Schnipsel aus einer Diskussion auf der jox-Liste im März 2012
The starting point of these notes is http://www.oekonux.org/journal/list/archive/msg00849.html
- MB: Michel Bauwens
- HGG: Hans-Gert Gräbe
- SMz: Stefan Meretz
- JR: Jakob Rigi
- CS: Christian Siefkes
About the core of a sound P2P economic theory and its relation to Marx' value theory
Hi Jacob, I'm partial to, but ultimately agnostic to Marx' value theory,
- HGG 2012-03-05 - see below
because whatever its truth, it is not necessary to adhere to it to reject capitalism. I agree with the statement, 'if the commons replaces the commodity form, money will have no relevance'.... But if commons is communism, and it is, do you really think that one day we will wake up with commonism? If you are a marxist, then you know that Marx himself, and all important marxists after him, all agreed to the necessity of transition, the one they called socialism ... and as long as not everything is 100% commons,
- HGG 2012-03-07 - see below
then you need reciprocity, and means to account for the reciprocity ... this does not have to be capitalist money, nor capitalist market, but certain forms of trade and exchange are very likely to be part of the mix. And the existence of non-capitalist markets, both in the past and in the present, are well documented, and recognized by people like David Graeber, Kleiner and many others. This is why the debate to transform money, in myriad ways, is important, because we will need practical implementation of such alternatives to accompany non-capitalist practices. The transition will be impossible if we retain capitalist money as it is designed now. Please also note that the revolutionary regimes after WWI, such as in Hungary, did exactly that, and perhaps you know more about this than me. Otherwise, I think you will benefit from studying Allan Butcher's detailed studies of communal economics and how intentional communities have dealth with reciprocity-based arrangements without the use of classic money. See http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Community_Economics
- I'm partial to, but ultimately agnostic to Marx' value theory,
I think, that there is a big difference between Marxian and marxistic theory in general and value theory in particular. The former refers to the work of a great thinker, the latter to a religoiusly charged mass perception of the former in the 20th century (there was a very instructive paper on that topic in german by Michael Wendl in "Sozialismus 2/2011", as far as I see, not online available).
Being "ultimately agnostic" to the former is in the good, negatively turned tradition of the latter and, in my opinion, a sign of cultural ignorance. Nothing at all to notice about in ignorant times but ...
I see the main difference ... just there: Aiming at studying the new experiences without any theoretical background, or aiming at "critical studies" in the same sense as Marx wrote a "critics of political economy". Both are respectable underpinnings (in particular the p2p foundation activities) but a thorough economy theoretic analysis of PP beyond religoiusly charged perceptions did not yet start and - my strong feeling - will not start being "ultimately agnostic to Marxian value theory".
Since from that point of view it becomes very soon clear that P2P was all the time in the core of capitalistic economics (free market), but since capitalistic economics and capitalistic practice (monopoly tendency) are in a permanent struggle a capitalistic economical theory cannot be a steady state theory (as assumed not only by Marx) but only a state transition theory.
I.e. transition is in the inner core of the capitalistic society itself (as already observed in the Communist Manifesto) and speaking about transitions requires to explain, why and how far those remain within capitalistic frames and where they go beyond those frames (moving frames!).
I think, this should be the core of a sound P2P economic theory. I've not seen even the beginning of such a theory yet.
I agree with your distinction between Marxian and Marxistic. But disagree that all Marxistic trends of 20th century were a religious distortion of the former, though many were, particularly the stalinist and social democratic ones. Troskists had their own shre in this business, though some of them like E. Mandel produce very original work. But, we also had very original Marxian thinkers who truely went beyond Marx.
- HGG 2012-03-07 - I completely agree that there is an undigged heritage - nevertheless it is hard to approach that in nowaday's discussions, since - in the religious perception of traditional marxism - those are haeretics and hence punished even today. Starting from the sentence that "the ruling ideology is the ideology of the ruling class" in the last 10 years I learned much about the mechanisms of the "ruling ideology of the oppressed class" ("die wirklich linken Dinger" to express it in a German play on words) and I think we should not charge our debates with that (beyond the unconscious charge that is present anyway).
