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[jox] Message from Jean Zin on peer production

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Hi all

As mentioned, I contacted french writer Jean Zin who writes regularly for EcoRev with the idea of asking him to contribute an invited comment for the second issue, possibly by translating one of his texts. He responded with the following message, which I translated quickly. I don't agree with everything he says but in my view this is a nuanced perspective which offers an interesting counter-point to the - indeed slightly messianic - vision of P2P as an inexorable historical agent which is going to sweep capitalism away. 

I have not responded yet but I was thinking something along the lines of 'nothing ever changes if there is no vision of the future to strive towards so the idea of the commons does potentially appeal to everyone (earth = commons) and in particular could allow the establishment of connections between the P2P elite and struggles in the "Global South".' 

If anyone would like to add to that please feel free to respond quite soon, I will incorporate contributions and post a draft response letter to this list.




Hello and thank you for the proposal, however, if I support P2P and like Michel Bauwens in particular, I am far from sharing the P2P Utopia specifically with regard to currencies and politics. Where I differ is is the insistence on local, close relations and face to face democracy. One of the great differences between municipality and network, is that one does not choose one's neighbors, which forces us to engage in politics (difference of the local currencies with free currencies). 

I do believe there is a Communism of knowledge and that free software is an essential dimension of our future, I do not believe one can generalize a model which holds only through technical constraints and the complexity involved. There is a plurality of economies, modes of production, of markets and networks. Peer production is probably reserved to a certain elite, to the most autonomous, but I would rather defend the mediation by third-party institutions such as municipal co-operatives intended to develop competencies. So an important place should be given to free software and the digital exemption from payment but which cohabits as well in a plural economy with remunerated autonomous work, work for associations / NGOs as well as wage-earning in the commercial sector. 

Often complexity is used to confuse everything in an unorganized chaos which is called self-organization and which then puts everyone at the same level whereas there is in living complexity several levels of organization and of differentiation which cannot be fitted in a standard and universal model (the nervous system is not the blood or immune systems). It is to better to test the limits of a model to improve its pertinence than to want to extend it beyond its own field. The disadvantage is that one then loses all the  messianic enthusiasm with the utopian dimension. One thus loses the political and revolutionary character of P2P, unless one integrates it into a political project, not as subversive in itself but as integrated into a coherent alternative system. 

It is a little like guaranteed income which is not revolutionary in itself but only if it integrated into a complete system of production integrating production, circulation, distribution, which I show in particular in "Changing production systems" where guaranteed income, local currencies and municipal co-operatives work together for a relocalised economy in the digital era. 

Apart from that, of course all my texts can be reused (they are in copyleft) and I would be delighted if they were translated. 


Jean Zin


On 08/24/11, Mathieu ONeil  <mathieu.oneil> wrote:
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Hi Jakob, 

I agree with some things you say below, for example one possible role of the journal being to say "there is an alternative".  Others however strike me as trying to fit reality into a preconceived model, for example  I'm pretty sure quite a few people on this list would not define peer production as always "horizontal", and personally I am unclear to what extent the reference to dialectical thinking is 100% necessary, because it gives the impression that there are unbending laws of nature and history. 

In terms of membership in the scientific committee, I think you have shown by your statements regarding peer production on this list and by your stated willingness to contribute to the journal that you would be a valuable addition, so unless anyone objects I will add your name to our list. 

[ All: this reminds me that we do not have urls of research pages for members, if there is a particular one you would like to have included please send it me to offlist, apologies if you already did so]

In terms of contributing to the project, you have already provided a title of the second issue - productive negation! We can certainly discuss special issues, but right now I would prefer to focus on the upcoming second issue. 

My gut feeling is that at this stage of development it would be good to have a more fully fleshed out statement of purpose / editorial that would reflect the ideas of (some of the) journal members regarding the P2P/capitalism issue. As a base for this text we could use the statements below by you, me and Matt, as well as taking into account a soon-to-be posted message by Jean Zin. In terms of the P2P/capitalism relationship he argues that reality is / will be made
up of different production systems. Drafting a collective text would allow us to confront ideas productively and come up with a statement which we could then invite others to contribute to. An alternative to this would be having a debate section around these issues but I think the impact of having already arrived at a synthesis would be greater. 



