At the Turning Point of the Current Techno-Economic Paradigm

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Full reference: Kostakis, V. (2013). At the turning point of the current techno-economic paradigm: Commons-based peer production, desktop manufacturing and the role of civil society in the Perezian framework. TripleC: Cognition, Communication, Co-operation, 11(1): 173 – 190


Following the theory of techno-economic paradigm shifts (TEPS), this paper calls attention to the phenomenon of Commons-based peer production (CBPP). In the context of the current paradigm, it argues that civil society can play an important role in creating favourable conditions for a more sustainable global knowledge society. Approaching tentatively the ways in which 3D printing and other desktop manufacturing technologies can be used in CBPP, it also explores the ways in which the partnership with the state may provide a supportive innovative institutional basis for taking the maximum advantage of the emerging synergies in the vein of TEPS theory.


Within a Perezian framework, the goal of this paper was to call attention to the CBPP whose conjunction with 3D printing and other low-cost manufacturing techniques should be counted in the economic census and our institutional design, playing an important part in overcoming the current recession as well as to manage the social, political and environmental instability. The self-reinforced fantasy of a system of eternal growth can be overcome with the development of economies of scope, and here, as well, the civil society can play an important role contributing to the raising of the whole productive structure to a higher plateau of more sustainable and customised productivity. This effort attempted to provide bird’s eye view to this plateau being aware of the danger of technological determinism. Further, it is true that many issues, problems and threats rise due to the large democratisation of the means of production, and especially regarding the physical ones. For instance, the recyclability of advanced nanomaterials is still questioned; weapons manufacturing could become easier; not to mention the implications on counterfeiting (Campbell et al. 2011) and on IP (Bradshaw, Bowyer, and Haufe 2010). Moreover, concerning CBPP we discussed one major limitation, that of the crisis of value. The state, here, has to be responsive and manage all these trans- formations embracing their creative sides and supporting synergies.

If the mass-produced automobile is the representative example of the previous TEP where a constellation of most of the innovations of the time, both technical and organisational, were embodied, then we could say that the internet is one of the most prominent innovations of the ICT revolution, which influences and is influenced by the development of the current TEP. It can be argued that the internet exemplifies the basic characteristics of the common sense and the practices of our time. It embodies an unusually (for the common sense of the former TEP) successful example of the complementary relationship between private market and the civil society (Mueller 2010). As Mueller writes, “the basic protocols are open, nonproprietary standards that can be freely adopted by anyone” (2010, 270). Simultaneously, he postulates: “the Internet is a network of networks, the constituent parts of which are privately owned and administered. This aspect of the Internet leads to privatization and decentralization of network operations and policies. By facilitating interoperability, the Internet standards commons promotes a private decentralized market for software applications and information contents. Thus, at the endpoints of the Internet, the free market and privati zation rule; at the core standards level, a commons is in place [...] In short, it is the combination of the private and the common that works” (Mueller 2010, 270-71).

It was proposed that a PSA (partner state approach) is needed for making the best of this synergetic combination, taking advantage of both civil society’s increasing creative efforts and the constructive sides of sustainable entrepreneurship building a collaborative economy.

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