Re: [ox-en] The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2008 21:21:55 +0100
Hi Matteo and all!
In general I agree with Graham's and Michel's comments.
Last week (9 days ago) Matteo Pasquinelli wrote:
* The living energy of machines.
Sounds rather esoteric to me. This applies also for the various uses
of the word energy which I either do not understand or find rather
nebulous. In other words: Deters me.
* Michel Serres and the cybernetic parasite
May be that is part of my German legacy but comparisons with animals /
living beings which have a clearly negative connotation reminds me too
much of Nazis comparing Jews with rats :-( ... Unfortunately after
reading the whole text I get the impression that this is not by chance
Man is a louse for other men. Thus man is a host for other men. The
flow goes one way, never the other. I call this semiconduction, this
valve, this single arrow, this relation without a reversal of
That is a particularly anti-Semitic figure you are using here.
Digitalism: the impasse of media culture
It's a bit hard to see who you are targeting here. Since you mention
GPL society I guess Oekonux is among those. I'll take the opportunity
to correct some things.
Digitalism is a sort of modern, egalitarian and cheap gnosis, where
knowledge fetishism has been replaced by the cult of a digital
network.8 Like a religious sect it has its peculiar theology.
Theology implies something like a God. Probably Oekonux can be accused
of many things but certainly not of having a God. Anyway I can not
really see what here is religious in the sense of the word.
Ontologically the dominant techno-paradigm believes that the semiotic
and biologic domains are perfectly parallel and specular to each
other (like in the Google utopia of universal digitisation). A
material event can be easily translated on the immaterial plane, and
conversely the immaterial can be embodied into the material.
I can not remember anybody here saying something stupid like this.
second passage is the passage of a millenary misunderstanding and
anthropology has a lot to say about the relation between magic and
Your use of notions like energy reminds me much more of magic than
what I see here in Oekonux.
Politically digitalism believes in a mutual gift economy.
As I pointed out several times gift economy is a wrong concept for
peer production. See
for a few points.
supposed to be virtually free of any exploitation and tends naturally
towards a social equilibrium.
Again I can not remember anybody here saying something so stupid -
especially not for "naturally" because there is really little nature
Here digitalism works as an disembodied
politics with no acknowledgement of the offline labour that is
sustaining the online world (a class divide that precedes any digital
divide). Ecologically digitalism promotes itself as an
environmentally friendly and zero emission machinery against the
pollution of the old Fordism.
Which at best to me seems like comparing apples and pears.
As Marx spotlighted commodity fetishism right at the beginning of
Capital, a fetishism of code should be put at the basis of the
network economy. "God is the machine" was the title of Kevin Kelly's
digitalist manifesto whose points proclaimed distinctly: computation
can describe all things, all things can compute, all computation is
Well, Gödel showed that there are problems which are not computable
(and thereby proved that mathematics is either contradictive or not
closed). May be Mr. Kelly should redo some of his basic courses about
Digitalism is one of those political models inspired by
technology and not by social conflicts.
Once more: Oekonux is certainly not in this line. Though technology
certainly plays a role in Oekonux theory the social conditions are
also on stage. If you like Oekonux is even mainly about the social
conditions. May be not in the sense of some class strugglers like it
but this applies vice versa ;-) .
As McLuhan once said, "We
shape our tools, and afterwards our tools shape us."11 Internet in
particular was fuelled by the political dreams of the American
counter-culture of the '60s.
Which is funny insofar as the Internet has been founded by US
military. Interesting to learn that resistance against a nuclear
strike was one of the "political dreams of the American
counter-culture of the '60s".
Today according to the Autonomist
Since autonomy is a quite difficult and misleading concept for peer
production (not yet in the intro but has been discussed here some time
ago) I guess you refer to the autonomy from the communist party which
IIRC was a desire of those called Operaists later.
If today activists apply the
Free Software model to traditional artefacts and talk of a "GPL
society"13 and "P2P production"14 the do so precisely because they
believe in a pure symmetry of the technological over the social.
Well this is really funny. First I don't know whether I qualify as an
activist today. I once certainly was but as of now there is very
little left of it. Is what I'm doing here activism?
Second the term "GPL society" has been coined at a point where I
needed a term to describe that society based on "the principles of the
production of Free Software" (2000) / "peer production" (2007).
Anyway the term "GPL society" has received a lot of criticism. One of
it is that in a GPL society the GPL is no longer needed ;-) . Today
some peer X term would probably be better. Does "peer society" make
sense? Sounds a bit strange to me.
Finally contrary to your statement GPL does not refer to technology
but to a social artefact - a license.
this sense the definition of Free Culture gathers all those
subcultures that shaped a quasi-political agenda around the free
reproduction of digital file.
I don't know whether someone abuses "Free Culture" in this way but I
for one made clear several times that P2P sharing of copyrighted
material has nothing to do with peer production.
The kick-off was the slogan
"Information wants to be free"15 launched by Stewart Brand at the
first Hackers' Conference in 1984.
Which is probably good as a slogan but just as wrong as your own
esoteric notions: Information has no will and thus can not want
Later the hacker underground
boosted the Free Software movement
I don't know what you are referring to by "hacker underground". If you
refer to for instance the CCC then you are probably wrong. The CCC has
a more neutral and instrumental attitude towards Free Software.
and then a chain of new keywords
was generated: Open Source, Open Content, Gift Economy, Digital
Commons, Free Cooperation, Knowledge Sharing and other do-it-yourself
variants like Open Source Architecture, Open Source Art and so on.
Which is true and IMHO shows that the concepts reached out. That is
why we can talk of peer production at all.
