Re: [ox-en] There is no such thing like "peer money"
- From: "Michel Bauwens" <michelsub2004 gmail.com>
- Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2008 12:14:45 +0700
[Converted from multipart/alternative]
On Sat, Jul 12, 2008 at 9:05 PM, Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org>
On 2008-07-11 06:04, Michel Bauwens wrote:
1) a for-profit company cannot compete with a hyperproductive peer to
peer community assisted by a for-benefit assocation
2) for profit companies that close cannot compete with for-profit
companies that open up, i.e. adapt to p2p dynamics
3) for-benefit assn. and p2p communities that successfully surround
themselves with a business ecology outcompete those that do not
It is the third 'law' which makes the mutual adaptation crucial and
which is an effect of the current role of money. However, peer
production could choose to surround itself with different forms of
business ecologies than just for-profit companies
Again you take it too general: An X who successfully surrounds itself
with money outcompete those who do not. This is generally true within
capitalism - it says nothing about the X.
I'm definitely no talking about capitalist competition in this context.
Let's take Linux, for a long time, it was relatively successfull but on a
marginal scale. It was led by many people which had either the material
conditions or an un-related wage to keep it going. But as it grew because of
adoption, it started getting all kinds of support. I'm suggesting this is
true for all projects which become really important, like Firefox and
Wikipedia. Can Wikipedia survive without the Foundation which makes sure the
$2m of fundraising come in to pay for the servers.
I'm suggesting that successfull peer production projects need both a
physical infrastructure of cooperation, which needs some kind of funding and
even paid collaborators, and a means for the core leaders to insure their
social survivability. The issue is that almost every project that has been
studied, has a core of contributors working nearly full-time, and that this
needs funding somehow.
Are you saying this is not true? If so, you would have to demonstrate that
such projects are much more distributed than they are, or that the core
consists of people who do not have to care about their survivability. I
think this is unlikely, and so I'm concluding that "money", as a means to
mobilize those core resources, is a crucial issue.
The next question then is: where does it have to come from? There are a
wide variety of solutions there, voluntary fundraising from the public,
support from public authorities or foundations, or support from the
'business ecology" profiting from the common resource, as is the case in
Linux. I for one would prefer a much stronger role of really neutral
patronage, which is one of the reasons I advocate "partner state policies
for social innovation"
The crucial point is what function money in a project has. Is it
some "basic income" for the volonteers, or is a means to finance the
project survival by producing things for selling?
Absolutely, I think we agree on that. If it is the latter, it is not peer
production, but a for-profit logic which is of no interest to us.
And a project which bases on _outcompeting_ other projects cannot be a
project in the sense of a peer economy we wish. Outcompeting means
winning on the ground of the old market principles, outcooperating
means winning by creating new grounds ignoring the way of functioning
of the old. This is the difference we should see, and in my view only
the latter is acceptable.
I don't think we have a situation of binary choice. There is still
'competition' in peer production, even if it is not competition between
for-profit entities. Here's how I see this. Within a capitalist framework,
competition is primary, but the entities are cooperating (even if
hierarchically, within). In a hypothetical peer economy, cooperation would
be primary, but the different projects still care for adoption by the
public, and are 'competing' for that. Today, I would say that peer projects
are outcompeting closed for-profit entities by indeed outcooperating them.
IHMO you are making general statements and deduce your precise
statemants from this general view. You neglect the different functions
money can have. The danger is: Treating money general leads to treating
money as an end in itself.
I"m not sure which different functions you are referring too. I think I'm
quite clear about the two functions that I mention, the general
infrastructure of cooperation and the support of core contributors. For a
peer project to retain its integrity, I think we agree on that, money cannot
be a means to subvert the 3 important conditions for peer production
(voluntary contributions, participatory processes, commons oriented output).
We have to talk about economy and role free software plays inside
capitalism. Free software is free of value, it is not scarce,
everyone can take it for free (ignoring service and tux-stuff). Why
should companies pay developers developing stuff free of value?
From the narrow standpoint of a company this is burning money. But
they are not so dumb.
You are confusing exchange value with use value.
