Category:P2P State Approaches

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This section will be further developed:


David Bollier writes:

"This is a very complex subject, but in general, one can say that the state has very different ideas than commoners about how power, governance and accountability should be structured. The state is also far more eager to strike tight, cozy alliances with investors, businesses and financial institutions because of its own desires to share in the benefits of markets, and particularly, tax revenues. I call our system the market/state system because the alliance – and collusion – between the two are so extensive, and their goals and worldview so similar despite their different roles, that commoners often don’t have the freedom or choice to enact commons. Indeed, the state often criminalizes commoning – think seed sharing, file sharing, cultural re-use – because it “competes” with market forms of production and stands as a “bad example” of alternative modes of provisioning.

Having said this, state power could play many useful roles in supporting commoning, if it could be properly deployed. For example, the state could provide greater legal recognition to commoning, and not insist upon strict forms of private property and monetization. State law Is generally so hostile or indifferent to commoning that commoners often have to develop their own legal hacks or workarounds to achieve some measure of protection for their shared wealth. Think about the General Public License for software, the Creative Commons licenses, and land trusts. Each amounts to an ingenious re-purposing of property law to serve the interests of sharing and intergenerational access.

The state could also be more supportive of bottom-up infrastructures developed by commoners, whether they be wifi systems, energy coops, community solar grids, or platform co-operatives. If city governments were to develop municipal platforms for ride-hailing or apartment rentals – or many other functions – they could begin to mutualize the benefits or such services and better protect the interests of workers, consumers and the general public.

The state could also help develop better forms of finance and banking to help commoning expand. The state provides all sorts of subsidies to the banking industry despite its intense commitment to private extraction of value. Why not use “quantitative easing” or seignorage (the state’s right to create money without it being considered public debt) to finance the building of infrastructure, environmental remediation, and social needs? Commoners could benefit from new sources of credit for social or ecological purposes – or a transition to a more climate-friendly economy — that would not likely be as remunerative as conventional market activity." (

For more on these topics, David Bollier recommends:

See also:

  • Hilary Wainwright:
  1. Co-Creative Labor, Productive Democracy and the Partner State; a very important text to reset government policies for the p2p age. The 3 parts cover: 1 A value revolution in labor; 2 Re-constituting industrial strategies based on co-creative labor; 3 The Co-Creative Economy needs a Partner State

  • Michel Bauwens:
  1. The basic orientation of p2p theory towards societal reform: transforming civil society, the private and the state
  2. To the Finland Station: the political approach of P2P Theory

  • M. Bauwens & V. Kostakis' new book:

Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy

  • Tommaso Fattori:
  1. The Public - Commons Partnership and the Commonification of that which is Public.
  2. Towards a Legal Framework for the Commons

  • Vasilis Kostakis:
  1. 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 11(1): 173-190, 2013. URL =
  2. The Parody of the Commmons. tripleC 11(2): 412-424, 2013. URL =
  3. The Political Economy of Information Production in the Social Web: Towards a “Partner State Approach”. TUT Press, 2011. URL =

Key Concepts

  1. The key concept we propose is that of the Partner State, or a Ordo-Communal State form, in which public authorities are at the service of the expression of commons-based practices.

Help us develop the following concepts:

Other key concepts:


"There seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Oversimplified as this may seem, we shall find the idea more easily acceptable i£ we consider that bigness, or oversize, is really much more than just a social problem. It appears to be the one and only problem permeating all creation. Wherever something is wrong, something is too big."

- Leopold Kohr [1]

What Lies Beyond the Nation-State


"We no longer believe in the figure of a State totally invested in the power of reason, technology and science. This state, which almost everywhere became a nation-state during the 19th and 20th centuries, whose action was to homogenize and standardize, has exhausted its resources. He had placed himself above the multitude of beings and things by designating the common good and the general interest, from a position outside the common society, through the mouths of experts, bodies of engineers, administrators or lawyers. The problem with experts is that they don't know what they don't know (Nassim Nicholas Taleb). The era of the avant-gardes directing society, inaugurated in the first half of the 19th century by the Saint-Simonians, heirs to the Enlightenment, is now behind us. We no longer want to obey this myth, even though this myth has shown itself to be fruitful and effective. And Karl Jaspers tells us: when the myth is gone, no effort of the will will regenerate it. That is to say, we cannot resuscitate the blessed time when the myth worked, including the myth of Modernity taken to its extreme, that of Doctor Faust! Cornelius Castoriadis confirms this: the problem before us is that of overcoming the imaginary meaning of the Nation-State towards another form of collective identification – and the difficulties that this overcoming encounters."