In my view the work of original Marxist thinkers of 20th century is and will remain among the most precious treasures of human thought . Broadly speaking Marx's paradigm had the following pillars:
- A theory of Mode of production.
- A Theory of capitalist mode of production: The laws of value and surplus value, the forms and movement of value and, surplus value, different forms of their expressions ( absolute and relative surplus value, price, wage, profit, interest and rent) and crisis.
- A theory of class struggle. The theory of class struggle existed before Marx and Engels. they rearticulated it.
- Materialist and dialectical Epistemology.
Of these 4 pillars 1, 4 are still relevant for the study of p2p. The 2, namely the theory of value is not relevant for describing and analysing the inner logic of p2p.
The Marxian law of value is totally absent from the inner logic of p2p.
- HGG 2012-03-07 - I strongly disagree with that. More precisely, it depends on your definition, what p2p is. If p2p is a mode of re(!)production where you have enough volunteers that really do "the right job", then you can rule social interactions indeed by "rough consensus and running code". If not, the accountig starts. A mode of reproduction in the former sense, in my opinion, it will never be a dominant social interaction form. For the moment I will not explain that in more detail.
Hence p2p is a new mode of production. But Marx theory of rent which is a particular component of his theory of value explains the ways in which particular capitalists use p2p to extract rent from other capitalists by approriating larger shares of the total surplus value which is produced outside p2p by wage labor which is exchanged with capital. The fact that p2p is used by some capitalists to extract rent does not erase its none capitalist inner logic. Here, we need a dialectical imagination to distinguish between the appearence (p2p as a means of extraction of rent) and the essence (P2p having a non-capitalistic inner logic).
Marx theory of rent is also very relevant for explaining the political economy of google, Facebook and much of knowlege economy. Unfortunately I am not familiar with Oekenox discussions. I would love to go through its archives, if they exist, and I am given the permission to do so. But I agree with the statement that the true study of p2p, like any other study, is a critical, i.e, materialist and dialectical, one, hence the continuing relavance of the 4. I am not familiar with process of fork. But I think a journal which is deveoted to critical studies should also occasinally publish good and original work which are not critical. For example a Marxian journal of political economy must publish oroginal criticism of Marx by neo-Rcardian economists.
- and as long as not everything is 100% commons ... The transition will be impossible if we retain capitalist money
as it is designed now.
I have no idea what that means "100% commons" - is this a world without contradictions, what are the ways to resolve conflicts about the use of "the commons" etc.? The point are not the "commons" but the reproduction modes of the "commons". Division of labour in the last 10.000 years went only into one direction, the direction of refinement. Nowadays we are faced even with special languages to communicate about reproductional needs and ways of particular reproduction modes of parts of the "commons". Capitalist money was not "designed" and cannot be "redesigned" in an easy way without a clear understanding of the multiple social functions that are transported with accounting.
Money is only the tip of the iceberg, a very formalized way to realize accounting. Christian Siefkes had developed plenty of ideas in his book http://peerconomy.org/wiki/Main_Page how to "transform accounting" (e.g., autions of unloved duties). My objection that even his mathematical formulas (see appendix A) are just the same as in Leontieff based modeling of capitalistic economy left unnoticed upto now.
- HGG: A mode of reproduction in the former sense, in my opinion, it will never be a dominant social interaction form. For the moment I will not explain that in more detail.
My position is different, I call it a proto-mode of production, because it cannot as yet fully reproduce itself ... precedents are the existence of coloni with the slave-based Roman Empire, or the existing of enterprise within a dominant feudal mode ... for example, capitalist enterprise was dependent on granted monopolies and could not reproduce itself independently ..
- HGG 2012-03-13 Great stories, but for me they have nothing to do with an analytical approach to the phenomena to be studied.
