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Re: [ox-en] Re: [spox] Re: Oekonux 2.0?

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Matthieu's excellent contribution on what needs to be done for Oekonux,
inspired me to write a little more broad what is to be done piece at

(the bottom of that page has a 50 minute video presentation on the same

here's the text below, for those interested, I have a new essay, To the
Finland Station, expanding on the political aspects of p2p theory, which I
can send as attachment upon request, it has a list of theses formulated as a
kind of manifesto as well.


How does real change occur: P2P Theory vs. socialist
[image: photo of Michel Bauwens]Michel Bauwens
9th April 2009

Marxism, and other forms of socialism based on a ‘a priori’ political
struggle to take power and achieve change ‘afterwards’, are in my opinion
wrong in their understanding of how fundamental social change can be

I would summarize my interpretation of their key ideas as follows:
capitalism creates a new class, which, due to its structural position as
workers, can become aware of its interests, organize themselves politically,
and achieve political power in order to take over the means of production.
So the image is of one class, eventually with allies, to take over political
and economic power, from another class that was previously dominant.

But is there any historical precedent for such a form of change. What I know
of history does not square with such an interpretation.

Fundamental change is only achieved by a congruence of change, both from the
bottom, and from the top, a double reconfiguration of classes to a new

For example, faced with an increasing crisis of extensive globalization, the
Roman Empire could not longer afford the same kind of extensive
militarization and coercive power which could maintain a slave-based system.
Faced with structural crisis, and probably combined with a pressure from
below in the form of slave revolts, some slave owners started their slaves
into coloni, the earliest form of serfdom (a different process is also
mentioned by historians, that of freeholders converting to serfdom). For
slaves, this was undoubtedly an advance, as they could now have families,
construct local communities, and only had to give part, instead of the
totality, of their produce to the new domain lords. This new system, which
created enhanced motivation, more autonomy and interest for innovation, was
more productive than slavery. Hence a dynamic whereby former slave-holders
could see the advantage of moving towards the new system of production. The
main idea here is that, faced with a crisis of the old system, populations
started experiment with alternative patterns in different fields, that those
patterns started integrating with each other to the point of forming a
viable alternative, and by the year 975, year of the “First European
Revolution’ driven by the Church, coalesced into the new feudal system. The
change could only occur because of the congruent interest of both serfs and
domain holders, who both had advantage in changing, therefore conferring
legitimacy to the birth of the new system.

The change from feudalism to capitalism occurred in a very similar fashion.
When feudalism entered in crisis mode beginning in the 16th century, a
series of changes had started occurring (some starting at least in the 12th
century, such as the invention of modern accounting), creating new patters
of social activity. Enlightened self-interest in parts of the ruling class
(nobility and royalty), would have led an increasing number of them to
invest and engage with the new capitalist practices, and coopt successful
merchants as well. Thus, change started occurring because the congruent
interest of both the new bourgeoisie, and parts of the nobility, creating
ever more integration of new patterns, slowly forming a coherent
alternative. Just as with the previous change from slavery to feudalism, it
is only after a long period of maturation, that political revolutions such
as the French or American Revolutions could occur, and that the previous
meta-system could be replaced.

Socialist proposals cannot account for this. The owners of capital have zero
interest in such a radical change of ownership, while the workers cannot
point to any successful alternative patterns that could form the basis of a
new society, instead having to opt for radical but unproven social
experiments. In my view, this can account for 200 years of failure of the
socialist movements to achieve successful transitions.

The key problem therefore was that it could not point to any other proven
alternative that would be more productive, and elicit congruent change both
from the top and from below.

However, peer production changes this equation. We now have a
hyperproductive alternative based on peer production, peer governance and
peer property, that is superior to the traditional practices of industrial,
and even informational, capitalism. It is because of the hyperproductivity
of open and free input, participatory production processes, and universally
available output in the form of the commons, that, just as in the previous
two meta transitions, sections of the former ruling class are changing into
netarchical capitalists, and investing into new types of open business
models, ‘enabling and empowering sharing’, or associating with commons-based
peer production. So as the Google’s, eBay’s, YouTube’s and Flickr’s are
morphing from the top, so are workers morphing into peer producers. Both are
them are congruently engaging in new patterns, that are slowly learning from
each other, integrating, and maturing into a wholly new way of conceiving of
production and civilization. Political revolutions can only be the result of
such maturation, and of the crisis of the previous system.

