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[ox-en] Peerconomy (was: Re: Peer Economy. A Transition Concept.)

Hi StefanMn and all,

this is part two of my answer: peerconomy in a narrow sense.

On 2008-04-10 19:42, Stefan Merten wrote:
Starting point is the consideration, that people have to spend
efforts during the production of their living conditions.

I think this starting point is wrong. Effort as an economical
category seems to me a mostly capitalist notion and thus not very
helpful for other economic systems like pre- or post-capitalist
ones. Effort in this abstract sense maps to abstract labor - which
I think is not a useful category for peer production projects.

Nope, effort is a general term and has nothing to do with abstract
labor. Every society needs effort to produce their living

Sure. But wouldn't you agree that the organizing of effort is one of
the main points of capitalism in its hunt for efficiency?

Yes. What does follow from that? That all societies are the same as 
capitalist ones, because they all need effort to produce their living 
conditions? Or the reverse: All societies, that does not hunt for 
efficiency are not capitalist ones? In my view you can not make any 
specific statement about a society by using "effort" as a criterion.

So my point is that though (human) effort is certainly part of every
human activity it does not need to be in the center of a societal
organization. Just as God / church / religion was in the center of
medieval European societies it doesn't need to be there.

You mix fetishism (raising from goods produced as commodities by using 
abstract labor) with spending effort in a general sense. I agree, 
spending effort should not be in the center of a societal organization, 
the needs should be in the center. But to reach that goal, you have to 
answer the question about how to organize the societal distribution of 
the effort needed. It does not "solve itself" (like by an invisible 
hand), it is a challenge we have to think of. It is the key question of 
societal mediation.

Organization of effort is not much of a necessity unless you want /
need to be efficient. But on a societal level - and that is what I
understood Christian is talking about - the hunt for efficiency seems
rather capitalist to me.

In Christians concept is no "hunting for efficiency" as such. The people 
decide themselves, where to improve things to become more efficient 
(which is not bad at all) and where not. There ist no abstract alien 
rule, and due to the principle of free (voluntary) cooperation no one 
can order others. Anyone is doing what s/he wants to do and in a way 
s/he (togehter with the project) decide.

And again: I don't see this being a major topic in practical peer
production projects. But may be you have practical examples?

I don't understand your question, because it is so obvious -- even if a 
project is not explictly taking about "how do we organize our effort" 
in such abstract sense. But here at Oekonux we are generalizing on a 
more theoretical level what is going on. For instance, if Debian is 
debating about how to organize a new and reliable release cycle and 
what can be done to guarantee that (including IMHO stupid ideas of 
paying release maintainers), then this is exactly the topic of how to 
share effort within the project.

Every society distributes
its effort in some way (capitalism using indirections via markets).

Called division of labor, yes. In that respect peer production is not
special in any way.

Spontaneously, I would say: yes, it is division of labor. But thinking 
about this a while, now I would say: This is too general and therefore 
not adequate. It is only true under a certain presumption: labor is a 
general form of how humans reproduce themselves and produce their 
living conditions. I don't share this. In my view "labor" is a specific 
historical form of commodity production, which splits societal live 
into two spheres: One sphere is the economy, where abstract labor, 
exchange, time-saving, and alienation dominate the social relations, 
and the other sphere is reproduction, where re-creation, emotions, 
time-spending, and self-realization dominate. Both spheres can not 
exist for themselves. The separated non-economy sphere is essential for 
the economy sphere not only as leisure time counterpart, but in a more 
and more direct way functions and personal properties are roped in the 
economy. Ok, that's the sketch.

Now by saying effort=labor this neglects the separated non-economy 
sphere, which corresponds with the old-stylish workers movement demand 
of taking the power over economy, and anything can be driven according 
to the needs of the majority (leaving gender issues behind as a side 
contradiction etc.). This is proven false. Emancipation can only be 
human emancipation, and not only workers emancipation. The traditional 
left solution was in another sense inadequate: It reproduces the 
capitalist separation of all the needed contributions coming from the 
non-economy sphere.

Ok, this all together is the reason, why in my view it is more adequate 
to speak about _effort_ in a really broad sense including _all_ 
contributions, which are necessary to satisfy human needs. The term 
effort does not reproduce the societal split we have in capitalism, 
thus it is far better than just "labor". And taking about distribution 
of effort let us look at _all_ means necessary to achieve emancipation, 
and at all contradictions, which hold us back.

Doing this it will only be produced what is needed---

That is not true. There are many reasons to produce.

When something is produced, then it is needed.

Sometimes the end result is even not needed but only the activity
itself. Like when trying out something in a pointless example. But
this just BTW because it is indeed kind of an exception.


Peer production bases on so called Commons being ressources
without owner controlling the usage.

That's at least not exact. Copyleft controls ways of use and most
licenses do.

But the owner does not. That's the point.

Ah the owner of the *Commons* does not control the use. I misread
this and now agree.


What counts are the contributions one makes. They
determine reputation, credit, and confidence one gets.

Yes. In that respect they are similar to capitalism.

By far not. It is similar to curent peer projects.

Well, in a company as well as on the market the contributions one
makes do count - and similarly as above.

No, by taking my explanations about "effort" into account, it can be 
clearly said, that _labor_ counts, while other invisible contributions 
are taken gratis. They doesn't _count_ in an economic sense, even if 
they are necessary. This is a big difference.

Now, how can needs of the producers be coordinated with the
needs of the consumers?

What for? At least on a general basis. If one wants to create a
question here then it needs to be something like "How can it be
made sure that all needs are supplied?". Which in this generality
probably can not be answered at all and there probably never was a
society who answered that question...

