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Michel Bauwens * Peer to peer - from technology to politics to a new civilisation? (was: [ox-en] Conference documentation)


Peer to peer - from technology to politics to a new civilisation?

Michel Bauwens [mbauwens]

There is also an original version

A specter is haunting the world: the specter of peer to peer. The
existing economic system is trying to co-opt it, but it is also a
harbinger of a new type of human relationship, and may in the end be
incompatible with informational capitalism.


1. Peer to peer as technological paradigm
- -----------------------------------------

Business and technology watchers would have a hard time of avoiding
it, as peer to peer is everywhere these days.

Peer to peer is first of all a new technological paradigm for the
organisation of the information and communication infrastructure that
is the very basis of our postindustrial economy. The internet itself,
as network of networks, is an expression of this paradigm. As end to
end or point to point network, it has replaced both the earlier
hierarchical mainframe form, but also the client-server form, which
posited a central server with associated dependent computers,
associated in a network. Instead, in a peer to peer network,
intelligence is distributed everywhere. Every node is capable of
receiving and sending data. The first discussion note below explains
why this peer to peer mode makes eminent sense in terms of efficiency,
as compared to the older models. It should be noted that, just as
networks, peer to peer can come into many hybrid forms, in which
various forms of hierarchy can still be embedded (as with the
internet, where all networks aren't equal). But the very reason I'm
using peer to peer is of course the promise of true equality,
something that is not so clear when one uses the more generic term of
network. This first section deals with the expressions of peer to peer
in the field of technology.

Distributed computing is now considered to be the next step for the
worldwide computing infrastructure, in the form of grid computing,
which allows every computer to use its spare cycles to contribute to
the functioning of the whole, thereby obviating the need for servers
altogether. The telecommunication infrastructure itself is in the
process of being converted to the Internet Protocol and the time is
not all to far away where even voice will transit over such P2P
networks. In the recent weeks, telecom experts have been able to read
about developments such as Mesh Networks or Ad Hoc Networks, described
in The Economist:

The mesh-networking approach, which is being pursued by several firms,
does this in a particularly clever way. First, the neighbourhood is
"seeded" by the installation of a "neighbourhood access point" (NAP) -
a radio base-station connected to the Internet via a high-speed
connection. Homes and offices within range of this NAP install
antennas of their own, enabling them to access the Internet at high
speed. Then comes the clever part. Each of those homes and offices can
also act as a relay for other homes and offices beyond the range of
the original NAP. As the mesh grows, each node communicates only with
its neighbours, which pass Internet traffic back and forth from the
NAP. It is thus possible to cover a large area quickly and cheaply.

Moreover, there is the worldwide development of Wireless LAN networks,
by corporations on the one hand, but also by citizens installing such
networks themselves, at very low cost.

Here's a description of what is happening in Hawaii, where a peer to
peer wireless network is covering more than 300 square miles:

Now people all over the island are tapping into Wiecking's wireless
links, surfing the Web at speeds as much as 100 times greater than
standard modems permit. High school teachers use the network to
leapfrog a plodding state effort to wire schools. Wildlife regulators
use it to track poachers. And it's all free. Wiecking has built his
network through a coalition of educators, researchers, and nonprofit
organizations; with the right equipment and passwords, anyone who
wants to tap in can do so, at no charge..,1640,38492,00.html

A recent in Fortune magazine uncovered yet another aspect of the
coming peer to peer age in technology, by pointing out that the
current central server based methods for interactive TV are woefully
inadequate to match supply and demand:

Essentially, file-served television describes an Internet for video
content. Anyone - from movie company to homeowner - could store video
on his own hard disk and make it available for a price. Movie and
television companies would have tons of hard disks with huge
capacities, since they can afford to store everything they produce.
Cable operators and satellite companies might have some hard disks to
store the most popular content, since they can charge a premium for
such stuff. And homeowners might have hard disks (possibly in the form
of PVRs) that can be used as temporary storage for content that takes
time to get or that they only want to rent - or permanent storage for
what they've bought.

In general one could say that the main attractivity of peer to peer is
that it will seamlessly marry the world of the internet and the world
of PC's. Originally, ordinary PC users who wanted to post content or
services needed access to a server, which created inequality in
access, but with true peer to peer file sharing technologies, any PC
user is enabled to do this.

2. Peer to peer as distribution mechanism
- -----------------------------------------

The last story points to yet another aspect of peer to peer: its
incredible force as distribution mechanism. Indeed, the users of
Personal Video Recorders such as TiVo are already using file sharing
methods that allow them to exchange programs via the internet. But
this is of course dwarfed by what is currently happening in the music

Again the advantage here should be obvious, as in this mode of
distribution, no centralising force can play a role of command and
control, and every node can have access to the totality of the
distributed information.

The latest estimates say that:

Worldwide annual downloads, according to estimates from places like
Webnoize, would indicate that the number of downloads - if you assume
there are 10 songs on a CD - is something like five times the total
number of CDs sold in the U.S. in a year, and one-and-a-half times the
worldwide sales.

The original file sharing systems, such as Napster, AudioGalaxy, and
Kazaa, still used central servers or directories which could be
tracked down and identified, and thus attacked in court, as indeed
happened, thereby destroying these systems one by one. But today, the
new wave of P2P systems avoid such central servers altogether. The
most popular current system, an expression of the free software
community, i.e. Gnutella, had over 10 million users in mid-2002, and
as they are indeed distributed and untraceable, have been immune to
legal challenge.

3. Peer to peer as production method
- ------------------------------------

P2P is not just the form of technology itself, but increasingly, it is
a process of production, a way of organising the way that immaterial
products are produced (and distributed and consumed). The first
expression of this was the Free Software movement launched by Richard
Stallman. Expressed in the production of software such as GNU and its
kernel Linux, tens of thousands of programmers are cooperative
producing the most valuable knowledge capital of the day, i.e.
software. They are doing this in small groups that are seamlessly
coordinated in the greater worldwide project, in true peer groups that
have no traditional hierarchy. Eric Raymond's seminal essay/book "The
Cathedral and The Bazaar", has explained in detail why such a mode of
production is superior to its commercial variants. Richard Stallman's
Free Software movement is furthermore quite radical in its values and
aims, and has developed legal devices such as Copyleft and the General
Public License, which uses commercial law itself to prohibit any
commercial and private usage of the software.

"Free software" is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the
concept, you should think of "free" as in "free speech," not as in
"free beer." Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run,
copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More
precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the

o    The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).

o    The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your
     needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition
     for this.

o    The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour
     (freedom 2).

o    The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements
     to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3).
     Access to the source code is a precondition for this.


Less radical, and perhaps more widespread because of this, is the Open
Source movement launched by the above-mentioned Eric Raymond, which
stipulates that the code has to be open for consultation and usage,
but where there are restrictive rules and the property remains
corporate. Together, even in a situation where the software world is
dominated by the Microsoft monopoly, these two types of software have
taken the world by storm. The dominant server of the internet (Apache)
is open source, but more and more governments and businesses are using
it as well, including in mission-critical commercial applications.
Most experts would agree that this software is in fact more efficient
than its commercial counterparts. What is lacking today is the spread
of user-friendly interfaces, though the first open source interfaces
are coming into existence.

Please also remember that peer to peer is in fact the extension of the
methodology of the sciences, which have been based since 300 years on
peer review. Scientific progress is indeed beholden to the fact that
scientists are accountable, in terms of the scientific validity of
their work, to their peers, and not to their funders or bureaucratic
managers. And the early founders of the Free Software movement where
scientists from MIT, who exported their methodology from knowledge
exchange to the production of software. In fact, MIT has published
data showing that since a lot of research has been privatised in the
U.S., the pace of innovation has in fact slowed down. Or simply
compare the fact of how Netscape evolved when it was using Open Source
methods and was supported by the whole internet community, as compared
to the almost static evolution of Internet Explorer, now that it is
the property of Microsoft.

The methodologies initiated by the Free Software and Open Source
movements are rapidly expanding into other fields, witness the
movements such as the royalty-free music movement, the Open Hardware
project (and the Simputer project in India), OpenTV and many much more
of these type of cooperative initiatives.