- MB 2012-03-13 I'm guessing you have a very narrow definition of analytical, as in "the concepts that I, hgg, am using" .. these are not at all "stories", but historical examples of analogous processes, and proto-mode is an analytical concept
If you use Alan Page Fiske's relational grammar http://p2pfoundation.net/Relational_Grammar,
- MB 2012-03-13 it's here: http://p2pfoundation.net/Relational_Model_Typology_-_Fiske
you can use a gradation. True p2p, contribute to your ability, use on basis of need, is only possible with presently abundant resources, and today this is the digitized information, but it is not just volunteers. Paid developers who use the GPL, and use community norms and directions, are also contributing to the commons. Where resources are rival, reciprocal dynamics must be used, and these can be capitalism, but also non-capitalist markets or forms of exchange, gift economy, time banking and all the techniques that have been documented in Allen Butcher's ongoing study of communal economics. see http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Community_Economics
I have not yet read about Allen Butcher's ongoing study of communal economics, so my remark can only be preliminary:
Löwy wrote several years ago in a paper, here the reference of a german translation of the french original:
- M. Löwy: Destruktiver Fortschritt. Marx, Engels und die Ökologie. Utopie kreativ, Heft 174 (2005), S. 306--315.
- "Finally Marx defines, again in vol. 3 of the "Capital", socialism not as "ruling" or human control over nature, but through control of material exchange with nature: The freedom in the area of material production 'can only be in the way, how societal humans (der vergesellschaftete Mensch), the associated producers, rationally regulate their metabolism with nature (diesen ihren Stoffwechsel mit der Natur rationell regeln), bring it under common (gemeinschaftliche) control, instead of being ruled by its blind power' (MEW 26, 828). "
I left some german words to express my point in more clarity since the semantics of an english translation is in many cases slightly shifted.
"True p2p, contribute to your ability, use on basis of need,..." does not address those questions at all but has for me a smell of Cockaigne.
- MB 2012-03-13 well, it happens to be the well-known defintion of communism by Marx, whom I don't consider 'utopian', but you're free to differ, in this case it refers to a system where anyone can contribute, and it is made available for universal use ... this is just the reality of today's digital commons (on the condition you have access to the network)
By the way, there is an interesting history of the commmons and its division during the 19th century: Germany (and not only Germany) was divided in those times in dynastic areas of very different sizes and with very different traditions in the cameralistic management of the commons (Allmende). The most progressive achievements are related to the name of C.F.Gauss in the area Braunschweig-Hannover, but are based on the very early (as in 1746) land-surveying in that region. So accounting of the commons played a very central role for prospective of that region until 1843, when the privatization of the commons started.
If you build an ecology of phyles http://p2pfoundation.net/Phyles around the commons,
- HGG 2012-03-13 this addresses the reproductional needs of a productive context and is called "trusts" in capitalistic economy, isn't it?
- MB 2012-03-13 I don't think you can equate the two, though I can see why you could make this comparison ... a trust has to preserve the capital, usually financial, or land ... a phyle creates added exchange value, by creating 'rival' value (such as labour time) 'on top of the commons' ... but like trusts, it can't really deplete the commons without also weakening itself, so there is the analogy .. the people who wrote about phyles , neil stephenson in the diamond age, and david de ugarte of lasindias.net, were specifically inspired by the venetian and florentine guild enterprises and their international networks across the mediterranean ..
- HGG 2012-03-13 Any capitalist is required to "practice open book management" - not for the employees, but for the "general capitalist" represented by the financial authorities and the accountants etc., so this is clearly only a modification within capitalism.
- MB 2012-03-13 have you ever worked for a corporation? first of all, even U.S. public enterprises, probably the most exposed, keep A LOT secret, second the ovewhelming majority of capitalist accounting is fake ... and generally
speaking everything in a corporation is secret/discrete by default ... even internally
so, this is NOT what I meant, there are probably just a handful of corporations practicing full open accounting and open supply chains and production data (I only know of one belgian company, Namahn, publishing open internal accounting of its payroll) .. what we're talking about is making the holoptical practices, which are the default practice of open knowledge and free software projects, the default for all corporate practice within the specific commons network
open supply chains and other forms of coordination and negotiation.
- HGG 2012-03-13 ... very well known to capitalists for hundreds of years (it's even the core of capitalism in difference to former societies, to replace contributions and duties by negotiations).
These techniques, routinely practiced in free software and open hardware, do not require the commons logic, they can be practiced even within reciprocal exchange logics.
You see it cannot be dominant, and you don't want to explain it, but that would be interesting, because in my opinion, in open source modes, it is already dominant.
