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Re: [ox-en] There is no such thing like "peer money"

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Dear Raoul:

This is a wonderful clear-eyed contribution, as usual. I find myself
agreeing with everything you say.

For me the issue remains:

1) money is problematic, but we still need it for a long time

2) if we need it, why doesn't it make sense to change it, so that at least
the most problematic aspects of capitalist money can be mitigated in the
interest of the majority of the population ..

3) this does not claim that money reform will solve everything, but that
such efforts are part of the general effort to peer produce everything,
including money

So, to both Stefan's it seems that your position is different:

1) money is bad, we don't need it

2) therefore, any attempt to change it is superfluous

Am I caricaturing your positions?


On Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 4:58 AM, Raoul <raoulv> wrote:

On 27 aug 08, 18:27, Stefan Merten wrote :
"BTW: This is really a great discussion :-) ."

I fully agree. The compatibility between peer production and money, the
possibility of the disappearance of money, what could be the process of that
disappearance, these questions are all crucial if we pretend that a "peer
society" is possible. (It is funny to notice that this discussion develops
at the same time a new major financial/monetary crisis hits the world

Stefan Merten (27aug08, 18:33)

Hi Michel and all!
Last month (44 days ago) Michel Bauwens wrote:

there are 2 discussions:
1) whether money, 'by itself', has problematic aspects ... it probably
but may be a necessary evil for a long time to come

Well, I replied to Sam that it is *capitalist* money which is really the
problem. Indeed we should probably be more specific here.

Yes, we should be more specific. It would be useful to agree on what we
understand by money, as a general concept. During the discussion this has
not always been very precise. If we use the most elementary definition of
money, as the one given in Wikipedia (English), money existed thousands of
years before capitalism. "Money is anything that is generally accepted as
payment for goods and services and repayment of debt. The main uses of money
are as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value." That
definition includes of course the "commodity money", that is "money whose
value comes from a commodity out of which it is made": Shells (in the 5
continents), grains, oil, cattle (the Roman word for money, /pecunia/,
derives from /pecus/, meaning cattle), etc. and later silver or gold have
been used as money long before capitalism. State-money, fiat money, (as from
the 6th century BC) bring new features and sources of power for the ruling
classes, but its basic functions remain.
Also, long before capitalism humans could note that - using Michel Bauwens'
words - "money has problematic aspects". In the 4th century BC, Aristotle,
who already saw the three main uses of money (reproduced in the Wipkipedia's
definition above), made a pitiless criticism of money, of exchange itself
(opposed to "household management" logic), and even "usury", which would 14
centuries later become one of the basis of capitalism. He wrote, for
"There are two sorts of wealth-getting, as I have said; one is a part of
household management, the other is retail trade: the former necessary and
honorable, while that which consists in exchange is justly censured; for it
is unnatural, and a mode by which men gain from one another. The most hated
sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of
money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended
to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term
interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the
breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of
all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural." (<>
He also said (more than two thousand years before the hackers) that "All
paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind".
In the Christian Bible you can also find a denunciation of the "problematic
aspects of money" with the famous passage about Jesus chasing the merchants
from the temple (one of the very few events in Jesus' life which is
described by all four gospels).
More generally, it is certainly because of its "problematics aspects" that
in "heavens" described by religions, money is generally absent.
The problem with money, from the beginning,  is not only the fetishistic
aspect it tends to develop, but the reality for which it exists: exchange,
symmetric exchange: I only give you something if you give me something
"equivalent". If that principle had dominated the hunters-gatherers
societies in the paleolithic era, humanity would have perished.  Many of the
solidarity and altruistic aspects of the family/household management would
have been (and remain) impossible with symmetric exchange.
In addition, the third function of money: store of value, brings a lot of
new "problems" for social relations. Storing value has the great and crucial
advantage of allowing to break the exchange in time: you sell today and can
buy something equivalent later. But it also creates the possibility to
cumulate value and thus to become richer, more powerful than the others and
eventually able to exploit them. And the richer you are the easiest it to
cumulate more money. (The Gesellian money solutions try to eliminate or
limit this last function.)
In that sense, it is not only "capitalistic money which is really the
problem", as humans ancient distrust shows.
But before capitalism, even in societies where the use of money developed,
for example "in the slave economies of the roman empire and the
Hellenistic/Ptolomaic kingdoms which preceeded it", as Paul Cockshott noted
(13jul08), it did not played an important role in the main domain of
production: agriculture. Here, as Christian Siefkes says: "most economy
relations where based on direct dependency (slaves producing for their
master, serfs producing for their feudal lord, etc.)." (13jul08). One could
add, peasants communities producing for their lords in the oriental-despotic

