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[ox-en] ox4 Notes III: Money and Patterns


This post continued my coverage of the ox4 conference (part 1
part 2
The topic of Raoul Victor's talk was Money and Peer Production
<>. He
pointed out that money as a dominant social relation emerged only with
capitalism. In pre-capitalist societies, most social relations weren't
based on money and symmetric exchange. That's an important reminder since
people often believe that money and markets are more or less neutral tools
which can be used for non-capitalist purposes, since they are far older
than capitalism. They forget that money and markets have never been the
primary means of organizing production in any non-capitalist society, they
only played minor, supporting roles. Money cannot become the dominant
social form outside of capitalism, and capitalism cannot exist without

Raoul also explained that money is just the incorporation of symmetric
exchange; you cannot abolish money without abolishing exchange, and vice
versa. Money emerges spontaneously when it is needed, e.g. cigarettes were
used as a substitute money in times of war. When markets are forbidden but
there is no other adequate way of organizing production and distribution,
black markets appear--markets in their worst form. So money can only be
abandoned by getting rid of its root cause: exchange.

Peer production isn't based on exchange (it's based on contributions, I
would add), and therefore makes money superfluous and useless in the areas
where it is successful. Whenever social relations aren't based on exchange,
money disappears automatically--that's the case, for example, in the
production and distribution of free software, which is abundant and not

"Peer money" is a contraction in terms, because money incorporates the
capitalist logic (the logic of exchange), which is totally different from
the logic of peer production.

Today, capitalist companies are heavily involved in peer production, but
they are forced to accept at least parts of the new logic in order to do so
successfully. In the 12th and 13rd century there have been many hybrid
forms between feudalistic and capitalist production; it's not surprising
that we're now seeing something similar between capitalism and peer
production. Then, like now, there were many conflicts between the old logic
and the new one. As long as the old doesn't manage to subjugate the new,
we're on the right track.

Money is still needed in many areas where the old logic dominates, but is
has already become largely obsolete in others (such as software and
knowledge). In a fully developed peer society, there won't be need for
symmetric exchange, and thus for money.

The last talk of the second day was by Franz Nahrada (photo above): A
Pattern Language of the Postindustrial Society
<>. Franz
tries to connect two sources: Marshall McLuhan, who coined the term "Global
Village," with his theory of media; and Christopher Alexander, who invented
the concept of pattern languages, with his theory of patterns. These are
very different thinkers, but they both understand the world as interplay of
related, interacting processes.

For Franz, there are different source of change which must come
together--free software is not the only germ form (Keimform) of a new
society. Rather, there are several important processes and developments
which so far develop more or less in isolation but which need to be
connected (free software, permaculture, and others).

Franz's goal is to create a pattern language for the post-industrial
society. Doug Schuler has started a similar effort ("Liberating Voices! A
Pattern Language for Communication Revolution
<>"), but he decided to fork
since Doug's patterns are mainly "opposition pattern," about how to
organize opposition against the state and the market. Franz is instead
interested in positive patterns for a new, post-industrial society.

He discussed or mentioned various patterns, including: commons; fractality
and subsidiarity; voluntary, self-driven culture; self-directed cultural
communities; hypercycling and social hacking (solidarity economy,
cooperatives etc.); living systems (permaculture, regenerative design);
flexible fabrication; learning center; life maintenance organization. For
me, these pattern seemed a somewhat wild and vague mixture, and no
consistent picture began to emerge (while consistency and
interconnectedness of purpose and spirit are distinguishing elements of
Alexander's really remarkable architectural patterns). But maybe that's
only a matter of time...

Best regards

|-------- Dr. Christian Siefkes --------- christian ---------
|   Homepage:   |   Blog:
|   Better Bayesian Analysis:           |   Peer Production Everywhere:
|            |
|------------------------------------------ OpenPGP Key ID: 0x346452D8 --
Copyright law is totally out of date. It is a Gutenberg artifact. Since it
is a reactive process, it will probably have to break down completely
before it is corrected.
        -- Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital

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