the reproduction of society would not be
possible. However until now it was only needed in a very small degree,
because an unbounded self-unfolding human is dangerous for all types of
supremacy. But now we reach a new point in the developement of
capitalism. All potences of capitalism are exhausted. This does not mean
that development stops, M-C-M' cannot stop, but it is deathmatch.
Developement today means destruction. No further qualitative development
is possible on the basis of the current level of DFP.
Like everyone, I can see signs of this too. I tend to believe it's true.
But saying ALL potencies of capitalism are exhausted may be too much;
it's certainly not something you can prove one way or the other/
My guess: the next qualitative step cannot be done inside the framework
of a commodity producing society. All resting potences are of
destructive nature. And this is really dangerous, because there is no
guarantee, that we can go this next step.
A new level can only come from the human itself, from a human which
self-unfolds unbounded. However, this unbounded selbstentfaltung is only
possible under conditions where my selbstentfaltung is a prerequesite of
the selbstentfaltung of all and vice versa. And these conditions are not
given (only to a small extend in the niche of FS). But steps towards are
gone everywhere. They are called lean production, kanban etc. These
management methods try to dig for the "gold in the heads". But they will
not find it, or only very small pieces. The reason is the cybernetic
machine, which always produces external demands: Don't do what you want,
do what sells on market. They try to combine it, which result in slogans
like: Do what you want, main thing is to be profitable."
However, this of course does not work. Selbstentfaltung and
Selbstverwertung (self-valorisation) is the antagonistic contradiction
-- and not work vs. capital btw.
I think this links back to what you said above. But it is just a
statement on its own here, with no proof. I'd like to know more about why
you say it.
The given form of vergesellschaftung implies that the individual can
only go forward on costs of others, because market economy is organized
that way - see previous mails. On the other side you have to bring your
work force into the cybernetic machine: as producer of value (worker) or
as an organizer realizing produced values on market (capitalist).
Independent of function you have I call this selbstverwertung
(self-varorization?). This is quite obvious in single person
enterprises: both functions - producer and realizer - are embodied in
one single person. However, what you can observe in multi-person
enterprises too, is a diffusion of both functions. The role model is the
self-entrepreneur of own work force. This does not say that workers and
capitalits do not have different interests, but they are not
antagonistic as thought for long time (me too).
Currently value-realization (verwertung) needs more and more of
'selbstentfaltung'. And you can find this in reality. However this
'selbstentfaltung' is limited by the frame 'on costs of others'. It
cannot expand unbounded. This leads me to the conclusion that
selbstentfaltung and selbstverwertung is an antagonistic contradiction.
It shows historical development tendencies, but cannot unfold in the
frame of the given type of vergesellschaftung.
The core of this picture of a GPL-society is a new type of
vergesellschaftung where all borders of selbstentfaltung vanish.
Long sentences, short conclusion: Selbstentfaltung grew up from the DFP
and becomes at the first time in history most relevant for future
development. Under M-C-M'-conditions selbstentfatung is always bounded,
only a mediation between individuals and society which base on
non-coercive, non-alienated forms can unfold the real power of
selbstentfaltung. This implies the absense of all old forms produced by
the cybernetic machine: state, money, exchange.
No, this implies the absence of money and exchange. The absence of the
state MAY also be implied, but the mediating steps are missing in the
argument. This is another form of my query that you are replying to..
As you see, selbstentfaltung is not an idealistic concept, it bases on
materialist theory grounds. However, you must not follow this thinking
to be inpired from the idea of selbstentfaltung. It is quite "natural".
I think you mean 'need not', not 'must not' ('du kannst nicht..').
Sh*t, my english...
But what is idealism and what is materialism is not an argument I intend
to get sucked into ;-)
Saying 'this or that is materialist' is not an argument at all;-)
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?
It works perfect for physically produced things too. Why not? (Ok, I got
some good hiding for that: typical male imaginations of omnipotence...).
Isn't your question: Why is it not so easy to build an island (or germ
form) based on physically produced things like in free software? My
answer is: because of the more easy way to make physical things scarce,
which is a precondition for being a commodity.
No, that isn't my argument. You know that my main interest is in finding
ways to do exactly that..
