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[ox-de] Re: [ox-en] Report from COM'ON workshop: Dam builders and ship builders

Hi Stefan and all,

On 12/12/2011 12:01 PM, Stefan Merten wrote:
Last Saturday I attended the workshop

	     COM' ON! - Die alte Eigentumswelt dreht sich

See for the homepage.
Well, I'm not really into this commons debate but my impression is
this: It is composed of two discourses which IMHO have nothing to do
with each other. One of the discourses is the commons based peer
production discourse which is put forward by people like StefanMz and
ChristianS. I.e. the topic of this list. The other discourse is a very
classical left discourse with all the same old, same old questions and
approaches. Here are some aspects which IMHO mark the boundary:

* Appropriation of means of production

  Part of the left commons discourse seems to be the classical
  discussion about power relationships. As one example the power over
  means of production is discussed in the form that the means of
  production must be appropriated from the current owners. That
  reflects closely the classical discussion that the working class
  should be owner of the means of production.

  In the peer production discourse this question - which is of course
  an important one - is answered differently: Let's build the means of
  production ourselves. This is a very different approach.

This was specifically the topic of the world-cafe table I hosted: "Was
passiert mit den bestehenden Produktionsstrukturen im Falle einer
gesellschaftlichen Transformation?" [What becomes of the existing structures
of production if society is transformed?] (I'll publish the full protocol of
the discussion at in a few days.)

The two positions you describe are caricatures of two extreme end points of
the spectrum of opinion. "Lets just appropriate the existing means of
production (MoP) and use them as they are" is indeed the classical
leftist/socialist position, but almost nobody at the table voiced it quite
like that (you attended parts of the discussion yourself). Most people
tended more in the direction argued for by you and me: that it's essentially
necessary to build new, and better MoP, that are aimed at producing for
benefit and self-entfaltung rather than for profit. Instead of appropriating
the source code of Windows and the content of the Encyclopedia Britannica,
peer producers created GNU/Linux and the Wikipedia.

But obviously you cannot start from nothing. For writing free software and
free texts, people need computers, and for creating free physical means of
production and using them to produce useful things such as furniture and
food, you need at the very least natural resources such as wood and metals,
and land. So the question "How do we get the resources and other MoP
necessary to create benefit-oriented productive infrastructures?" is still
an important one.

* Importance of environmental issues

  In the left commons discourse environmental issues seem to play an
  important role. This is of course part of the more recent left
  standard program.

  In peer production I can't see that environmental issues play any
  special role.

They obviously play a role. Indeed the turn-money-into-more-money logic of
capitalism strives for infinite growth (which in the long run is impossible
on our limited planet), while the benefit-oriented logic of commons-based
peer production contain no such built-in grow imperative. Hence I think the
ecological argument is one of the most important arguments why peer
production is not only better, but indeed essential.

See my article "Das gute Leben produzieren"
<> (German), or, for
English, my contribution to the upcoming volume of CSPP
<> which should be published sometime in January.

* Classical oppression and equality

  One person spelled out the classical oppression topics like gender
  or disablement. Race could be probably also added. This persons's
  critique in the commons debate was that it doesn't include this type
  of inequality - or rather that it doesn't make inequality a topic.

  I tried to explain that inequality *escpecially* in needs and
  abilities is central to a peer production approach. What is a
  project worth where all participants want the same and have the same

That again looks like a caricature. I have never heard any single leftist
argue that all people should be "equal" in the ridiculous sense you imply
(say, everybody should be male, 28 years old, 175 cm high, brown-eyed, and
well-versed in programming, cooking, and Western philosophy). Quite clearly,
equality means that everybody should be able to choose how to live their
life, where to get engaged and what to do, rather then being prevented or
hindered by prejudice, explicit discrimination, or lack of accessibility
from doing so. In other words, equality means that everybody should be able
to "self-entfalt" as they deem fit. As such, it is an important precondition
of peer production, and is also recognized as such in its theoretical
underpinnings, e.g. in the hacker-ethical position that "Hackers should be
judged by their hacking, not criteria such as degrees, age, race, sex, or
position" [].

However, that peer production gets in right in theory doesn't mean that
there are no problems in practice. Quite on the contrary, as anybody who
investigates why there are so (relatively) few women in free software
projects and the Wikipedia will quickly learn. I think its very good that
there are some venues for peer production that explicitly care for and
address such issues (e.g. FSCONS <>), while I have always
perceived your attempts to keep them out of the Oekonux as one of the
biggest weaknesses of that project.

Best regards

|------- Dr. Christian Siefkes ------- christian -------
| Homepage: | Blog:
|    Peer Production Everywhere:
|---------------------------------- OpenPGP Key ID: 0x346452D8 --
For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in
the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a
mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will
you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving
while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your
mind of the idea of *deserving*, the idea of *earning*, and you will begin
to be able to think.
        -- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

[English translation]
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