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[ox-en] Maussian ideas and Free Software

Hi again!

So here is the mail about Mauss and Free Software. Matthias: Are you

As far as I understood Mauss made some studies of indigenous people
and found out that they have some sort of exchange. However, this sort
of exchange is oriented towards the social relationships which are
fostered by this type of exchange. Matthias thinks that one of the
main reasons - if not *the* reason - for participation in Free
Software is that people want to give back if they have received so
much. One key argument is that people feel indebted if they only
receive without giving anything back. As a result there is some sort
of gift exchange.

We had quite some discussion about that point. After all in Oekonux we
see Selbstentfaltung as the main reason and at the moment I have no
idea how feeling indebted can be thought of as being a part of
Selbstentfaltung. Of course the question came up whether there is some
kind of (Christian) guilt concept behind that whole idea. This has
been denied, however, by the persons who knew a bit about Mauss.

Also a counter argument was that a gift only makes sense if it is a
scarce thing you are giving. I mean what sense does it make if you get
the 22nd copy of OOo for instance. Free Software, however, is
available to everyone so a gift makes little sense here. Well,
actually the original argument has been applied more to people
contributing to Free Software and, yes, the patches, bug reports, and
other contributions is a more limited resource.

Of course I'm very sceptical about all that because it sounds very
much like just another attempt to declare exchange as some kind of
"natural" thing. On the other hand IMHO it can't be denied that some
sort of non-economical exchange, - well no - some sort of flow of
things actually seems to be part of the human mind set. I mean for
instance children offer things sometimes if they want to get your
attention / friendship / whatever. So there might be some point in the
Maussian ideas even when applied to the Free Software scene. However,
I don't think that this is some sort of main motivation for many
people to contribute. It may be part of a bundle of motivations.

Two ideas which came up in that discussion I'd like to repeat here.
First, personally I do not like the idea that anybody feels indebted
or obliged to anyone if s/he uses Free Software I have written. This
could be even brought to a license by something like: "You are allowed
to use this software under the terms of this license provided you feel
not indebted to anybody or feel any other obligation. As soon as you
feel some obligation the rights of this license are immediately
terminated." ;-) Well, that's more or less a joke but for me such an
extension would make actually sense because this is how I want to
perceive people my contributions to Free Software.

The other thing which came up was that: Once there is some culture of
releasing things under some Free license because it is widely
recognized as being the best way to produce interesting things, then
people do not need any moral obligation to put there contributions
under such licenses. Also they do not need some enlightened
recognition that there contributions comes back to them on some
long-winded and hard to understand way. This is actually similar to
the thing Petra put forward quite some time ago on the German list:
Let's create a culture where putting contributions under a Free
license / sharing is just cool.

						Mit Freien Grüßen



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