Peer to peer theory therefore, has a much more realistic chance of being
correct, because the changes it is predicting, and the process it is
advocating, is consistent with what we know about previous phase

All of the above of course does not mean that there is no role for the
social and political struggles of social movements. What it means is that
the peer to peer movement, as expression of the new successful patterns that
will form the core of the new post-capitalist civilization, need to work on
a policy platform, that can inspire the social movements to a set of demands
that no longer signify the status quo, a return to no longer operable models
of the welfare state, or destructive despair. It also signifies that while
we work on the autonomy and social reproduction of sharing and commons-based
communities, we need to critically ally ourselves, based on common interests
(while also be aware of differential interests) of the new netarchical
forces that are converting, and thereby strengthening the emergence of the
P2P alternatives.

The specific historical conjuncture demands a certain acceleration of these

- The financial crisis is a deep long-cyclical slump, definitely burying the
neoliberal model, but not necessarily the class power configuration which
created it

- The Obama administration signals the coming to political power of that
fraction of capital which is aligned to peer production. The Obama coalition
represents the conjunction of Wall Street, hence the doomed-to-fail attempts
to restore the old predatory financial system; the high tech sector most
conducive to P2P-influenced economic models (hence the ‘open’ nature of
theother aspects of the Administration); the social-media induced P2P
mobilization of the most dynamic social forces that were instrumental in
creating its victory.

- At the same time, the forces of the old order of vectoral capitalism (the
forces living from IP monopolies and mass media control), being in the panic
that they are, are stepping up aggressive measures against the further
emergence of peer to peer practices, as witnessed by the attempts in the EU
Parliament, to abandon net neutrality.

- The financial dislocation and breakdown of the previous globalized order
of neoliberalism, will lead to increasing expressions of social rage, and
waves of mobilization, but that do not have adequate policy proposals.

- Populations living in increasingly bankrupt and hollow states, and
desperate public authorities facing infrastructural breakdown, will
increasingly look to measures to protect themselves from the global
meltdown, to resilient community formation, and distributed infrastructures
that can reboot their disintegrating social order.

The P2P movement is therefore at a historical juncture, where it has to
start developing the ability for policy formulation and connect with social

Usually a new social movement goes to three broad stages: it starts with
transgressive, ‘subcultural’ behaviour that ignores the constraints of the
larger society, such as filesharing; it starts to develop social forms to
insure its own social reproduction, i.e. creating the new patters within the
old, as the free software community has done, now being followed by open
hardware and distributed manufacturing communities, and the drive towards
open money; but the next step is changing the old institutional order
itself, and this crucial step has barely started.

In order to birth the new, an integrated set of alternative patterns and
institutions must have been created, so that when the old metasystem breaks
down, the new subsystem is sufficiently robust to serve as an alternative
template for the phase transition.

All of this is of a tall order, and we are far from ready for this.
Nevertheless, it is what we must do.

(I am indebted to Franz Nahrada’s lecture at Oekonux
for a clearer understanding of the import of pattern language integration,
for successful social change)

On Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 11:24 PM, Stefan Merten <smerten> wrote:


Just saw Franz' mail on the speakers' list. Though he might have said
this here already partially I think it is good to have it here.

------- Forwarded Message

Date:  Sun, 05 Apr 2009 16:46:41 +0200
From:  "Franz Nahrada" <f.nahrada>
Subject:  Re: [spox] Re: Oekonux 2.0?

Hi Mathieu,

its really good to see how some ideas about the future create resonance. I
want to specify some points where I agree wuth you.

* Award for Outstanding Achievements in Peer Production

This is an activity which will force us naturally to deeply consider and
evaluate the things that are going on instead of looking at them
superficially. The main benefit is that we really have to challenge each
other on quality and useability of things and creations instead of
reproducing the developers mantra that "my stuff is simply the best
because I do it out of fun" (sorry, did not mean to hurt anybody!)

I suggest we create a Wiki page on this on either the Oekonux Wiki or the
P2P wiki and start filling in ideas.

** Categories
** Criteria
** Jury Members
** Sponsors
** Organizers

* Oekonux Website

Could be really a not only "critical", but also "in-depth" and
"subjective" resource about ongoing developments. It would be great to see
Oekonx 2.0 as an international editorial board of a resource collection
that is not primarily looking at facts (Michel does that now with great
diligence) but rather at evaluations of what is going on. Do not know how
Stefan feels about that, but I would see Oekonux 2.0 as an international
board of authors and theorists that discuss with each other. not primarily
on the mailing list, but in a more theoretical essayist way. My motto is:
Nobody looks at archives. Things gotta be ordered and reordered.

Keimform and P2P Foundation have filled our hunger for facts and factoids,
now its maybe time again for a more theoretical perspective and "grand
views", but also what you are asking for, the strategical and practical
discussions about how we can communicate to many many more people our
theoretical findings and political strategies.

all the best



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