I would like to offer an important historical analogy here. When the
labour movement arose as an expression of the new industrial working
class, it invented a whole rist of new social practices, such as
mutual aid societies, unions, and new ideologies. Today, when the
class of knowledge workers is socially dominant in the West, is it a
wonder that they also create new and innovative practices that
exemplify their values of cooperative intellectual work?

4. Peer to peer in manufacturing?
- ---------------------------------

We would in fact there to go one step further and argue that peer to
peer will probably become the dominant paradigm, not just in the
production of immaterial goods such as software and music, but
increasingly in the world of manufacturing as well.

Two recent examples should illustrate it. Lego Mindstorms is a new
form of electronic Lego, which is not only produced by Lego, but where
thousands of users are themselves creating new building blocks and
software for it. The same happened with the Aibo, the artificial dog
produced by Sony, which users started to hack, first opposed by Sony,
but later with the agreement of the company. This makes a lot of
sense, as indeed, it allows companies to externalise R&D costs and
involve the community of consumers in the development of the product.
This process is becoming generalised. Of course, work has always been
cooperative (though also hierarchically organised), but in this case,
what is remarkable is that the frontier between the inside and the
outside is disappearing. This is in fact a general process of the
internet age, where the industry is moving away from mass production
to one to one production or mass customisation, but this is only
possible when consumers become part and parcel of the real production
process. If that is the case, then that of course gives rise to
contradictions between the hierarchical control of the enterprise, vs.
the desires of the community of users-producers.

This is the same tension as between free software, a pure peer to peer
conception, and the more liberal interpretation of Open Source, which
can be used by established companies to extend their development, but
still under their overall control and within the profit logic.

5. Some preliminary considerations
- ----------------------------------

One has of course to ask oneself, why is this emergence happening, and
I believe that the answer is clear. The complexity of the
post-industrial age makes centralised command and control approaches,
based on the centralised control, inoperable. Today, intelligence is
indeed everywhere and the organisation of technology and work has to
acknowledge that.

And more and more, we are indeed forced to conclude that peer to peer
is indeed a more productive technology and way of organising
production than its hierarchical, commodity-based predecessors. This
is of course most clear in the music industry, where the fluidity of
music distribution via P2P is an order of magnitude greater, and at
marginal cost, than the commodity-based physical distribution of CD's.

This situation leads to a interesting and first historical analogy:
when capitalist methods of production emerged, the feudal system, the
guilds and the craftsmen at first tried to oppose and stop them (up to
the physical liquidation of machines by the Luddites in the UK), but
they largely failed. It is not difficult to see a comparison with the
struggle of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)
against Napster: they may have won legally, but the phenomenon is
continuing to spread. In general, we can interpret many of the current
conflicts as pitting against each other the old way of production,
commodity-based production and its legal infrastructure of copyright,
and the new technological and social practices undermining these
existing processes. In the short term, the forces of the old try to
increase their hold and faced with subverting influences, strengthen
the legal and the repressive apparatus. But in the long term the
question is: can they hold back these more productive processes?

In the second part, we see how the peer to peer paradigm of
technological organisation, is paralleled by similar forms of
organisation in human society, which are of course enabled by the
technological substrate we have just been discussing. Indeed, it would
be quite difficult to sustain a worldwide networked political
movement, or the Free Software movement for that matter, without the
enablement that the technology is providing.


1. Peer to Peer in Politics
- ---------------------------

Our description of Free Software and Open Source has already described
an important shift, from technology to a new and soon dominant form of
social organisation. If we open our eyes, we can see the emergence of
P2P as the new way of organising and conducting politics. The
alterglobalisation movement is emblematic for these developments.

o    they are indeed organised as a network of networks

o    they intensively use the internet for information and
     mobilisation and mobile (including collective email) for
     direction on the ground

o    their issues and concerns are global from the start

o    they purposely choose global venues and heavily mediated world
     events to publicize their opposition and proposals.

Here is a quote by Immanuel Wallerstein, world system theorist and
historian, on the historic importance of Porto Alegre and its network
approach to political struggle:

Sept. 11 seems to have slowed down the movement only momentarily.
Secondly, the coalition has demonstrated that the new antisystemic
strategy is feasible. What is this new strategy? To understand this
clearly, one must remember what was the old strategy. The world's left
in its multiple forms - Communist parties, social-democratic parties,
national liberation movements - had argued for at least a hundred
years (circa 1870-1970) that the only feasible strategy involved two
key elements - creating a centralized organizational structure, and
making the prime objective that of arriving at state power in one way
or another. The movements promised that, once in state power, they
could then change the world.

This strategy seemed to be very successful, in the sense that, by the
1960s, one or another of these three kinds of movements had managed to
arrive at state power in most countries of the world. However, they
manifestly had not been able to transform the world. This is what the
world revolution of 1968 was about - the failure of the Old Left to
transform the world. It led to 30 years of debate and experimentation
about alternatives to the state-oriented strategy that seemed now to
have been a failure. Porto Alegre is the enactment of the alternative.
There is no centralized structure. Quite the contrary. Porto Alegre is
a loose coalition of transnational, national, and local movements,
with multiple priorities, who are united primarily in their opposition
to the neoliberal world order. And these movements, for the most part,
are not seeking state power, or if they are, they do not regard it as
more than one tactic among others, and not the most important.


This analysis is confirmed by Michael Hardt, co-author of Empire, the
already classic analysis of globalisation that is very influential in
the more radical streams of the anti-globalisation movement:

The traditional parties and centralized organizations have
spokespeople who represent them and conduct their battles, but no one
speaks for a network. How do you argue with a network? The movements
organized within them do exert their power, but they do not proceed
through oppositions. One of the basic characteristics of the network
form is that no two nodes face each other in contradiction; rather,
they are always triangulated by a third, and then a fourth, and then
by an indefinite number of others in the web. This is one of the
characteristics of the Seattle events that we have had the most
trouble understanding: groups which we thought in objective
contradiction to one another - environmentalists and trade unions,
church groups and anarchists - were suddenly able to work together, in
the context of the network of the multitude. The movements, to take a
slightly different perspective, function something like a public
sphere, in the sense that they can allow full expression of
differences within the common context of open exchange. But that does
not mean that networks are passive. They displace contradictions and
operate instead a kind of alchemy, or rather a sea change, the flow of
the movements transforming the traditional fixed positions; networks
imposing their force through a kind of irresistible undertow.

Here is also a description by Miguel Benasayag of the type of new
organisational forms exemplified in Argentina:

Les gens étaient dans la rue partout, mais il faut savoir quand même
qu'il y a une spontanéité «travaillée», pour dire ce concept là. Une
spontanéité travaillée, cela ne veut pas dire qu'il y avait des
groupes qui dirigeaient ou qui orchestraient ça, bien au contraire.
Quand arrivaient des gens avec des bannières ou des drapeaux de
groupes politiques, ils étaient très mal reçus à chaque coin de rue.
Mais en revanche, une spontanéité «travaillée» en ce sens que
l'Argentine est «lézardée» par des organisations de base, des
organisations de quartier, de troc...

C.A.: Lézardée, c'est un maillage?

M.B.: Oui, c'est ça, il y a un maillage très serré des organisations
qui ont créé beaucoup de lien social. Il y a des gens qui coupent les
routes et qui font des assemblées permanentes pendant un mois, deux
mois, des piqueteros. Il y a des gens qui occupent des terres...Donc
cette insurrection générale qui émerge en quelques minutes dans tout
le pays, effectivement elle émerge et elle cristallise des trucs qui
étaient déjà là. Donc c'est une spontanéité travaillée ; c'est à dire
que quand même il y a une conscience pratique, une conscience
corporisée dans des organisations vraiment de base. C'est une
rencontre du ras-le-bol, de l'indignation, de la colère populaire, une
rencontre avec les organisations de base qui sont déjà sur le terrain.
J'étais en Argentine quelques jours avant l'insurrection. et il y
avait partout partout des coupures de routes, des mini insurrections.
Et ce qui s'est passé, c'est qu'il y a eu vraiment comme on dirait un
saut qualitatif: les gens en quantité sortent dans la rue et y
rencontrent les gens qui étaient déjà dans la rue depuis très
longtemps en train de faire des choses. Et cela cristallise et permet
de faire quelque chose d'irréversible.

