[ox-en] Re: Role of ownership
- From: Raoul <raoulv club-internet.fr>
- Date: Tue, 04 Mar 2008 16:31:18 +0100
Hi Stefan (Mz),
On 2/1/08 Stefan Meretz wrote:
(I had wrote)
>> But if the bourgeoisie had had the capacity to develop the new
>> relations before that moment [the political revolution], it was
because it had since the
>> beginning the ownership of crucial means of production, merchant
>> ships and commodities, banks and manufactures, for example.
>However, the accumulation of capital was initiated by the request of
>feudals to build big armys fighting their wars. The ownership of
>crucial means of production was one result of feudal wars, it was not
>a "legal appointment" at the beginning. Form follows function.
Yes, producing means of war for the feudal armies was indeed one of the
most important outlets for incipient capitalism, as was also producing
luxury goods for the feudal courts. But that doesn't change any thing to
the fact that early capitalists had the ownership of crucial means of
production since the beginning.
It is true that "form follows function", especially if one understands
by "form" a "legal appointment", the juridical form of real relations of
For example, while the reality of the "coloni", first form of serfs,
develops as from the first century in the Roman Empire, it is only in
the IV century that the legislation formally defines the colonus'
status. But that doesn't mean that the real new ownership relation began
to exist only then. Since the beginning the colonus was a "free" person
attached to the land. Since the beginning the land was sold with its
coloni and since the beginning the colonus could had the ownership of
part of its product. The real, even if only incipient and not fully
legal, new ownership is part of the new relations of production.
>> "Peer production", and more
>> generally "peer X" has developed using means of production (software
>> like Linux or Apache, for example) which were "non-proprietary"
>> software, the results of fights to prevent any private appropriation
>> of them.
> You are right, these legal means like copyleft were protective measures
> being necessary to secure the development of free software, when the
> means of production (namely time sharing computers in the beginning)
> already had developed. The question of ownership was a result of that
Again, of course the development of computers and the possibility of
time sharing was a condition. But, for software creation, the means of
production are not only computers and networks, but also other software.
At this level, the ownership question was posed as soon as "peer"
relations started developing. As you say yourself, copyleft was
indispensable for their early development.
Copyleft is not at the end of peer production development but at the
beginning. The end of that process will be the end of excluding property
of all means of production, "triple free peer production".
One of the most interesting aspects of Steven Weber's book, The Success
of Open Source, is the importance he attaches to property in the new
"maturing mode of production". He gives a good definition of the main
change: "Property in open source is configured fundamentally around the
right to distribute, not the right to exclude". And he sees the
dialectical way property and social organization interrelate: "It is a
story of how social organization can change the meaning of property, and
conversely, how shifting notions of property can alter the possibilities
of social organization".
To make it short, I would say that what history shows about the relation
between ownership and relations of production is not that the production
relations develop first and, at the end, after a long development, the
ownership changes, just as a consequence, but that the question of
ownership is present as from the beginning of the development on the new
relations of production, even if in an incipient form. In fact,
ownership relations are part of relations of production. They determine
the access to means of production and, as you say, "the disposition of
the means of production is the key".
The original question is how to deal with the ownership transformation
when it concerns material means of production. I insisted on the fact
that, at one moment or another (probably many years ahead), this will
lead to a general social confrontation with capitalism, where "the
workers of the world" will play a major role, the germs of peer
production practices, mainly in the freely reproducible goods domain,
having played an important role in the evolution of their consciousness.
This confrontation is inevitable because of the nature of capitalism
>> But who could believe that a system based on
>> private ownership [one should say *excluding* ownership]
>> defended by coercion will accept to disappear - or to fade - without
>Well, the most soft way can only be establishing an *including* process
>based on commons. This is yet the way free software succeeds.
The problem is how to put material means of production into the commons.
For software and free-reproducible means of production that is
relatively easier, which explains the success of free software. But
things are different with material means of production.
One could imagine some contributions of small, or "cheap" material goods
being put into the commons from individual (or maybe corporations?)
donations. But things are different when dealing with, for example,
means to produce computers, or the infrastructure of the Internet, or
the land... etc.
I remember the Annette Schlemm's text, in the Oekonux site,"Das Utopishe
Klo", where she situates her story after the "Große Gesellschaftliche
Wende", the "big social change". The text doesn't give any precision
about the meaning of this concept. But I can imagine that it was an
expression of awareness of that reality.
In a perspective of peer production extension to material goods, the
question of ownership of material means of production is posed since the
beginning, even in an incipient form.I don't mean that nothing is
possible in that domain. But I think it is useful to be aware of the
inevitable limits and the long term perspectives.
Note: I'll deal with your remarks concerning social classes and the
"workers of the world" when answering Stefan Merte's mail of jan.17th:
one underlying distinction I made discussing the role of ownership is
formal or legal ownership and possession (you can possess a flat, while
don't owning it). Possession is about disposition.