- Olivier Frerot [2]


"There have been three human metasystems built around the control of three mostly distinct primary energy sources. These metasystems include hunting, agricultural, and industrial organizations. The control of these energy sources was always organized through the utilization of a new information medium to connect previously disparate subsystems: language, writing, printing press. All of these human metasystem transitions can be characterized by subsystems of lower control becoming integrated under new control regimes: bands/tribes, chiefdoms/kingdoms, nation-states/international. The modern nation-state sits atop an ancient human metasystem control hierarchy of ever-more diversely integrated subsystems. However, its status as the highest control is by no means destined to continue indefinitely; but rather it is contingent on the breakdown, stability, or new synergy of IC feedback. These IC feedbacks in a sense “dictate” whether our current system hierarchy will collapse under the weight of poor socioeconomic decision making, or whether our current system’s hierarchies will become integrated and re-organized within yet another higher-level control system."

- Cadell Last [3]

We need to evolve Super-Competent Democracies

""Super-Competent Democracies will emerge when the people, their leaders and the technical professionals learn how to use ensembles of participative, management cybernetic and soft-systems processes (i.e. ‘Super-Competencies) to co-create increasingly just, sustainable and super-competent communities, organisations, enterprises, services, cities and states."

- Roy Madron [4]

Commons-Public rather than Public-Commons

"We should link up social-public partnership and Commons-Public Partnerships. The important point to highlight is that social or commons must precede the state. Our elected representatives need to become again public servants and arrogant masters need to be rapidly recalled." (email, February 2014)

- Pat Conaty

David Graeber on Markets and States

"This is a great trap of the twentieth century: on one side is the logic of the market, where we like to imagine we all start out as individuals who don’t owe each other anything. On the other is the logic of the state, where we all begin with a debt we can never truly pay. We are constantly told that they are opposites, and that between them they contain the only real human possibilities. But it’s a false dichotomy. States created markets. Markets require states. Neither could continue without the other, at least, in anything like the forms we would recognize today." (

Once the polity population gets to roughly 200 thousand, it must have sophisticated government institutions

“We love to hate bureaucrats, but large-scale societies cannot function without professional administrators. Our Seshat data says is that once the polity population gets to roughly 200 thousand (and certainly by the time you exceed a couple of millions), it must have sophisticated government institutions, including professional bureaucrats. A society numbering in millions simply can’t function without specialized administrators. Societies that try to do it, instead fall apart, which is why we don’t see them today, or (much) in history. The conclusion from this is that the way forward to sustaining and increasing the well-being of large segments of population is not to abolish government, but to evolve institutions that keep bureaucrats working for the benefit of the population, rather than themselves.”

- Peter Turchin [5]

Pacification of Human Violence Through Statehood

"Over the last 10,000 years, the human genome has changed at an accelerating rate. The change seems to reflect adaptations to new social environments, including the rise of the State and its monopoly on violence. State societies punish young men who act violently on their own initiative. In contrast, non-State societies usually reward such behavior with success, including reproductive success. Thus, given the moderate to high heritability of male aggressiveness, the State tends to remove violent predispositions from the gene pool while favoring tendencies toward peacefulness and submission. This perspective is applied here to the Roman state, specifically its long-term effort to pacify the general population. By imperial times, this effort had succeeded so well that the Romans saw themselves as being inherently less violent than the “barbarians” beyond their borders. By creating a pacified and submissive population, the empire also became conducive to the spread of Christianity — a religion of peace and submission. In sum, the Roman state imposed a behavioral change that would over time alter the mix of genotypes, thus facilitating a subsequent ideological change."

