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Re: [ox-en] Labor contradictions

Hi Stefan,

the issue sounds very much like the reason Leon T. spoke about the law of uneven development.

I would like to recommend learning about the distinction about intensive accumulation and extensive diffusion fases proposed by David Laibman in Deep History. Diffusion is a surface extension of capitalism, leaving lots of premodern to exist, I think we see this currently in Asia (I understand this could be argued, but DL insists that it is true on a world scale, capitalism is just a thin layer in most of the world), whille intensive accumulation really changes the societies in depth. He gives time tables for this, which I can't really reproduce, so here are some (long) notes:

From the stadiality of capitalism to the stadiality of peer
to peer


David Laibman’s Deep History, which has already inspired me
to a previous editorial comparing the peer to peer transition to that from
slavery to feudalism, offers an innovative interpretation into the stadial (= by
stages) evolution of capitalism. It is an abstract theory, but compatible with
the historical record.

It goes like this, and my apologies for the simplifications.

He distinguishes four factors, divided over two axes.

The vertical axis divides up diffusion vs. accumulation.
Accumulation is the well-known process of adding up capital through intensive
development, i.e. “locally”. Diffusion is the lesser known process of the
extensive spread of capitalist relations in a precapitalist environment, say
the McDonaldisation of the Third World.

The horizontal access divides internally oriented phases,
from external oriented phases. This gives four quadrants, i.e. four phases, and
three transitions between them.

DL also importantly distinguishes low-interventionist
‘passive states’ and ‘high-interventionist’ active state forms.

He also introduces ‘long cycles of balance of social power’,
with an upswing of workers power, and a long period of downswing. I’ll leave
this mostly out of the picture, but it is not difficult to see the downswing
starting in the 1980’s and picking up after 1989.


Explaining the phases of capitalism

Let’s start.

Phase 1: internal diffusion of capitalist relations.


This is the first mercantile phase of capitalism, marked by
the enclosures and forced proletarianisation of the English peasants, and
outside the process was fed through the colonial expansion, slave trade, etc…
The era is marked by active absolutist monarchies.

Transition I: nation-state start to coalesce, and passive
states emerge.

Phase 2:  internal
accumulation with passive state: the liberal era of the 19th


Intensive but ‘spontaneous’ accumulation within nation
states, is combined with a fairly passive “laisser faire” state approach.

Transition II: capital starts to transgress national
boundaries, but national capital starts demanding protection from their states,
while emerging social movements start making their demands.

Phase 3: external diffusion, active national states


The imperialist era which is marked by a formation of a
world market, and the hardening of strong states, both for international
competition, and for internal regulation and responding to the demands of
social movements. DL divides up this ‘long 20th’ century, into a
pre-Soviet era of classic imperialism; 2) the Soviet interregnum period marked
by American hegemony; 3) the post Soviet era marked by an erosion of that
central power of the U.S. and increasing problems leading to a transition to
the fourth stage of globalism.

Transition III: capital starts transcending national
boundaries but in a way that can no longer be contained by nation-states;
diffusion completes but at the same times also fails to go very deep, causing
deep cultural strains in the developing world; lack of global state power
renders inoperable any solution to deep social divisions

Phase   4: external
accumulation with a global passive state

This phase of globalism, of which we are already observing
many signs in this transition period, would mean a full realization of global
accumulation on a world scale; the key problem of a global passive state is
that there is no internal/external contradiction that can create a “we”, and
therefore, says DL, it will be marked by a hole in the hegemony layer.

In other words, we are now in a dysfunctional ‘transitional’
phase of proto-globalism, and need to transit to a full-blown form which needs
its own state form.

II. Comments

A few initial comments:

1)      I
think this scenario is believable on the whole, and one of its implications is
that capitalism has not yet fulfilled its full role, that it still has to
initiate and complete this full fourth cycle. Concluding to its obsoleteness or
even ‘death’ may be premature.

2)      In
his story, though I’m still missing the last chapters of the book, there is
very little recognition of the key role of ecological disasters, and resource
depletion; he also ignores everything we are talking about in our blog. (that
of course doesn’t mean the author ignores these but they are not very prominent
in the book at all).

What kind of problems does his vision create for peer to
peer theory:

1)      His
theory highlights the question of timing. Before we may see a shift to a
successor civilization that is geared around the peer to peer logic, we may
first expect a global strengthening of the capitalist system on a world scale

2)      It
poses the question of what kinds of structural reforms are needed to achieve
this fourth stage

According to DL it is only this fourth stage that will
create a global abstract citizenry with a global consciousness. (as a socialist
he calls this a global proletariat).

Some possible conclusions:

1)      Many
of the peer to peer developments that we describe and try to integrate in our
theory are indeed emergent and small, they will take decades to play out,
especially the expansion to the physical field

2)      Carrying
out the reforms that the rise of p2p-participatory movements (openness,
commons-orientation) and the sustainability movements suggests are part of the
key reforms which may make such a transformation to globalism possible; it is
pretty clear that neither neoliberalism nor neoconservatism can successfully
solve the transition problems

3)      It
gives sense to many of the reforms-within-capitalism movement that we see
arising such as sustainability, social entrepreneurship, base-of-the-pyramid
approaches, blended value; indeed, we see at present no serious social force
calling for its abolition. I suspect that the new social compact will have
elements of a kind of global Keynesianism as proposed by Soros, and also
reflect many participative developments; what we describe as the forces of
netarchical capitalism may play a great role in it. Note that a key issue in
this transition is solving the ecology/sustainability issues without which the
transition is not possible

4)      But
this emergent globalism will then itself set the stage for a further transition
to a full peer to peer mode, as more and more world citizens have the skills
and consciousness and access to technology that makes a peer to peer style of
social relationship a natural thing to do. The present minority of peer-ready
knowledge workers need to become a massive social phenomena in the whole world.


The Stadiality of Peer to Peer



Crucial is the question of timing: do we have the time to go
through two such transitions (the global and the P2P one), before the
ecological “sh..t” hits the fan? It is likely that we do as all of the
different problems and trends will take several decades to fully play out.

This gives us the following stadiality for peer to peer:

1)      The
current emergent phase, where all new realities are emerging as seeds

2)      The
phase were participation becomes a highly visible part of a new global compact.
The society is capitalist, but it has integrated the major reforms without
which it cannot endure

3)      This
allows participation to become mainstream and to become the main alternative
solution for a system which cannot structurally solve the problems of nature
and equity.

Again we find the double and contradictory conclusion that
P2P is both immanent and transcendent to the present system. It is the very
condition of its survival and reform, and it is the seed of its overcoming.


----- Original Message ----
From: Stefan Merten <smerten>
To: list-en
Cc: Stefan Merten <smerten>
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2007 2:55:18 AM
Subject: [ox-en] Labor contradictions

Hash: SHA1

Hi Graham and Raoul!

If I understand the both of you correctly then you are puzzled by
phenomenons where labor society is on its rise - instead of its fall
as for instance I suggest. If I remember right then your main examples
are from China where the labor society certainly gets bigger.

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