On 2007-12-23 11:52, Raoul wrote:
(...)A lesson what we can learn from several historical trials is,
that we cannot start from the question of ownership: first conquer
the ownership, then build a new society -- no, this does not work.
We can learn, that ownership is a result of the development of the
way to produces our lives and of the productive forces, it was
always in history in this sequence.
I don't think this is totally correct. It is true that, at least in
the French case, it is during the period of political revolution
(1790s), long after the bourgeoisie had begun to establish its mode
of production, that the question of ownership was broadly posed:
possessions of the Church and the emigrated nobles were confiscated
by the State and sold to the "people"... (in fact to the new
bourgeoisie, the rich merchants, bankers and manufacturers who had
previously developed and were the only ones who could buy them). But
if the bourgeoisie had had the capacity to develop the new production
relations before that moment, it was because it had since the
beginning the ownership of crucial means of production, merchant
ships and commodities, banks and manufactures, for example.
However, the accumulation of capital was initiated by the request of
feudals to build big armys fighting their wars. The ownership of
crucial means of production was one result of feudals wars, it was not
a "legal appointment" at the beginning. Form follows function.
If you consider the transition between slavery and the first forms of
feudalism, at the end of the Roman Empire (III-V century), the basic
change consisted since the beginning in a question of ownership, that
of the slaves (who were also the main "mean of production"). The
"coloni", the first form of "serves" were emancipated slaves. They
ceased to be the property of their old owners. They remained attached
to the land (which was sold with its coloni) but a part of their
production became their own property.
You give illustrations for my hypothesis, but maybe we are not so far
away from each other.
That is for the past. But it is the same if you consider the present
transition. Free Software was also confronted a question of ownership
(copyright/copyleft) since the beginning. "Peer production", and more
generally "peer X" has developed using means of production (software
like Linux or Apache, for example) which were "non-proprietary"
software, the results of fights to prevent any private appropriation
You are right, these legal means like copyleft were protective measures
being necessary to secure the development of free software, when the
means of production (namely time sharing computers in the beginning)
already had developed. The question of ownership was a result of that
Production needs to have the "possession" (not in the sense of
"private ownership" but in the sense of having the control of
something, as for example a primitive man needed to "posses" a
"non-proprietary" stone to drive a stake into the land). How could
new relations of *production* develop without dealing since the
beginning with the question of possession of the means of
*production*, even if it is only in an incipient form?
I agree: the disposition over the means of production is the key.
That being said, it is true that the question can be posed in a more
global and definitive form when the new relations of production have
developed. This is so because it is only *social practice* which can
"convince" the majority of society to accept and develop the new
forms of ownership/possession.
Thus, we have to develop a new way of
production using most developed productive forces, and then
ownership will follow. "Will follow" does not mean automatically,
there will be fights.
As corrected in another mail: "Will follow" does not mean automatically,
there will be _no_ fights.
Yes, there will be fights. There are already, even if they have been
relatively soft till now because they are about "intellectual
property" and because capitalists have some interest in using the new
efficiency of the new relations of production at the the knowledge
level. But things will become inevitably harsher with material
ownership of the means of production. It would be marvelous if it
could be otherwise.
I read about a nice contradiction within the ruling class: german engine
constructors abandon patenting their work due to pirate copying by
Back to the question: Things are as harsh as capitalists are
expropriated very day by competition. Peer production simply has to be
better than the old, so that we can out-cooperate the old way. We simply
have to win the competition, but by forming a new field instead of
playing in the old field (where we can't win and where we always will
remain miserable players).
This is not a soft transition, because both workers and capitalists
loose their means of making a living in the old sense. This is the core
reason why it will be so difficult to convince workers movements (and
unions even more) about ways beyond wage labor and other old stuff.
But who could believe that a system based on
private ownership [one should say *excluding* ownership]
Good term: excluding ownership
coercion will accept to disappear - or to fade - without resistance.
Well, the most soft way can only be establishing an *including* process
based on commons. This is yet the way free software succeeds.
And, to come back to the origin of the discussion, I don't see how
this fights could be won without the adhesion and participation of
the "workers of the world"...
I think we need all our creativity to convince all people, simply people
as humans beings, not especially as workers or capitalists. This is not
a theoretical but a practical question. Only what works can convince.
How can we do this in case of workers? What can be done during next big
strike wave defending their (old) rights, when workers are more open
for something new? Do you want be the special consultant in case of
the "workers of the world"?
I hope that we can begin and advance as far as possible dealing with
the possession of material means of production without having to
confront violently the "temple guardians". I hope that Christian's
book -that I have not yet read :-(- helps with that question.
I think so:-)
Contact: projekt oekonux.de