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Re: [ox-en] Re: Graham Seaman * The Two Economies; Or: Why the washing machine question is the wrong question

Hi Stefan,

Some comments on your comments ;-)


On Tue, 1 Apr 2003, Stefan Merten wrote:


Hi Graham and list!

I did not read this until now. It's great! It contains some very
interesting thoughts.

Some small comments.

50 minutes ago Stefan Merten wrote:
inspectors would check not only the quality of the goods produced

Isn't this some sort of peer review?

May be that is why I find the guilds interesting: Instead of the
market the masters themselves evaluate the quality of the products of
their own profession.

also adherence to proper employment procedures and encroachment on the
territory of other guilds: a shoemaker in the shoemakers guild should
not encroach on the work of cobblers, who repaired old shoes, nor
should he tan his own leather, the mystery of the tanners' guild.

So the guilds had the opposite of Free Information: mysteries.
Interesting - but makes them really incompatible with Free Software.

Yes, I think there were positive aspects to the guilds - but they evolved
to a culminating point where they were a restraint on freedom and on
knowledge. Trying to return to them would be pointless. I'm not sure
how well this works, but I sometimes think of it schematically as:

1. Guilds - knowledge is split vertically; ie. all guild members should
know everything about their mystery, from raw material to taking to 
market, but nothing about the other guilds. Legal ownership of knowledge 
is also vertical.

2. Capitalism: knowledge is split horizontally; ie. workers potentially
know 'everything' about their stage of the production process (so that a
marketing person could market any product, a machine operator could
operate a machine anywhere, a programmer could program anywhere, but
no-one could work in all stages of a particular industry). Similarly,
knowledge is owned horizontally: in spite of the ideology, in practice 
important patents are owned by big companies who trade them around; the
ownership of ideas is largely limited to one layer.

3. Oekonux: ?

What the guilds could not do was cope with the increasing number of
journeymen with no hope of becoming masters in their own guilds. In
the big cities desperate journeymen began to abandon their own trades
and set up as small manufacturers. These small manufacturers, though
persecuted, managed to survive outside the guild system and the
mediaeval hierarchy of rights and obligations, and in spite of the
many caught by guild inspectors and fined or even imprisoned, by the
mid-17th century parts of London were dominated by them. Since they
were outside the guild system their employees were not apprentices in
the old sense, but workers for a wage: this was already a fragment of
a new mode of production.

I'd like to highlight that the journeymen have neither been the top
nor the bottom class in their society. They have been in the second
rank if you like. Aren't there more examples where the (interests of
the) second rank brought about fundamental change? Does this allow for
the conclusion that the second rank is the moving force in history?

I was trying to sneak in a rather different argument there (and one with
no definite connection with free software). The quote above sounds
'marxist' but in fact goes against the standard marxist approaches to
English history - which tends to see capitalism emerging from an odd
combination of the accumulation of capital in trade and the creation of
the new manufactures completely outside the guild-dominated cities. That
then leaves them with the problems of where the English revolution came
from, as neither of those groups had any significant involvement in it,
and of why feudalism reached a dead end (they concentrate on changes in
the rural economy as the driving force, not the guilds).

I'm not saying those journeymen created capitalism in the sense of being
physically or financially ancestors of the later real capitalists; but
that they had the ideas and the vision which made a political basis for
capitalism possible - and that those ideas came at least partly from the
experience of being trapped in a non-working and collapsing system, the
old guild system, and working out an alternative in practice. Maybe
there's a historian on the list who can tell me if this is either silly or

But if you want to generalise from that particular historical point to
say that 'the second rank are always the moving force', then a) I'd like
more examples, and b) I'd like to know why,  when in the past changes
led by this 'second rank' have always led to the 'bottom ranks' being
screwed in new ways, things should be any different this time round?


Well, Free Software people seem to be in the second rank - don't they.
So this would at least match Oekonux theory ;-) .

The key questions are whether the penetration of free software into
the old economy is deep enough to start to slow the introduction of
laws which can force it underground; whether free software can find
allies outside itself to begin to reduce the dependencies listed
above, and whether it can begin to gain new ground by moving into new
areas, to gradually move closer to the washing-machine makers.

Particularly this paragraph is a very good thought IMHO.

						Mit Freien Grüßen


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