On 08/21/11, Jakob Rigi  <rigij> wrote:
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Hi Matt, and Mathieu and all,

First, a point in response to Matt in relation to binary thinking. I agree that binary thinking in the strucuralist sense of the word is not useful. But productive negation is both negative and positive. It is not binary, it is dialectical. We negate the capitalist relation of production but keep its forces of production and re-organize them in p2p relations of production (voluntary horizental cooperation+ commons[p2p mode of distribution)].  In binary thinking the opposite of A is not -A. Not -A depends for its identity on A. But peer production does not depends on capitalism for its identity, this identity is defined by its own mode of productivity. In this sense as Matt says capitalism is not relevant for P2P production.  The domestic mode of production, feudal  mode of production and p2p production are all not capitalism. However,  P2p production is distinguished from other non- capitalist mode of productions by being the form of production that corresponds to IT, and h
 ce has a future orientation. It is the negation of capitalism in the same way as the future is the negation of the present. In any case p2p production is  something more than being merely not capitalism. Its horizental  form of cooperation and its  universal form  of property separate it from capitalism. In its initial phase , which we live through,  p2p MOP relies on capitalism and capitalism is its context. Capitalism also exploit it to extract value.  But there is a competition and contradiction between these two modes of production. This contradiction can be approached analytically on different levels of abstractions the most significant of which are : the levels of production, level of political struggle and the level of culture and values.

On the level of production, there is a competition for productive forces between capitalism and p2p modes of production. To the extent that productive forces (humans, nature and technology) are  organized under p2p production capitalist mode of production and the market will shrink. If we think globally, we have  limited productive force (number of productive individuals, natural and technological resources). There will not be two parallel  forces of production one for capitalism the other for p2p production. Land and nature which for ever will remain the main basis of any production are scarce. With expansion of p2p production they need to be transformed to commons, save for the small plots of land that individuals appropriate/fence for private uses. We may compare this with growth of the capitalist mode of production within the feudal mode mode of production. Today the capitalist mode of production dominates the whole world, while in the 16 century there were just a few E
 lish  farmers who produced things in a capitalist way. In a long historical period p2p production cannot grow together. The growth of one undermines and hinder the growth of the other. Capitalism without growth is unimaginable, it will run into crisis.

The translation of this contradiction into the  level politics is a complex issue. On the one hand the horizental structure of the p2p production negates any top-down form of governmentality (whether of the state, capital, UN, or NGOs). But from this we  cannot conclude that some states, UN, particular NGOs or even capitalists will not be interested in  promoting p2p production. Some major capitalist companies are involved in the p2p production. This bring me to Mathieu's concrete proposals which I totally agree with. We need, as Matheiu suggests,  to focus on concrete and empirically graspable phenomena which are immediately relevant to the p2p production. But the idea  of the principal contradiction between capitalism and p2p may help us to relate our researches and debates on these concrete issues to a universal non-capitalist p2p horizon in the future. While we work on issues that are relevant here and now, I think it would be  also a good thing to  have a direction. Lo
 , in the context of current crisis even numerous capitalists pundits agree that capitalism is profoundly harmful to humanity, but then they add, "there is no alternative". The try to sell capitalism to the rest of humanity as a necessary evil. They equate it to human nature. It is shameful to equate greed, crisis, war and destruction of nature to humanity.  We can hold p2p production in the front of their eyes as a viable alternative. P2p production is an empirically materialized  example of an alternative world, more favorable to humans, animals, plants and nature in general. what is good about P2P production is not that it is not an utopian  design of some visionary thinker but has emerged from the productive practice of producers themselves. 

Of course, I do not suggest that this should be the direction of the Journal.  The Journal, perhaps, needs a more open publication policy that accommodate  a broad range of views, including this one.

Mathieu, thanks a lot for inviting me to do something. I am really flattered,  I am interested in doing a special issue on comparing pre-capitalist, capitalist and p2p modes of production. If you or others, propose that I do another topic I will consider your proposals. Meanwhile I am more than willing to review articles for the journal.
all the best

Mathieu ONeil  08/20/11 5:37 AM >>>
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Hi Matt,

Thanks for commenting, though I don't really agree with you when you reject binaries because my understanding of "critique" is similar to Jakob's, critique = negation of something, being against something, in this case commons vs. private property, so there is a "struggle" there for want of a better word.