What is significant is that the Argentinean demonstrators seemed to
reject the whole political class, not just the established parties but
also the left-wing radicals who wanted to speak for them and
centralise their struggles, clearly opting for various forms of
self-organisation! So here, the often decried anti-politics have a
whole different context, not as a sign of apathy, but as a sign of
rejection of hierarchical forms. Also related is the extraordinary
rapid resurgence in Argentine of barter systems, based on the Local
Exchange Trading Systems, which in a very short time succeeded in
mobilising hundreds of thousands of Argentinians. Some prospectivists,
like the French Thierry Gaudin, have spoken of the need for such P2P
survival networks, only means to survive the storms generated by the
speculative financial economy.

A report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has paid
particular attention to the innovative organising methods of the
alterglobalisation protesters, and to their use of technology:
internet before and after the event and cell phones during the events.
It concludes that with these innovations, established police powers
have great difficulty to cope:

Cell phones constitute a basic means of communication and control,
allowing protest organizers to employ the concepts of mobility and
reserves and to move groups from place to place as needed. The
mobility of demonstrators makes it difficult for law enforcement and
security personnel to attempt to offset their opponents through the
presence of overwhelming numbers. It is now necessary for security to
be equally mobile, capable of readily deploying reserves, monitoring
the communications of protesters, and, whenever possible, anticipating
the intentions of the demonstrators.

Another example of P2P functioning is the network of independent
journalists IndyMedia, which refuse to nominate spokespeople, and thus
have been described in similar way: every node of the network is
equally representative.

Of course, these networked forms of organising are not the sole
preserve of the left, just as the forms of industrial organisation
where avidly used by the Nazis, who ideologically wanted to revert to
an earlier age, witness the intensive way that the Al Qaeda forces
have used networked technologies, networked forms of organisation
etc.. as I have described in an earlier French-language issue on that
particular subject. (unpublished, available from the author).

Here's an example of P2P organising at the extreme right, amongst the
fastest growing radical religion today, the Odinists:

Today, the number of white racist activists, Aryan revolutionaries, is
far greater than you would know by simply looking at traditional
organizations. Revolutionaries today do not become members of an
organization. They won't participate in a demonstration or a rally or
give out their identity to a group that keeps their name on file,
because they know that all these organizations are heavily monitored.
Since the late 1990s, there has been a general shift away from these
groups on the far right. This has also helped Odinism thrive. Odinists
took the leaderless resistance concept of [leading white supremacist
ideologue] Louis Beam and worked on it, fleshed it out. They found a
strategic position between the upper level of known leaders and
propagandists, and an underground of activists who do not affiliate as
members, but engage instead in decentralized networking and small
cells. They do not shave their heads like traditional Skinheads or
openly display swastikas.

This last development allows a smooth transition to the next, perhaps
unexpected description of peer to peer as a new emerging concept in
the field of spirituality.

2. Peer to Peer in Spirituality
- -------------------------------

Let us start with a revealing quote, from June Campbell, a female
practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, who has been the secret consort
(lover) of the well-known tulku Kali Rinpoche, as she describes in the
very interesting testimonial book, Traveler in Space. It shows the
tension between what are perhaps valuable psycho-technologies, which
can bring new forms of human awareness, but also how they are embedded
in hierarchical, even feudal, forms of organisation:

Tricycle: How did misogyny help male monastic practice?

Campbell: In the very popular text of Milarepa's life story - which
all lay people and monastics read - there are many expressions of
ambivalence about women: how women are polluting, how they are an
obstacle to practice, that at best women can serve others and at worst
they are a nuisance. At the same time, women are transcendentalized
into goddesses, dakinis, female aspects of being that men must
associate with in order to reach enlightenment. On the one hand, the
monastic boys were cut off from women, from maternal care, from
physical contact, from a daily life in which women played nurturing
and essential roles, and this whole secular way of life was devalued
in favor of a male-only society. And yet these boys grew into
practitioners who needed women, either in symbolic form or real women
as consorts, to fulfil their quest. So even misogyny, which was
extensive in the monasteries, was used as a way of helping these young
men in their practice. In order for patriarchy to survive, women had
to be subjugated.

To make a long story short: June Campbell describes in her book how
the Tibetan system puts woman in submissive positions, and because it
does not honor their place in the spiritual system, and does not
recognise the sexual needs of the male lama's, it obliges women to
enter into secret, hypocritical, and subordinate sexual relationships.

But this is just one example of what happened on a massive scale in
the late sixties, seventies and eighties. There was a massive
spiritual hunger in the West (the demand), a supply in the East, but
which was embedded in hierarchical and feudal relationships. If at
least in their own countries these spiritual leaders where beholden to
the controlling influence of tradition and convention, this was not
the case in the West, and many devotees willingly gave up their
critical and independent thinking only to be exploited by a whole
series of scumbag guru's (David Lane's Neural Surfer website had a
whole site on them, with extensive documentation of their misdeeds).
Thus in the nineties arose a critical counter-movement, expressed in
books such as "The Guru Papers" by the Kramers, and in a critique of
the hierarchical assumptions of eastern spiritualities.

As a result, there has been the emergence of a great number of
circles, which are based on peer to peer relationships, where a number
of spiritual searchers, which consider themselves to be equals,
collectively experiment and confront their experiences. This has been
elaborated into a methodology by John Heron in his book "Cooperative
Inquiry" and also in the important new book by Jorge N. Ferrer,
Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human
Spirituality. (SUNY, 2001.)

Ferrer argues that spirituality must be emancipated from
experientialism and perennialism. For Ferrer, the best way to do this
is via his concept of a "participatory turn"; that is, to not limit
spirituality as merely a personal, subjective experience, but to
include interaction with others and the world at large. Finally,
Ferrer posits that spirituality should not be universalized. That is,
one should not strive to find the common thread that can link
pluralism and universalism relationally. Instead, there should be
emphasis on plurality and a dialectic between universalism and

3. Global knowledge exchange and new cooperative social practices on the internet
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Left-leaning intellectuals have long worried about the way in which
our public space - shopping malls, city centres, urban parks, etc. -
have become increasingly private. Other liberals, like writer Mickey
Kaus, have emphasised the dangers to civic life of pervasive economic
inequality. But the web has provided small answers to both these
conundrums. As our public life has shrunk in reality, it has expanded
exponentially online. Acting as a critical counter-ballast to market
culture, the web has made interactions between random, equal citizens,
far more possible than ever before.,culture

The internet is a real revolution in human affairs. Isn't it indeed
amazing that millions of people are freely producing and exchanging
information and knowledge on the web? We are not talking of the
thousands of companies that are doing it out of marketing viewpoints,
but on the amazing emergence of this new form of intellectual
cooperation that we are witnessing on such a massive scale.

There have of course been various explanations for this. Well-known
has been the essay on cybercommunism by Richard Barbrook, which
explains the phenomena as a gift economy, while most business or
economy oriented analysts have stressed the notion of an attention
economy, which basically states that in a context of abundance, which
characterises the information environment that is the internet, the
only way to gain influence, is to gather the attention, in fact the
only scarce good in a networked environment, and that this requires
the giving out of knowledge and expertise. Thus, Shumpei Kumon, the
President of the Global Communications Institute in Tokyo, has
introduced the notion of the Wisdom Game. In short, he explains the
changing nature of the rules used to distribute power in a society. In
tribal and agricultural societies and feudal societies, whose nature
was tributary (the social surplus was extracted by the permanent
threat of force), social power depended on military strength, which
allowed the dominant to extract a tribute. With capitalism, it was
wealth itself that became the vehicle of power. Rome was rich because
it was strong, but America is strong because it is rich. But in the
Information Society we have a twist: paramount becomes the role of
influence. First of all, influence through the mass media (where of
course private ownership plays a role in who can afford these type of
massive investments), and it can be said that the Vietnam War was not
lost by the U.S. due to inferior military force, but because it lost
the propaganda wars. But of course, increasingly this influence will
be wielded through the internet, and an often-cited early example of
this was the use of the medium by the Zapatistas

In a knowledge-based economy, he says, there are emergent powers that
are based on influence and brain power. Again, this struggle for
influence (or reputation) can only be a result of giving out
information. There are thus strong incentives to share.

In his own words:

The new social game that begins to prevail in the era of
informatization is the game of wisdom, in which the goal is to acquire
and exercise wisdom or intellectual influence by disseminating and
sharing information and knowledge. Some people call this the game of
"reputation." This contrasts with old games of wealth and prestige.


