P2P Foundation

The Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives

Jean Lievens has launched the first contribution of what should be an interesting debate,

here at https://p2pfoundation.ning.com/profiles/blogs/p2p-and-marxism-in-se... (see excerpt below)

I think we can subdivise the debate in a number of big topical chunks, so thanks for making an effort to specify where exactly you are intervening, by using these subheadings

- the historical failure of socialism and the continued dominance of capitalism

- the general relationship between marxism and p2p as theoretical and political approaches

- the general relationship between p2p movements and social movements, in particular the labour movement

- the role of the state, and the attitude to it

- the role of civil society, and the attitude to it

- the role of the commons

- the role of capitalism and the market

- the contemporary nature of human emancipation

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Jean, not yet a reply to your text, but I think very relevant to it:


Theme: Should we worry about capitalist commons?




There is a particular strand of thinking, which we have featured on occasion on our blog, with authors such as Massimo de Angelis of The Commoner, Syvlia Federici George Caffentzis of Midnight Notes, and Martin Pedersen, who particularly stress the need to be wary, and denounce, tendencies towards 'capitalist commons', which in there mind, have to be fought and resisted against.


I want to first discuss what aspects of this point of view I agree with, then discuss the eventual reservations or disagreements.


The distinction between capitalist and non-capitalist commons is of course an important one, whose validity should be acknowledged.


A non-capitalist commons is a commons that can socially reproduce itself and whose activities guarantee its continued existence to the benefit of the commoners; a capitalist commons is a commons which helps the (expanded) reproduction of capital and the capitalist system. The latter is distinct I believe from commons that are used and enclosed by non-commoners to their benefit, while weakening the commons and its use for commoners. An example of a pure 'capitalist' commons would be a patent commons that is constituted by an alliance of companies, and perhaps only usable by them.


Obviously, commoners should be wary of both mechanisms.


Nevertheless, we live in complex societies with many hybrid modalities, where such distinctions are not clearcut. I think the believe that commons are either pure or otherwise capitalist commons is a false dichotomy, and that the reality is that we have mostly hybrid commons processes that combine both aspects.


As an example I want to take the free software commons.


These commons usually consist of:


  • a commons of code, which can be used by all developers, including the corporations that build more value on the code (mostly through the waged labour in their employ) and market services and products related to it

  • a community of developers, a majority of which is usually also employed by said corporations, but generally also consists of volunteers freely adding to the commons

  • a set of institutions that manage the infrastructure of cooperation needed by this commons, such as the FLOSS Foundations, and which may have representatives of said corporations on the board


Now, the role of corporations is usually very important: 1) they use and expand on the code, usually though by keeping substantial improvements only to themselves; 2) they hire developers in order to develop their commercial activities, and their services are therefore constituted by both the value created by this paid labour, but also by the common value created by other corporations and especially the free labour that went into the commons. I don't think there is any doubt that such a commons aids the reproduction of the system of capital. The businesses created around such commons are usually also dependent on those commons, and contribute to their maintenance.


But does that mean that such a system is necessarily a negative one for the commoners? This is actually far from being the case. First of all, it guarantees the continued reproduction of the commons itself; in our actual society and economy, it is very difficult to expand digital commons without such corporate support; and the commons remain available to all, as guaranteed by the free software licenses; in addition, the paying of developers creates and maintains a livelihood around the commons, with free software developers actually constituting a kind of privileged labour aristocracy. The influence of these corporations is real, and sometimes (often?) dominant, and they use all kinds of value extraction and enclosure mechanisms, but nevertheless, they also contribute to the commons. And just as importantly: they are dependent on the commons and community of commoners and constrained by the license, the codes and norms of the software community.


This is why free software developers and commoners nevertheless consider such free software commons as a fundamental advance. It creates more freedom, makes the code base universally available, and often creates a vibrant economy. Many developers create their own enterprises and sometimes cooperatives as well. What is important here is that we have a system that both serves the reproduction of capital, but on a new basis of the commons; and a system which at the same time serves the reproduction of the commons and the commoners.


Such type of hybrid 'capitalist-commons' are without a doubt an advance over the purely wage-labour based forms of software creation. This is certainly the way the developers themselves see it, but also the wider community of digital knowledge workers.


