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Re: [ox-en] Rules and alienation

Hi StefanMn and all,

skiping something, my response is long enough. I leave a lot untouched to 
be able to reconstruct the context.

On Wednesday 28 January 2004 17:23, Stefan Merten wrote:
Very interesting, Stefan, very interesting. I think I understood a bit
more of your perspective.


  - How do rules develop?

Rules do not develop, they become developed.

I'd agree if you are saying that it is always persons who are actively
developing rules - insofar rules do not develop on its own, yes. Also
from what you wrote below I understood that you agree with me that
rules are rooted in some practice between people - or at least can be
rooted there. I think this is important because rules not developed
this way are probably alienated from the group per se.

However, I think it makes sense to check how rules develop under
certain conditions. Insofar I'd support my original formulation. I.e.:
Are there patterns in human behavior which seem to unfold at least
often under some certain conditions. I guess you would reject the
whole question because that means too much generalization. Do you?

Yes, due to another reason: I reject the thinking figure of a connection 
between "certain conditions" and "human behavior patterns", because you 
can not determine this connection -- although it exists, of course.

I prefer to think of "action possibilities" (looking from the perspective 
of the individual/group), not of condition-behavior patterns (looking 
onto the individual/group).

A simple example would be a question like: What happens to rules if a
group grows? Could one talk of some common development when a group
grows from say 2 to 20 to 200 to 2000 to 20000 to 200000 to 2000000 to
20000000 persons? I *guess* there are some common denominators here
and I think checking this is useful to understand how things work.

Given you find some common denominator -- what does this say? In my view 
it does not say, that we "understand how things work". We *understand* 
nothing, we observe something. What does the observation say? That under 
alienated conditions people do crazy/cool things? I can not see any 

For instance in Free Software I'd ask whether there are observable
changes in the ways rules (get) developed when a project grows.

That is: If they grow at all. May be we come to the conclusion that
Free Software projects for the purposes of this debate do not grow
beyond a certain limit. Which would be an interesting observation in
itself and would evoke new questions.

The difference is: Do we talk about a phenomenon that takes places outside 
of us, do we talk about "the people out there"? This is sometimes the way 
we talk about free software in ox (which I don't like). Or do we talk 
about _our_ action possibilities as individuals or as a group, say ox?

This includes the application of force. If anybody find any way to
cleanly separate between oppression and application of force I
would really be interested. However, I'm quite convinced: There is

I'm convinced: there is one. Otherwise, it is not emancipatory.

Ok, just to check: You think there can be emancipatory forms of
application of force. If so then this is something we agree on.

Yes, look at free software. This is application of (collective) force.

However, you can not solve this problem by defining oppression vs.
usage of force, because there is no standpoint from where you can
define it.

So as a result you would reject the (morally loaded) notion of
oppression completely. Right? There are always and only applications
of force. I'd agree with this.

I don't. I would call oppression oppression (although morally loaded), 
because for oppressed people it has an immediate meaning.

Oh well, but one paragraph above you said: There is a way to separate.
If so can you imagine a way without that standpoint?

What standpoint? I don't know what you mean...

Or you could put it the other way round: What for one person is
oppression is to another person an emancipatory form of application of
force. This is using the individual standpoints of everybody you like.
But then it would also not make sense of talking of oppression at all.

Probably I still don't understand :-( .

Compare it with your definition of consensus: consensus is reached, when 
nobody needs to oppose. Absense of oppression is reached, when nobody 
feels oppressed.

Well, you might argue, that "feeling" is a too arbitrary. -- No, it is 
not. Why should we fight for free society? Because of getting free from 
oppression and all bad things we face now. Because of getting a society 
based on the principle of individual selbstentfaltung as precondition of 
selbstentfaltung of all people.

In my view there is no "door" where we have to go through and that's it 
(ok, I would be very pleased getting rid of capitalism as a first 
step...). It is a process, and this process must be guided by the goal. 
If the process does not increase freedom, we'll never reach a free 
society. I completely reject the old thinking of marxist movement, that 
"application of force" in the interest of somebody (working class, [your 
favourite group here]), that oppression is then allowed ("oppress the 
oppressor"... etc.).

I feel, that your argument goes in the same direction: oppression does not 
exist, everything is more or less "application of force". So, what has to 
be done, is to define the "allowed cases" of this "force application". I 
don't say, that you _want_ to have this, but I want to show the direction 
of your args.

What we have to do is quite simple: Organizing of the process to increase 
our freedom to act with the goal of selbstentfaltung in the ox-sense.

For me, it is a process, not a defineable status. And this process
has a direction towards more freedom to act or not. This is the core
of selforganisation.

