[ox-en] Leftist and other capitalist ideologies and peer production
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 19:07:30 +0200
The following is a modified version of a point I'm trying to make in
the CSPP journal list. I reacted to a call for papers which IMHO
projects too much left ideology into peer production namely Free
Software. I thought it might be good to share this here.
My central conviction is this: Peer production is a new mode of
production. *As such* it can not be understood with the tools which
were valid and fine for the previous mode of production - namely
capitalism. Such an approach just makes no sense. Be it that you try
to project markets into peer production - as were common eight years
ago - be it that you try to project leftist visions like absense of
power relations into it. The result is always the same: You read
something into peer production - just to discover that this does not
really work. This is because it can't, because the whole approach is
inadequate in the first place.
To understand this it may be helpful to think back one step. When
capitalism replaced feudalism it was just not possible to understand
capitalism with feudal tools. It was just something completely
different. Neither was capitalism a religion nor were it a feudal
dynasty - although it transcended elements of both.
Of course it is not easy to overcome convictions and knowledge you
held for may be many years. I know this since I went through that
process some years ago - I started out as an anarchist with strong
Marxian influences. It was helpful to have this background and at this
time it may have been the best way to support a better world. But
today I know that what we see in peer production can not be understood
with those ideologies.
But still: It's perfectly fine and valid to analyze capitalism with
leftist methods. Those tools are valid for capitalism because they
came into being as part of that regime. But they are not valid for
peer production - which follows an own, new logic.
For me the challenge is to develop new tools for this new phenomenon.
This includes to look very carefully at things - much more carefully
then you are used to when looking at capitalism with all the well
When I talk of peer production transcending thesis and anti-thesis I
mean exactly this: Of course elements of the thesis as well as the
anti-thesis of capitalism are reflected in peer production. But they
are no longer what they are in capitalism. Both, thesis and
anti-thesis are overcome in a new historical form. To analyze and
understand *this new form* is the challenge. And this really needs
some effort including a new perspective!
For instance there is often the illusion that in Free Software there
are no institutionalized forms of power. Well, someone who believes
this has no idea of peer production not speaking of Free Software. Of
course there are institutionalized forms of power.
Now the *really* interesting question is: As a modern leftist you
believe that institutionalized forms of power are bad in general. How
does it come then, that in Free Software we see such institutionalized
forms of power? Why seemingly those forms are accepted by people -
although they are not forced to? To understand this you need to start
to understand what power is in general and what it may be good(!) for.
This is a challenge worthwhile accepting!