That doesn't mean that commoners should not want more and better modalities. For example, they could create enterprises that are not profit-maximisers, but cooperatives, or they could use the peer production license, which allows free usage of the commons only to other commoners and thereby creates a counter-economy. So the existence of a capitalist software commons can be both a social advance, have problematic aspects, be beneficial to different players, such as corporations, users and developers, etc..


The right attitude is to strenghten the commons part and the commons logic, to fight against abuses and enclosures, and if you have radical aims of social transformation, to continue to work according to these aims in the broader context of the totality of the shift towards p2p and commons-based modalities.


But we want to make a stronger argument. Not only are these advances beneficial, but they are actually crucial.


The reason is that the alternatives modes of production based on the commons, cannot be created ex nihilo, but must be created within an environment that is dominated by the alien logic of the older dominant mode of production, i.e. the circulation of capital.


It is simply inconceivable that a slave-based empire could undergo a phase transition towards the feudal mode of production, without the existence of proto-feudal modalities within that system; it is equally inconceivable that the feudal mode of production could have a phase transition towards the capitalist mode of production, without proto-capitalist modalities existing within that feudal system. It is the ultimate strengthening and intermeshing of these proto-capitalist modalities, which creates the basis for a political and social revolution that ultimately guarantees the phase transition.


In other words, the existence of commons-based peer production, as proto-practices for a full mode of production that has still to be created after a phase transition, is itself a vital condition for that later transition. These proto-practices have to evolve within the older system, first as emergent practices, then on a parity level, before they can become dominant themselves.


So the question of 'capitalist commons', requires an approach that recognizes to what degree they benefit the commoners in the short and mid-term, to what degree they make a particular commons sustainable, but also on a systemic level, to what degree they are part of a broader change that fosters proto-commons practices that can serve as a basis for ultimate expansion on a systemic level.


Just as important is not to be blinded by any perceived absolute 'enemy', but to see the interests of the commoners first and foremost. Each commoner's community is involved in its own construction, struggles and negotiations, and makes its own arrangements with the surrounding ecology of enterprises, which depends in part on local, national, and global balance of forces; and the goal must be to make its own commons autonomous and for the maximum benefit of the commoners and the surrounding society. Rather than striving for acceptance of any a priori credo of anti-capitalism, because that is in the end the goal of the authors we mentioned above, what is really needed is to be in relations and concrete solidarity with the commoners, within the larger context of global social change towards a commons-based society. Within the context of 'really existing' hybrid commons, which are part of the broader process of reproduction of capital, what matters is to strengthen those elements which strengthen the circulation and expanded reproduction of the common(s).


Within the broader context of a capitalist society in which profit-maximising companies are geared towards maximal surplus value extraction, the existence of commons will always be precarious at best, and subject to enclosures and exploitation, such as the well-known capture of the value of the free labour of the commoners. Nevertheless, even within that contradictory process, there is a further strengthen of modalities of commons-based peer production, which is a harbinger of the society to come. And some forms of netarchical capital actually have a vested interest in the continued existence of the commons. These activities are contradictory but still contribute to the creation and strenghening of particular commons, which are also in the interest of the commoners, user communities and citizens generally.


Within the broader context of a political economy based on the circulation of capital, there can be no fully independent social reproduction of the commons, but, many elements of such full social reproduction are being born and gradually intermeshed, and it is our task to further strengthen that process, within a context of hybrid capitalist commons. Most commoners are not necessarily motivated by a political and social vision of such a future commons-based society, but their social conditions as digital knowledge workers nevertheless lead them to construct and protect concrete commons. This process is absolutely vital for the transition, and any political and social phase transition can only occur when sufficient numbers of them revolt against the limitations imposed on this hyperproductive modality, by outmoded, repressive and life-undermining modalities of capital. This process is underway but requires a continuing strenghtening of commons-based modalities.

The historical failure of socialism and the continued dominance of capitalism


Dear Jean,


Here is a start to my response to your stimulating text. I will use my own proposed fragmentation of your text and respond section by section; not necessarily as a direct response to your arguments, but certainly covering the same topic.


Topic one is the historical failure of socialism and the continued dominance of capitalism


I think I can broadly share your assessment:


  • the historical movement's relative failure:


The fact that the mainstream labour movement has accepted all the main principles of the current dominant system, and has now, in its social-democratic or actually 'left-neoliberal' form, mainly become a crisis manager for the system, being on the defensive in terms of civic rights, welfare rights and solidarity mechanims. It's merely trying to stem the flows of the losses


The Stalinist wing, who counted on the solidarity of the totalitarian regimes, has collapsed with the disappearance of those regimes.