That being said I agree that it may not be that urgent to think about capitalism, it's just there and we have to deal with it practically. For me it's the practical, concrete articulations and oppositions between capitalism and peer production that are interesting, more than working out what a perfect peer production society would look like.

So, in my view the journal should investigate issues such as:
-documenting peer production projects 
-documenting social campaigns of commons vs. capital
-commons and the ecological crisis
-furthering best practice and antidiscrimination in peer production projects
-copyright issues (there is a Debate being talked about on licences for the spreading of commons)

-how state or international (UN?) actors can help spread commons more

If anyone was interested in doing a special issue, or a debate, or a paper, on any of these topics I would certainly support them - I'm looking at you, Jakob! ;-)

Regarding the SC question, I think it's a bit weird that there are some people on the SC who have almost never commented on this list, but thats OK I guess, up to them. But there should be a requirement to do two reviews a year, I think. And of course people are strongly encouraged to volunteer for special issues, debates, papers, etc.



On 08/20/11, Matthew Allen   wrote:
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Two comments...
IN relation to:
  I really like your slogan "productive negation" but as for whether this will play a significant role in bolstering p2p production against capitalism, or whether peer production stands a chance against capitalism for that matter, I'm not as sanguine, though it does of course constitute an interesting alternative.
IMO, and it would be nice for the journal to consider exploring this, the problem with valorising P2P as 'against' capitalism does tend to produce a binary opposition. p2p for me is part of, and at the same time, outside capitalism - indeed one can even consider capitalism irrelevant except insofar is as it provides the context by which p2p makes sense. (this is not an argument for capitalism I should add, just an interest in ignoring it, tactically :)).
And on the q of non-active participants --I must say I sometimes find it hard to participate in the 'ideas and policy' side of things, just for lack of detailed familiarity with the field compared to some, but I would definitely agree that some sort of participation (eg reading, commenting etc) should be a given.

Professor Matthew Allen
Head of Department, Internet Studies
School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts
Curtin University of Technology, CRICOS 00301J Australia
m.allen  ; @netcrit
+61 8 92663511 (v) +61 8 9266 3166 (f)
Australian Learning and Teaching Council Fellow
Life Member, Association of Internet Researchers


From: owner-journal on behalf of Mathieu ONeil
Sent: Sat 8/20/2011 5:11 PM
To: journal
Subject: Re: [jox] Scientific committee

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[posted on behalf of Michel whose email bounced - @Michel - i will subscribe your address hope that will fix the problem - M]

Hi Nate,

it can be useful for a journal to have both, i.e. to have an active team
that actually really participates, but also to have some kind of 'wisdom
council', with prestigious names that give it added credibility ... I do
believe it's better to split them however,


On 08/20/11, Mathieu ONeil   wrote:
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On 08/20/11, nathaniel tkacz   wrote:
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Apart from the question of how one enters the committee, there's also the
question of what is expected once someone becomes a member. There's been a
bit of a discussion about this in relation to being active on the list. For
a different journal that I participate in, editorial board members have to
agree to review two essays per year and are strongly encouraged to propose
special issues. In short, the committee isn't just a list of celebrity
academics, or a way to position the journal as cool. I'm not necessarily
against having some high profile people who don't actually do anything, but
it's worth thinking about how a p2p journal sits in relation to these
questions and what that means about the selection of new members.


On Saturday, August 20, 2011, Mathieu ONeil 
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I can see you will fit right in with some people on this list. ;-)

really like your slogan "productive negation" but as for whether this
will play a significant role in bolstering p2p production against
capitalism, or whether peer production stands a chance against
capitalism for that matter, I'm not as sanguine, though it does of
course constitute an interesting alternative.

I can see how
you can practically grow commons : just make more commons and encourage
others to do it. So the islands are getting bigger, they may become
huge, look at FLOSS and WP, new islands might be created. But if there
is to be "spreading [of a] new communist consciousness which aims at
generalization of p2p production to all branches of production" then it
will have to cease being an essentially elite form which, unless
connected to a mass of people, will have limited impact.

I agree 100% with you when you say that what would be necessary is to
"make a broad alliance with other movements and convince them that p2p
production offers solutions to many problems that are created by
capitalism." A possibly related question may be, what difference would
it make if state bodies started to actively support peer production?
There are things happening in India, I think, but I don't know much
about it. It is certainly something that seems worth exploring.
StefanMn may know more as there was talk of organising an Oekonux
conference in India.



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