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[ox-en] Fundamental text by StefanMn and StefanMz - Part 1

Hi list!

StefanMz and I are currently working on a quite fundamental Oekonux
text. It is going to be used for a magazine but the topic is very
fundamental so it is of general use.

You can find the text under

but we post it here for general comments.

We broke the text up into four parts three of which are already
written in a first iteration. I'll post the first part here and
continue with the others.



--- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< ---
Germ form theory as a concept


* Describes how something structurally new develops in the old
  including the potential to become dominant
* This text is written very quickly and thus not well formed.
  I release it early (and maybe often) to get bug reports
* Version 1.01 (2008-02-27)
* Version 1.02 - edited by StefanMerten (2008-03-10)


How does development happen? This is the question this text wants to
answer as well as to give historical and contemporary examples. And
the answer is not obvious. Generally development seems to be viewed as
a process of expansion of possibilities by accumulating more and more
means to develop further. This perspective gives us the picture of a
quantitative growth. However, development is combined with qualitative
jumps. Thus the question arises: When does a quantitative process
transforms into a qualitative one? What are the reasons, and what are
necessary conditions for this to happen? The most advanced model of
answering these questions is the five-step model we present in this


The five-step model has some predecessors to be explained very
briefly. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the most important
idealist philosophers, developed a system of the sciences. In his
"Science of Logic" [Hegel-Logic]_ he analyzes the relationship between
being, essence and concept, and how one develops into the other. His
notion of development, however, was meant purely logical, not
historical. It was Karl Marx who brings Hegelian dialectics to history
and who discovers principles of historical development. These
principles where turned into "laws" by Marxists--which Marx itself
never wanted to be--by oversimplifying and formalizing Marx' analysis.
This was heavily forced by Friedrich Engels with his "three laws of
dialectics" being used by generations of Marxists.

One important thing Hegel always emphasizes was the fact, that
principles of development can and should never be separated from the
subject of the original analysis. Thus, the danger of any law is
obvious: The law once discovered by studying a specific subject is
transfered to another subject and now guides the analysis of this new
topic. The law works as a pair of glasses and predetermines what can
be viewed and conceptualized. However, on the other hand, there are
indeed some common principles, and developments are not arbitrary. But
any analysis must be careful and take into account, that each concept
acts as a selector. This also applies to the five-step model we
present here.

It was Klaus Holzkamp, the founder of German critical psychology,
who--in the Hegelian sense--does the right thing: He analyses his
subject and discovers its principles of development. He found, that
some of the Marxian and Hegelian insights have to be made more
specific. His topic was the historical evolution of the psyche in
phylogenesis. The generalization of his specification took five steps,
the core of the five-step model was born.

The next step in the development of the five-step model was the
transformation of the model from phylogenesis to the history of
society. Being aware that there are qualitative differences between
evolution and human history, Stefan Meretz assumes, that on a general
level there are also similarities. It would be wrong to explain human
history in an evolutionist fashion, but there are comparable
structures of development, which can be transfered. However, this has
to be proven by transforming and applying the five-step model to the
new subject of human history, which is shown in this text. If this can
be proofed, then we get a powerful tool of analyzing contemporary and
new phenomena like Free Software and the question of how capitalism
can be overcome. As we try to show, the essence of the results
represent a new understanding of qualitative transformation of
society. Our findings are not new in the sense, that aspects we found
had never been thought. So, don't let you carry too easily into a warm
(or cold) feeling of (dis-)agreement when some aspects sound
familiar--the overall picture we give is quite new. Of course, we
stand on the shoulders of giants, too.


When explaining the skeleton of the five-step model now, all things
said before have to be remembered. Holzkamp generalizes his five-step
model of development from research on qualitative steps in
phylogenesis on the path towards human society. Here are the headlines
which we will detail later:

1. Emergence of the germ form

2. Crisis of the old form

3. Germ form becomes an important dimension

4. Germ form becomes the dominant form

5. Reconstruction of the entire system process

First let us sketch an example from evolution, which we use in the
following to illustrate the steps of the model.

The example (taken from the Holzkamp book [Holzkamp-Grundlegung]_):
Simple organisms moving around in a liquid medium (water) depend on
the environmental conditions, because they sustain by assimilation of
nutrient from the environment. By moving to nutrient-rich regions they
improve their possibility to survive. Orientation plays a crucial
role. Simple organisms can use gradient orientation. Say, the
temperature of the water is systematically coupled with nutrient
degree. Now, the organisms use temperature differences by moving
around to find nutrient rich regions. Higher organisms with visual
distant orientation represent a new quality of orientation, they have
a much bigger chance to survive, because they must not move
around--including risks of lethal moves--to find nutrient rich
regions. The question of development now is: Why and how does the
simpler structured population developed (we know, that it happened) to
a higher form of orientation?