The question about the needs (of producers and consumers) *is* a
central question of a free society. If not, we could stay in

Well, my point was more this: Of course it is fine when some of the
producers produce things which others can consume. But not all of
them need to do so. It is totally sufficient if all needs are

Yes, but how to take care, that this is the case on a societal level? 
This is the central question of a free society.

That might sound little but to me is the difference between 
a totalitarian system and a free society.

Right, totalitarian systems try to organize a separated instance, which 
organizes the coodination of needs. Exactly for this reason they must 
fail: All separated (or indirect as in market economies) measures are 
at least alien measures, where individuals rebel against or are excluded 
from. In planned economies people tend to hoard things, because the 
plan can never meet the needs of the people, so that always goods are 
missing. And market economies excluse lots of people, which are no 
longer usable for valorisation.

The general theoretical insight must be, that producing driven by needs 
and consuming according to the needs, and coordinating different needs 
of producers and consumers must be _one_ integral process. It cannot be 
something separate. And this integration needs efficient modes of 
communication (as we can already observe it in free software). Earlier 
I called this task "societal self-planning", but I think "coordination" 
is a better term.

You need that totalitarian system if you live in a society which is
generally poor - or made poor by scarcity. However, a peer production
based society IMHO is not thinkable without ampleness so there is no
simply no need to spent effort in that coordination task.

Even if a society is reached, which no longer base on scarcity (in the 
sense, that scarcity is a precondition of having a commodity: social or 
artificial scarcity as we have it today), many recources are 
nevertheless _limited_. There will be always a difference between the 
needs (of producers and consumers) and the given possibilities. This 
difference is a limitation, which generally is not a bad thing, because 
it is a challenge to overcome or circumvent those limitations 
(including "negative" limitations like possible damages etc.). Thus, 
even in a free society based on ampleness, there will be always a 
necessity to coordinate tasks -- but, as written above, not as a 
separated from the process itself.

The economic value maps complex actions on simple once. However,
while always complex actions are manifolds of simple
once---resulting in less volume of spending---a generalized peer
production tend to function the other way around: Simple tasks
no one likes to do will be highly weighted to guarantee its
execution, while popular and often highly qualified tasks get a
lower weight.

I think this is really wrong. It reduces the manifold reasonings
and consideration in any(!, also capitalist!) real world project
to a single number. This is purely capitalist logic but IMHO only
useful for capitalism - and even there it can be questioned very

Nope. All criteria of capitalism are absent. Concerning effort (or
time) the "single number" is an arbitrary means only driven by the
weighting process reflecting the societal relationship of demand
and supply.

In which way this is different from how people think about their
money? If it is not different: Why it is less abstracting?

Because it is not a "real abstraction" (Realabstraktion). A real 
abstraction is not simply an reduction to a simpler form freed from 
concrete properties (like a math number), but it is a "functioning 
abstraction", which itself works as an abstractor. The latter is the 
case for the abstract economic value, with is not solely a 
simplification (as many people what's to reduce money to), but a mover 
of the people. This reversal of things that constitute the social (and 
not the other way round) is named fetishism (or alienation). In 
Christians concept, the abstraction has no objective function, but it 
is a kind of a math number to handle effort arbitrarily. Arbitrariy, 
because the people determine the number (by weighting), and not an 
alien process.

My only critique is, that this type of
regulation based on *coupling* of giving and taking is necessary at

Of course.

Yep, but Christian argues, that it is necessary when starting from a 
situation, where almost everything is exchanged (especially material 
goods). But he concede, that coupling can fall when everything is 
working. -- Ok, this may Christian explain better than I can.

It is remarkable, that Siefkes concretely discusses a number of
critical questions, which are usually avoided by refering to a
future »where everything will be solved«:

Sorry, but from this review I think Christian is more trying to
map capitalist logic to peer production. I outlined above where I
think this happens.

Your outline is based on my review and misinterprets heavily
Christians concept. So when bashing you have to address me writing
such a bad review.

I'm not trying to bash anybody. I'm exploring new ideas at the same
time I'm trying to understand what Christian says. You say that it is
not possible without reading the book. Hmm...

It helps a lot, because many questions and objections you have are 
answered in the book.

What about infrastructures and meta-tasks? How will
decisions be made, how conflicts be solved? How will global
projects be organized?

Questions which in the realm of Free Software are resolved since

This is a very optimistic position.

Well if they are not solved then we would not talk of 10 or 20 year
old projects - would we.

But I feel there is a general difference here. I'm fine when things
work. I don't need answers to the most fundamental questions first -
afterwards they might be interesting. May be over time I became a bit
too pragmatic for a German ;-) .

Well, Christians model (the extension to physical domain) does not have 
running examples yet. So any pragmatist can simply say: Show me your 
examples. But Christian research question is: Is it possible and under 
what circumstances will it be possible, to extend peer production into 
the physical world. This is a theoretical question, but in my view a 
very important one, if we don't simply want to say: "Let's do it like 
free software, everything is solved there". This as well neglects the 
differences to the physical world as it underestimates the problems free 
software itself yet has. And it sounds a bit like a preaching priest, a 
role which is already occupied by St.IGNUtius ;-)

To my opinion the presented concept is a pragmatic transition
model, not a general model of a post-capitalist society.

For a pragmatic transition model the questions posed are wrong.
For a pragmatic transition model I don't need answers for the most
fundamental and abstract questions I can think of. I just need
solutions to just the next problem. This is a key difference.

The next problem of what on what way to what goal?

As you can see you end up nowhere when asking the most fundamental
and abstract questions ;-) .

As you can see, these questions are concrete ones, even when they are 
yet of theoretical nature, and they can be discussed that way.


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Contact: projekt

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