- Peter Frost [6]

Oscillations Between Centralization and Decentralization, Between Empires and Trading Coalitions

"In state-based systems periods of intensified conflict within and between societies lower the resistance to empire formation. A semiperipheral marcher state can ‘roll up the system’ under such circumstances. Thus did the Neo-Assyrians, the Achaemenid Persians, Alexander, the Romans, the Islamic Caliphates and the Aztecs produce the core-wide empires that constitute the great upward sweeps of state size in the age of state-based systems. During the Bronze and Iron Age expansions of the tributary empires a new niche emerged for states that specialized in the carrying trade among the empires and adjacent regions. These semiperipheral capitalist city states were usually ‘thalassocratic’ entities that used naval power to protect sea-going trade (e.g., the Phoenician city-states, Venice, Genoa, Malacca), but Assur on the Tigris, the ‘Old Assyrian city-state and its colonies’, was a land-based example of this phenomenon that relied mainly upon donkey caravans for transportation (Larsen 1976). The semiperipheral capitalist city-states did not typically conquer other states to construct large empires, but their trading and production activities promoted regional commerce and the emergence of markets within and between the tributary states. The expansion of trading and communication networks facilitated the growth of empires and vice versa. The emergence of agriculture, mining and manufacturing production of surpluses for trade gave conquerors an incentive to expand state control into distant areas. And the apparatus of the empire was itself often a boon to trade. The specialized trading states promoted the production of trade surpluses, bringing peoples into commerce over wide regions, and thus they helped to create the conditions for the emergence of larger empires."

- Christopher Dunn et al. [7]

Key Resources

Key Articles


  • Evolutionary Pathways to Statehood: Old Theories and New Data. By Peter Turchin, Harvey Whitehouse , Andrey Korotayev et al.

[9]: “Our analysis identifies polity population size as the main evolutionary driver of state-formation.”

  • War and Violence in Classical Sociology. By Sinisa Malesevic: one cannot look at the state form while ignoring conflict, war and defense externalities. These features got attention by sociologists until WWII, but were ignored later on.

Key Books

"Civilizing the State displays three segments: how we got this systematic crisis from political and economic powers; what alternatives we can learn from divergent communities; and, finally, the inception of the Partner State".

  • Reclaim the State. Adventures in Popular Democracy. By Hilary Wainwright. Seagull, 2009

How unions and social movements are fighting the market state.

An integrated proposal for territorial re-organisation around bio-regional provisioning.

"The subject of my previous book — The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto — was the way in which falling capital outlays required for both information and material production was eroding the rationale for large organizations, and shifting the balance of power toward individuals, small groups and networks. In particular, I focused on the radically reduced capital outlays required for manufacturing were giving rise to a low-overhead micromanufacturing economy in which the large quantities of land and capital to which the privileged classes had access were becoming increasingly irrelevant, and the material basis for the factory system and wage employment was collapsing.

In this book, my subject is how the same phenomenon is empowering individuals against the large, powerful institutions — both state and corporate — that previously dominated their lives. The implosion of capital outlays associated with the desktop revolution, and the virtual disappearance of transaction costs of coordinating action associated with the network revolution, have (as Tom Coates has said) eliminated the gap between what can be produced within large hierarchical organizations and what can be produced at home in a wide range of industries: software, publishing, music, education, and journalism among them.

The practical significance of this, which I develop in this book, is that many of the functions of government can be included in that list. The central theme of this book is the potential for networked organization to constrain the exercise of power by large, hierarchical institutions in a way that once required the countervailing power of other large, hierarchical institutions."

  • The Breakdown of Nations. By Leopold Kohr. [11]: a classic on decentralization to resolve the fundamental issues of 'bigness'.

Left Approaches

See chapter 12 of the book by István Mészáros, The Necessity of Social Control, i.e. "The Mountain We Must Conquer: Reflections on the State"

  • Hardt and Negri’s Empire.
  • Meiksins Wood’s Empire of Capital.
  • Harvey’s New Imperialism.
  • Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire.

