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Re: [ox-en] Re: compulsion

Hi Stefan,

Another mammoth email ;-)

On Thu, 14 Feb 2002, Stefan Meretz wrote:

Hi Graham,

it seems to be an obsession moving such hard stuff. Must be 
Well, if it's too boring for everyone else (hello Petr ;-), they
can always skip it.. But tell me if you want to drop this discussion 
because it's taking too much time, or if you prefer to take it off-line.

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.
I don't see any signs of that, I think the problem is ideas, not language 

This mail was getting very long; I'm chopping out bits where we seem to
be agreeing, I hope I left enough to show your logical chain of thought..
I also broke it into sections (with --title--------).

--word innate -----------------------------------------

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'.

OK, but then I think use of the word 'innate' can be a little confusing,
because it is so often used by people arguing that genetics determines
human behaviour.

--vergesellschaftung definition -----------------------------------------

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 
both sides.

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.

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.

--workers movement ----------------------------------------------------

You don't agree that workers movement helped with(?) establishing 

No, this statement still sounds very strange to me, and I don't know 
exactly what you mean by it. But it seems to imply that you think
the workers movement is irrelevant to the movement for a gpl-society
(where in both cases the words 'the movement' is just a shorthand for
something quite complex). I would guess the opposite - that at some time
the two will need to merge to be successful. But there are only tiny signs 
of this happening so far, and probably both 'movements' will be very 
different when it happens.
On a more immediate level, I find it hard to relate to your statement 
living in a country where the workers' movement was massively defeated
in the 1980s, and where we still feel the consequences in everyday
life (in health services, transport, pensions wages etc) compared with
the way life seems to be in (at least Western) Germany.


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

The 'base/superstructure' separation is really just a metaphor, even 
though people tried to treat it as a theory. And I think it's a bad 
metaphor - it implies that each 'superstructure' is self-contained. But
I still think something like the law cannot be reduced to economics -
it has its own history, and is own internal logic which has somehow to
be kept coherent, even though.the key parts of the law also have to
defend/enforce the current economic system.

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.
This is the point I was complaining about before: I don't think you can
reduce the whole of vergesellschaftung to the 'cybernetic machine', 
whether you call the non-reducible parts the 'superstructure' or something 
else. Maybe we should make what you/I understand by the cybernetic machine
more concrete.
For example: investment fund managers have to maximize return on 
investments. The value of shares rise normally when two companies merge,
because mergers normally make it possible to reduce the total workforce 
Therefore, fund managers will tend to move funds into companies likely
to have this kind of merger (and in general any company thought likely
to be about to sack people). If a fund manager does not do this because
he objects to people being sacked for reasons which have only
a financial motivation, his fund will do less well than others and he is 
likely to be demoted or fired. Something which has human effects is 
therefore done as if without reference to the humans actually carrying out
the action, as if capital were acting directly in its own interests.
This kind of thing is part of the 'cybernetic machine', which is 
self-running and in which people are only functioning parts.

Take another area of life: education. You can argue that both the content
and the form of teaching are determined by capitalism, in that they
are designed to produce people to fit into their part in production.
But even if you agree with this, the determination is very distant
and mediated by many other things. So that a good teacher can have a lot
of impact on students which is totally unrelated to the economic functions
of schools (so can a good educational theorist, or a good education
minister, etc). Education may be part of capitalism but I would
not describe it as a 'cybernetic machine' at all. But if I understood
'vergesellschaftung' correctly, education is definitely part of 

-- valorisation/unfolding----------------------------------
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.

You have two arguments here: one, that self-valorization and 
self-unfolding are contradictory. That's fine, I can think of lots of 
examples of that from my own experience at work, and your examples of
the problems with kanban etc also seem true from what I have read.

The other argument is that this contradiction is (more important than?
replacing?) a contraction between work and capital ('workers and 
capitalists ... have different interests, but they are not 
antagonistic..'). But who do you think enforces the suppression of
self-unfolding in favour of self-valorization? OK, not capitalists
directly, but the managers who represent capital. This IS part of the
cybernetic machine where the behaviour of the managers by and large
is not determined by what they're like as people, but by their position.
Giving the example of the self-employed person who embodies both sides
in one person is not a proof of anything; the number of self-employed 
relative to the number of employed must be tiny. You say you have a 
'diffusion' of both functions; but I think the contradiction between
capital and workforce, self-valorization and self-unfolding, is an
objective one, which can never disappear while this system lasts.
The poles can 'diffuse' far enough for each to see the other sides
point of view, but in the long run the objective position of the two sides
prevents them ever acting 100% in the way the other side needs.

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..

Exctly what?
Help find ways to complete the chain:
Free EDA software -> free hardware designs -> free electronic equipment
(where 'free' for now means ONLY 'free speech', not 'free beer' - though
now we have 'free cola' even that description is becoming obsolete ;-)

From here on, the argument becomes strange: both of us think the other is
making the same mistake! It seems we both think the other is seeing
individuals as some strange non-social being. All the same, I don't think
it is just a misunderstanding; I think there isa real difference of views.

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. 

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'.

No, it sounds to me that YOU are saying this. That you are saying
'once the cybernetic machine has gone, there will be nothing but
individuals and no society'.

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.
Of course not. But even with the small scale of free software (compared
with the huge scale of an entire society) social mechanisms emerged.
It isn't only a question of individuals thinking 'I feel like writing
program x today'; there are also social mechanisms.
For example:
1. If maintaining a package used by many others, you should not just
abandon it one day because you feel like working on something else, you
should find someone to pass it on to. This is a combination of tradition
and peer pressure (someone who does this will not be trusted).
2. Large systems need a layered organization, almost always built round
a single individual, but with 'lieutenants' deputising for that individual
to spread the load. The forms of this organization are not the same as
those for developing software in capitalist firms, but driven by the 
objective requirements of development based on selbstentfaltung. In 
particular, force being replaced by moral and technical authority combined
with good social skills.
3. Well, I'm seeing that I'm just doing a bad repeat of Eric Raymond's 
ideas. The point is that free software (and other 'free' things, like 
running USENET groups) already have a sociology; there is something 
involved more than the individual personalities of the people involved.

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.
Yes, I agree entirely. In these terms, my question is, 'are there any 
societal infrastructures which are necessary or likely in a society based
on self-unfolding'? The answer might be 'no, those infrastructures could
be anything at all, so you will just have to wait and see'. And the answer
will certainly not be 'yes, such a society must be exactly like x, y and 
z.' But I would expect the answer will be somewhere between those two 
extremes - no guarantees, but some reliable guesses.
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.

You are back to your isolated individuals again. I am writing a Perl
module right now. If I'm happy with it, it will go on CPAN, in a 
standardized format. I hope I will show a little creativity in writing
the code; but I know that where I put that code (CPAN), and the form
it has (Makefile.PL, .t/ tests etc) is a social convention which it is
sensible for me to follow. Having social infrastructures is perfectly
compatible with creativity, without meaning that everything has to
depend on 'endless individual creativity'.

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.
And the medium through the selbstentfaltung of all is realised may very
well have concrete social forms, established by tradition, or simply 
because it's the only way it can be done in a society based on 
selbsentfaltung. Or there may not yet be a social form for this particular
task, in which case, yes, the individuals involved will create one.

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'.
Not too simple, but too abstract. More concrete would be better, if 
possible. It may not be possible to be more concrete.

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.

Sounds fine to me!

Best wishes


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