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[ox-en] Fwd: Stadiality of p2p emergence

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Dear Raoul,

As usual, I find your commentary very illuminating and will publish it on
the 21st, at

Raoul Victor:

You wrote:

"I think this (Laibman's) scenario is believable on the whole, and one of
its implications is that capitalism has not yet fulfilled its full role,
that it still has to initiate and complete this full fourth cycle.
Concluding to its obsoleteness or even "death" may be premature."

I shall not deal here with Laibman's scenario, which raises too many
questions. Just some comments on your comment.

You refer  to a "role" of capitalism. By these times of dark confused
pessimism that concept if frequently questioned. But I agree with the
Marxist idea that capitalism, as most historical economic systems of the
past, has a historical "role" to "fulfill", which means also that there is a
moment in history, a point of reference where it becomes "obsolete" because
it has fulfilled its role. That does not mean "dead". As long as there is
not a social alternative, a new mode of production which appears able to
reorganize the social production and a social force to build it, society may
rot indefinitely under the weight of a crippled and decadent capitalism.

The question is: what is the content of that "role"? and thus, when can be
said that capitalism's role has been fulfilled?

"The formation of the world market", the extension of capitalism to the
whole planet has been since Marx usually been accepted by Marxists as the
main historical "role" of capitalism. And I also agree with that. But the
question remains: what does that mean? Marx thought at one moment (1858)
(Engels went back over that later) that that was realized, "at least in its
broad outlines", with the colonization of California and Australia and the
"opening" of China and Japan.. Later, the revolutionary Marxists thought
that the First World War, provoked by imperial colonial rivalries, gave
evidence that the world was definitely divided into empires and thus totally
submitted to capitalism. But creating capitalist trading-posts on the coasts
of a territory does not means that all or even an important share of the
population of that territory has been integrated into capitalist relations
of production. Even in the heart of the continental European countries, the
agricultural sector has been really integrated into capitalism only after
the second world war.

Revolutionaries have always a subjective tendency to overestimate the
maturity of the conditions for the upheaval of their dreams.

My feeling (being aware of that tendency) is that the integration (still
partial) of China and India (but also other parts of East Asia) into the
world capitalist production during the last decades  represents a major step
in the process of the "world market" formation. Something really new is
happening. Even conservative economists emphasize the fact that the present
economic crisis is the FIRST really-worldwide crisis of capitalism.

Is this "the end" of the "role" of capitalism? I don't think so. But it
might be the "beginning of the end", in the sense that a qualitative step is
being realized. After this crisis, the next ones will also be crisis of the
"world market".

The nature of capitalism's limits/contradictions

You say that capitalism is a "system which cannot structurally solve the
problems of nature and equity". I agree in the sense that capitalism is a
system whose goal is profit, and only profit.  But you seem to mean that
nature/ecology and equity are the main limits to capitalism development.

I think that a distinction must be made between two kind of limits (one
could say contradictions) of capitalism. One kind is relative to the
consequences of capitalism's existence over the population, especially (but
not only) over  the huge majority of exploited and poor population. These
limits are drawn by the capacity of the population to endure theses
consequences and finally to revolt against their structural cause. As such
these limits relay on subjective factors and on social/political relations
of force. They do not affect systematically the capitalist growth.

The second kind of limits is more "objective", or at least more "internal"
to capitalism's mechanisms. The limits of that kind result mainly from the
consequences of the development of the labor productivity, which tends to
push the rate of profit downwards and permanently imposes the need for new
markets. When the rate of profit falls too much, when the new markets become
insufficient, capitalist growth declines and becomes negative, independently
of any subjective factor.

I would say that the two limits you refer to (nature, equity) belong to the
first kind of limits/contradictions.

The present reality can illustrate the difference between these two kind of
limits. What we are seeing now, a major economic recession, with thousands
of factories closing and millions of redundancies all over the world, is not
a consequence of limited natural resources, nor of excess of poisonous
garbages or polluted rivers, nor of excess of inequity. Capitalism has
always lived with a most destructive attitude towards "nature" and  "equity",
and most of the time that is a condition for its development. The kind of
limits/contradictions it is confronting now is "internal", "objective". It
is this kind of contradiction that will signal the end of its historical

Just a word about the limits of natural resources. Capitalism can manage to
develop new sources of energy and new methods of production, as far as that
allows it to make business... and it is doing it. Gore did not get the Nobel
Peace Prize by coincidence. You probably read the famous quotation of Tomas
Edison (a great inventor but also a very successful business man) telling to
Henri Ford, in 1931: "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a
source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out
before we tackle that."

The need of time for peer principles to become "natural"

You wrote:

"Many of the peer to peer developments that we describe and try to integrate
in our theory are indeed emergent and small, they will take decades to play
out, especially the expansion to the physical field."


"this emergent globalism will then itself set the stage for a further
transition to a full peer to peer mode, as more and more world citizens have
the skills and consciousness and access to technology that makes a peer to
peer style of social relationship a natural thing to do. The present
minority of peer-ready knowledge workers need to become a massive social
phenomena in the whole world."

Yes, I agree. It will take time, maybe decades. It also depends on the
effects the economic crisis may have on social life, on capitalist economic
needs, on social mobilizations, etc. Crisis are generally periods of
acceleration of history.

I like your formulation: "that makes a peer to peer style of social
relationship a natural thing to do". The effects of a technological
revolution do not affect only the material production process. They concern
most of  the social life aspects, even intimate ones. The development of the
printing press, for example, had much more consequences than changing the
way to reproduce documents.  Protestantism, for instance, as a new way to
see the relations between individuals and God, would have been impossible
without the possibility to reproduce more easily the Bible.

 In two of the most important recent social movements in Europe, the
movement against the CPE (professional contract for young people) in France
2006, and the Greek movement of last December, most journalist were
surprised and disturbed by the fact that there were no "chiefs", no
"representatives", and the official unions/parties had no control over the
movement. Especially in 2006, the movement lasted more than a month and was
very well organized at a national scale. I am convinced that that was a
product not only of the natural distrust towards institutions which have
proved many times their total integration in the capitalist logic, but also
of the habit to use Internet and have access to multiform peer practices,
where it is "natural" that chiefs and representatives are almost absent or
understood in a completely different way.

In both movements the main protagonists were students, (even if in the Greek
movement the participation of young workers was significant). They have
access to and are familiar with Internet.  But unfortunately, students as
such have no "power" on the social life, especially on the material
production of social life. Thus their movements, if they do not spread to
other social classes, can hardly give a hint of what a new society could be.
Things will probably be different when the protagonists will be the
generations of material production workers become familiar with the new peer

Globally I agree with the main lines of what you wrote on the last part of
the text about the "stadiality of Peer to Peer".


Finally, a remark about many Marxists' ignorance of peer production.

You wrote:

"In his (Laibman's) story, (...)  he also ignores everything we are talking
about in our blog."

The ignorance by most Marxists of the peer-production reality is
astonishing, since the development of peer production is a spectacular
confirmation of many deep aspects of the Marxist theory. I think  the reason
is that "classical" Marxists can not accept that something close to
communist relationships, as peer production, can exist within the capitalist
framework. Many of them do not even accept that there has been a new
technological revolution. I hope they will change their minds before



On Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 9:42 PM, Raoul <raoulv> wrote:

See attached file.

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Volunteering at the P2P Foundation:  - -

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