Historical Approaches

Before the State / Alternatives

  • Society Against the State. Pierre Clastres: how First People's maintained relatively egalitarian structures over millennia. This book looks in particular at the techniques used in the Amazonian region to avoid state and class formation.


  • James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland South-East Asia, 2009;

The Early State / State Formation

  • The Early State, Its Alternatives and Analogues. Ed. by Leonid E. Grinin, Robert L. Carneiro et al. 'Uchitel' Publishing House, 2004 [13]; see: The Early State and Its Alternatives
  • The Evolution of Statehood. From Early States to Global Society. By Leonid Grinin. Saarbrucken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2011. - 360 p.
  • Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus, The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistorical Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery and Empire, 2012;
  • V. Gordon Childe postulates a Neolithic or Agricultural Revolution, thus re-conceptualizing the transition from prehistory to history.
  • Karl A. Wittfogel. Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power(New Haven: Yale University Press), 1957.


The Modern State

  • Systemic Corruption: Constitutional Ideas for an Anti-Oligarchic Republic. By Camila Vergara. Princeton University Press, 2020. [15]: "This provocative book reveals how the majority of modern liberal democracies have become increasingly oligarchic, suffering from a form of structural political decay first conceptualized by ancient philosophers. Systemic Corruption argues that the problem cannot be blamed on the actions of corrupt politicians but is built into the very fabric of our representative systems. Camila Vergara provides a compelling and original genealogy of political corruption from ancient to modern thought, and shows how representative democracy was designed to protect the interests of the already rich and powerful to the detriment of the majority."
  • The Civilizing Process. Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. Revised edition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000 (Vol.II. State Formation and Civilization, Oxford: Blackwell, 1982)
  • The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change. Hendrik Spruyt. Princeton University Press, 1996. [16]: "The present international system, composed for the most part of sovereign, territorial states, is often viewed as the inevitable outcome of historical development. Hendrik Spruyt argues that there was nothing inevitable about the rise of the state system, however. Examining the competing institutions that arose during the decline of feudalism--among them urban leagues, independent communes, city states, and sovereign monarchies."
  • The State: Its History and Development Viewed Sociologically. by Franz Oppenheimer, 1908. Republished by Andesite Press, August 8, 2015: A classic from 1908, which influenced Karl Polanyi's work. For details, see: History and Development of the State
  • The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History. by Philip Bobbitt: a order of state is also a order of technology for defense; as technologies advance, it renders older social orders obsolete and forces other forms to update and adopt to the new standard of the victor states. Bobbitt distinguishes 6 forms of the modern state since the Renaissance, each reacting and formed by challenges of warfare.
  • See also: Coercion, Capital and European States: AD 990 - 1992. Charles Tilly: "In this pathbreaking work, now available in paperback, Charles Tilly challenges all previous formulations of state development in Europe. Specifically, Tilly charges that most available explanations fail because they do not account for the great variety of kinds of states which were viable at different stages of European history, and because they assume a unilinear path of state development resolving in today's national state."

Cybernetic Government

  • Khanna, Parag, Technocracy in America. Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace, Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.
  • Seibel, Benjamin. (2016) Cybernetic Government. Wiesbaden: Springer.

After the State??

Books documenting the importance of government

By William Berkson [17] :

"While the short-term impact of government spending is difficult to disentangle from other factors, government investment in the economy is what actually has grown economies in the long term. Successful long-term economic growth has never come from government getting out of the way of the private market. Growth has always come from government leadership that leverages private sector growth. Government investment in public goods and services, targeted and sustained over decades has in fact always been necessary for sustained growth of the private economy and increasing opportunity for all.

Recent books documenting the critical role of public investment include:

  • Land of Promise by Michael Lind (2013),
  • Success in Agricultural Transformation by Isabelle Tsakok (2011),
  • State of Innovation by Fred Block and Matthew Keller (2011), and
  • The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato (2013). And new this March, 2016:
  • Concrete Economics, by Stephen Cohen and Bradford DeLong and American Amnesia, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson."


Key Videos

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