I think what has collapsed though is in effect the believability of a systemic alternative to the present system, leaving workers and citizens in a defensive mode, under the constant aggressions of financial capital and its predatory demands.


Some general critical points:


  • the socialist movement was generally a movement that operated within capitalism, and demanded better modalities for those that it represented, which it actually achieved with a relative successful

  • the successful revolutions turned into counter-examples, as they actually also used the main modalities of capitalism, i.e. waged labour in factories, under even less free conditions


I also have more fundamental critique. My opinion is that Marxism did not have a real transition strategy, i.e. it assumed that workers movement needed to take control of the commanding heights of the economy and that only then could a transition start, after a change in ownership and governance. My reading of history is that previous phase transitions did not occur that way. What in fact happened is that proto-feudalism and proto-capitalist practices first occurred within the old dominant system, and through centuries of maturation, achieved critical mass, slowly forming an intermeshed counter-logic, and creating a social basis for its demands. Only when these demands could not be met by the older system, and that older system could no longer provide the needs of the population, did phase transitions actually occur.


But it is very hard to see proto-socialist practices within the capitalist system?


My hypothesis is that these are only occuring in the last two decades, under the form of commons-based peer to peer production practices. In other words, it is only now that we see the slow maturation of post-capitalist practices, which are slowly intermeshing, are forming the basis for a circulation of the common, and create a social basis for a future phase transition.


What is happening is that commons-based peer production is that proto-modality, and that it is this modality which will be at the basis of future social and political revolutions.

p2p and marxsim, seriously?

okay so lets get the terms straight, wikipedia :

"Marxism is an economic and socio-political worldview that contains within it a political ideology for how to change and improve society by implementing socialism. Originally developed in the early to mid 19th century by two German émigrés living in Britain, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Marxism is based upon a materialist interpretation of history. Taking the idea that social change occurs because of the struggle between different classes within society who are under contradiction one against the other, the Marxist analysis leads to the conclusion that capitalism, the currently dominant form of economic management, leads to the oppression of the proletariat, who not only make up the majority of the world's populace but who also spend their lives working for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, or the wealthy ruling class in society.

To correct this inequality between the bourgeoisie, who are the wealthy minority, and the proletariat, who are the poorer majority, Marxism advocates, and believes in the historical inevitability of, a proletarian revolution, when the proletariat take control of government, and then implement reforms to benefit their class, namely the confiscation of private property which is then taken under state control and run for the benefit of the people rather than for the interests of private profit. Such a system is socialism, although Marxists believe that eventually a socialist society would develop into an entirely classless system, which is known as communism in Marxist thought.

A Marxist understanding of history and of society has been adopted by academics studying in a wide range of disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology,[1] media studies,[2] political science, theater, history, sociological theory, cultural studies, education, economics, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics, critical psychology, and philosophy.[3]"


Okay so why is this comparison obsolete?

Here a view points based on the wikipedia defintion.

-peer to peer already defines a protocol that is classless by definition

-in what way capitalism like protocols and p2p protocols are compatible in organizing society more efficient is variable.

-p2p starts with the claim that the protocol does not only run for the benefit of the people but also produces better products.

- marx and engels been two dudes 100 years ago....and p2p defines what people connected under transparency and can have , in realtime, flexible, descisionmaking on demand, the best temproray possible,

free collaboration, i mean, seriously ,what are we comparing here?

A radial p2p improvment shuts down borders and enables communitys of choice, in every aspect of life.

It would have by definiton as a protocol , to provide acess to creativity, and how that is managed , can always be improved , cause its p2p.

What we have in hand is the tools to recreate society, and that implemets ease of pressure and use value of ppls passion.

No need to compare .....or am i wrong?

Shouldnt we better ask what would a dude like marx have thought with the net and p2p?

There are several reasons.


First of all, Marx defined communism as each contributing according to his capacity and receiving according to need, but he saw this as the end game of social evolution. Therefore, to actually see this logic "already" implemented in the immaterial sphere, generates a lot of questions. More generally, a structural class approach is still the sine qua non of understanding any society and this is an enduring legacy. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Christ, the Buddha, and so many more, including female sages and thinkers, they're all dead, but does that mean we should no longer engage with them, that p2p makes 'tabula rasa' of all past contributions?


