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[ox-en] Project / Book

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Hi all

The recent posts about the "social economy" have led me to consider some issues that I have not seen discussed on [ox] or P2PF for that matter. For example, where does the [ox] community stand on the issue of growth? There is a recent push to rebrand capitalism as "green" (see Obama in the US, Sarkozy and Cohn-Bendit in Europe). But this green capitalism - from the Left or Right - is still based on the unlimited accumulation of stuff. An alternative to growth is what is known in French as "la decroissance" - a-growth, like you could talk about atheism as the opposite of religion. So ecological issues have to be thought about. The alienation of nature, not just the alienation of people. This would help to connect peer production to a very dynamic sector of radical thought. 

Then there's the question of elitism. Something I mention from time to time in relation to expertise. How to reconcile the fact of being a "big man" in a community because of technical competency with a democratic structure? There is no equality when some people have access to tools and controls which others don't understand. The bigger the technical system, the more technocratic power grows. This is the critique of technology made by Jacques Ellul and others. Something else that needs to be though about. Plus, how do complex technical systems such as hospitals, airports, electricity grids operate in the type of "commonalist" (you know what I mean) society which I see described (for example) by Christian Siefkes? Do we go back to a village structure where specialised tasks are impossible? What happens to neurosurgeons? Do they disappear?

In general I have been thinking about what [ox] is for. My short answer: [ox] aims to disseminate the idea that peer production is a valid alternative to capitalism. That's why the points above need to be addressed, at some point. 

There has been some conflict on the lists about the differing approaches of [ox] and P2PF. Now, I think the theoretical tools of "political economy" or the marxist tradition are highly appropriate for discussing capitalism (I don't necessarily subscribe to this tradition's received conclusions - capitalism will collapse because of its contradictions, certain classes have a revolutionary role, etc.). In any cases references to marxism also raise issues.

First, there are many variants of marxist thought - for example until I read [extracts from] Johan Joderbergh's "Hacking Capitalism" I had not detected in too many writings on peer production an acknowledgement of the autonomist current of Negri and others. Johan's text makes the crucial point - already made by the Situationnists amongst others - that free software is a reaction to the quality of life in modern society, i.e. to boredom.

Second, I don't see how markets and exchange will disappear very quickly. There are simply too many interests out there for this to happen. At some point we have to face reality: the only way this could happen is through a violent social revolution, which would seem to contradict the peaceful approach of peer production. So I think it is crucially important for [ox] to maintain its engagement with "fellow travellers" such as Michel Bauwens / P2PF who can bring interesting perspectives to bear.

Which brings me to current projects in the service of disseminating the idea that peer production is a valid alternative to capitalism.

As far as the website goes, I think a consensus is emerging as to what it could be like.=20

Concerning visuals, my preference would go to a simpler and uncluttered look, such as what First Monday has. There needs to be an easy way to upload new content.=20

Regarding the feed from the list, that sounds like a good way to bring new content in - however not everyone posting to the list may be comfortable with having their posts displayed more prominently? In any case the website needs content.

So, I have also been thinking about the book project. There has apparently been some "behind the scenes" action about this. Sorry if what follows is too blatant, I think the benefits of open discussion are paramount. I have come up with a suggestion for possible chapters, i.e. this is what a book exploring the issue - a marxist-theoretical analysis of peer production as an alternative to capitalism - should have at a minimum. It is of course incomplete, to be used as a base for discussion. 

Following my readings of people in and around [ox] I also suggest possible authors, as if someone has - for example - published a book on a relevant topic it sort of makes sense to have them involved. At the same time in all cases several authors could be involved, or the issues can be discussed onlist, hence the use of "Oekonux" as an author in all cases. Based on previous experience, ideally chapters should have about 6,000 words.





Chapter 1: Introduction

Content: Short general introduction to book and chapters. Peer production as already existing challenge to capital; but it is also coopted by capital (free content serves to justify the consumption of hardware for example). Need to consider free software / free hardware not just as challenge to copyright but as social / production process with broader potential.

Author: Oekonux


Chapter 2: Peer production as a germ form

Content: Explanation of free software and peer production, concept of "Selbstentfaltung".

Author: Stefan Merten / Oekonux


Chapter 3: Peer production and the Marxist tradition

Content: How does peer production relate to different strands of marxist theory today - German tradition (?), Althusser (?), Callinicos (?), Harvey (?), Negri/Tronti (?), etc.

Author: ?? / Oekonux=20


Chapter 4: Peer production and labour

Content: Hacking as reaction to boredom, "radical role of hackers in preventing labour market from being sole determinant of allocation of programming resource in society".

Author: Johann Soderberg / Oekonux


Chapter 5: Peer production and growth

Content: Against Left and Right "green capitalism" - need to consider relationship of peer production to productivity and growth.

Author: Oekonux / I could contribute some ideas to this.


Chapter 6: Challenges of contemporary hardware projects

Content: Overview of current projects that exist today that apply peer production principles.

Author: ?? / Oekonux


Chapter 7: A complete social model

Content: How could a peer production society work - Siefkes' weighed contributions, d-pool, stigmergic, etc. Other models?

Author: Christian Siefkes / Oekonux


Chapter 8: Alternative to Oekonux

Content: There has been some disagreement with friends in P2P about issues such as the role of money and markets in a non-alienated way. Rather than excommunicating those we disagree with we should have a dialogue with them. In fact this chapter could be in the form of a dialogue between the two perspectives. This would make the book more self-critical, more reflexive and help it to breathe a bit.=20

Author: Michel Bauwens / P2PF / Oekonux


Other possible chapters could deal with:

- expertise / elitism=20

- role of "others", such as women in peer production (not sure about that - maybe just needs to be acknowledged in introduction that there can be barriers to entry and that these should be fought wherever applicable)

- art

- etc?


Finally, I did not put in a chapter on organisation in peer production or "peer governance" which I would be qualified to write as this does not directly relate to capital - I'm not against it, just thought it was a bit outside.


Some of these chapters are already written in some sense (2, 4, 7 and 8 if you count the list discussions). Others would need to find primary authors. What do people think?=20




Mathieu O'Neil



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