As it has been said many times in the discussion, it is only with
capitalism development that money plays a dominant role in social life.
Capitalism places money at the heart of the two main dimensions which define
a mode of production: the goal of production and the way the producers
participate to production. In abandoning the old use of money:
commodity-money-commodity (C-M-C) to develop M-C-M', profit and accumulation
of capital/money become the  goal of social production.
At the same time, wages, paid with money, become  the medium for most
workers to participate to production. The labor force becomes  a commodity
by itself and has a money price in a specific market. The workers access to
products is limited by the the possibility of having a job and by the value
in the market of their labor force.
This is important when considering the overcoming of capitalism. (See

 Michel Bauwens

2) whehter money has different characteristics according to 1) its usage
different societal models; 2) its underlying protocol

Stefan Merten
If an exchange system dominates society then it is a problem - no
matter on how you model the details.
But there were pre-capitalist societies which had money but were not
dominated by it - partly because the money-driven sector was marginal.
I wonder whether one can think of post-capitalist situations where
money exists but no longer dominates society.

It is indeed important to specify which societal model we are talking
about. The problem of the relation between money and peer production is very
different if you consider it within the capitalist society or in a
post-capitalist society, or rather in a society where peer production is
becoming the prevailing form and the material means of production are
becoming "peer possessed", falling into the commons. I am not sure this
distinction has always been made during this discussion.
In a capitalist society, peer production is inevitably dependent direct or
indirectly on capitalist money, since hackers (and all "peer producers")
need to make a living, and, in such a society, one needs money to get food
(or computers). Even if there were differences on that question during the
discussion, Michel Bauwens and Stefan Meretz have both insisted on the need
to preserve the specificity of peer-production.
Michel answering to Stefan says: "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).(...) 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 logic."
They both accept that money can flow into a free project: "bounty-based,
fixed contributions by the members" (Stefan) , "voluntary fund raising from
the public, support from public authorities or foundations, or support from
the 'business ecology' profiting from the common resource" (Michel). But
money has no role to play within the internal relationships and regarding
the output: "There is no money or product-to-market flow to the outside
world", says Stefan.
I agree with all that concern.
Next years, or decades, will probably bring out new forms of interaction
between the two worlds. But they will inevitably suffer from the limits of a
relation between two antagonistic logics and from the fact that means of
material production remain in the hands of the lords of the old. For
example, the question, so many times posed by Michel Bauwens, about how to
manage in capitalism peer-production in sectors where "cost-recovery" is
required seems hardly solvable without abandoning, at least partially, some
of peer-production principles. As he says: "Reality is complex".

BTW, I found interesting the Michel's mails and links giving information
about the way free-software writers paid by commercial corporations, as IBM,
manage to keep the maximum of a "peer" spirit and practice. But I think he
goes too far when he says these developers get a "patronage" or something
like "basic income" rather than a "traditional labor wage". It is true that
the labor force is not exactly possessed as it is the case with "normal"
capitalism. It is true that they are contributing to the commons (and that
is great). But, free-programmers are paid because IBM needs their work in
order to get profit (even if that is in a more or less indirect way) and
they are paid the price of their labor force. And, of course, they are paid
only if they work. These are important specificities of wage, not only
formal ones.

Back to the original issue. The question of the relation between
peer-production and money changes radically as soon as peer-production
becomes dominant in society. In a fully-developed "peer society", (the end
of last step in the Five-step model: "reconstruction of the entire system
process"), where material ampleness has developed and extended to the whole
planet, where symmetric exchange has become unnecessary and even
counter-productive, money has no reason to subsist, or maybe very
marginally. I agree with Stefan Merten when he writes:

Frankly I can not imagine what money could be good for if it is no longer
necessary for
the organization of the whole social fabric.

