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Re: [ox-en] Translation complete: GNU/Linux - Milestone on the Way to the GPL Society

Hi Tom and all!

9 months (293 days) ago Tom Chance wrote:

Though it's a long time ago since your post I think replies make still

On Sunday 12 Dec 2004 20:03, Stefan Merten wrote:
As most Oekonux texts this one also can be commented on as an
OpenTheory project under

A general remark: Please note that this paper is rather old and based
on the knowledge of this time. In some areas it is a bit outdated

I couldn't see where to make general comments on that page, so here are some
thoughts I had whilst reading it.

1) GNU/Linux has exchange value, and that is significant. You dismiss the fact
that companies have based profit models on Free Software as being temporary,
something that will disintegrate when all software is released under the GPL
(what about other licenses?). Of course for hackers, the exchange value is
irrelevant - or rather, invisible - to the account of their mode of
production. They are working outside of the capitalist paradigm, unalienated.

But is it not significant that a product and a mode of production that is
unalienated, that isn't created fetishistic commodities, can also have an
exchange value? GNU/Linux is embedded in a capitalist paradigm and is, at the
same time, challenging it and making it irrelevant.

Well, if you take the formulation from the blotter "Free software is
as worthless as the air to breathe" then things probably get clearer.
Literally everyone bases its operation on "air to breathe". Workers
simply breathe it and where you use compressed air in industry the air
to be compressed is taken from the air to breathe. In no instance the
simple, plain air to breathe has an exchange value. But in each
instance exchange value is generated based on it's existence.

I think there is a fundamental difference here and this should not be

It strikes me that
because of this, GNU/Linux poses part of an answer to Andre Gorz's challenge
to find spaces within capitalist society in which life unfolds freely, and
that can become increasingly broad with time.

Meanwhile André Gorz find this also striking ;-) .

2) Why have you not accounted for paid work on GNU/Linux?

At the time the paper was written this was not such a big issue than
it is now. While I'm at it I'd like to emphasize that much of the
basic work necessary for the success of Free Software has been done in
the Double Free mode. Only when Free Software became to be successful
Simple Free modes began to grow in number.

Many hackers are
paid full or part time wages for their work on Free Software projects, and
wouldn't be able to dedicate anywhere near the amount of time that they do
otherwise. This fact raises two questions: a) are they still

Meanwhile we introduced the terms Single Free Software and Double Free
Software. Double Free Software is created in an unalienated way while
Single Free Software is the result of wage labor and the freedom only
applies to the user.

As far as Oekonux theory is concerned one of the cornerstones is that
Free Software is successful because it focuses on the use value of the
product and not on the exchange value. Clearly at least asymptotically
this is not possible if you have the exchange value on your mind. This
focus on use value is the inalienable feature of (Double) Free
Software that makes up for its success. If this would not be the case
then there is no real explanation for Free Software being successful
at all. However, reality shows that Free Software is successful even
*against* a fully developed market.

b) will this cease to be relevant as the proprietary software industry
withers away, leaving the only gpl society? You also have to account for the
subtleties of the hackers' positions, including those who would otherwise
work for free but are able to do more work when paid; those who would do
exactly the same work anyway but happen to be paid; and those who have no
committment to Free Software and just happen to be paid for working on Free

I think questions like this are hard to answer because they are
talking of the intermediate time between two eras. Such intermediate
times are, however, extremely hard to predict. If you use pictures
from chaos theory here these are the times when there is the real
chaos between two attractors.

3) Section 3.3 presumes a certain ideological committment on behalf of the
hackers. In particular, you discount paid work, the desire for market share
as evidences by dedicated promotional teams in many projects (e.g. KDE, Gnome
and, and you make an astonishing and vague remark about
users / consumers that seems to have no evidence. As an idealised explication
it works, but as an analysis of the mode of production that GNU/Linux
represents it's wildly inaccurate and simplistic. I think it would be worth
treating this section more with the latter of the two approaches, conceding
the differences between the ideal and the reality, opening this area up to
further research.

Can you expand on that?

Otherwise, I enjoyed the paper. I found it both informative and illuminating,
and useful for an undergraduate dissertation I am writing on the Hacker Ethic
and alienation (n.b. in Germany you call what I am writing an undergraduate


						Mit Freien Grüßen


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