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Re: Oekonux and (non)developing countries (was: [ox-en] inside wsis)

Hi Stefan,

Please understand I'm not arguing because I have a defined alternative
position - I don't have an 'answer' to this... But I do think there is an
important flaw somewhere in the oekonux argument if it is as you present 

Lets go with the terms 'developed/developing' for now, as you suggest. 
The more fashionable terms seem to be North/South; I have a feeling 
rich/poor might actually reflect reality better, but lets make that a 
separate issue...

On Sun, 25 Jan 2004, Stefan Merten wrote:

Last month (44 days ago) Graham Seaman wrote:
Alternatively, why is the role of free software in developing countries
not part of oekonux theories, which concentrate entirely on the developed?

I'd say what I know of Oekonux theory rests very much on the
development of the productive forces. In particular I'd say that the
revolvment of society in some fundamental way (to avoid the somewhat
loaded meaning of revolution) will take place where the productive
forces are developed to the point where - in this case - the
principles of production of Free Software burst the current mode of
production. Yes, this rests very much on Marx' theory - and not the
Marxists which probably never understood that bit.

OK, what does 'where the productive forces are developed' mean? I'm not
sure this kind of localization does have any meaning any more. I assume
you're not talking about knowledge of technology: there is more detailed
empirical knowledge about how to manufacture chips, for example, in Taiwan
than in Germany. And I assume you're not talking about manufacture: I just
read, and find it quite likely, that no DVD players are made in the USA,
and most are made in China. Are any developed in Germany, in any sense of
the word 'developed'? So presumably you're talking about consumption:
people in Europe, for example, consume more advanced technology per head
than people in developing countries. But I don't see that the idea that
high consumption of technology defines the geographical point where social
change will take place has any particular relation with Marx's theories.

It seems to me your argument is based on a very 19th century view of the
relationship between development and the nation state; pre globalization.

This might be the reason why to you it looks like Oekonux theory
concentrates on the developed countries. 

Yes. But I think there is an underlying reason for it which is much less 
theoretical; that 99% of people on the German list, and 90% (guessing
wildly) on the English list come from countries generally classified
as 'developed'and happily accept a set of pre-theoretical 'common-sense'
ideas about the rest of the world. Until the FLOSS surveys I think most
US developers assumed most free software development was done in the US;
not we know empirically that this is not so clear cut. That was just a 
question of numbers; when it comes to observing innovations coming from 
outside the developed area, we are likely to be even more biased. 

However, I'm not so sure
about this. At the moment I'd say this is too much of a prediction of
future to be serious about.

Observation of what is happening NOW combined with predictions of the 
future based on those observations is exactly the way the original oekonux
project started, isn't it? Maybe I'm wrong about the importance of this,
but social innovations I've seen over the last year (NOT predictions of
the future) all seem to be coming from outside the developed area, three
in particular:

- fusion of questions of rights to intellectual monopoly of every kind,
whether covered by patent, copyright or other laws (India, Australia, 
South Africa...) (while this is still frantically resisted especially
in the US; as everyone knows, patents are unproblematic for everything
except software. Or were: maybe medicine is a problem. But the retreat 
from this position is grudging)

- merger of free software development with political movements without
fracturing the free software movement (Brazil in particular) - something
people in the developed countries seem to find impossible (witness the
nazi thread on this list, which has demonstrated that there are some 
issues we are simply unable to discuss without dissolving in a puff of 

- the precise statement of why states have a moral obligation
to use free software; the first big step forward in theoretical terms
over the original formulations of the FSF, mainly developed in latin
America (Argentina in particular)

Or is its role the same everywhere?

In the way I described it above the role is indeed the same

Yes. But since there are in fact obvious differences, it is important to 
know whether the fact that your theory ignores those differences is just
due to justifiable abstraction, or is a sign of a problem with the theory.

However, what we see today in (non)developing countries about Free
Software is very well explainable without any of Oekonux theory - as
people pointed out in this thread.

This is exactly analogous to what people also say about free software
being explainable without oekonux theory: most is developed by big
companies, the motivation of those who do it outside such companies is
simply to advertise their suitability for work, free software is a healthy
reaction which will restore competivity to an areas of the market
dominated by monopolies, etc. It can be fitted into marginalist economic
theories (with only a little contortion, but hey..)

Sure, you CAN explain it without the theory: but does the theory add any
additional insights; is the theory somehow truer than alternatives; does
it predict the future better? If so, then the theory is the better way to
explain it.

There are simply a number of big advantages Free Software has over
proprietary software for (non)developing countries. Some time ago I
wrote up

(German only - but would be easy to translate) to name the advantages
of Free Software for (non)-developing counties which came to my mind
at this time.

I don't understand the reason why your list is appropriate for one group
of countries and not another: it seems to me that the entire list applies
to all countries. Though gee, I am glad it lets me communicate with people 
in the 'industrialised countries'. That would be Korea? It's surely not 
where I live, where industry has been vanishing for a long time :-( 



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