But, the same is not true before the end of that step. There is necessarily
a period of "transition" where symmetric exchange, and thus money, subsists.
From a certain point of view, the "transition" between capitalism and that
society has already begun. According to the "Five-step model", we are in the
3d step: "Germ form becomes an important dimension". But there is a
qualitative jump when reaching the 4th step: "Germ form becomes  the
 dominant form". I don't know whether I am very "orthodox" in my
understanding of the model, but I would say that this step implies 2
important aspects. First, a significant share of material means of
production become "managed" according to peer-principles. They are no longer
under private/exclusive property. (BTW: I consider State property also as
"private" since it "deprives", excludes the users of the means of production
and the consumers from direct possession of these means - as it was the case
in the wrongly-called "socialist" or "communist" countries.) Second, the new
form, peer-production, coexists with important sectors managed according to
the old forms, capitalist and even pre-capitalist forms, since capitalism
(as all the other modes of production -except the hunters-gatherers) has
always coexisted with older modes of production.
I'll begin by this second aspect, as things appear more clearly. The need
of an exchange between the different sectors of social production means the
need of a mean of exchange, and thus the need of money... or at least a form
of money.
The consequences of the first aspect,  ("peer possession" of the material
means of production) are more complex. Here, the old problem of providing a
material living for the peer-producers finds finally, at least partially,
its logic solution: "prosumers" produce collectively their own living. But,
because we are just exciting from a world dominated by scarcity, it is
impossible to apply immediately the principle: "To each according to his
needs/desires". The question is then: how can be organized the distribution
of goods collectively produced? Since symmetric exchange and money have been
the most efficient "necessary evil" to manage situations where scarcity
exists, are they, here, an inevitable necessity?

I don't have a definitive answer. But I have some convictions about the
method to deal with the problem.
We need to be careful not to have a fetishistic vision of money, inputing
to money powers that come from the reality of exchange itself. You cannot
"abolish" money without eliminating the necessity of symmetric exchange. The
Argentinian experience in 2001, the "Social Money Movement" (thanks Michel
for:, shows how
in a situation of scarcity, if official money disappears, money re-emerges
"spontaneously" from the need of exchange to survive. Cigarettes were used
as money during the second world war by prisoners and are still used as a
form of commodity money in U.S. prisons . On a much larger scale, during the
20th century they were many situations, especially in periods of war, where
governments tried to ban free exchange and restrict the power of money in
order to impose rationing solutions. The result has always been that market
and money reappeared in their worst form: black market.
Money will disappear, or be reduced to a very marginal role, only when the
need for it has disappeared or reduced to marginal goods, when abundance or
rather "ampleness" has been reached for produced goods. In the internal
world of Free-Software, money has disappeared not only because of ethic
convictions but because of the intrinsic nature of digital goods which makes
them abundant as soon as they are created.

At another level, but again concerning the method do deal with the problem.
Too often, we try to imagine what a post-capitalist society could be by
defining only what would be good for human beings: justice, harmony,
ecological rationality, etc. That is useful an necessary. But insufficient
and some times hazardous. A post-capitalist solution, in order to be able to
survive and remain, needs first of all to overcome, to solve the impasses of
capitalism. It needs to break the specific laws that block the old machine
and the society it dominates. Not all aspects of capitalism will disappear
(using machines to produce, worldwide cooperation, for example) and it would
also be a nonsense to define the post-capitalist society and the way to it
just by saying it will be the contrary of capitalism.
In order to define what blocks the capitalist machine, I follow Marx, or
rather my understanding of Marx, since this is a very discussed question
between Marxists . To make it short, there are two main contradictions,
interrelated, which condemn capitalism to cyclical and eventually "mortal"
crisis.  One is  the tendency of  the rate of profit to fall, the other is
 the tendency to limit the possibilities of consumption of most of the
population by the wage system. That appears rather clearly during periods of
open real crisis, recessions. Factories close, not because nobody needs what
they produce, but because they cannot make profit. The majority of the
population consume less, not because their needs have reduced, but because
they loose their jobs, source of wages, or because their real wages
In that sense, any new form of re-organization of the
production/distribution process, if it is to be a step towards a
post-capitalist society, must include these two characteristics: shifting of
the goal of production from profit to human usefulness and overcoming of the
wage-system. Even if the need of symmetric exchange, and of a sort of money
to realize it, may subsist, these two characteristics are indispensable.

Raoul Victor

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