David Ronfeldt and John Arquila, have also stressed the changing
nature of power dynamics. In the print age, where information is still
a scarce physical good, power is based on the control of those
information streams, and it gives rise to the bureaucratic form of
organisation. In a networked environment, characterised by
overabundant streams of information, which are potentially accessible
to everybody, power is the result of access and participation in the
network itself, and it gives rise to a cyberocracy.

Ronfeldt and Arquila have developed the notion of a new kinds of
politics, noopolitics, based on these immaterial struggles for the
hearts and minds. A probably similar interpretation, which I have yet
to read as I write this essay, is Alexander Barden's "Netocracy".

But one author goes in fact much further than this, Stefan Merten of, a site that wants to promote the Free Software paradigm as
the example for other social practices, and eventually, as the central
paradigm of a new type of society. He, in my opinion, correctly argues
that the internet is not an exchange economy at all, because in fact,
each produces according to his capabilities and desires, and each
takes according to his needs, which is the very definition of
communism by Karl Marx. He also notes that the original gift economy
was also a form of oppression, because these gifts created obligations
for those who received them, something that is not the case on the

Two important aspects of these new social practices on the internet,
which involve millions of users, and not just the thousands of
programmers active around Free Software, is that the process is
cooperative, and free.

Dutch academic Kim Veltman introduced the important and increasing
role of cooperation as basic to the unfolding of civilisational forms:

Major advances in civilization typically entail a change in medium,
which increases greatly the scope of what can be shared. Havelock
noted that the shift from oral to written culture entailed a dramatic
increase in the amount of knowledge shared and led to a
re-organization of knowledge. McLuhan and Giesecke explored what
happened when Gutenberg introduced print culture in Europe. The
development of printing went hand in hand with the rise of early
modern science. In the sixteenth century, the rise of vernacular
printing helped spread new knowledge. From the mid-seventeenth century
onwards this again increased as learned correspondence became the
basis for a new category of learned journals (Journal des savants,
Journal of the Royal Society, Göttinger Gelehrten Anzeiger etc.),
whence expressions such as the "world of letters". The advent of
Internet marks a radical increase in this trend towards sharing.

A similar assessment of the evolution of cooperation, by scientist and
evolutionary psychologist John Stewart, who actively states that
cooperation is an evolutionary factor and that the next step for
humanity should logically be a cooperative planetary organism:

Evolution's Arrow also argues that evolution itself has evolved.
Evolution has progressively improved the ability of evolutionary
mechanisms to discover the best adaptations. And it has discovered new
and better mechanisms. The book looks at the evolution of pre-genetic,
genetic, cultural, and supra-individual evolutionary mechanisms. And
it shows that the genetic mechanism is not entirely blind and random.

Evolution's Arrow goes on to use an understanding of the direction of
evolution and of the mechanisms that drive it to identify the next
great steps in the evolution of life on earth - the steps that
humanity must take if we are to continue to be successful in
evolutionary terms. It shows how we must change our societies to
increase their scale and evolvability, and how we must change
ourselves psychologically to become self-evolving organisms -
organisms that are able to adapt in whatever ways are necessary for
future evolutionary success, unfettered by their biological or social
past. Two critical steps will be the emergence of a highly evolvable,
unified and cooperative planetary organisation that is able to adapt
as a coherent whole, and the emergence of evolutionary warriors -
individuals who are conscious of the direction of evolution, and who
use their evolutionary consciousness to promote and enhance the
evolutionary success of humanity.


If cooperation is part of evolution's arrow and of the unfolding of
the civilisational process, cannot the same can be said about the
notion of free availability of goods and services? This has been
explained in a underestimated book by a French philosopher, Jean-Louis
Sagot-Duvauroux, who wrote the book, "Pour la Gratuite".

The author stresses that many spheres of life are not dominated by
state or capital, that these are all based on free and equal exchange,
and that the extension of these spheres is synonymous with

Here's a quote:

Le rapport gratuit est quand même très différent du rapport marchand,
même si le rapport marchand aboutit toujours à un rapport non
marchand, à l'usage: quand vous achetez un abricot, il n'est qu'une
pure marchandise au moment où vous hésitez entre lui, la pêche ou la
grappe de raisins, mais une fois que vous l'avez acheté et que vous le
mangez, c'est votre capacité à apprécier son goût qui entre en jeu. La
gratuité, c'est un saut de civilisation. A un moment donné, notre
problème n'est plus de savoir si, oui ou non, notre enfant va aller à
l'école, mais bien comment on va définir le rôle de l'éducation,
assurer la réussite scolaire de chacunÖ Les interrogations gagnent en
qualité, en ambition, elles créent du lien social. La société a montré
qu'elle savait étendre le champ de la gratuité à des domaines qui
n'étaient pas donnés au départ, qui n'étaient pas donnés par la
nature, par exemple avec l'école publique ou la Sécurité sociale. Dès
lors, il m'a semblé que faire reculer la frontière, identifier les
lieux où on peut repousser la limite de ce qui est dominé par le
marché et libérer des espaces du rapport marchand, c'était une
possibilité très importante, très concrète, très immédiate. Cela ne
renvoie pas à des lendemains ou des surlendemains qui chantent; ça
peut se faire tout de suite et permettre ainsi d'expérimenter déjà une
autre forme de rapport aux personnes et aux choses. La gratuité,
rappelons-le, un bien vaut avant tout par son usage et n'a
qu'accidentellement une valeur d'échange.}}

4. A new culture of work and being
- ----------------------------------

Pekka Himanen has examined another cultural aspect of peer to peer,
based on his analysis of the work culture of the free software and
hacker communities, in his book about "The Hacker Ethic". In this
book, he compares the protestant work ethic defined by Max Weber is
his classic "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", with
the new mentality of hackers. A quote from the blurb:

Nearly a century ago, Max Weber articulated the animating spirit of
the industrial age, the Protestant ethic. Now, Pekka Himanen -
together with Linus Torvalds and Manuel Castells - articulates how
hackers* represent a new, opposing ethos for the information age.
Underlying hackers' technical creations - such as the Internet and the
personal computer, which have become symbols of our time - are the
hacker values that produced them and that challenge us all. These
values promoted passionate and freely rhythmed work; the belief that
individuals can create great things by joining forces in imaginative
ways; and the need to maintain our existing ethical ideals, such as
privacy and equality, in our new, increasingly technologized society.

This same aspect is discussed in a discussion note below by Kris
Roose, who distinguishes the secondary culture, described originally
by Max Weber, where one works, many times unpleasantly, to make a
living and buy oneselves pleasures, and the tertiary culture, where
the work itself becomes an expression of oneself (the self-unfolding
process described by Stefan Merten of Oekonux, see below) and a source
of direct pleasure.

Richard Barbrook and other writers of a Manifesto for Digital Artisans
had already described some of the elements of this culture as well:

4. We will shape the new information technologies in our own
interests. Although they were originally developed to reinforce
hierarchical power, the full potential of the Net and computing can
only be realised through our autonomous and creative labour. We will
transform the machines of domination into the technologies of

9. For those of us who want to be truly creative in hypermedia and
computing, the only practical solution is to become digital artisans.
The rapid spread of personal computing and now the Net are the
technological expressions of this desire for autonomous work. Escaping
from the petty controls of the shopfloor and the office, we can
rediscover the individual independence enjoyed by craftspeople during
proto-industrialism. We rejoice in the privilege of becoming digital

10. We create virtual artefacts for money and for fun. We work both in
the money-commodity economy and in the gift economy of the Net. When
we take a contract, we are happy to earn enough to pay for our
necessities and luxuries through our labours as digital artisans. At
the same time, we also enjoy exercising our abilities for our own
amusement and for the wider community. Whether working for money or
for fun, we always take pride in our craft skills. We take pleasure in
pushing the cultural and technical limits as far forward as possible.
We are the pioneers of the modern.

But hackers are not in fact the only one's exemplifying those values
of working for passion, based on self-unfolding of one's creativity
and desires, and in the context of peer-based relationships. A whole
new generation of youngsters have shown to be ready for such social
practices, as shown in a book like "The Industrialisation of Bohemia"
and exemplified for a short number of years in the dynamism of the
internet start-ups, before they were destroyed by the shorttermism of
their venture capital backers. We are in fact talking about new ways
of feeling and being!