- HGG 2012-03-13 I completely agree that there is a dominance change, the very difference is the question "of what"? I claim - a new mode of capitalistic production, as capitalistic production changed modes in the last 300 years several times (approx. every 50 years).
For example, if you study the relation between IBM and Linux (see the PhD thesis of George Dafermos), but also other corporate-commons dynamics, it seems clear that the value creation is already happening according to the logic of the commons and that the market logic of the software's development is already subsumed (even as they operate in a wider capitalist economy and the firms are subsumed to capital accumulation in the other aspects). And why could it not be the dominant logic if it was for the longest period of human history. Why was Marx wrong on this? Dominant doesn't mean all-encompassing, it just means that it is the core logic of value creation. For example, if a firm makes products based on the open design, then its core value is derivative from the open design commons.
- HGG 2012-03-13 It's a matter of interpretation - I see only a more dominant role of rational organization of _re_productional processes. This is very new for Marxists, but not at all for capitalism. The for Marxists of all times strong notion of "profit" was known as a very weak one to bookkeepers for a long time, since there are "revenues before and after taxes", "before an after depreviations" etc. A sound value theory should address those questions (and even the differences between book keeping and mind keeping).
- HGG I have no idea what that means "100% commons"
100% is only a hypothetical endpoint for the commons, as communism was for Marx. It's like eastern 'Enlightenment".Whether we can ever get there is indeed very debatable. But even such a hypothetical society would have contradictions, just different ones.
Capitalist money is and was designed and is continuously designed. Abandoning the gold standard is a design decision, making sovereign money creation illegal through the European treaties is a design decision.
- HGG 2012-03-13 No, its a political decision with short wave and long wave consequences. "Design" means for me, they understand what they do in the sense as it is required from a technician to understand what she does not to be accused not to deliver work as "state of the art".
Abolition negative interest rate (13th cy.France after the defeat of the Albigeois) is a design decision. Abolition of the Worlg in Ausria is a design decision. Bitcoin is clearly based on a design decision, a very well documented one, the occcu is based on a different and competing design decision. Of course, it doesn't mean that the design is easy.
Right now, the reproduction of the commons is dependent on capital accumulation, and this is the key thing that needs to change to make peer production a full mode of production. My proposal, similar to that of Kleiner and others, is to use a global network of interconnected phyles, community-oriented enterprises, consisting of the commoners, and using increasingly non-capitalist logics, to create that reproduction mechanism. Would a mechanism that would allow the social-reproduction of the commoners, would not be for-profit but would use common-stock mechanisms, increases and expand the commons without accumulating capital, still be capitalism? I don't think so. It would be a commons-oriented economy, but not a 100% commons society. If this emerging sector, allied with social and political movements, would then become dominant, you'd have a commons-oriented society.
- HGG division of labor
In peer production, as already existing, the division of labour has already been replaced by a distribution of tasks. But this is a further evolution of the division of labour if you like, not based on a regression and its 'abolition'.
Commons and money theory
Now we have people like Keith Hart (see his Memory Bank) who claim that money and market can be decoupled from capitalism and articulated to a new mode of production. Actually Dimtri Kleiner in his Manifesto seems to have a similar theory of money, though he does not spell it out clearly. Now Hart's theory of money comes from Keynes, not Marx. I think the fact that commons have put the revisiting of the theory of value/money on theoretical agenda is a great thing, and I hope we will be able to open a constructive debate on this matter. I really look forward to debating this with you.
Ideas about the transition to a commons regime as major production mode
Concerning the transition period, although its necessity seems logical, I have strong doubt about such a necessity. It is again a major issue and indeed related to the previous issue. Whether the transformation to peer production will happen though a gradual evolutionist path or a social revolution is an open question. But I tend to think that without a social revolution the overthrow of capitalism is impossible.
I agree about the social revolution, but that doesn't mean it will irrupt tomorrow and immediality install a fully functioning 100% commons regime. So we need to live, resist, and construct living alternatives that can create the structures that will be able to flower more rapidly after the social revolution. This was the tactic and strategy of the labor movement which along with parties and unions created a vast ecology of life forms for social reproduction ... yes they were ultimately incorporated in the welfare state, but that was also because the capitalist 'could' do this ... A coopted solution within capitalism is increasingly unlikely. And my proposition does not concern such cooptation but rather the strengthening of autonomous institutions within the actual world and the creation of integrated logics for a counter-economy that can exist alongside the social movements.
