Class and Capital in Peer Production

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* Class and capital in peer production. Michel Bauwens. Capital & Class Spring 2009 vol. 33 no. 1 121-141



"The aim of this paper is to make the case that peer production offers a unique chance to transcend capitalism, and that peer-to-peer movements represent the succession of industrial-society based socialisms. The paper describes the salient characteristics of peer production before going on to explore whether it is ‘transcendent’ or ‘immanent’ to the market system, concluding that it is both in that it creates a new form of capitalism and also points out how that new form might be overcome. Following a review of the hybrid economic forms emerging today, I formulate the hypothesis that peer production is actually a hyperproductive mode, forcing for-profit entities to adapt to its characteristics, thereby further integrating it into the existing political economy, but not without the transformative effects of its market transcending aspects. After examining the possible expansion of peer-production modalities to physical manufacturing, I also examine the class aspects of commons and sharing-based platforms and hypothesise the emergence of a new section of capital, netarchical capitalists, who enable and empower participation, but also monetise it and attempt to control it."