In our previous paragraph of peer to peer-based forms of political
organising, we quoted Miguel Benasayag, who is the philosopher who is
going furthest in identifying a new cultural substrata that makes P2P
practices possible. (He has of course been influenced by the
paradigmatic work of what we could call the founding P2P philosophers,
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose first chapter of their
classic "Milles Plateaux" is dedicated to a description of the
Rhizome, a complete peer-based network...)

C'est pourquoi nous pensons que toute lutte contre le capitalisme qui
se prétend globale et totalisante reste piégée dans la structure même
du capitalisme qui est, justement, la globalité. La résistance doit
partir de et développer les multiplicités, mais en aucun cas selon une
direction ou une structure qui globalise, qui centralise les luttes.
Un réseau de résistance qui respecte la multiplicité est un cercle qui
possède, paradoxalement, son centre dans toutes les parties. Nous
pouvons rapprocher cela de la définition du rhizome de Gilles Deleuze

«Dans un rhizome on entre par n'importe quel côté, chaque point se
connecte avec n'importe quel autre, il est composé de directions
mobiles, sans dehors ni fin, seulement un milieu, par où il croit et
déborde, sans jamais relever d'une unité ou en dériver ; sans sujet ni

La nouvelle radicalité, ou le contre-pouvoir, ce sont bien sûr des
associations, des sigles comme ATTAC, comme Act Up, comme le DAL. Mais
ce sont surtout - et avant tout - une subjectivité et des modes de vie
différents. Il y a des jeunes qui vivent dans des squats - et c'est
une minorité de jeunes -, mais il y a plein de jeunes qui pratiquent
des solidarités dans leurs vies, qui n'ordonnent pas du tout leur vie
en fonction de l'argent. Cela, c'est la nouvelle radicalité, c'est
cette émergence d'une sociabilité nouvelle qui, tantôt, a des modes
d'organisation plus ou moins classiques, tantôt non. Je pense qu'en
France, ça s'est développé très fortement. Le niveau d'engagement
existentiel des gens est énorme.

This is clearly a description of a new existential positioning, a
radical refusal of power-based relationships and a clear departure
from the old oppositional politics, where the protesters where using
the same authoritarian principles in their midst, than those of the
forces they were denouncing. Here are some further quotes, which
highlight the new radical subjectivities

Contrairement aux militants classiques, je pense que les choses qui
existent ont une raison d'être, aussi moches soient elles..." "Rien
n'existe par accident et tout à coup, nous, malins comme nous sommes,
nous nous disons qu'il n'y a vraiment qu'à décider de changer. Les
militants n'aiment pas cette difficulté; ils aiment se fâcher avec le
monde et attendre ce qui va le changer." "C'est toujours très
surprenant: la plupart des gens ont un tas d'informations sur leurs
vies, mais "savoir", ça veut dire, en termes philosophiques,
"connaître par les causes, et donc pouvoir modifier le cours des
choses." "Oui, l'anti-utilitarisme est fondamental. Parce que la vie
ne sert à rien. Parce qu'aimer ne sert à rien, parce que rien ne sert
à rien. " "On voit bien cette militance un peu feignante qui se
définit "contre": on est gentil parce qu'on est contre. Non! ça ne
suffit pas d'être contre les méchants pour être gentil. Après tout,
Staline était contre Hitler! "


1. Peer to peer in a hierarchical world: conflict within individuals
- --------------------------------------------------------------------

New subjectivities are arising, that desire self-unfolding of their
creativity and peer-based working relationships.

New cooperative production and distribution methods and P2P
organisation forms are arising, often based on the free exchange of

But is the world ready for it?

Here is a quote that expresses what happens when a new P2P soul enters
an existing organisation, giving voice to the dehumanising aspects of
current forms of social organisation:

Whether it is in response to us sensing that a new possibility exists
for us on the horizons of our current ways of being, or whether it is
to do with us sensing an increasing lack, is difficult to say. But,
which ever it is, there is no doubt that there is an increasing
recognition that the administrative and organization systems, within
which we have long tried to relate ourselves to each other and our
surroundings, are crippling us. Something is amiss. They have no place
in them for us, for our humanness. While the information revolution
bursts out around us, there is an emerging sense that those moments in
which we are most truly alive and able to express our own unique
creative reactions to the others and othernesses around us (and they
to us), are being eliminated. In an over-populated world, there seems
to be fewer and fewer people to talk to - and less and less time in
which to do it.

In fact, the current form of entreprises are of course still
thoroughly hierarchic and authoritarian despite the many changes to
networked and team-based forms of work, which stand in tension with
the hierarchical format. This was described in the 1988 classic by
Robert Jackall, "Moral Mazes", in fact a in-depth anthropological
study of the modern entreprise format:

When managers describe their work to an outsider, they almost always
first say: 'I work for [Bill James]' or 'I report to [Harry Mills].'
and only then proceed to describe their actual work functions ... The
key interlocking mechanism of [modern corporate culture] is its
reporting system. Each manager ... formulates his commitments to his
boss; this boss takes these commitments and those of his other
subordinates, and in turn makes a commitment to his boss ... This
'management-by-objective' system, as it is usually called, creates a
chain of commitments from the CEO down to the lowliest product manager
or account executive. In practice, it also shapes a patrimonial
authority arrangement that is crucial to defining both the immediate
experiences and the long-run career chances of individual managers. In
this world, a subordinate owes fealty principally to his immediate

Moral Mazes goes on to describe how bosses use ambiguity with their
subordinates (and other more-or-less unconscious subterfuges) in order
to preserve the power to claim credit and deflect blame, which tends
to perpetuate the personalization of authority. Unlike a straight, Max
Weber style bureaucracy, which is procedure-bound and rule-driven, a
patrimonial bureaucracy is a set of hierarchical fiefdoms defined by
personal power and patronage.

Here David Isen's describes the crucial shortcoming of the present

When there is good news, credit flows up - so the boss, personifying
the organization, looks good to superiors. Then credit flows up again.

When there is bad news, it is the boss's prerogative to push blame
onto subordinates to keep it from escalating. Bad news that can't be
contained threatens a boss's position; if bad news rises up, blame
will come down. This is why they shoot messengers. So it's easier to
ignore bad news. Thus, Jackall's chemical company studiously ignored a
$6 million maintenance item until it exploded (literally) into a $150
Million problem. "To make a decision ahead of [its] time risks
political catastrophe," said one manager, justifying the deferred
maintenance. Then, once the mess had been made, "The decision [to
clean up] made itself," said another relieved manager.

Or here is French sociologist Philippe Zafirian who describes a more
general unease with the current system.

Depuis plusieurs années, les enquêtes nationales ne cessent de nous
indiquer une nette dégradation des conditions de travail, telle que
les salariés la vivent et la déclarent. Les enquêtes sociologique de
terrain le confirment : c'est à un phénomène de vaste ampleur que nous
avons affaire. Les individus au travail souffrent et ils l'expriment.
On pourrait certes débattre des moteurs internes de cette souffrance :
tous les chercheurs ne sont pas d'accord sur ce point. Mais il me
semble qu'une réalité s'impose, par son évidence et son importance :
les salariés plient sous la pression, elle les écrase. La pression
n'est pas simple contrainte. Toute personne se développe en
permanence, dans sa vie personnelle, dans un réseau de contraintes.
Les indicateurs de cette pression, nous les connaissons bien : débit,
rendement, délais clients, challenges, pression des résultats à
atteindre, précarité de la situation, organisation de la concurrence
entre salariés, salaire individuel variableÖ On y relève à la fois la
reprise de vieilles recettes tayloriennes, mais aussi quelque chose de
nouveau, de plus insidieux : la pression sur la subjectivité même de
l'individu au travail, une force qui s'exerce sur son esprit, qui
l'opprime de l'intérieur de lui-même, qui l'aliène.