Instead of an "organic completion" we (i.e. the Oekonux community - HGG) have always discussed in terms of "contradictions". The most condensed form is the five step model: http://keimform.de/2011/pattern-10-germ-form/
Actually, even in your whole series about the aspects of peer production, your 'beyond' series, I also got an impression that they are described separate from their embeddedness in the overall political economy. For example, you can say peer production is beyond labour, but at the same time, people who have no access to income, cannot sustain such activity, and hence there is a deep interpenetration between the continuation of peer production projects and the need to work with for-profit enterprises ...
To my mind, you cannot discuss one without the other, and you need specific counter-proposals and a counter-strategy. But in the years I was participating in Oekonux, I have never heard much attention paid on such counterstrategy. For example, take Christian Siefkes excellent work, it is a brillant description how things could be in an integral p2p society, but I do not get any sense of how to get from 'here' to 'there'.
You are absolutely right. I had to condense over 10 years of Oekonux development in a short (even too long) text. And you know, that I am completely aware of the necessity to reproduce our daily lives within the old structures. You may remenber, that we had some really serious debates about the role of money in the process of transition, where you took the position of creating alternative currencies, which I could criticize as some kind of "evolutionary illusion". So I could simply slam the ball back. From a standpoint above these positions one could judge, that both positions represent valid aspects of the overall contradictions we are confronted with, which necessarily emerge from social practicies.
All we we are doing on http://keimform.de (mainly oriented to the german audience) as one of the Oekonux spin-offs is nothing but that: trying to learn how we can get from here to there. And you may know: It is not that simple.
Idealtypes abstractions are always useful, as long as we the return to the contradictions of the real, and it was an excellent summary of the social logic of peer production considered separately from its embeddedness. Regarding money, I regard both the exclusive retention of capitalist money, and the total abolition by fiat of any currency, as respective illusions and unworkable.
Commons and Knowledge Commons
Knowledge can be transformed to commons without a social revolution but land and strategic natural resources which are the basis of any production are already monopolized by private capitalists and their right are protected by state apparatuses of violence. We cannot establish a peer production society without transferring the strategic natural resources into commons. For this we confront the private ownership over nature and the violence of state. Hence, the necessity of social revolution. I may be wrong, again this can be a fertile ground for an open debate. After a social revolution we may need a historical period for overcoming national claims on strategic natural resources. But we do not market and money for this.
Again agreed in theory. The phase transition will be necessity involve a fundamental change in power. But this is not a all or nothing proposition. In the meantime, do you just remain a wage worker and acquisce with the dominant logic, or do you create the seeds of the future in the present. Though the power over these resources is tremendous, it is never absolute, and the emerging distributed infrastructures can and should be used to create counter-economic institutions and counter-power.
The relation between p2p and the ideas about communism
By communism, I mean a form of social relations in which the state and division of labor have vanished. The division between manual and intellectual labor has vanished too. Moreover, there is no difference between the fulfilling individual's desires and performing social duties. You serve others by doing things that gives you pleasure and develop your own individuality. Social individual, to borrow a term from Marx, or social individualism is the corner stone of communism. Communism means the proliferation of singular individualities. This is what is already happening, though in embryonic form, in peer production.
I see no base for a claim "division of labor will vanish". No, the main challenge of the future is to cope with the babylonian jumble of special languages, to establish a culture of translations, transmission etc. I very well understand what are "individual's desires" but as Max Stirner I have no idea what that is beyond ideology - "social duties".
No, "social individualism" is by no means borrowed from Marx, since his vision about communism is "an association (!), in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."
Communism and the civic world
Yes, and it is what marx saw occuring both at the beginning of human history, and at the end of it. It is not something he surmised would happen fully fledged after a hypothetical red dawn. So my proposition is this: create real counter-practices in the actually existing world, and seek to strenghten them; deal realistically with a largely hostile institutional world; 2) when the possibility arises, create the true democratic structures that abolish the hostility of the institutions; 3) with the new institutions in place, and relying on the social force of the counter world which is now the mainstream world, establish the path forward. Most likely, this will take the form of civic institutions which will decide democratically on the most appropriate provisioning systems that marry maximum freedom with progress towards social equality.
