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RE: [jox] Free Software Special Issue

I would add my view...

Mathieu says "PP is both dependent on and enmeshed within this wider [capitalist] order".

I would definitely agree -- though also suggest capitalism is dependent on PP too! Without getting excessively Marxian, clearly PP is a source of value from which capital can extract the surplus for its own ends, without reward to those peer producing.

One possible view, however, which goes beyond Marx is to think about entrepreneurs and workers-as-capitalists. The person who makes some shareware product, gives it away but asks for a donation or similar, or perhaps manages to attract advertising revenue to themselves, might be seen as a worker/capitalist, both investing in and making the product.

Professor Matthew Allen
Head of Department, Internet Studies, Curtin University
Life member, Association of Internet Researchers
Fellow, Australian Learning and Teaching Council
Visit me at: Follow me @netcrit

CRICOS Provider Code 00301J (WA), 02637B (NSW)

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-journal [owner-journal] On Behalf Of Mathieu ONeil
Sent: Thursday, 21 July 2011 10:46 AM
To: journal
Subject: Re: [jox] Free Software Special Issue

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Hi Stefan, all
I will have to keep this short, so this will be direct, and possibly random: 
- first, aside from the merits or demerits of your perspective, it is clear that it has - so far - not much support in the journal, aside from StefanMz that is
- I understand what you say about peer production being a new phenomenon, but I don't see how it can be separated from the 95% rest of the world economy which is capitalistic. PP is both dependent on and enmeshed within this wider order. For me the interesting thing scientifically is precisely to work out the relationship between these two orders and - possibly from a more activist perspective - to work out how to extend the commons and peer production
- I also agree with those who say that power is not a "leftist" concept, there are so many forms of domination etc
- this to me indicates that there is not one single way to think about these issues
- if you want to get your point across effectively IMHO it would be best to submit a paper to the journal for our upcoming issue on peer production theory - that way you can explain what new tools and concepts are needed etc. A whole issue on Oekonux can be envisaged for later, we dont have the writing and editorial resources right now
- the peer production theory issue can be released next December. Is an article possible? 
On 07/12/11, Stefan Merten <smerten> wrote:

Hi Mathieu, all!

First: As I wrote in my previous mail I'm very disappointed with the
call for the Free Software Special Issue. This disappointment may have
shown through. Still IMHO I have a decisive point here.

2 days ago Mathieu ONeil wrote:
I've read your comments two or three times and still not sure what this means: "Free Software is peer production and as this it is not anti but transcends thesis and anti-thesis." You obviously have strong beliefs, which is fine, but assertion does not replace clear argumentation.

Thanks for reading carefully. Of course I can not put 12 years of
learning in the field of peer production into a single mail. So if you
are looking for hard proofs I probably can't deliver.

Nonetheless. 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 as we saw in the call:
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's fine with me when people make mistakes like this all
the time. But IMHO in this project we need to follow a scientific
approach and for me this includes that you stop asking questions which
just don't make sense because they ignore already existing knowledge.

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
known structures. IMHO to at least *trying* this really hard would be
part of the mission of this project.

When I talk of 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*
IMHO must be the mission of this project. And this really needs some
effort including a new perspective!

For instance take this part:

  Last week (12 days ago) Maurizio Teli wrote:
  > From the perspective of social organization, Free Software can  be
  > conceived as [...] standing outside
  > institutionalized forms of power

Well, someone who writes 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 scientific challenge worthwhile accepting!

You could engage in a dialogue with the authors of the call to "win them over" but as your positions seem pretty divergent I don't know if a synthesis is achievable.

Sorry, Mathieu, but the problem IMHO is not between the authors and
me. The problem is rather: What direction does this project here
follow. Does it allow spending an whole issue on wrong questions? In
this case it takes an ignorant position and I don't see what this
journal is useful for.

Or is there a deep understanding of peer production and following a
scientific approach therefore a refusal of such wrong questions? This
would make this journal strong, clear and unique. It can then work as
a nucleus for spreading an understanding of peer production which
really matches the phenomenon.

More work, I'm afraid!

Yes. But for me it's much more than the debate about this call.
Although this debate may be an instance of making things clearer.



Dr Mathieu O'Neil
Adjunct Research Fellow
Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute
College of Arts and Social Science
The Australian National University
email: mathieu.oneil[at]

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