.. Simple but missing: Why does a system needs to reproduce at all?

Step 1: Emergence of the Germ Form

Everything existing on a new level looks self-evident and ubiquitous.
It determines the principles of the observed system. However, this
prevailing principle of the system did not exist before, but instead
another, an old principle ruled the observed system then. In our
example the system is the population of simple organisms living in
liquid environments. They use gradient orientation helping them to
find nutrient rich regions. However, they always risk lethal moves,
because orientation is only possible by moving around, not over a
distance. Everything is fine as long as the conditions are well for
sustaining and reproduction of the population.

New forms always occur as mutants, but they are ignored, because they
are useless. There may be niches where such mutants may survive. Some
mutants represent beginning new forms of orientation over a distance.
They are *germ forms* of the qualitatively new function emerging
during the next steps. We can say this today, because we know how the
development ended. By analyzing we look backward in order to
reconstruct forward, what has been developed. Thus, because we know it
already we can say: A germ form develops in niches, completely living
from the old modes of sustaining and reproduction, but having new
features to become the dominant ones in the future. On the current
stage of emergence, these germ forms of deviating new functions are as
useless for reproduction as other, non-germ form deviations. Whether
they become useful, is decided during the next two steps.

Step 2: Crisis of the Old Form

A new form only gets a chance for further development, if it is able
to play a positive role for the given system based on old forms. On
the other hand the old form only needs new forms, if the existing
system can no longer reproduce itself as successful as before based on
the old principles. Thus the old runs into a *crisis*.

A crisis can be the result of outer reasons or of inner reasons. Outer
reasons are often changes in the environment of the given system. In
case of our simple population, for example the nutrition level can
decrease. Changes in the environment generate inner contradictions.
The given system may be able to cope with these contradictions on the
basis of the old principles.

Even more interesting are inner reasons of a crisis being transformed
into inner contradictions. This is the case, when all potential of
further development immanent to the given system are exhausted while
facing new challenges. For instance the population of our simple
organisms grows, so that the speed of moving is too slow and too
imprecise to reach new nutrition regions early enough to prevent
starvation. This system of organisms--the population--runs into a
crisis by its own successful development, because on the basis of the
old form of orientation and movement, it is not able to solve the
challenge of increased nutrition needs.

Now, there are three possibilities of what can happen: stagnation,
collapse, qualitative development. In the first case, some of the
population starves and the system stagnates on the old level of its
possibilities. In the second case, the growth of the population is so
fast, that the whole population collapses and disappears. In the third
case, a qualitatively new property develops within the population,
which enables further growth. We follow the third option, and our
candidate for this option is the already existing germ form from step

Step 3: Germ Form Becomes an Important Dimension

Under the conditions of the ruling old principles and their crisis the
germ form can leave its niches and expand quantitatively. This is
possible because it is needed for further development. It becomes an
*important and qualitatively new dimension of development* inside the
old, still dominant form. Establishing the germ form inside the old
logics can have two results: First it can lead to an integration into
the old overtaking the old principles and modifying them only
slightly. Second the germ form does better and better based on its own
principles besides the old principles of the given system.

In the first case the germ form character gets lost. In the second
case the new features of the germ form are strengthened. In both cases
the old system can profit from an integrated as well as a strengthened
germ form. The old system attenuates its own crisis phenomenons.
Moreover, it is a key precondition for the next step that during the
germ form expansion phase the new, but disparate principles are in
favor of the old logic: It must work for the old, otherwise it will be
absorbed or defeated by the old, still strong system.

At this point, it is very important to understand the dialectics of
this step. Using formal logics, one would say, that a new form is
either incompatible or compatible with the old. There is no third.
This concept of "tertium non datur", also known as "principle of the
excluded third", dominates contemporary thinking, and workers
movements have not been free of it (Example: "Which side are you
on?"). Dialectic thinking overcomes and includes formal logic by
recognizing the relationship between the opposites. In reality
opposites are never isolated from each other. In particular isolating
opposites from each other is not useful for understanding historical
development processes.

Reusing our example for the first result type, the population of our
simple organisms could integrate the newly developed function of
faster orientation over distance by improving the old gradient
orientation concerning reaction time, but not concerning long distance
orientation. A population with faster gradient orientation may be fit
enough for the current stage of growth. The integration is completed
and the new function of long distance orientation disappears, because
it is no longer required.

