The nature of apple trees (was: Re: [ox-en] apples and moonfruits)
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 22:19:58 +0200
Hi Michel and all!
Just to very quickly jump in here. I did not read the surrounding
thread yet so please forgive me if I'm repeating things. Also of
course I can not speak for StefanMz but only for myself.
Last month (58 days ago) Michel Bauwens wrote:
I'm paraphrasing his argument: "pesticide-laden apples are bad, we have to
abolish them and eat pure moonfruit". I say, why not eat organic pears in
the meantime. Stefan answers, no, that would just reproduce the fruit-eating
we want to get rid off ... Pesticide-laden apples and organic pears are just
the same, I want moonfruit .. The only problem is of course, there is no
Well, may be we move forward by using pictures like this. However, the
picture you (and StefanMz?) chose IMHO is completely misleading. Here
is the picture which comes to my mind (though it is not really perfect
in many ways).
There are those apple trees (aka captialism or any exchange based
system) and these apple trees have lots of drawbacks. Those advocating
money trickery basically say: Well, though the apple trees are bad
there are these apple tree seeds (aka exchange). If we modify the
seeds somehow the problems with the apple trees will vanish.
Someone who does not believe in money trickery now says: Well, that
position ignores the nature of the apple trees. If you modify the
apple tree seed there are effectively three possible scenarios:
1. The apple tree seed looses fertility and just rots when put into
the ground. I.e. you end up with nothing.
2. The modification is ineffective and the result is still an apple
tree with all the drawbacks we know so well.
3. The apple tree will survice only under strange, unwanted conditions
or will be just a Bonsai and thus even does not deliver the
benefits of the standard apple tree.
In short: It is the nature of the apple tree seed (aka exchange) to
end up in an apple tree (aka given the historical circumstances:
capitalism). You are either unable to hinder the nature of the apple
tree seed to become an apple tree or you destroy it altogether. At
best you end up in results which are not interesting because they are
even not able to deliver the benefits of the standard apple tree.
The peer production advocate now would continue: What we want to
arrive at is a world where apple trees play a minor role - if at all.
What we want is a world where we have lots of different fruits but
also vegetables, meat, fish, honey and so on. For this we already have
a couple of examples like pork (aka Free Software).
The peer production advocate continues: For this goal to reach any
modification of an apple tree seed is not useful because in any case
you just end up either in apple trees or nothing at all. You simply
can not modify an apple tree seed to become a pig. It's the nature of
the apple tree seed to become an apple tree and this can not be
modified arbitrarily. To ignore this is a major mistake and a sign of
and on and on it goes, so here is my response to his very superficial
critique (it is strange that both Stefan's never ever want to engage in a
simple argument about what they reject about the transformation of the means
of exchange ...)
It is in fact you who is ignorant because you continue to say that you
can modify the apple tree seed to deliver pork or at least help the
production of pork.
One of the most prominent ignorances in this regard is the "critique"
of the apple tree leaves (aka interest). If you don't understand that
the leaves of the apple tree are part of the nature of the apple tree
(aka exchange based system) and are a logical extension of the
branches (aka surplus value) then you can of course remove the leaves.
But this makes the branches useless and then the trunk and then the
whole tree. You simply can not have an apple tree without the leaves
because an apple tree can not live without leaves.
The issue is rather simple: do you believe that this system can instantly
change to another logic, even if the multitudes had taken over political
That is of course an interesting question - though it is kind of
artificial: I can not see that an *instant* change is needed.
In any case: Modifications of apple trees will not help a new logic
which is far beyond apple trees in any way. Trying such modifications
is simply a waste of time.
Beyond my conviction this is even empirically evident because when you
look at the existing examples of pork you simply can not diagnose a
lack of apple tree logic. They just work fine - though on a
non-apple-tree logic. They don't need apple tree logic and thus even
if an improvement of apple tree logic is possible is is just
irrelevant to the new logic.
Since you are in many ways a marxist, we know that Marx answered an emphatic
no to that question, saying for example that the state could not be simply
'abolished' but would 'wither away'.
Well, ignoring the problem of the state for a moment I'd even say that
the apple tree logic / exchange system logic withers away because it
becomes more and more dysfunctional. It is absolutely clear that in
Free Software or Wikipedia an exchange system *in the core* would
destroy the system in a second. It is not only not helpful it is
dysfunctional and destructive. That is what withering away means: It
is replaced by a system working better and working on different
The same goes for money. Do you envisage that money can be abolished at a
stroke, or not. My answer is: no.
Agreed. But that is not what I'm striving for. The germ form theory
shows pretty well how such a development takes place. There is simply
no need to replace money at once.
So you come to the next question: if you cannot abolish money, do you want
to keep its current design elements, which are intimately wedded to the
current political economy of capital, or do you want to tackle the issue of
protocollary power, i.e. change the design elements of the current system,
which most induce negative social behaviours, such as for example its
infinite growth mechanisms, or its engineered scarcity?
Both aspects are part of the nature of the apple tree / exchange based
system. You can not remedy them without destroying the apple tree
altogether. In fact they are a very basic part of the apple tree
Take Facebook, do you believe that its private ownership does not induce
certain protocols, that induce certain behaviours which are more in the
interest of the owners? Surely, if the users were owners, they would change
a number of things, such as instituting full data portability.
The same for money, it's not a black box, but it has protocols and design
elements which need to be tackled, not in the future, but today.
I agree that there are policy decisions which can make live in the
apple tree system easier. But inside an apple tree system you can not
make policies which leave the apple tree system. But beyond the apple
tree system is where we need to go to.
IMHO every person has to make a choice. Either to engage in the
classical political movements fighting for more money with some hope
to be effective. Or to fundamentally modify the money system which is
pointless. Or - and this is the real alternative - to engage in
helping the birth of a new society beyond the apple tree system which
is clearly the way to go.
Indeed, we cannot wait until the 'multitudes' take political power, but we
have to construct new social relationships in the here and now, conditio
sine qua non to be strong enough one day to achieve a phase transition.
Agreed. But we need to make an intelligent decision here and ignorance
is not intelligent.
This is why we have to embrace value-sensitive design, and protocollary
power, tackle the invisible infrastructures, and not, like you propose,
venerate the Golden Calf of current money as a black box which is beyond
change, while dreaming impotently of the perfect world of tomorrow.
I'm sorry Michel but this is really the voice the advocates of the
unmodified, current system. It is neither dreaming - because in an
early form there are measurable effects - nor it is impotently - when
the new economy is already an important basis of the old (like Free
Software for the Internet).
The point is precisely to avoid the same holy shit. Who sincerely believes
that you can institute, 'right now', direct social mediation between peers?
I don't see that this is required by anyone. Germ form theory says
that there is kind of an evolution here. If one of the central Oekonux
thesises is correct that on the level of the overall society we are in
the emergence step it is just logical that you can not see yet how the
world will look in 100 years.
Are you practicing it?
Sure. Though I am the maintainer of this project I get nothing
valuable back in the sense of the apple tree system. I don't get paid
for the hour it took me to write this mail. Neither you are when you
wrote the mail I just replied to.
Can you practice it? The truth is, we cannot, or only
in very limited ways.
Sorry, Michel, but you, me and StefanMz are really examples of
practicing it. And many more as well.
And while we cannot, we can start using different protocols of exchange and
sharing that already change social relationships.
It is either that, or waiting for a Pol Pot,
The contrary is true. Engaging in pointless modifications of the apple
tree system is far more likely to end up in a Pot Pot: If it is
against the nature of the system you have to force and kill people.
Contact: projekt oekonux.de