CONCLUSIONS

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This entry is about "Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy" co-authored by Vasilis Kostakis and Michel Bauwens. The scholarly book is published by Palgrave Macmillan and here you may find a working draft of it: The discussion about is continuing on the P2P Foundation mailing list, the Networked Labour mailing list and in personal email exchanges at kostakis.b AT gmail.com and/or michel AT p2pfoundation.net.


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We discussed three models of value creation, redistribution and economic development:

  • The classical proprietary capitalism, currently in decline.
  • The mixed model of cognitive capitalism which is manifested by two different technological regimes/future scenarios. Netarchical and distributed capitalism are aimed at capital accumulation either for the benefit of global shareholders (NC), or for networks of for-profit enterprises and individuals (DC). However, in NC the design of the infrastructure (the back-end) is in the hands of centralized privately owned platforms, whereas in DC the infrastructure is primarily distributed with the promise to make everyone a small capitalist.
  • The hypothetical mature peer production model whose seeds can be found mainly in the global Commons (GC) scenario, but also in the resilient communities (RC) one. They are aimed at improving the circulation of the Commons for the local community (RC) and the transnational Commons (GC). In both scenarios the control is distributed through free self-allocation by the commoners. In the RC the commoners affect the governance and design of their infrastructures on a local scale, whereas in the GC approach the commoners try to build global infrastructures.

Under the conditions of traditional proprietary capitalism we have seen that workers create value in their private capacity as providers of labor. In addition, managerial and engineering layers are introduced in order to manage collective production on behalf of the capitalist owners. The codified knowledge is proprietary and the value is captured as IP rent. The owners of capital capture and realize the market value, whereas there is partial redistribution for the workers in the form of wages. Under conditions of capital-labor balance, the state redistributes wealth to the workers as consumers. However, under the contemporary conditions of labor weakness, the state redistributes wealth to the financial sector and creates conditions of debt dependence for the majority of the population. This value model is becoming obsolete because it contradicts the essential characteristics of the ICT-driven TEP, but is also based on a profoundly counterproductive, twofold logic of social organization. On the one side, this logic stems from a false concept of abundance in the limited material world, since it has created a system based on infinite growth within the confines of finite resources. On the other, it promotes a false concept of scarcity in the infinite immaterial world and instead of allowing continuous experimental social innovation, it purposely erects legal and technical barriers to prevent free cooperation through strict copyright, patents, and so on. Therefore, the number one priority for a sustainable civilization should be transforming these principles into their opposites. We argued that the rise of peer production signals new alternative paths for the deployment of the current TEP. This proto-mode of production is both immanent and transcendent vis-à-vis capitalism, because it has features that strongly decommodify both labor and immaterial value and institute a field of action based on P2P dynamics and a P2P value system. Peer production functions within the cycle of accumulation of capital but also within the new cycle of the creation and accumulation of the Commons.

The key idea of this book is to distinguish the condition of the P2P/Commons/sharing practices under the dominance of financialized cognitive capitalism, and a more genuine civical/ethical model centered on the Commons. Under conditions of emerging peer production while financial capitalism is still dominant, we saw that civic voluntary contributors, paid labor and independent entrepreneurs create value codified in common pools of knowledge, code, and design. The capital owners realize and capture the market value of both contributors and labor, while the proprietary network platforms capture and realize the attention value of the sharers/contributors. The capital owners also profit from the benefits of disaggregated distributed labor (that is, crowdsourcing). The Commons are managed by for-benefit institutions which reflect the balance of influence between contributors, labor, and capital owners, but continue to expand the common pools. However, the Commons sector lacks solidarity mechanisms to cope with precarity and, thus, civil society is still derivate to the market and state sectors. The state weakens its public service and solidarity functions, in favor of its repressive functions as well as subsidizing financial capital. It barely contributes to the co-creation of the conditions for peer production whereas redistribution to financial capital continues.

Under conditions of strong, mature peer production through civic dominance, that is 'genuine' CBPP, we saw that civic voluntary contributors and autonomous cooperative labor would create codified value through common pools. Labor and civic re-skilling could occur through Commons-oriented distributed manufacturing, which places value creators at the helm of distributed manufacturing and other forms of value creation. Commons contributors should create cooperative Commons-oriented market entities that sustain the Commons and their communities of contributors. Hence, cooperative and other Commons-friendly market entities would co-create common pools but also engage in cooperative accumulation on behalf of their members. Therefore, Commons-oriented contributions should be codified in their legal and governance structures while entrepreneurial coalitions and phyles are formed, meaning structured networks of firms working around joint common pools to sustain Commons-producing communities. Furthermore, the Commons-enabling for-benefit institutions would become a core civic form for the governance of common pools, while the associated market entities would create solidarity mechanisms and income for the peer producers and commoners, supported by the partner state. The state, dominated by the civic/Commons sectors, becomes a partner state which creates and sustains the civic infrastructure necessary to enable and empower autonomous social production. The market becomes a moral and ethical economy, oriented around Commons production and mutual coordination supported by the partner state functions. The market sector is dominated by cooperative, Commons-oriented legal, governance, and ownership models, while the remaining profit-maximizing entities are reformed to respect environmental and social externalities.

The hypothetical model of mature peer production can arguably be considered a working alternative which can perform better than the current dominant value model while solving a number of systemic problems. We attempted to highlight the existence of creative communities who are building the political economy they desire within the confines of the political economy they mean to transcend. Peer production, then, should be seen as a social advancement within capitalism but with various post-capitalistic aspects in need of protection, enforcement, stimulation and connection with progressive social movements. In the midst of a turning point, it is high time we supported a sustainable alternative capable of breaking the shackles of capitalist opportunism and ushering in a new political economy based on the finer aspects of the human spirit. It is high time the accumulation of capital was replaced by a full circulation of the Commons.

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