Second, p2p is an emancipatory project, a reformulation of such possibilities for the current epoch; this creates all kinds of historical connections with social movements that preceded us; and which still have many followers and a substantial following. Since those "that do not study history are bound to repeat it", such an engagement with a influential social theory could lead to interesting understandings. Now it is by no means the only tradition we should engage with, but it is one of them.


Third, yes p2p is also a protocol, or a series of protocols, but these protocals are subjects of social tension; you are immediately faced with a struggle for protocollary power, for example, try to implement p2p protocols on Facebook, and you'll see what happens. More importantly, peer production is a seed form, but which is incapable of full social reproduction in the current economy. Value is extracted from peers, but not returned to them, while the explosion of use value production also creates an accumulation crisis of capital. So, the social structures are hugely important in this context.


Finally, I believe p2p theory is an integrative project, following the project of transcend and include; this naturally means that we can and should use insights from many traditions, and that a mutual dialogue between traditions can be mutually fruitful.

Here is my try out for a small warming up contribution for possibly 'the' debate

One important reason in the failure of the classical socialist communist project can be found in the misreading of 'productive forces ~ agency' relationship.

As the development of productive forces overdetermines the social change, so as the most important productive force is the society itself, the dialectical understanding of base-sub structure had to be very well put and grasped, but this could not have been achieved and mantained. Gramsci made the most important contribution towards curing such an healhy perspective towards the life and society, with his absolute humanist marxism.

I do find the rise of P2P and its theorisation very eciting in this sense. Because it translates, uncovers this missing link between the agency and economic structure; as well as between supra and substructure. At this point I want to say P2P vs marxism can not be the best way to grasp the value of the p2p.

Failure of the USSR project, is again, can be explained from this angle. If society is the most important productive force and, if this force is continued to be cotrolled and exploited by a class of elite individuals aginast itself, socialist asnd communist hypotheiss becomes absolute from the beginning. In the USSR there has been serious attapmts to alter productive forces upward, but within captured and exploited society [productive force by an elite]. So this was the case in the 20th century marxism and its practice.

P2P seems to me very likely a potential practice and idea that could transform the society as a force of production, in the hands of p2p producers [and peer political agency] so therefore mmodes of relationships in society [as well as among societies, since every society is an important determinant over other societies, thier formation of internal production, power and ideological relationships].

This reminds me a discussion on the lord of the rings with JRR Tolkien. Tolkien was claiming that he was not doing an 'escape literature'. I think if we think society as the main source of the force/power the idea of diffusing power where it has been created was perfact imagination. With regard to the emancipation the formulation of Tolkien was not totally correct; ss chosen one as the carrior of the power towards its disslution. This does not match with the core idea.

P2P mashed with marxist theory dialectically however provides us with a perfect link between the structure and agency as well as formulation for dissolution of power within the earth society as the most important commons, productive force, where the power belngs to.

At this point of thinking, I see clearly how important would be to know more about the physical peer production practices and advance them as well as peer governance practices.


link: Martin Carnoy n Manuel Castells writes on class, state. networks in relation to Poulantzas' last book State, Power, Socialism.

P2P approach in my opinion strengthen the argument of Poulantzas, about the radical democratic phase transition to democratic socialism. Himself does not refer directly or [explain explicitly] how comes the change in mode of production relations. As i understood, for him this change will come after or parallel to the transformation of the political structure. 

Whereas p2p theory of Michel foresees that a change in productive forces gives a rise to a new mode of production relations, and that makes a new mode of state? or governance possible.   

In terms of structure substructure can be argued that p2p approach confirms the Marxist analysis of social change and  gives Poulantzas' path to socialist democracy a further feasibility?

I've just been reading Poulantzas last work and finds his approach very 'p2p-compatible'. Unlike the state as an object (a mere instrument of the dominant class) or as a a subject (indepedent of the dominant class), he sees the state as reflecting the relations between classes and itself riven with contradiction. For me this means that you can work concurrently outside the state, to reinforce autonomy, but also work with forces within the state that may be sympathetic or aligned with the p2p value system. While we should have no illusions that this state form can ultimately serve the purposes of a more profound transition to p2p, neither should it be ignored and left to hostile forces alone. Poulantzas also argues for maintaining a plurality of democratic forms during the transition period, i.e. not fully abandoning representative mechanisms. I think this is an important insight.