Communism and the voluntary cooperation among individuals
I think both peer production and Occupy Wall Street have a communist core to the extent they promote social individuality. Capitalistic individuality is atomistic and egoistic. Communism is the voluntary cooperation among individuals for both social good and for their own pleasure and development. Indeed capitalism and Stalinism both atomize the individual; Communism creates and manifests true and singular individualities. So it is far from being totalitarian. It dissolves both Stalinist and capitalist form of totalitarianism. Market, in spite of its appearance, and semblance of choice is the most effective totalitarian force history has ever seen. It levels all differences to money. In the market?s view all different qualities are reduced to same substance abstract value and its manifestation money. From the market point of view the objects, and this applies to people too, because people are objectified, are different only to the extent that they are different quantities of the same things, namely money.
For me the main goal of human doing was and is and will be the "cooperative shaping of the private living circumstances". In the Oekonux context we had a long debate on "Kooperenz" http://www.freie-gesellschaft.de/wiki/Kooperenz - a two-word concatenation of cooperation and the German "Konkurrenz", that translates as "competition", but is connotated with concurrency that sheds a very special light on competition.
Mainstream business literature uses 'coopetition' since the 80s at least. In my view the transition is the following. Under capitalism, competition is primary, but within the competing enterprises, there is high level cooperation (albeit often hierarchical cooperation and subsumed to the for-profit goals). The shift with commons-based peer production is that the cooperation becomes dominant, but between these commons-cooperating entities, there can be competition (forks, etc ..)
Communism was all the time an utopia. Marx punished the old french socialists as "utopians" and claimed, his way of understanding communism is a "scientific" one. If you follow up the history then you see, that each new round of technically triggered reconstruction of the capitalist society is accompanied with a "new communism" that developes a new utopia of dreams of desired social consequences of the new technical means. p2p is obviously _also_ in that tradition. The first such dream was that on Cockaigne. So I have the strong feeling that communistic ideas are not very helpful for a dry analysis of the nowadays circumstances of living and changes of living. But I think that communism has much to do with Blochs "principle hope" as the very inner driving force of the world (including a hypothetic "communistic one").
There is a major difference. P2P is an already existing social practice, 'really-existing commonism'. There is nothing utopian about it. Hundreds of thousands of people do it everyday, for important aspects of their lives. The question becomes, because we love the commons that we are already constructing and we find the other aspects of our lives alienating in comparison, how do we extend and strengthen it. That is totally different from dreaming about 'Cockaigne'. You do not need to dream about 100% commons, or communism or whatever. It's is not necessary. On the other hand, what is vital is, how do we transform a system which is leading to biospheric destruction and in all likelyhood, a massive unwanted genocide if it goes on unchecked and unchanged. Again, there is nothing utopian about that. It is rather a vital task for the survival of the human race.
What's about market?
What you say about markets is not necessarily true. Pre-capitalist market forms, such as those in western medieval times, used 'just price' governance, and the same was true in the Hindu villages.
Here is a possible transition scenario. You have a world of increasing commons construction. These commons use peer production licenses which share with other commons institutions, but make for-profit firms pay. The commons workers create physical commons stock phyles based on worker equality and the socialist principles of to each according to his contribution, and use cooperative, nonprofit, low profit and other open company formats. These phyles use integral open book management and open supply chains, increasingly rending moot the necessity of market mechanisms to regulate supply and demand mechanics.
This world co-exist with democratic civic governance institutions which decide which provisioning system is the most acceptable. Imagine three concentric circles, the commons sphere, the private mutualist phyle sphere, the governance sphere .. where they intersect you have the civic sphere which determines the overall structure of society ...
In this scenario you have a expanding 'communist' sphere, co-existing with a gradually declining reciprocity/exchange sphere and a gradually declining common governance sphere. The key is that generalized non-reciprocity cannot be imposed by any top-down force, however benign, but must by necessity mature in the real society as people can gradually move towards it as sufficiency and abundance replace scarcity dynamics.