Hmm... This is the point I have difficulties with. In the general case
I would reject the bourgeoise thinking of freedom of one social entity
(i.e. person or group) automatically limits the freedom of other
social entities. In the contrary I think expanding the freedom of one
social entity may result in the expansion of freedom of other social
entities as well. This is what we see in Free Software. I think we can
easily agree on this.


However, I think there always will be situations where this is not the
case. There will always be situations where the expansion of freedom
of one social entity reduces the freedom of another social entity. In
particular this is the case when limited goods are at stake. In other
words: There will always be conflicts.

That's reality in todays society.

Now, I'd be interested in your opinion here. How in case of a conflict
how can you determine the direction towards more freedom to act?

In my view, this is the adequate question! However, you can answer this 
question only being inside the concrete situation - not generally. But 
you are looking for a general answer, right?

Wouldn't this determination need a standpoint just as much as the
question oppression vs. application of force?

No. It needs a conflict handling process which includes the overall 
criterion of "increasing freedom to act for all".

Mails ago you proposed the "consensus model". I had some objections, 
because I am not convinced, that it works (maybe sometimes). I like the 
"model of free cooperation" from Christoph Spehr (although the theory is 
weak). -- Do we need to solve the question "oppression vs. application of 
force" in general? I don't think so. Because we don't need it, and 
because it is not possible on a general level.

As far as I know nation states with their "need" to generate a level
playground - i.e. a market - started to have universal rules. But then
the Roman Empire also had universal rules.

When we think of rules in terms of standards then there might be some
non-market / non-state related reasons to have universal rules. Hmm...

Do we really need universal rules?

The first question is: What rules are there? Because, there are
always rules, and they are always in some way "implemented".

Ok, so you would at least agree with me that there *are* rules in the
way people interact with their environment - regardless of the
question whether for some reasons they must be there or not.


An unstructured space is fictious. That is not the question.

I'm really glad you agree with me on this. I think there are many
people on the left which deny that.


So, to me is
is meaningless to demand: You need some structure or: there must be
rules. There are always structures and rules.

Very good. So it makes no sense to fight or even question the
existance of structures and rules *as such*. I perfectly agree with
this and in some way this is the major point I wanted to make when
starting this whole debate.

Ok, good common point.

This constructs an
abstract frame outside the community process. The danger is: If you
put such "abstracts" outside the community process, you establish

I see what you mean and think I can agree with this.

Ok! Fix this!! This view is important for what I wrote above. General or 
universal rules tend to establish alienation because of dissolving from 
real life, from the real process.

The only universal rule I can see in a free society is the "non-ruling 
rule" of selbstentfaltung in ox-sense.

However, it makes sense to me to say it the other way round: There is
no community if there are no rules. This is then more of a definition
of the word community. Could you agree with this? (I recall we had at
least something similar on the German list.)

Yes, if community is thought as a process. However, I would not look after 
rules to identify a community, I would ask whether people feel acting as 
a community. If people feel or think, that a community is there, then it 
is there. Otherwise not. You can have rules everywhere, not only in 

However, on the
level of daily acting, we don't agree (e.g. my exclusion of two guys
from the wak-list), but on this level of generalization.

I do not understand this sentence. Did you mean to say: "However, on
the level of daily acting, we *do* agree (e.g. my exclusion of two
guys from the wak-list), but *not* on this level of generalization."

Yes, sorry for the typo. I wanted to write "...we don't disagree..." - 
which of course is equivalent to "we do agree";-)

In my view, the contrary is true: abstract defined rules are the
startpoint of alienation. Be it from economy or other sources. I am
afraid, that you want to establish such "alternative
abstractifications ruling us".

Ok, ok, let's sort this out calmly because I feel this is one of the
major misunderstandings between us.

I totally agree with you that *abstract* rules are not only the
starting point of alienation, they *are* already alienated. By no way
I want to establish any "alternative abstractifications ruling us". In
the contrary I'm far from this.


I think there are rules, structure, emancipatory form of application
of force, and all this and there is no point in denying that. This is
something we agree on as far as I understood you. However, I for one
feel that this is a major point because a lot of people seem to think
rules, structure, application of force would somehow vanish completely
if we only overthrow capitalism. For instance from what I heard of
Foucault and this whole school seems to say this.

I don't know enough of Foucault. AFAIK he does not think beyond 

Contrary to what you think I'm looking at all these things to
*prevent* such "alternative abstractifications ruling us". However,
for this I think instead of denying there is rules, structure,
application of force even in emancipatory situations we need to
understand in which way they are different from non-emancipatory

Yes, in concrete situations, not in general.

But, yes, I'd like to have some guidelines which by experience or
science help to set up an emancipatory environment. Please note: I'm
talking of guidelines here - not some "alternative abstractifications"
which apply everywhere. I think such guidelines are empowering because
it helps people to behave in a way which results in a more
emancipatory / pleasant environment for themselves.