Regarding your very last phrase and comment, I think that indeed it does. What socialists got wrong in my opinion, is that they had no model within the old system; they could not really point to successfull seed forms, and had to rely on a model of 'taking over the means of production' and then start to change everything from there. Today, there is no longer any doubt that the seed forms of the successor civilisation are already present so we are no longer driving in the dark and betting on the unproven method of central planning. It is only now that we can see what the next phase of human civilisation will look like.

Copied from an email contribution by Andy Robinson:


Peer-to-peer production + Marxism is a difficult topic because Marxism is very internally diverse. I think peer-to-peer production has a different relationship to different types of Marxism, and different ways of reading Marx. So it is almost useless to ask 'how does peer-to-peer production relate to (unmarked) Marxism or (unmarked) Marx', because everyone will have a different sense of what (unmarked) Marxism/Marx is.


The following, in contrast, are very much answerable questions:


1) how does peer-to-peer production relate to autonomist Marxism

2) how does peer-to-peer production relate to world-systems analysis

3) how does peer-to-peer production relate to 60s-wave neo-Marxism

4) how does peer-to-peer production relate to the ostensibly Marxist regimes of the USSR, Eastern Europe and China

5) how does peer-to-peer production relate to analysis of the labour process


and more along the same lines (since there are dozens of varieties of Marxism: we could ask specifically how it relates to Luxemburg or Kautsky or Gramsci; how it relates to a particular Marxian concept – alienation, exploitation, use- vs exchange-value, class struggle; how it relates to Marxist theories of stratification, of power, of everyday life, of work, etc).


Peer-to-peer production, if theorised as gift economy or creation of commons or egalitarian collective production, has a strong affinity with a certain kind of socialism/communism – especially autonomia/autonomism, libertarian/New Left socialisms, and anything else in the bottom left quadrant on Political Compass (i.e. both anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian). This would inform a lot of the analysis if going down the path of comparisons to autonomism, New Left Marxisms and other libertarian Marxisms (though I understand Terranova's critiques of open-source come from an autonomist stance). Personally I don't think it's as direct as, 'capitalism is creating new productive forces', it is more of a process of exodus and recuperation (the early hacker culture emerges from the counterculture, and is later recuperated into forms of production modified to incorporate it).


As a production process, peer-to-peer can also fit into accounts of exodus and recuperation in the 60s/70s wave, the rise of 'creative workers', growing trends to unremunerated labour, a return to dependence on non-capitalist sectors to sustain capitalism, the “labour-on-self” (human capital formation) trope in neoliberalism, the transition from mass to niche markets, the growth of leisure and/or unemployment and/or casual and intermittent work (as available time for non-market production)... there must be a huge literature on these kinds of things. This is all speaking to Marxism, to the extent that Marxism is the underpinning of socially-informed political economy. If I understand rightly (and I'm only marginally familiar with the literature), there's some controversy over whether peer-to-peer production is an alternative to or simply a supplement to capitalism. There's also debates over whether it is a single phenomenon or can be divided into fields or periods when it was more and less autonomous from capitalism.


Peer-to-peer production has much less affinity with forms of socialism occupying the top left quadrant (i.e. anti-capitalist and authoritarian). In fact I'd say peer-to-peer is far more significant on the up-down axis (it renders power more diffuse) than on the left-right axis (it's a non-market form itself, but it may or may not be marketised or connected to markets), which is why it attracts right-wing libertarians (bottom right quadrant) as well as left-wing libertarians. The danger of peer-to-peer production to top-left-quadrant systems is marked, and is clear from the continued hostility of authoritarian regimes to the Internet: it enables unmonitored activity, creates technologies which subvert the hierarchical practice of breaking down horizontalisms to render people dependent on vertical power, moves production into fields where it is difficult to plan, and generally 'smooths' social space against the state's 'striations'. It poses the same kind of danger to top-right-quadrant regimes, but less sharply, because these regimes can rely on the market to hybridise and recuperate networked logics.


In fact, it can be argued that the collapse of the 'communist' (top-left-quadrant) regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the reform of those in China, Vietnam etc, is partly due to networked forces similar to those involved in peer-to-peer production, and partly to economic and strategic problems in sustaining strongly hierarchical regimes (without network supplementation) in the post-Fordist era.