Mais il existe une autre facette de la situation actuelle : la montée
de la révolte. Celle-ci transparait beaucoup moins dans les
statistiques ; elle s'extériorise moins en termes de conflits ouverts.
Toutefois, pour un sociologue qui mène en permanence des enquêtes de
terrain, le fait est peu contestable. On peut pressentir l'explosion
d'une révolte d'une portée équivalente à celle qui a secoué la France
à la fin des années 60, début des années 70, lors des grandes
insurrections des O.S (red : Ouvriers Specialises)., quelles que soit
les formes d'extériorisation qu'elle prendra. La révolte n'est pas
simple réaction à la pression. Elle a des causes plus profondes. Elle
renvoie d'abord à une évolution profonde, irréversible, de la libre
individualité dans une société moderne. Elle touche enfin à ce
phénomène important : à force de devoir se confronter à des
performances, à des indicateurs de gestion, à une responsabilité quant
au service rendu à l'usager ou au client, les salariés ont développé
une intelligence des questions de stratégie d'entreprise. Ils jugent,
et d'une certaine manière comprennent les politiques de leurs
directions, voire en situent les contradictions et insuffisances. Mais
il leur est d'autant plus insupportable d'être traités comme de purs
exécutants, des machines sans âme et sans pensée propre, d'être en
permanence mis devant le fait accompli. Je pense que notre époque
connait un véritable renversement : bien des salariés de base
deviennent plus intelligents que leurs directions et que les
actionnaires, au sens d'une pensée plus riche, plus complexe, plus
subtile, plus compréhensive, plus profondément innovante.

The citation from Zaifian also points out the opposite problem from
the one we introduced at the beginning of this section, and is thus
not only about the pain of P2P souls entering old-style procedurial or
patrimonial hierarchies, but also the opposite, the pain of the more
traditional sectors of the population faced with the new demands of a
hypercompetitive enterprise. These changes have been described in the
already classic "Le Nouvel Esprit du Capitalisme" by Luc Boltanski and
Ève Chiapello and show how a system has moved from a use of bodies to
the demand for the engagement of the whole being of the new knowledge
workers, an internalising of the priorities of the entreprise. But at
the very moment that, since the eighties, the priorities of companies
have shrinked to the generation of only profits for the shareholders,
this creates a tension with the value systems of the individuals.

The new forms of peer to peer based work will of course have to
accommodate the many different wishes and needs of various sectors of
workers, and honor their differences. Worth exploring are the
different systems that indeed honour the different value systems, as
pioneered by Clare Graves, the different schools of Spiral Dynamics,
Temenos from Ray Harris, and other integrative systems.

2. Collective Conflicts and the new enclosures
- ----------------------------------------------

Two dominant spheres (we will not discuss the surviving pre-capitalist
forms of social organisation) presently co-exist. The dominant sphere
of commodity-based capitalism, and the new sphere of cooperative
exchange. As they are driven by different logics, it is clear that
this is an emerging and important conflict zone.

The central problem is that most of the existing peer to peer
emergence is based on the surplus created by the present economic
system, and that many forms of peer to peer live from the wealth
created by this system, being unable to sustain themselves
independently. I am personally not convinced yet that peer to peer can
sustain itself economically, and so are many of its proponents. Which
is the reason why many peer to peer oriented theorists point to the
need of a generalised citizen wage, which would replace all existing
transfers (unemployment, etc.) and allow for a generalisation of peer
to peer activities, based on the surplus generated by the money

So, how will these different spheres indeed co-exist?

There are in fact three hypotheses of their co-existence, conflict, or

1.   will the cooperative sphere swallow the competitive sphere
     (thesis of Stefan Merten);

2.   will they co-exist (Richard Barbrook, Eric Raymond)

3.   will the competitive sphere completely eat the cooperative
     sphere. (The latter is the thesis of Jeremy Rifkin's Age of
     Access which is an attempt to describe the ways in which the
     economy is trying to swallow the cognitive and cultural spheres}

2.1 Extending the cooperative sphere and replacing informational capitalism
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since peer to peer is functioning so well in the sphere of producing
software, the pre-eminent form of social capital, and since our whole
economy is becoming dominated by immaterial processes, what could be
expected is that practices arising out of this new cooperative sphere
would infect the total economy. This thesis is the most radically
expressed by Stefan Merten of Oekonux, who calls for a GPL Society,
where the principles behind the General Public License would gradually
be extended to the whole society. Here's an extensive quote:

As I tried to explain Free Software is not based on exchange so
neither is a GPL Society. How a GPL Society may look like concretely
can't be determined fully today. However, at present there are many
developments, which already point in that direction.

o    One development is the increasing obsolescence of human labor.
     The more production is done by machines the less human labor is
     needed in the production process. If freed from the chains of
     capitalism this development would mean freedom from more and more
     necessities, making room for more processes of self-unfolding -
     be it productive processes like Free Software or non-productive
     ones like many hobbies. So contrary to capitalism, in which
     increasing automation always destroys the work places for people
     and thus their means to live, in a GPL Society maximum automation
     would be an important aim of the whole society.

o    In every society based on exchange - which includes the former
     Soviet bloc - making money is the dominant aim. Because a GPL
     Society would not be based on exchange, there would be no need
     for money anymore. Instead of the abstract goal of maximizing
     profit, the human oriented goal of fulfilling the needs of
     individuals as well as of mankind as a whole would be the focus
     of all activities.

o    The increased communication possibilities of the Internet will
     become even more important than today. An ever-increasing part of
     production and development will take place on the Internet or
     will be based on it. The B2B (business to business) concept,
     which is about improving the information flow between businesses
     producing commodities, shows us that the integration of
     production in the field of information has just started. On the
     other hand the already visible phenomenon of people interested in
     a particular area finding each other on the Internet will become
     central for the development of self-unfolding groups.

o    The difference between consumers and producers will vanish more
     and more. Already today the user can configure complex
     commodities like cars or furniture to some degree, which makes
     virtually each product an individual one, fully customized to the
     needs of the consumer. This increasing configurability of
     products is a result of the always increasing flexibility of the
     production machines. If this is combined with good software you
     could initiate the production of highly customized material goods
     - allowing a maximum of self-unfolding - from your web browser up
     to the point of delivery.

o    Machines will become even more flexible. New type of machines
     available for some years now - fabbers - are already more
     universal in some areas than modern industrial robots, not to
     mention stupid machines like a punch. The flexibility of the
     machines is a result of the fact that material production is
     increasingly based on information. At the same time the
     increasing flexibility of the machines gives the users more room
     for creativity and thus for self-unfolding.

o    In a GPL society there is no more reason for a competition beyond
     the type of competition we see in sports. Instead various kinds
     of fruitful cooperation will take place. You can see that today
     not only in Free Software but also (partly) in science and for
     instance in cooking recipes: Imagine your daily meal if cooking
     recipes would be proprietary and available only after paying a
     license fee instead of being the result of a world-wide
     cooperation of cooks.

The same type of ideas have been developed in great detail by Michael
Albert and other proponents of participatory economics:

The underlying values parecon seeks to implement are equity,
solidarity, diversity, and participatory self management. The main
institutions to attain these ends are council democracy, balanced job
complexes, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, and
participatory planning.

The key question is of course, how do we get from A to B?

If it is true that the current form of informational capitalism is
already creating enough surpluses to sustain such cooperative
practices, it is also clear that most of them are not making money by
themselves. Currently, P2P programmers are often academics, students,
or have other sources of income. Thus, the current weaknesses of the
model are that:

1.   the hacker themselves are a varied bunch of individuals, with
     many different political positions, they're only common point is
     their preference for the free flow of information and knowledge

2.   peer to peer in the technological sense is the domain of
     technology-savvy hackers who have the same absorptive capacity to
     collaborate on software projects; it is and remains a
     technological elite

Nevertheless, the partisans of this approach are convinced that the
nature of work in informational capitalism is already such that the
cooperative work of the knowledge workers is already expropriated, and
that this situation can be reversed.

This issue is effectively be addressed by a group of social and
economic thinkers, such as Yann Moulier Boutang of the magazine
Multitudes, and other partisans of the universal social wage. They are
strongly associated with the thinkers around Tony Negri, himself an
offshoot of the Autonomous Marxism movement in Italy, and with
participants such as Maurizio Lazzarato, who just wrote a new book on
the French philosopher Gabriel Tarde (Title: "Puissances de
l'invention: la psychologie economique de Gabriel Tarde contre
l'economie politique"), one of the pioneering thinkers of the
immaterial economy, writing at the end of the nineteenth century!!