The second result type could be, that the new function of distance
orientation, which is only a special property of a few organisms
inside the population, enables the whole population to orient faster
and more precisely towards higher nutrition levels by using these few
as leaders during orientiation. Thus, the whole system takes advantage
of these few organisms having the new function. The new function can
expand, because it is needed. It helps the population even when the
old logic is dominant. Thus, organisms featuring the new function
survive with a higher possibility than other organisms and the new
functions spreads within the population over the next generations.

Step 4: Germ Form Becomes the Dominant Form

Now, the former subsidiary germ form becomes the *dominant form of
development*. The new principles prevail, because they are an
improvement in respect to the important dimensions of the entire
development process. At this stage the germ form character of the new
comes to an end. Now, its principles determine further development.
They replace the obsolete and non-functional principles of the old,
either step by step or abruptly. Now the new becomes self-evident and

Becoming dominant is the second qualitative step: First, the germ form
conquers a new qualitative position, where it can no longer be ignored
(step 3), and second, the new form replaces the old form by now
determining the system's direction of development. This second step
brings completely new potential for further developments compared to
those, which had be developed under the old circumstances. However,
before the new potential can be used, the entire system has to adopt
the new principles as a whole (step 5).

Using our population example step 4 means, that distance orientation
is so useful for the entire population, that organisms employing the
old gradient function can not reproduce as good a the new ones. They
vanish, and the new function will be taken over by all organisms of
the following generations. This process can be slow (over many
generations) if the pressure of adopting to the new conditions is not
too big, or it can go quite fast, but not too fast (which also can be

Remember that in case of organisms, the mode of development goes over
generations by mutation and selection, which compared to measures of
historical developments of human society is very slow. Thus, the time
scale of those five-step developments can be completely different,
while the steps to walk through are just the same.

Step 5: Reconstruction of the Entire System Process

When a new form has been established, then the entire system with all
other aspects of its live has to be rebuild. This *reconstruction of
all other subsidiary derivative processes* is very important, in order
to realize all potential of further development of the entire system
based on the principles of the new form. Now, new contradictions can
occur, new germ forms can occur, the old can develop into new crises
etc.--the first step of a new cycle is reached again by closing of the
former cycle. Finally we get a picture of a spiral where it took five
chapters onto this spiral to perform one turn ending up on a higher
level (cf. picture XXX).

But what about our population of organisms? Well, orienting in
distance to an object is now the dominant form of orientation, and
other functions of the organism adopt to these new functions. An
improved and qualitatively new orientation needs a better nervous
control of the orientation. Due to a more precise orientation, moving
organs develop, in order to empower a more precise movement etc. Other
functions of the population system reconstruct themselves and develop
further in respect to the new challenges activated by the new dominant
mode of orientation. However, this simple form of distance orientation
is not able to distinguish between different objects in distance, it
only gives rough order about the direction to move. Thus, due to
further population growth new contradictions emerge, new germ forms
develop etc. Step 5 is step 1 of a new turn.

Generalizing the five-step model

While using examples from biology, we explained the five-step model in
a general manner. Now it can be adapted to historical processes.
Remembering, that the five-step model is not a universal model of
development, it is always necessary to prove, if historical processes
indeed follow the steps the model consists of. We will exercise this
below using the historical emergence of capitalism to show the
validity of the germ form model for historical processes. Then Free
Software as a special case of peer production will be portrayed as a
contemporary germ form. Using these historical and contemporary
subjects we argue, that the five-step model can be used to understand
where we currently stand in an historical process of transformation.
This view sheds new lights on questions being commonly answered using
formal binary logics (market vs. planned economy, labor vs. capital

This generalization of the five-step model was first introduced by
Stefan Meretz in the context of the Oekonux_ project. Oekonux is the
short form of "*Econ*\ omy and GNU/Li\ *nux*" (in German). The project
discusses and searches for ways to generalize and transfer principles
of Free Software and peer production to entire society. The five-step
model plays an important role in understanding different and partly
contradicting phenomenons in Free Software without walking into some
well-known traps formal logics offers: Is Free Software in favor of
capitalism or against capitalism? This type of question needs to be
rejected, because it does not help to understand either the principles
of Free Software or its role in capitalism. The only possible answer
to this question--"as well as"--explains nothing. Below we show that
using the five-step model we can get a deep understanding of Free
Software and peer production as the generalized phenomenon and of its
role in contemporary capitalism.

Some graphic would be nice

* A circle showing the five steps from creation of the germ form to
  the restructuring of the overall process

* May be a spiral where the next germ form is embedded in the last one


.. _Oekonux:


.. [Hegel-Logic] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Science of Logic, XXX

.. [Holzkamp-Grundlegung] Klaus Holzkamp, Grundlegung der Psychologie, Frankfurt/Main: Campus, 1983

Contact: projekt

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