1) These regimes were highly vulnerable to diffuse social movements using 'netwar' or 'swarm' tactics, due to their systemic rigidity. The response (standard in the capitalist world) of becoming more networked to combat such movements was not available to them due to systemic rigidity.


2) These regimes were unable to compete with capitalist regimes in the new emerging sectors such as the Internet, owing to an economic architecture geared to mass-production. This would ultimately lead, among other things, to a decisive military disadvantage against America.


3) These regimes could not meet consumer demand based on niche markets and non-massified goods, as their model was completely tied up with mass production. They were ideologically subverted by the import of consumer goods and images in samizdat form (see Wagnleitner's work on this).


In order to address such problems, the regimes were forced to open up (to outside forces and to capitalism) to some degree, and this caused the collapse of their special, 'socialist' form – directly in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and indirectly in China (capitalists given a little bit of local leeway outmanoeuvred central state bureaucrats to negate continuing restrictions). In effect, attempts were made to keep the regime in place by moving 'rightwards' along Political Compass.


The other alternative open to them would have been to open up 'downwards' instead – to turn into something more like the Chavez project, with a lot of reliance on bottom-up agency to sustain the regime. This is what was tentatively attempted in various Eastern European countries (Yugoslavia especially), but was not viable as it wasn't taken far enough and couldn't address lingering dissatisfaction with the existing regime. (Actually, most of these regimes had some degree of localised peer-to-peer production and an extensive commons, but in a highly striated form, i.e. the vertical moment of ascriptive assignment to a particular collective took priority over the formation of horizontal connections: workers would be cooperative within the work-unit, but the work-unit would be established by and subordinate to the state hierarchy).


I've seen a lot of different theories of what Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese 'socialism' really was/were, and they all have rather different implications. Here's a few of them:


1) It's an attempt by certain countries to engage in autocentric development by pulling out of the world-system – developmental rather than socialist (certain world-systems theorists);


2) It's a variety of capitalism in which the state takes on functions otherwise held by the capitalist class (in this kind of theory, the state is taken to always perform such functions for capitalism to some degree) (some Trotskyists, autonomists and anarchists; convergence theory);


3) It's a product of modernism, a following-through of tendencies in modernist ideology towards instrumentally rational management and planning, and part of the Fordist/Keynesian wave (Foucauldian approaches);


4) It's a system in which the bureaucracy, or a special kind of tributary elite, or a 'new class', takes power instead of the capitalists (Djilas, some Trotskyists, Bakunin's critique of Marx);


5) It's a distorted/degenerated variety of socialism arising from revolutions succeeding 'prematurely' or being taken over by bureaucrats (some Trotskyists, soft-Stalinists, some New Left);


6) It's some kind of transition to socialism, but the 'wrong kind' of socialism (top-left of the political compass spectrum instead of bottom-left) (a common position in the New Left);


7) It was in fact socialism, at least in a minimal sense, and really was building a completely different society (most 'orthodox Marxists'/Stalinists, some New Left pro-Maoists).


The accounts of why it collapsed would vary with the theory:


1) It collapsed because the inner development succeeded, and the countries could productively re-engage with the world market, or because it was abandoned as less effective than export-driven growth;


2) It underwent internal state reorganisations for greater effectiveness, which led to a transmutation into capitalism, much like that experienced by Westphalian states such as Germany in an earlier period;


3) It failed because it couldn't meet the demand for consumer goods, and hence was outpaced by developments in capitalism, and it couldn't stay ideologically viable once modernism went into decline, hence suffering a crisis of legitimacy;


3) As a modernist-Keynesian-Fordist project, it couldn't survive the global transition to post-Fordism or neoliberalism (it became uncompetitive with a 'higher stage' of capitalism, or unattractive within a new discursive frame);


4) or 5): The bureaucracy gradually turned into, or unfolded over time its desire to become, a new bourgeoisie;


5), 6) or 7): It was defeated by external 'siege' by the world-system (e.g. US-imposed costs of the arms race);


5), 6) or 7): The bureaucracy has been 'overthrown' by a nascent capitalist class which has developed in its interstices.