Sorry, you are confusing exchange value with use value.
I'm not the one saying free software has no value, while in fact, it has
tremendous 'use' value. Otherwise, why would anybody bother using it?
Free software has
tremendous use value and can be converted in substantial exchange
value through added value services surrounding it.
You are using business talk, and for business it may be ok. But for
analysis we have to be precise: There is no such thing like a
"conversion" of use value into exchange value, by which means ever. Use
value and (exchange) value do not exist for themselves, and they are
not operable entities, but solely analytical terms.
Linux destroys about $60b in the monetary value of proprietary firms, and
represents itself a market value of $36b.
How does this occur, how can a free good create that market. The way this
occurs is not a mystery, and I have given you 2 links reviewing the business
models. I'm fine by calling it something different than conversion, what is
the term you are choosing? How do you propose to talk about this in a way
that does not sound like business talk?
Yes! This is exactly what step 3 of germ form theory addresses. The new
can only be successful if it has a postive function for the old. But at
the same time -- and this my point here -- the new must not reproduce
the way of operating of the old. If a project works in more or less
same ways of the old, then it is part of the old.
We agree on this.
I think there are semantic issues there. Most people do not use value
in your marxist sense. When they get a same thing for 10% of the
previous cost, they assume that this is a lot of value, and from
their point of view that is entirely legitimate.
Yes, however, we are analyzing that behavior and statements, and we have
to understand, that they are wrong. Otherwise we reproduce that wrong
understanding. This is the difference between business talk and
Inmy understanding, they are different levels of reality, and a business
operates in a world where they see cost and profit as very real variables,
determining their survival. It reminds me a little bit of the discussion
between hindus, who see the world as maya, including the explosion of an
atomic bomb, and a western philospher which slapped the hindu master in the
face, to prove his point about reality. I have since learned that both are
in fact correct, depending on perspective. I suggest a similar solution
here, that the apparent functioning of the economy is real enough for those
in it, but that on a deeper level, those are indeed illusions. Similarly, in
psychology, Lacan once said that a successfull therapy is liberating people
from false suffering to reach the real suffering, but try telling that to a
suffering person, he/she is really suffering from their 'illusionary'
Two indirect effects are adressed in the second and the third part:
Linux lowers some costs and increases budgets for hardware and
services. That's definitively true.
But what does this mean? In the last century IBM sold OS, hardware,
and service, now they pay for an OS, in order to sell hardware and
service. Great progress. -- For me, this is indeed great, because
free software freed some OS market share from OS being a commodity
-- and IBM payed this liberation!
Yes, I agree on the last point.
You really have to see both at the same time, it's a matter of
perspective. For capitalist, it is just a new tool to make money, but
for peer producers, the whole process enlarges the field of relative
autonomy from capitalism.
Yes, but we should not overtake the capitalist perspective as ours. Our
analysis should be clear and free from illusions.
It all depends what we see as illusions.
I also think we are not very far apart, but we should not oversee the
dfferent functions money and market can play, and we should keep the
core principles of our projects free from money and market logic.
This is the core issue: accepting that the reality of peer projects does
need money, but using it in such a way that it does not affect the core
The reason is that the situation of a starting peer project, that
operates at the margins of society, inevitable changes when it wants
to become lasting and successfull and needs to fund both its
infrastructure of cooperation and its core maintainers.
Yes, and it inevitably changes its type when it switches to market
success. I have seen so many projects where becoming lasting meant
loosing their original purpose.
Do you have examples of this. From your earlier interventions, I have the
distinct impression that you think Linux did not succumb to this?
My take is that we have to look at the 3 conditions, and how they are
1) to the degree that programmers are paid conditionally, voluntary
contribution is diminished
2) to the degree that command and control takes over, participation is
3) to the degree that there are no longer open licenses, the commons is
The best projects are those that preserve the 3 even in the case of success,
but I think there is a lot of evidence that free software communities have
been doing an overall good job of preserving that integrity.
But I think, and this is the sense of my intervention, that we can do this a
lot more 'intelligently', if we recognize how crucial the role of money is.
Start here: www.meretz.de
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