The modes of production and communication of knowledge lead us beyond
the economy. We are beyond the necessity of socialising intellectual
forces through exchange, division of labour, money or exclusive
property. This does not mean that the relations of power between
social forces are neutralised - in fact, they show up as fertile
matings or fatal shocks beyond the market and the exchange of wealth.
This means that that unavowed ethical nature of economic forces
resurfaces powerfully as a single mode of "economic regulation" at the
very moment in which economic production is subordinated to
intellectual production.;

In terms of strategies or tactics, these new schools of militancy no
longer advocate revolution (or reform) but a diagonal approach. Negri
himself often refers to the Roman Empire and the rise of a
counter-empire in its midst. When the Christian movement arose, they
were totally incomprehensible to the Roman establishment, and
themselves did not fight the Empire (give unto Caesar, etc.), but
instead, created a counter-society. When the Empire disbanded, they
were simply ready and the sole counterforce to survive intact. Thus
these new politics advocate a diagonal and hic and nunc approach of
creating alternatives. Resister c'est creer.

2.2 Resisting informational capitalism
- --------------------------------------

Of course, not everybody believes in this optimistic scenario. For
many others, it is simply a matter of resisting the encroachment of
the private sphere and to defend these new commons. A good spokesman
for this strategy seems to be Jeremy Rifkin.

According to Rifkin and others, the extensive method of capitalist
expansion, based on the geographical extension of its influence, as in
colonialism or imperialism, is indeed over, and we are entering an
intensive epoch, where the system is going deeper inwards,
incorporating and transforming culture as a commodity. Rifkin
describes attempts such as leasing and other forms of paid access, and
seems to describe the need for a defensive strategy, exemplified by
the exception culturelle in France, or movements such as Slow Food.
His mantra is: defend the sphere of intimacy against the sphere of

But one thing is clear, traditional commodity-based and industrial
capitalism does not know yet how to fruitfully incorporate the new
sphere, although it will continuously try, but so far, as illustrated
by the dotcom collapse, it has failed, says John Perry Barlow, himself
a libertarian, and if I'm not mistaken, at one time a member of the
Republican Party:

The whole dot-com thing was an effort to use 19th and 20th century
concepts of economy in an environment where they didn't exist, and the
Internet essentially shrugged them off. This was an assault by an
alien force that was repelled by the natural forces of the Internet.

(John Perry Barlow)[PHONE NUMBER REMOVED].html

Another example may be Lawrence Lessig, author of the War of Ideas. He
situates the field of struggle in the following ways:

1.   the very architecture of the internet. As it originally embodied
     the peer to peer values of its founders, it is precisely this end
     to end architecture that has to be preserved in order to protect
     the integrity of its common infrastructure

2.   the freedom of speech and association of the internet could be
     endangered by the encroachment of private interests, who start to
     monopolise portals and media sites, and can use copyright to
     silence many voices

Thus, it is very important to defend the existence of the new digital
commons that is the internet, against any attempts to privatise or
disband it.

2.3 Integration in informational capitalism
- -------------------------------------------

Of course, this is still a very likely scenario, as the system has
shown its extraordinary capacity to integrate any challenges to its
hegemony. This is the process that is best described by Jeremy
Rifkin's Age of Access, and that would entail a transformation of
commodity-based capitalism towards a system based on access to digital
resources, and dominated by subscriptions, leasing systems, and the

But if they eventually succeed and this cultural sphere is indeed
taken over completely, the consequences would be quite negative, says
Rifkin, and with him Jordan Pollack: we will never own anything
anymore, we will always be dependent on all kinds of licensing.

It seems to me that what we're seeing in the software area, and this
is the scary part for human society, is the beginning of a kind of
dispossession. People are talking about this as dispossession that
only comes from piracy, like Napster and Gnutella where the rights of
artists are being violated by people sharing their work. But there's
another kind of dispossession, which is the inability to actually buy
a product. The idea is here: you couldn't buy this piece of software,
you could only licence it on a day by day, month by month, year by
year basis; As this idea spreads from software to music, films, books,
human civilization based on property fundamentally changes.

This position is echoed by libertarian John Perry Barlow, co-founder
of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

I'm spending an enormous amount of my time stopping content industries
from taking over the world - literally. I feel like we're in a
condition where private totalitarianism is not out of the question
because of the increasingly thickening matrix of channels of
communication owned by the same companies that own content, that own
Web properties, that own traditional media. In essence, they're in a
position to own the human mind itself. The possibility of getting a
dissident voice through their channels is increasingly scarce, and the
use of copyright as a means of suppressing freedom of expression is
becoming more and more fashionable. You've got these interlocking
systems of technology and law, where merely quoting something from a
copyrighted piece is enough to bring down the system on you.[PHONE NUMBER REMOVED].html

Of course, this situation can also be described positively, in the
sense that the hierarchical based forms of industrial capitalism, are
being supplemented and partially replaced by the more humane peer to
peer relationships. This is the position expressed by Eric Raymond,
who advocates the use of Open Source software by the business
community, and even by Richard Barbrook, who in his essay on
cybercommunism stresses the co-existence and cooperation of the
profit-driven system on the one hand, with the gift economy on the
other hand and integrates it in his tenth paragraph of the Manifesto
for Digital Artisans, cited above.

2.4 Digital Commons
- -------------------

[section to be developped: struggles around the new enclosures and the
digital commons]


P2P Technology

o    Peer to Peer: Sharing Over the Internet. Bo Leuf. Addison Wesley
     Professional; ISBN: 0201767325

o    P2P Society  The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a
     Connected World. By Lawrence Lessig. Random House, 2001.

o    Jonathan Rauch, Kindly Inquisitors and David Brin, The
     Transparent Society

     Each of these books contain compelling arguments for allowing
     decentralized social processes to regulate dangerous knowledge.
     In Rauch's book, he outlines the dangers of attempting to outlaw
     speech about ideas that are considered unacceptable, and in
     Brin's, he outlines the dangers of trying to limit the use of
     information gathering tools to a narrow class of acceptable
     users. In each case, they conclude that adversarial processes
     will limit the damage, and maximize the value. They deserve to be
     widely read and discussed. (note from David Reed)


P2P Technology

o    The advantages of a P2P computing architecture explained by

o    The P2P identity scheme unveiled by the Liberty Alliance (Nokia,
     Sun) against the Passport scheme of Microsoft:

o    MIT papers on Open Source, perhaps the best collection, with many
     papers crossing over from technology to social, business, and
     organisational characteristics:

P2P Business

o    How proprietary software and Open Source work together:,5987,3416--283153-0,00.html

P2P Organisation

     C.E. Quinlan for the Degree of PhD of the University of Bath,

P2P Spirituality

o    Participation, Organization, and Mind: Toward a Participatory
     Worldview David Skrbina. CARPP Thesis 2001.:

o    Cooperative Inquiry is a pioneering methodology for peer-based
     spiritual experimenting, developed by John Heron, now in New

P2P Society

o    A defense of the Open Spectrum idea: airwaves are not physical


1. Why P2P is a stronger model, both technologically and organisationally, than the hierarchical pyramidal modes ­ A contribution by Kris Roose
- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

- ----------

Each form of organization implies two information streams: from
observation point towards decision point, and from decision point to
execution point. Observation an execution most often coincide, and
anyway are much closer - in informational distance - to each other,
than each of them to the central decision point.

In an hierarchic organization model the first stream goes bottom-up,
the second stream top-down. By gathering information at the top, only
there we find a complete view of reality and decisions can be made
more easily.

In a Peer-to-Peer organization information freely flows from point to
point. At each point a global view can be attained. The decisions can
be made in global discussion, without the need of a central node.

- --------------------

1. On decision making
- ---------------------

One can discern three way of dicision making, three ways of problem

1.   selection,

2.   compromise and

3.   integration.

In selection, one alternative is selected out against the others,
considered as "wrong" or "impossible". In compromise a rapporchement
is made between the alternatives, basically for psychological reasons:
each contributor has the feeling that, although not completely, his
views were at least partially taken into account, and nobody is the
winner. In integration every detail of the contributions is taken into
account, and all apparently unreconcilable were transformed
(reformulated, retroduced to their essence) as to enable a peaceful
and constructive combination of all elements. Every contributor feels
happy and motivated - at least if he agrees to redefine some of his
contributions -, and the result has a much higher probability for
success than if just one of the options had been chosen.

