Re: [ox-en] Free Software and social movements in South America
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2007 19:19:09 +0200
Hi Raoul and all!
Thanks for your thoughtful reply :-) .
3 weeks (21 days) ago Raoul wrote:
On March 18, 2007 12:55 PM
Stefan Merten wrote:
* What kind of connection is there between social movements and Free
Software exactly? What is the nature of this connection? How strong is it
Very interesting questions. But I think it would be useful to pose them in a
more general way, trying first to clarify what can be meant by "Free
Software" and by "social movements".
I guess this thread will take us yet another step closer to an
understanding of the concept of movement and what to check for in the
As Michael Bauwens, I think that Free Software is only a part of a more
global reality. A reality which could be specified as the new non market
practices allowed by the ICTs.
Well, I guess I said something similar before, but this is so
important that it is worth repeating again and again: Non-market
practices are common and (nearly) everywhere. Families / raising
children are the standard example, religion / spirituality is another
one. Market practices could even not exist without non-market
However, a non-market practice is *NOT* per se something which leads
to a differnt society. It is even possible that non-market practices
like racism (just an example - may be not the best one) is not really
what we want to see in a next society.
Those non-market practices can involve using ICT as well as they can
ignore it. For instance the free time activities of the younger
generation today completely relies on ICT (aka mobile phones). So far
I can not see any revolutionary potential in making dates for joined
flat rate drinking, however.
What I want to emphasize: In our attempt to find germ forms we need to
be careful not to label everything which is not capitalist as
anti-capitalist or even with a potential to overcome capitalism. If
things would be so simple capitalism would not have been possible in
the first place.
The usage of ICT alone is also no useful indicator - as the mobile
phone example shows.
No, no. We need to be careful and need to analyze what really has the
potential to overcome capitalism. I'm still holding the position that
the only area were capitalism can be overcome is to eradicate it by
its roots. And this root is the productive process. Organizing an
effective productive process with superior results is *the* stronghold
of capitalism. Unless this stronghold is beaten by even superiorer
results there is no hope to overcome capitalism. At least not in a
I don't know whether there is a term to name
that. Michael put the emphasis on P2P, but giving to that term a very
general meaning, as he put-it: "the open/free (input), participatory
(process/governance) and commons-oriented (output) solutions". That reality
can be also seen through other (non contradictory) dimensions, as for
example, different ways of "sharing" without commercial relationships:
sharing efforts: free software;
sharing digital goods: P2P;
sharing material means (computer power): Grid computing, (Stanford Folding,
Which are all - more or less - productive examples.
In any case, I think it is more fruitful to take this global new reality to
be analyzed in its links with the "social movements" and not only FLOSS.
Agreed. And I for one do see similarities in Wikipedia, OpenAccess,
FreeCulture to name a view of the more visible.
But we also must not link it with everything. And IMHO we need to be
extra careful with our personal pets.
About "social movements". The first reality considered by Stefan's is what
he calls the "classical" social movements, in Latin America and in the
more industrialized countries. Michel Bauwens conceives a more global social
movement as he implicitly considers a movement leading to "the new society".
A social movement could be defined as a movement involving a more or less
extended part of the society acting in order to try to have an effect on a
specific aspect (or even on all aspects ) of social life.
Ok. But this raises the question of consciousness again. But I can
agree that for a definition of movement including at least a little
consciousness makes sense.
As such, they may
be more or less conservative or opposed to the reigning social order. Of
course, those we are the most interested in are the second ones.
Copyright law protects Free Software and I'm glad that there is a law
system which allows that and prevents capitalists to re-appropriate
that software. And if a government furthers Free Software for national
reasons than for me this is not a first class reason but hey - they
spread Free Software and thereby spread the idea and also the spirit.
Isn't that great?
No, no, again I think things are not so simple.
This question takes all its relevance when you see that the ICT (specially
Internet and mobile phones) played and important role during the social
movements in France, in 2003 (against the pension reforms) and specially in
2006 (against a new low cost contract for young workers), helping the
attempts of people trying to self-organize outside the control of the
unions. The monopole of information and the representation of unions, these
powerful weapons of the unions to keep their control over the movements has
been questioned and some times openly contested. IMHO, this is something
that will develop in the future.
But IMHO it has nothing to do with the Oekonux question. To make a
point: To me there is no difference for what purpose ICT - of Free
Software for that matter - is used. The point is *not* in using an
advanced technology as an opaque artifact. Everyone who can afford it
can do this - and does it. A call on a mobile phone during a strike is
no different from a similar call calling the police.
The difference begins when people start to develop a special
relationship to these things - may be it can be called a productive
relationship - may be in contrast to a pure consuming relationship. If
they use it in a productive way changing it to their liking, according
to their needs. That is something capitalism can not equally well for
principal reasons. The review of Eric v. Hippel's book will outline
this. This is where capitalism can be beaten on its own ground.
By the way, I just read that beginning March, in Copenhagen, during a week
of fights between the police and youths defending the symbolic Ungdomshuset
(House of youth) sold by the new mayor, Internet and mobile phones played
also a useful role. The police draw the conclusion that it was necessary to
find a way to trouble that kind of communication, specially a network of
I don't know the details but this could be an example where IMHO there
is really a connection: If those youngsters modify or even write the
software to exactly suit their needs.
Social practices that may show that humans can organize themselves in a
different way, in a non capitalist way, is thus a vital element to overcome
that deadlock. Helping to develop the visibility of what could be a non
capitalist society is certainly one the most important connections between
FS, et al. and social movements.
I totally agree.
At a more immediate level, the new ICT and
the "FS spirit" may transform the social movements themselves, the way they
organize, their goals and means, increasing their power and fruitfulness.
IMHO: Free Software spirit yes, ICT no.
However, the question is whether (classical) social movements did
*not* employ Free Software spirit at all. When transforming the term
"Free Software spirit" back to the (classical) social movements I'd
call it solidarity. Isn't solidarity *the* fundamental value of these
* What are the goals of these social movements and how does Free Software
help these? How can Free Software help? (SM)
I start to think that this is the most important question at all.
Can't the goal of (classical) social movements always be expressed in
terms of money? The name "workers movement" for instance is a strong
hint to this because this work is about money.
The goals of the Free Software movement, however, can not be expressed
in terms of money. May be this is the fundamental difference!
IMHO, how to "help" (contribute, participate in) social movements is
certainly one of the most important and fruitful questions for Oekonux, as
it is based on the idea that "the principles of the development of Free
Software may be the foundation of a new economy which may be the base for a
The answers are surely multiple and future developments of reality will be
determinants to find them. It could be a good program of work for the future
I agree if we distinguish carefully between (classical) social
movements whose goals can be expressed in terms of money and movements
for Free Something in the sense of Wikipedia / OpenAccess / Free
Software / ...
Mit Freien Grüßen
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