Autonomy, Labour, and the Political Economy of Social Media

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Dmytri Kleiner:

"The Political Economy of Social Media is of course nothing other than the Political Economy of Capitalism applied to Social Media. Looking at Social Media through the lens of capitalism unveils some rather striking implications, many of which have become central to my work, and many which I'm only beginning to explore further.

The basics are by now well discussed, among many others, I have covered these some time ago in InfoEnclosure 2.0 and expanded upon the theme in the Telekommunist Manifesto. The central fact is that Capitalism will not fund free, open networks. It can not do so because it must control user data and interaction in order to capture profit, and for this reason capital financed centrally controlled social platforms are replacing free, open, peer-to-peer platforms.

The trouble is, once you understand that capital will not fund open platforms, the question remains, who will? How can they be funded. In the Manifesto and in earlier works, I introduce the idea of Venture Communism, an autonomist/mutualist approach focused on worker's self-organisation of production as way to build what capitalism can not.

However, many questions remained open, for while Venture Communism may sketch out a structure with which a common stock of productive assets can be efficiently allocated among independent producers, similar to the way computer networks provide an efficient way for independent workers to employ a common stock of immaterial productive assets, it doesn't go very far into investigating how these material productive assets can be acquired by a Venture Commune in the first place.

The basic idea that bonds are sold in order to acquire productive assets. But sold to whom? In a functioning Venture Commune, with established enterprises producing wealth, this would not be an issue, the bonds would be purchased by the worker-owners of the commune from the retained earnings of their productive output.

However, the bad news is this is not easy before the commune exists, because before the commune exists the workers are not worker-owners capturing the full value of their collective contribution to production, but just workers. Working for capitalists. Workers who are paid just enough to sustain their lifestyle while the capitalist-owners appropriate all the remaining wealth produced.

In other words, as I explain in my arguments about Kickstarter that I reposted from the Empyre list a few days ago. In order to "kickstart" workers-self organized forms of production, to create free and open social media platforms, or anything else, we must, in the first instance, depend on the retained earnings that workers can consistently divert from consumption.

The problem is the basic workings of the labour market functions to drive this potential amount toward zero.

What this means is that we can not solve the problem by way of autonomist or mutualist means alone, but need to engage directly in political struggle. Even if our goals are autonomist, our ability to achieve our goals is directly tied to the level of wages and public goods provided by society, for this determines the structure of wealth, wich itself the determines the total amount of wealth we can invest in becoming worker-owners rather than just workers.

For this reason Counter-politics is required, and indeed, perhaps Counterpolitics is an important strategy that emerging "Crowd Funding" platforms could fund.

The role of the State is to mediate among the classes on behalf of the ruling class. The role of Counterpolitics is to engage in struggle within the theatre of the State against the ruling classes. Not to take the State, but to build social power and fight to maximize wage levels and availability of public goods to create the space for autonomist and mutualist means to make the state irrelevant."