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Parallel visions of peer

production
Phoebe Moore and Athina Karatzogianni

The ‘parallel visions’ proposed by the contributing authors to this issue are
intended to challenge the dominant themes of capitalist organisation and
production through an in-depth look at peer-to-peer production and the
development of software and sharing – a movement which, the authors
argue, is based on new visions for value systems, ethics and governance. We
have organised their contributions into sections based on the relevant aspects
of these economies in order to look into the politics of how these networks are
governed, the likelihood of new avenues for worker organisation, and the
possibilities for entirely new models of economies that can be classified out-
side the hegemony of contemporary neoliberal capitalism.

T
his special issue engages with the work of academics and
practitioners working in the areas of new media, politics, the
global political economy, business, international copyright law,
information technology and computer science, digital media,
sociology and cybercultural movements, as well as with the new
forms of organisations and discussions emerging in organisational-
theory-related fields. The peer-to-peer politico–economic model of
production is currently having a great impact on business, media and
global politics to the extent that social-democratic movements have
taken notice of the potential of the new technoscape for social
change, just as governments are engaging more and more with the
financial benefits, challenges and threats of these informal
communities and skills-development environments. Specifically, and
relating to the title of this issue, the peer-to-peer model is about
passionate production. One of the most relevant examples of peer-
to-peer production is constituted by the open-source
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Beyond merely accepting the logic of having to correct market failures. a non-market economy. simple organisational model. In the subsequent piece. harnessing innovation and allocating scarce resources in a sustainable fashion. The networked environment through which these communities operate enables the development of technology that competes with that of multinational corporations like Microsoft. provocatively asking.prg) and free software movements (www.fsf. who decides whether ethics can exist within capitalism? Arvidsson looks at Marx’s concept of the ‘general intellect’. Adam Arvidsson notes a new economy that has been taking an ‘ethical’ dimension.opensource. Orsi calls for a model of development according to which a more fundamental role should be given to civil society. New economies of production? A range of new economies can be theorised through the lens of peer-to-peer production networks. This shared sense of value could lead to the re- politicisation of capitalism. or the idea that as capitalism develops. cooperation expands simultaneously with the expansion of capitalism in the subsumption of everyday lives. peer production and the common good’. Such a model entails the existence of a market economy within which profit-oriented enterprises operate. and 8 . ‘Knowledge-based society. and cooperation becomes a source of value in itself. free software facilitates local economies. Distributed using a powerful. These forms of egoless programming facilitate and enable communities to build on each other’s code. Orsi claims that the primary aim of the political economy of reciprocity is to bring the notions of mutual cooperation for the common good back into the very heart of economic rationality.Capital & Class 97 (www. as a liberal egalitarian welfare model proposes. rather than its being geared around the market–state pair. and looks into the way in which resistance to capital emerges from new forms of cooperation within capitalist organisation. Cosma Orsi looks at the new economy of reciprocity in his account of its alternative approach to production and distribution.org). In his piece ‘The ethical economy’. which are becoming increasingly influential in their defiance of the status quo in market based economies. within which governmental agencies have the mandate to fairly redistribute both social power and material resources. software and applications with remarkable results that can be used freely and improved upon by anyone. in particular in the realm of informational capitalism.

