Beachhead Hypothesis

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= "in the vast territory controlled by capitalism, P2P creates autonomous spaces free from exploitative wage labor that can be expanded to encroach further on enemy territory".


A Critique of the Beachhead Hypothesis: Peer Production as neoliberalism

See: Peer Production as Neoliberalism

Mike (Mr. Teacup) in Peer Production as an Illusion:

"The de-commodification of intellectual labor that we see with the rise of peer production does not represent a countervailing trend to the neoliberalism, it is very much a part of it. Neoliberalism privatizes profits and socializes costs, and peer production is an even more radical implementation of that idea, but taking it one step further. Normally, socializing of costs means government pays for something – for example, bailing out failed banks. Since this money comes out of a tax system that is at least moderately progressive, we can regard it as an attempt by the rich to recover wealth lost to taxation.

As a method for socializing costs on to civil society, peer production is far more radical, a way of appropriating from the people what little remaining resources they have after being exploited in the workplace. It requires a transformation in the ideology of civil society, which is normally used as form welfare provision of the people, particularly the poor, to justify lowering taxes and shrinking the size of the state. P2P ideology takes a radical step by not just being content to relieve the rich of their tax burden, but squeezing civil society even more by turning into a source of corporate profits as free labor.

If the empirical evidence shows that a large role for civil society is associated with greater freedoms for capitalism, the Beachhead Hypothesis is not only false, it points in the opposite direction, to a further rolling back of the social democratic welfare state and intensification of neoliberal exploitation. In Commons-based Peer Production and Virtue Yochai Benkler and Helen Nissenbaum suggest that the use of peer production systems may encourage pro-social and public-spirited virtues – the same virtues that motivate charitable volunteering and giving – but express this tentatively because they can’t find a causal mechanism. But perhaps it may be found in the old-fashioned Marxian observation that morality and social norms are influenced by the prevailing economic system.


Rather than mitigating the problems of neoliberalism, the new charitable ethic makes it function more smoothly by obscuring the true cause of the problem. Similarly, the altruism of individuals participating in P2P gift economies obscures their role as free labor for capitalism.

In 2002, Benkler wrote Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm, a heavily-cited paper that argues that the rise of peer production represents the “emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment.” In fact, this third mode is not new, it is simply the expansion of the so-called Third Sector of civil society after being turned to an even more profitable direction." (