Although hierarchical organization doesn't exclude integration in se,
the distance between information source and decision level is so big,
that view transformations and secondary motivations (hidden agendas)
can be added to the decision making process. As the concerned
themselves only participate very poorly to the decision process, the
decisions can be taken without complying with the "bottom". E.g. every
war is started against the will of the large majority of the

In P2P the conclusion is more likely an integration, because everybody
has the same possibilitry of participation in the the decision making,
and can protest when his contribution is not (enough) taken into

2. The intermediary agents / brokers
- ------------------------------------

As well goods as informations very often are not produced or available
where they are needed. This distance allows a host of intermediary
agents to settle them in a profitable situation. By creating a lock
they create a control situation, and take often enormous) profit
without adding value to the products. Factors that enable lock
creation include material and psychological distances, classified
information (e.g. address lists), "licences", etc. It can easily be
calculated that the most important part of the price includes profits
of brokers, taxes, etc.

Builiding an hierarchy also is a kind of parasitism. P2P is a way to
reduce this phenomenon to the minimum.

3. The capacitating technology
- ------------------------------

These high forms of communication are only possible with a
technological substrate. Sociocultural progress in general always
implies material substrates. This is often forgotten in politics.
Noospheric conditions are only possible with the kind of technology
Internet procured us.

4. Progress by hypes
- --------------------

Sociocultural evolution often makes progress by hypes. All of a
sudden, a clear defined concept appears, and divulges at the velocity
of light. Everybody gets the meaning at once, and those concepts are
quickly integrated into the existing social culture.

So was, e.g., the notion of "participation" in the 1968 student
revolts. "Human resources" is another example, as were "evaluation",
"functional evaluations" (functioneringsgesprek). "P2P" seems to be
such a good sounding concept.

2. Peer to peer needs to be complemented by Integration technologies and integrative attitudes ­ a contribution by Kris Roose
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Another application is the integrative communication style in an
optimale relation. This style, described - in Dutch - on, is not only a communication technique, but
rather a series of fundamental attitudes towards each other. These
attitudes are trained during the communication training. In fact, by
disussing human relations and cooperative creativity, we leave the
field of P2P. Although P2P is an essential paradigm for human
interaction and organization, more profound considerations on the
integration process should be useful here - or at the begin of the

These integration philosophy stems form two starting-points:

1.   factual integration (the integration of needs and desires). A
     dynamic system only can reach equilibrium when the need of the
     participating elements are maximally fulfilled. The
     non-fulfillment of any needs creates a source of desequilibrium
     (from demotitaion to revolution) that will challenge the
     structure as long as needs stay infulfilled. Integration is an
     advantage, not only for each element as such, but for the group
     as a whole. The whole cosmic evolution can be seen a one long
     journey towards global integration. The basic law, that in fact
     underpins all forms of moral and ethics, is: "each action must
     aim at a maximal integration of the needs of all concerned".

2.   conceptual integration (the integration of ideas). The
     probability that a diverging idea holds some useful information
     and intuition is indefinitely higher than the probability that a
     diverging idea is completely wrong. Hence, to make decisions by
     choice is always erroneous, even if supported by wisdom or a
     majority. The probability that a thesis is right ("true",
     although I prefer "plausible") increases with the number of
     divergent contributions that are integrated.

3. The Wisdom Game ­ a contribution by Kris Roose
- -------------------------------------------------

In my own work, I distinguish between secondary and tertiary culture
and it seems clear that the concept of the Wisdom Game is typical of a
tertiary culture. In a secundary culture, there is a non-integration
(or just a low integration) between earning and feeling happiness. One
has to do things, often not captivating in themselves, to earn money,
and then we can use this money to purchase agreeable things. On the
other hand, the internet offers immediate reward (creativity,
proudness, the kick of interacting with great systems). This explains
perhaps why so many people - from hobbyists to hackers - are prepared
to work hours and hours on the net without any financial reward: just
for the fun of it. But in the meanwhile they create a thesaurus of
information, knowledge advancement and artworks. Their game starts
growing horribly real.

Furthermore, if "influence" is defined as the global effect of
non-hierarchical interactions, it is a good measure for synergetic

I think that information (facts, knowledge, psychologcial skills) was
also paramount in hierarchical organization. The strength of the
managers is a function of their informational superiority. One can try
to increase this superiority, but also to decrease the information and
the feeling of a global view in the lower regions of the organization:
top secret, control of media, limited education, prohibition of
meetings, "divide et impera", etc.

4. Peer to peer cannot yet sustain itself on its own - by Andrew Russell
- ------------------------------------------------------------------------

My main overall criticism of your paper would be to urge you to pay
more attention to the hierarchical systems that p2p is built upon and
may be transcending. A few examples will illustrate this general

1.   In your section 4 on p2p manufacturing, you mention a sort of
     "open source Lego" project. I think a crucial point here is also
     that there is only one company who could coordinate such an
     enterprise - Lego. Their ability to do this is due to their
     leading position and reputation in their industry. The historical
     roots of their rise to prominence - including investments in
     patents and manufacturing equipment, licensing agreements,
     advertising, etc. - created their ability to go "open source." In
     these sorts of open source models, there is a constant tension to
     negotiate giving things away vs. keeping some things (or all
     things) proprietary.

2.   Same is true for the Internet - it appears to many users to be
     "free" and totally "transcending geography," but the truth is
     that it is not at all free and is based on geographical-based
     advances (in other words, previous networks). Wiecking's Hawaiian
     wireless network seems to liberate its users from the traditional
     gatekeeper / server-client model. The non-profits and educators
     may not charge the users for using the wireless network, but this
     does not mean it's free. These institutions must pay for their
     connections to the net, must buy and upgrade and maintain their
     equipment, and are subjected to volatile market forces in their
     efforts to find good people to do this work. And the Internet
     backbone - nothing is "free" there, either. So if these folks in
     Hawaii want to get info from a website based in, say, Spain, the
     traffic needs to go through several servers, over network lines
     (owned by WorldCom or maybe Level 3 or any number of smaller
     carriers), and then finally to the users in Hawaii. And all of
     this, of course, is the result of massive taxpayer, military,
     private sector, etc. investment in networking research over the
     past 40 years. The internet is said to "transcend geography," but
     all internet network traffic is predicated upon previous networks
     - telephone, cable, fiber, satellite, etc - and could not survive
     without these legacy networks.

     The point I am laboring to make is that the service in Hawaii
     appears to be free and truly p2p: but this would not and could
     not exist without some sort of hierarchical drive to start the
     whole system in the first place (the spirit of this comment also
     applies to the first para of section 5 "some preliminary
     considerations"). Centralized command and control is alive and
     well - more distributed than it used to be, for sure, but not
     completely detached from centralized power. Indeed, AOL's entire
     network is not p2p at all - it goes from the client, then to
     central AOL servers (for USA traffic these servers are in
     Virginia), then back out to the client. So even if we were using
     AOL IM in the same room, our traffic would go all the way to
     Virginia and back.

3.   And even among the p2p community, their "gift economy" is based
     on widespread, low-cost availability of computer hardware, chips,
     fast networks - all products of companies steeped in the
     "old-world" economy of investment banks, stock prices, venture
     capital, and the like. Hackers cannot make a living by giving
     away all of the products of their labor. Right now, I cannot
     envision a way that this p2p community could exist without the
     extremely hierarchical, greed-driven, profit-based industries who
     make chips, motherboards, hard drives, fiber-optics, routers, and
     all of the components that allow p2p to flourish.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that p2p seems to be standing
on the shoulders of the past 40 years of networking and 100+ years of
progress in computing (in industry, academia, government, hobbyists'
garages and basements, and the private sector). And if you take away
these shoulders, p2p would crumble to the ground.... I admire p2p and
think that it is a harbinger of things to come (Manuel Castells and
Pekka Himanen, as you note in your text, express this trend very
clearly). But I have serious doubts about how much the model can be
successful beyond the software world - especially when the Bush
Administration is turning away from decentralized models toward
big-government, big-brother models. In fact, at the end of Raymond's
book version of "Cathedral and the Bazaar" he has a 3-page section
where he discusses whether the open-source model can be usefully
applied to goods other than software, or if it has political
implications. He basically avoids this question and sticks to the
logic of "one battle at a time." He does acknowledge the obvious
parallels to decentralization trends in other industries; but then
goes on to warn against over-applying these ideas. However, once
open-source is proven to be superior in software (he guesses it will
take 3-5 years), he expresses a willingness to start other battles.

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