Peer-to-peer relations (not necessarily direct production-relations) would be tied-up with the move away from modernist centralisation, the move towards niche production and the growing advantages of the US state; it would also be implied in theories suggesting an empowered agent (either a local bourgeoisie or a popular movement) as the source of collapse, since these agents used diffuse power against concentrated power. One could question, however, whether peer-to-peer is cause or effect of the moves away from modernism and Keynesianism. It would also be irrelevant to certain of these accounts. If, for instance, the state simply decided to reorient to the global market, or the bureaucracy's self-unfolding as a nascent bourgeoisie was completed, this has nothing to do with peer-to-peer. So it depends how the process is understood.


It's possible, BTW, that a similar process is now unfolding in Syria, which has many attributes of the Soviet-type model, and is clearly finding it difficult to handle the impact of (for instance) social media.

I think all of you are awere of the below text by Dymitri Kleiner. It is a brilliant and Marxism based analysis of the peer production and p2p networks: 


I thought it should be reprodced here. That would be great to convince him to join this discussion though! 

below is quoted from the beggining of the first chapter of the telecommunist manifesto: 

"Peer-to-Peer Communism vs. The Client-Server Capitalist State: 

Society is composed of social relations. These form the structures that constitute it. Computer networks, like economic systems, then may be described in terms of social relations. Advocates of communism have long described communities of equals; peer-to-peer networks implement such relations in their architecture. Conversely, capitalism depends on privilege and control, features that, in computer networks, can only be engineered into centralized, client-server applications. Economic systems shape the networks they create, and as networks become more integral to every day life, are in turn shaped by them. It is then essential to produce a critical understanding of political economy in order to comprehend emerging trends in network topology and their social implications." 

There was also a Capital & Class issue on peer production/marxism nexus to which we stil need to find a link, it can be useful to put it here or somewhere in p2p wiki pages.


hi orsn, kleiner's work has been blogged and wikified repeatedly and I've pressed him, so far unsuccessfully, to feature it as blog of the week item on our blog ... don't hesitate to remind him ...


however, while interesting I also think there are some issues to be discussed, for example, his argument that peer production is a mere distribution mechanism ...



hi Michel, thanks for the reply!

I mentóned before that I have been trying to develop a framework that would link some core segments of your p2p theory, [as well as key insights from Kleiner's analysis] into Kees van der Pijl's recent project of historising International Relations, which I believe also provides an fertile ground for a perfect synthesis between p2p and Marxist thinking.

I would like to put forward an argument here in this direction and I am eager to hear responds ıf there ıs any, from the participants to this group.

I attached a ppt document. it is a presentation that I delivered last week in Ankara. It gives the core for such an argument. 

It is mainly about the over-determining role of the productive forces and seeing the community/society as main productive force.

All social relations are overdetermined by the changes in productive forces (in dialectical relation with the configuration of social forces and struggle among them). So changes in productive forces bring about changes in all sort of relations within and between societies.

P2P revolution brings about a qualitative change in productive forces [not only in technology terms but also in society as the main productive force] i.e. in production relations as, power, ideological as well as foreign relations.

Patterns for modes of production relations in Marx are identified as labour process, property relations and distribution.

Michel's seminal article of Political Economy of Peer Production provides an perfect view of how p2p revolution transforms three patterns uncovered by Marx for modes of production relations.

Kees vd Pijl claims we can do the same to identify similar patterns for the historical modes of foreign relations. He identifies these patterns as: occupation of space, protection of occupied space, and exchange.

I suggest as we are able to identify patterns for P2P modes of production relations that are rising, as well as we can identify patterns for P2P modes of foreign relations, together that would enable us to transcend alienation in and between societies.

Occupation of transnational and cyber spaces, sharing commons and peacefully occupying soverign city centres, as well as p2p exchanges are providing the signs of these patterns.

The contradictions between the modes of social relations [as in production relations and foreign relations] brings about an organic crisis in Gramscian sense. This is about the crises we have today.

In order to overcome alienated social relaitons within and between societies and providing p2p alternatives, identification of such patterns by using Marx's abstraction method independently on social relations, is very helpful.

Same analysis can be made for ode of power relations and ideological relations, and to come up with relevant patterns. These patters would give clear understanding of class, nation, and state formation process as well as how to dissolve them back into society.

This is an insufficient prelude to the argument only aiming to suggest a marriage between Marxian and p2p thinking. 








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