Ok, now, I think I understand, what you want.

The only fundamental difference between us is then, that you are looking 
for "guidelines" (taking this word),  for which I am convinced that 
either you we can not find them or we find "guidelines" with necessarily 
such an universal character, that they work as alienators.

The reason for this view is the fundamental difference I see for 
capitalism and a free society: capitalism is ruled by universal laws 
buildung the core of alienation. Rejecting alienation requires rejecting 
universal laws -- except of selbstentfaltung. Selbstentfaltung is an 
exception because it is per definition an individual thing, an individual 
"rule". So a free society bases on "individual rules". However, we must 
not think these "individualities" in a bourgois sense, but in the 
ox-sense. And the ox-sense is: selbstentfaltung is a precondition for the 
selbstentfaltung of all and vice versa (btw. this is more than the 
corresponding sentence in communist manifesto). If we find and form a 
process in which this comes true, than we found the way the entire 
society functions, because humans are societal by nature.

If I throw away the spam I receive, I
don't hurt the right of other people to do the same with the
mails they don't want to read. Therefore, I would not call this

This is completely true, because it is an immanent part of the
community process.

So this is justified in terms of being emancipatory when looking at
the community.

What about the spammer? Can you make any statement about the spammer
along these terms? Would you simply say that this is a void question
because the spammer is not part of the community? May be as
demonstrated by her/his action of spamming?

Given the spammer [or anybody else to think more general] is part of 
another community. Two communities have a conflict. My question would be: 
How can we find a way for both communities to increase the 
selbstentfaltung of each? How can we organize communication to understand 
our needs etc. etc. -- You see: if you put this scenario in a real 
environment with real people, you always find real questions with a lot 
of action possibilities. Obviously this is not the case with an anonymous 

In my view you take the spammer example to conclude: As for the spammer 
"application of force"/"oppression" is allowed. However, this conclusion 
is not valid.

Maybe one year later the same activity can be felt as
inadequate. Than you have the two classical possibilities: changing
the activities (including the rules) or forking / leaving the

Yes. I definitely do not think of rules as being carved into stone. By
definition non-alienated rules must change with the community setting
them up as the community changes.


In this case you make a decision for yourself. However, the
SpamAssassin protecting the Oekonux lists decides *for others*
whether they receive a mail or not.

That's not the point. The point is: Does the rules or action emerge
from the community process or does it come from an "alienator".

Yes, yes, yes :-) ! That is exactly what I'm saying! (I see your face
becoming sceptical :-( .)

Yes, I am sceptical, you are looking for general rules, aren't you?

If the very same is done by the state we
name this censorship.

No, it is not the same. You can not fork the state. (Well, you can
leave, however, only into other states - not the state as "state".
Or: You can fork, but all current forks are as worse as they can be).

Hmm... When I think longer about this then it boils down to: A rule is
emancipatory as long as you can reasonably leave / fork the community
having this rule. Right?

The character of a rule and leaving a community are independent things.

I would complain and finally leave if you would expand filtering to
mails coming from people with positions you don't want to read. This
is censorship, spam filtering is not.

Because spam filtering - accepting there may be gray zones - is
according to the rules of being an open project while filtering posts
which are on-topic but unwanted by someone for reasons of content is
against the rule of being an open project. Right?

In this general sense: no. What is the rule of an open project? I don't 
know. I have some ideas, maybe different from yours, maybe not. Am I 
right? Are you?

Again, look at our practices. We had some increasing posts with topics 
which are only in broad sense "on topic". We created (meaning: you:-)) 
the chox-list for stuff being not in the core of ox as an offer for these 
topics. And it works! It works although there is not exact definition of 
what "core-ox" is, what in a broad sense "on topic" is etc. This is a 
community process. There are rules, and we have some feeling about them, 
we have sometimes conflicts about them, but they neither can be defined 
exactly nor they have universal character.

Well, doing it further abstractly, you can say "there is a spammer
community". But this is crazy. Such abstract debates lead to nothing.

I don't think it is crazy because it is certainly the case that there
is a single spammer - but - sigh - probably more then one ;-) . And a
single spammer may very well be the target of application of force.

I sketched it above. There are no communities of spammers - if so, civil 
laws could do the work.

- From what I understood you are suggesting something along the line:
Just don't care. Check the process of the community which is target of
the spam and if rules against spam emerge from the practice of the
community then it is perfectly ok to apply force to prevent the
spammer from spamming the community. Right?

Yes. (Although I don't think, that spammers have a community as a target)

Well, all still quite raw thoughts. Hope it's useful nonetheless.


Definitely. At least to me :-) . Also I'm glad that in this post I
find so much agreement :-) . On the other hand this makes we worry I
misunderstood greatly :-( .

Step by step. We'll see...


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