they should endorse a model of development for which concepts such as economic efficiency. The authors argue that this practice has the potential to abolish the theoretical as well as the historical basis of alienated work. discourses around the value of culture have moved from a focus on the direct economic contributions of the culture industries to their indirect economic benefits. social and cultural. ‘Exploitation of the self in community-based software production: Workers’ freedoms or firm foundations?’. Apache. In their piece. They argue that. through a critical discourse analysis of policy documents. Indirect benefits are discussed under three main headings: creativity and innovation. social and economic institutions should not assign the prius logico to utilitarian economic rationality. Rather. in order to implement such an approach to wealth creation. an economic domain of reciprocal solidarity which is social and associative. The paper concludes with an analysis of this discursive shift through the lens of an autonomist Marxist concern with the labour of social reproduction. Apparently. Organisation and labour struggle? This section looks at the people involved in peer-to-peer and open- source software. it will be necessary that political. Steffen Boehm and Chris Land capture this argument in ‘No measure for culture? Value in the new economy’ through an exploration of the articulation of the value of investment in culture and the arts. Phoebe Moore and Paul A. in particular those that proselytise individual self-improvement as being linked to employability and learning. and social inclusion. employability. Not only are free software developers producing computer technology. These in turn are analysed in terms of three forms of capital: human. make an inquiry into peer production based on large free/open- source software projects such as GNU/Linux. In the final article of the section. but in the process they are also constructing an alternative model for labour organisation. Introduction finally. Mozilla and FreeBSD. reports and commentary since . Taylor look at the potential for open source to become an alternative arena for production — one that overcomes values inherent in post-Fordist capitalism. Moore and Taylor ask whether the specific ingredients of peer-to-peer production lead to worker organisation 9 . George Dafermos and Johan Soderberg. in their piece ‘The hacker movement as a continuation of labour struggle’. profit and competitiveness would cease to be the sole guiding stars of economic activity. in this period.

Tere Vadén and Juha Suoranta discuss the 10 . despite significant efforts and progress towards proprietary systems. often within the mainstream monopoly. empowered and democratic society is possible. conflict. or just part of their organisational philosophies. Social change In his paper ‘Class and capital in peer production’. by encouraging personalised free access and the production of news. thereby creating a crisis of value. are creating the impression that another direct. post-democratic and post-ownership- based form of political economy and human civilisation? The essay also examines how the emerging ethical economy of esteem is related to monetisation strategies. In the same vein. decentralisation and autonomy are part of the actual everyday life of these communities. Nevertheless. they demonstrate that peer-to-peer production does not overcome the restrictive elements of capitalism. Athina Karatzogianni and George Michaelides argue that open source and peer-to-peer technologies. ought to be looked at more soberly. control and group polarisation in an effort to understand whether equality. since although many peer-to-peer programmers participate in peer-to-peer communities for no remuneration at all. they may do so for the sake of re-entry into the labour market as employed programmers. new life practices and post-capitalist/post-democratic politics in relation to the emerging ethical economy. information and more software for the user. Following a review of the basic concepts. in ‘A definition and criticism of cybercommunism’. direct participation. citizen and consumer. Can the forces associated with the new life and economic practices of peer production. Microsoft. Using a series of interviews with programmers. networked. such as competition and exploitation of the surplus value of labour. In ‘Cyberconflict at the edge of chaos: Cryptohierarchies and self-organisation in the open-source movement’.Capital & Class 97 in ways that challenge dominant paradigms of capital. in particular in terms of class and what it means in terms of social change strategies. Bauwens addresses the political implications of peer production. governance and property be the motor of a change towards a post-capitalist. looking at issues of cryptohierarchies. Michael Bauwens engages with the meaning of peer-to-peer for social change. the claims for the revolutionary potential of these practices that have been made in the broader global political landscape by political theorists and activists alike. This paper examines open source and peer- to-peer environments.

such as GNU/Linux development and Wikipedia. Consequently. If we analyse the current trends in some of the crown jewels of the free/open-source movement. Whether celebrators of flux or prophets of cybercommunism. 11 . we quickly notice that not only is a new ethics or mode of knowledge production initiated but also very old- fashioned trends of profit-making and the colonialisation of knowledge are reasserted. for a more full definition and a more precise critique of cybercommunism. and they need electricity for their machines of immaterial labour. Introduction conditions of restraint and freedom in open-source communities and provide empirical examples to support their thesis that new ethics or modes of knowledge production have initiated but also reasserted the very old-fashioned trends of profit-making and the colonialisation of knowledge. hackers still need to eat. we need to pay attention to the various levels of freedom with which self- organising knowledge is conditioned.