"Free Culture" is also the title of the book of Lawrence Lessing,
founder of Creative Commons. Without mentioning the social
improvements and crucial battles of the Free Software movement within
the digital sphere, what it is questioned here is the off-line
application of these paradigms.
Well, on the 3rd Oekonux Conference we invited Christian Wagner who
spoke on patent rights vs. human rights in the field of pharmacy
Though in many respects there are differnces: If you say Free Medicine
is not an off-line application of these paradigms then I don't know
what could qualify as such.
I conclude: Whoever can be accused of digitalism as you describe it:
Against the Creative Anti-Commons
An example of the first
front, Florian Cramer provides a precise and drastic analysis:
To say that something is available under a CC license is meaningless
in practice. [...] Creative Commons licenses are fragmented, do not
define a common minimum standard of freedoms and rights granted to
users or even fail to meet the criteria of free licenses altogether,
and that unlike the Free Software and Open Source movements, they
follow a philosophy of reserving rights of copyright owners rather
than granting them to audiences.21
Sorry, I can not see it. Standard copyrights "removes" _ all the
rights from the owners CC licenses reintroduce. It's true that CC
licenses are more differentiated than the GPL - but then there are
countless Free Software licenses out there which create a much bigger
chaos. Also you are free to take your choice and get a GPL like
license from it (BY-SA IIRC). And with the good hope that it is
legally binding in many countries.
..  Remove is of course wrong because it implies some pre-law state
where the rights were granted. Such a state never existed,
I also see that the building blocks of the CC license scheme are
something people are using so they are obviously useful (though I
particularly dislike NC...).
Berlin-based Neoist Anna Nimus agrees with Cramer that CC licences
protect only the producers while consumer rights are left
unmentioned: "Creative Commons legitimates, rather than denies,
producer-control and enforces, rather than abolishes, the distinction
between producer and consumer. It expands the legal framework for
producers to deny consumers the possibility to create use-value or
exchange-value out of the common stock."22
Sorry, but this is totally confused. Copyright does what Anna ascribes
to CC licences - not the CC licences.
Nimus claims the total
freedom for consumers to produce use-value out of the common stock
(like in Free Software) but more important to produce even exchange-
value (that means commercial use). For Nimus a commons is defined by
its productive consumers and not merely by its producers or passive
I'd rather not like to force everybody being a producer. I for one
like to listen to music. I'll probably never will produce some (at
least not worthwhile listening to ;-) ).
To me the freedom to produce and re-use creative work should not be
turned around into a duty to produce.
She claims that CC licences close the commons with many
restrictions rather than opening it to a real productivity.
So she probably can explain how CC-BY closes the commons. I'm really
curious to learn about this.
In a new
nickname, they are "Creative Anti-Commons."
Sorry, but your reference seems really confused about things. As is
the case for digitalism I feel like the main point here is to build up
straw men just to beat them down afterwards. Unfortunately that is a
style I see so often in the media scene. It's a pity because it seems
like they really have nothing to tell which is really worth listening
In conclusion a tactical notion of autonomous commons can be
imagined to include new projects and tendencies against the hyper-
celebrated Creative Commons. In a schematic way, autonomous commons
1) allow not only passive and personal consumption but even a
productive use of the common stock -
Which works fine with each CC licenses not containing ND.
implying commercial use by
Which works fine with each CC licenses not containing NC.
2) question the role and complicity of the commons
within the global economy and put the common stock out of the
exploitation of large companies;
I'm really sorry to say this but once more your anti-Semitic attitude
shows through: Single workers may but large companies may not? That
argument has an anti-Semitic structure. In Germany the Nazis
distinguished "Raffendes Kapital" and "Schaffendes Kapital". And they
killed those who were supposed to be the "Raffendes Kapital" in the
Also this would introduce massive practical problems. On which account
is a company large?
All this said despite that commercial use of peer products is no
problem - as you say yourself for single workers.
3) are aware of the asymmetry
between immaterial and material commons and the impact of immaterial
accumulation over material production (e.g. IBM using Linux);
This needs to outline of what (a)symmetry in which field you are
consider the commons as an hybrid and dynamic space that dynamically
must be built and defended.
If it would need to be defended by such straw men points you are
reiterating here then it is probably doomed to fail. Good that this is
not the case :-) .
For copyleft to have any revolutionary potential it must be
This sentence probably puts it to the point: How must peer production
be bent to fit into the framework of class struggle (here: with a
strong anti-Semitic structure). This is the feeling I have all the
time and this is one more moment were I'm so glad that Free Software
did *not* start as a political movement in the sense of class
struggle. And as it seems to me it can not be made an (alienated) tool
for class struggle.
It must insist upon workers ownership of the means of
But Free Software for a good degree *works* because the workers own
the means of the production! Strange...
If we produce freely in front of our computers, certainly somebody
has his hands in our wallet.
For instance the single worker hailed above... But no, *this* rent is
good then probably. What a distorted notion. I wonder what it is good
for besides labelling things completely voluntary.
More generally the whole finance world is
based on rent. Financialisation is precisely the name of rent that
parasites domestic savings.
If I had looked for a proof of the anti-Semitic structure of your
arguments I had finally found it here...
Sorry, Matteo, but this piece is really bad - at least for an
emancipatory project. The main problem I see is that the whole
argument is based on a deeply anti-Semitic structure from which I can
not see how something useful can come from.
It's really a pity that nowadays anti-Semitic structured arguments
seem to be so common even among people I'd otherwise classify as
leftists. To me this is another sign of the decline of the left.
Contact: projekt oekonux.de