Re: [ox-en] A name for a peer-production-based society?
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2009 11:30:19 +0200
Hi Raoul and all!
Last month (34 days ago) Raoul wrote:
A name for a peer-production-based society ?
3 The need and possibility to find a new word to name such a society.
I agree that it would be very useful to find a name for such a
Once I used the term "GPL society" for what I now would call a society
based on peer production. "GPL society" was nice in a way because it
was a quite artificial term with a high perplexity. But it was also
wrong in a number of ways. For instance the GPL would no longer be
needed in a society based on peer production... In any case I'm not
using the term any more - instead I use clumsy constructions like
"society based on peer production". That is why I'm also looking for a
In any case, it is obvious that nowadays using the words socialism or
communism without specifying the meaning given to them is source of
BTW: When Oekonux started 10 years ago I very consciously used an
artificial word as a name to not run into this problem. I still think
this was a good decision :-) .
But for naming a type of society this is probably not a viable
As Lawrence Lessig puts it in
his criticisms to Kelly's article:
"So my argument against Kelly is that it is wrong to use a term (in the
context of a Wired essay at least; a philosophy seminar would invoke a
completely different set of ethics) that would be so completely
misunderstood. We choose our words. We don't choose our meaning."
That is really a great quote!
Since some time, I have been thinking that something like "gratisism"
could be a solution.
"Gratis is the process of providing goods or services without monetary
compensation. It is often referred to in English as 'free of charge'. ",
says Wikipedia in English. And it adds: "The term gratis in English
comes from the Latin word "gratis" meaning "for thanks". In several
languages, including Italian, French, Romanian, Swedish, Spanish,
Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, German, Polish, Bahasa Indonesia
and Afrikaans it is the equivalent to "for free". (5)
I think that a word based on "gratis" has interesting advantages, but
The advantages are of two kinds: theoretical and "communicative". From a
theoretical point of view it has the virtue to puts the emphasis on the
overcoming of the kernel of capitalism: the law of exchange value. You
don't sell, you don't buy. Without exchange value, the wage system and
the accumulation of capital become nonsenses. Use-value, usefulness as
the object of production instead of exchange value is highlighted.
That is in fact a very important point and gratisism makes this very
clear. However, another important characteristic - production based on
Selbstentfaltung - is not caught by gratisism.
From a "communicative" point of view, I see three obvious advantages:
1. The word gratis has an immediate meaning for every one. Even if you
are not familiar with the web and digital goods, you know that your best
relationships with others (friends, love, relatives) are, generally,
"gratis". 2. The word "gratisism" is new. It does not suffer from the
weight of "the tradition of all dead generations". The continuity with
the past is reinvented from a new point of view. 3. Last and... least,
the word "gratis" has the same meaning in more than a dozen languages.
Valid and important points.
But I also see a weakness: "gratisism" may be identified with practices
that are "gratis" only apparently. Two of them are particularly frequent
and remain totally in a capitalistic logic. One concerns the goods
financed by commercial advertising, very present in the web (Google is
only one of the most spectacular examples). Here, the good is in reality
payed by the buyer of the advertized products. Furthermore, advertising
relays on one of the darkest aspects of the 20th century mind
manipulation: "A lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth",
(Goebbels). The second false "gratisism" concerns the public services
which are sometimes said "gratis" but are in fact payed by the tax payer.
This is not the kind of ?graticism? we want. Commercial advertising and
taxes are meaningless in a world without money.
I don't know how disorienting that can be, but there is here obviously a
I agree with you but would think that these things could be considered
neglectable. However, that is the problem when you use terms which
But, will we find a perfect term?
We can at least try and may be we can reach some sort of agreement. I
think the goal would be to find a term
1. which sounds well
2. is not too wrong / misunderstandable
3. is not burdened with historical meaning
Not too long ago in Oekonux we agreed on using the term "peer
production" as describing the more general phenomenon we are
witnessing. That was an important and very visible step in recognizing
Free Software - which was Oekonux started with - as part of a bigger
Contrary to "gratisism" the term "peer production" focuses very much
on the production aspect. In a way these both terms complement each
other nicely. A combination of both would thus probably not be too
wrong (2.) and not burdened with meaning (3.). But I can't think of a
term which sounds well (1.): "peergratisism"? "gratispeerism"?
"peeratism"? Well, the last one sounds sexy ;-) .
Contact: projekt oekonux.de