No, I'm not taking anything for human nature. I don't believe it to be
innate, at least not in this kind of aspect. I am wondering whether there
is anything structural in the situation which may push people to think
like that. After arguing that the whole of capitalist society is simply
a 'cybernetic machine' you seem to go to the opposite extreme of assuming
that life on the gpl-society would be composed of pure individuals, with
no such thing as society.
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?" 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.
You focus on the people. But how should people behave as in that way
they do under the given conditions? If you take this for human nature
you can stop looking for selbstentfaltung.
What do you mean which 'pure individuals'? And why is society an
additional thing? This sounds like 'an individual is not societal,
therefore a social structure has to be extra constructed to build a
society upon the individuals'. And this sounds like 'without any type of
external force all human would get mixed up like a mass of chaotically
running chickens'. Look at free software. There was nobody telling them
what to do.
When I am saying that humans are societal by nature, then this does
mean, that humans cannot live without society. All actions are mediated
by societal infrastructures. Individual and society cannot be
conceptualized as opposites. Well, bourgois ideology does it, but we
should not follow in thinking so.
If we think of humans as societal beings than the question is not,
whether a society will be formed. The question is only, how the society
is organized, how the vergesellschaftung is realized. If not by personal
supremacy, if not by cybernetic machine (in the broad sense): by what?
My answer is so simple, that you will not believe it: By
selbstentfaltung and self-organization. Like in free software. Free
software is a germ form of a new type of vergesellschaftung. This living
example shows that it works, that individuals are endless in their
creativity to deal with all that complex problems we face. When I say
'individual' then I don't have this isolated bourgois individual in
mind, I have in mind the self-enfolding individual in mind which need
the selbstentfaltung of others as a condition for its own
selbstentfaltung being at the same time that condition of
selbstentfaltung for others.
I can imagine a tendency for the neighbours to be commenting "you know
so-and-so in number 33? She really did what she wanted to do, she always
looks so happy. Can you imagine being happy from inventing some abstract
mathematical theory? I could't do that, this seems a horror for me
always rolling theories in the head. Crasy ways of selbstentfaltung,
unbelievable. I'd better like to stay at organizing the railway traffic,
because I like to make people happy moving where they want. I got a lot
of credits. What did she got? We should invite her and make her some
nice hours..." Monitoring what someone else does and things become very
Yes, I can imagine this too, and it would obviously be much nicer.
In your version, you have a guarantee from innate human nature that this
will be the way things go. In my version, I can't see for sure which
way things would go, unless I have more idea about potential workings
of the society in general.
Nobody has a guarantee, but it seems, you are looking for it, because
you are not sure, if you can trust humans. It sounds too simple saying
'give them freedom, and selbstfaltung rules all to the best'. This is
too simple. These are 'only' potences. But what we are doing is try to
understand them in order to increase our action possibilities. Agreed?
This is the mission of oekonux as I see it.
And from this theoretical stuff we can reach some conclusions. One for
example: It does not make sense to look for structural guarantees,
because all structures which are pre-given, which are not build by
humans based on their needs destroy the potences we want to let unfold.
Deep believe counts nothing. It is clear understanding and of course
save feeling that only unbounded selbstentfaltung has a future. Don't
put anything into future. These old promises were promises of a unknown
I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see any structural guarantee
that 'selbstentfaltung' will be maintain itself; 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.
Not only. You know as well as I do that 'freedom' in capitalism does have
a real, concrete contents; just that the implications of that freedom
were not seen by the people who talked only of 'freedom' without thinking
of the concrete consequences.
I think that we should capture this word 'freedom' back and fill with
all the meanings of selbstentfaltung we discuss here. New concrete contents.
The interesting and powerful thing is, that selbstentfaltung can
start here and now. Well, not unbounded, but it directs you to create
conditons, where selbstentfaltung is more possible than without them.
And it starts with me. What do I want to do? And what are the gaps, what
can I do?
Yes, of course; but I think most people on the list are doing this with
or without the theory. I hope the theory will come to the point where
it can help to show more specific directions... but not to the point
where it becomes the party line of a sect, with 'deviations' condemned.
A difficult balance to find, I think.
'More specific directions', hm, sounds a bit like 'guarantees'. However,
our 'problem' is, that we have to look on the processes not on wished
results. It is a problem of much more successful practices from which
more trust in those processes can raise. I don't know a general answer,
I only can say what I am doing. Nothing more. It is a kind of a dilemma:
No successful practicies, no trust - no trust, no new practices. But FS
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