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Re: [ox-en] [Upd-discuss] Paper:"Digital property" By Sabine Nuss - Response to Stallman


An interesting post. Where is the original paper?

On Wednesday 07 Sep 2005 12:43, Sabine Nuss wrote:
In the material world the scarcity is artificial as well, it is the
result of the private property regime: in nearly every capitalist
economy you have a lot of unemployed persons and unemployed
capacities. Would they come together a lot of useful goods could be
produced. But they come only together, when you can make profit by
this production. Also in the material world profit is the main
determinant of scarcity. We don’t recognize this anymore because we
are used to it, we take it as natural and as such a natural thing it
is the starting point in our analysis. This is the reason why every
economic textbook starts with the sentence „goods are scarce“.

Really? That's a big claim, one I've not read before. Am I right in thinking 
that you are saying: whether or not a product is produced depends first and 
foremost on whether or not it will create profit, and a secondary concern is 
whether or not the resources are available?

Even if that were true, there is an intrinsic connection between the material 
resources available and the profitability of the production process. As oil 
becomes scarce so almost all production will become less profitable, for 
example. Workers are so downtrodden because there is generally no shortage.

The  measures undertaken in the last century to commodify the
„Cyberspace“, that means to put property protection technologies in
it and to pass appropriate laws, shows that the same rules are valid
- in the material and the immaterial world. The difference between
these worlds lays only in the material consistence, which requires a
different dealing with the way of commodification.

Well with immaterial goods in a capitalist sphere of production then the 
primary scarcities are profitability and creators / workers. The fact that 
people come into it explains in part why, if their work is profitable, they 
get a much better deal than manual labourers.

Fighting for free software „without“ criticizing capitalism as such means to 
help  capitalism in finding new and modern forms of capital accumulation
and exploitation. With such a fight for freedom one supports a
system, which is based on bondage - it is an oxymoron.

I think it helps to get past the notion that capitalism pervades every aspect 
of our lives. Academics aren't generally constrained by profitability, our 
work isn't commoditised. Nor when I pursue a hobby am I alienated and 
exploited, because I am acting in a different life sphere or perhaps 
lifeworld. Free software hackers in a sense operate in a different sphere 
that happens to overlap with the capitalist sphere in some cases (e.g. 
companies distributing GNU/Linux distributions, hackers being employed to 
hack, etc.) When hacking on and distributing free software it is quite 
possible to be oblivious to profitability and material scarcity *.

In the free software sphere, profitability isn't necessarily an issue and so 
isn't a component inherent to the sphere, but rather one belonging to 
capitalism which may overlap. So one could put forward a weak argument that 
free software hackers are expanding a sphere in which productive life can 
unfold freely (to borrow a phrase from Andre Gorz) apart from capitalism, and 
perhaps also a strong argument that they are, or could be, ultimately 
undermining the capitalist sphere by making production possible without its 

I think your claim that (to paraphrase) "free software doesn't oppose the 
capitalist system and so therefore supports it" is therefore inaccurate.

That said, I agree with your intuition that Stallman is wrong to concentrate 
solely on arguments about "freedom of use" rather than also addressing the 
production question. Furthermore, the free software "philosophy" as advanced 
by Stallman doesn't even properly address the use issue, in my opinion. For 
example it has nothing to say about making software accessible; it seems daft 
to make a moral requirement to share the source code, but not to make another 
requirement to make the program universally accessible in the first place.


* Well, so long as the hacker has access to the information commons - the 
internet - which itself is subject to material scarcity

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