Essays 2

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Continued listing of key Essays on P2P-related topics.

Cosma Orsi on The Political Economy of Solidarity


The essay is a critique of what the author calls the Political Economy of Freedom, which is at the basis of our current system. This conception considers, erroneously of course, that humans are atomized individuals, solely in the game for their utilitarian benefit, making choices as if they were not a part of various concrete communities and societies. The dominant market form, based on impersonal relations, is based on a implicit contract of reciprocal indifference.

Hence what we need, if we want to develop more humane economies and societies, which do not futher disintegrate our natural habitat and human civilization, is a recognition of our connectedness. This will lead to a Political Economy of Solidarity, based on a implicit Contract of Reciprocal Solidarity, and to a conception of society which does not only recognized the separate individual with his negative rights not be interfered with, but also take into account the social right for the Common Good. The essay then investigates the results of such a new view.

For those who want to know even more, they can order the fascinating book, which I'm currently reading:

ORSI, Cosma (2006), The Value of Reciprocity. Arguing for a Plural Political Economy, Roskilde (DK): Federico Caffè Centre Publisher & University of Roskilde.

The author can be reached at cosma at

Bruno Perens on The Emerging Economic Paradigm of Open Source

Key essay to understand how open source is embedded in the market, by one of the free software founding fathers.


"Open Source can be explained entirely within the context of conventional open-market economics. Indeed, it turns out that it has much stronger ties to the phenomenon of capitalism than you may have appreciated."

Stephen Quilley et al. on the ReMaker Society as material and psycho-spiritual alternative to consumerism

See: Towards Open, Eco-cyclical, and Distributed Production

* Article: Finding an Alternate Route: Towards Open, Eco-cyclical, and Distributed Production. By Stephen Quilley, Jason Hawreliak, Kaitlin Kish. Journal of Peer Production, Issue #9: Alternative Internets, 2016


This article discusses the potential for reducing the material footprint of production while maintaining the complexity and level of welfare of modern societies, and embeds it in a theory of human subjectivity.

James Quilligan on a framework for Global Commons-based Governance

Essay: People Sharing Resources. Toward a New Multilateralism of the Global Commons. James Bernard Quilligan. Published in Kosmos Journal, Fall | Winter 2009


The author outlines the key concepts for establishing a Global Common Wealth:

  1. Establishing Global Common Goods and a Commons Reserve Currency
  2. The Co-Governance and Co-Production of the Commons through Commons Trusts on the basis of Social Charters

Alan Rayner: Attuning to Natural Energy Flows vs. Abstract Economic Rationality

We need to overturn our fundamental relationship to the natural world:

Essay: Inclusionality and sustainability – attuning with the currency of natural energy flow and how this contrasts with abstract economic rationality. By Alan D.M. Rayner

Paper available via the author at [email protected]

Dirk Riehle on the Economics of Open Source Software

Dirk Riehle. "The Economic Motivation of Open Source Software: Stakeholder Perspectives." IEEE Computer, vol. 40, no. 4 (April 2007). Page 25-32.

Original at

This essay explains why open source software is a competitive choice for business stakeholders, and which parties it benefits in particular. It's an excellent introduction to the economic part of the equation, explaining why it is becoming such an important model.

David Ronfeldt on the Evolution of Governance

Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks.. Text by David Ronfeldt.

Original at

Excerpts at

"Power and influence appear to be migrating to actors who are skilled at developing multiorganizational networks, and at operating in environments where networks are an appropriate, spreading form of organization. In many realms of society, they are gaining strength relative to other, especially hierarchical forms. Indeed, another key proposition about the information revolution is that it erodes and makes life difficult for traditional hierarchies.

This trend ”the rise of network forms of organization” is so strong that, projected into the future, it augurs major transformations in how societies are organized.

What forms account for the organization of societies? How have people organized their societies across the ages?

The answer may be reduced to four basic forms of organization:

1. the kinship-based tribe, as denoted by the structure of extended families, clans, and other lineage systems.

2. the hierarchical institution, as exemplified by the army, the (Catholic) church, and ultimately the bureaucratic state.

3. competitive-exchange market, as symbolized by merchants and traders responding to forces of supply and demand.

4. and the collaborative network, as found today in the web-like ties among some NGOs devoted to social advocacy."

Marshall Sahlins on The Original Affluent Society

The Original Affluent Society


Marshall Sahlins, celebrated anthropologist, was one of the first to challenge the industrial-era myth of progress, showing in his essay on The Original Affluent Society, that tribal economies were in fact operating in a context of abundance.

"When Herskovits (13) was writing his Economic Anthropology (1958), it was common anthropological practice to take the Bushmen or the native Australians as "a classic illustration; of a people whose economic resources are of the scantiest", so precariously situated that "only the most intense application makes survival possible". Today the "classic" understanding can be fairly reversed- on evidence largely from these two groups. A good case can be made that hunters and gatherers work less than we do; and, rather than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep in the daytime per capita per year than in any other condition of society. The most obvious, immediate conclusion is that the people do not work hard. The average length of time per person per day put into the appropriation and preparation of food was four or five hours. Moreover, they do not work continuously. The subsistence quest was highly intermittent. It would stop for the time being when the people had procured enough for the time being. Which left them plenty of time to spare. Clearly in subsistence as in other sectors of production, we have to do with an economy of specific, limited objectives. By hunting and gathering these objectives are apt to be irregularly accomplished, so the work pattern becomes correspondingly erratic."

Graham Seaman: Can peer production make washing machines?

Original title: The Two Economies Or: Why the washing machine question is the wrong question


This is an extraordinary presentation examining how free software/peer production can co-exist with the capitalist system and eventually overtake it. It contrasts the co-existence of the two modes today, with the co-existence of the guild system with the early manufacturing undertaken by independent journeymen who could no longer find a place in that old guild system.

Large excerpts at Can peer production make washing machines?

Clay Shirky on the web as evolvable system

In Praise of Evolvable Systems'

One of the best essays explainging why the Web became the next big thing: because, despite its flaws, it was designed as an evolvable thing.


David Skrbina, the participatory worldview

Participation, Organization, and Mind: Toward a Participatory Worldview.


"As I conceive it, the concept of 'participation' is fundamentally a mental phenomenon, and therefore a key aspect of the Participatory Worldview is the idea of 'participatory mind'. In the Mechanistic Worldview mind is a mysterious entity, attributed only to humans and perhaps higher mammals. In the Participatory Worldview mind is a naturalistic, holistic, and universal phenomenon. Human mind is then seen as a particular manifestation of this universal nature. Philosophical systems in which mind is present in all things are considered versions of panpsychism, and hence I argue for a system that I call 'participatory panpsychism'. My particular articulation of participatory panpsychism is based on ideas from chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics, and is called 'hylonoism'. In support of my theory I draw from an extensive historical analysis, both philosophical and scientific. I explore the notion of participation in its historical context, from its beginnings in Platonic philosophy through modern-day usages. I also show that panpsychism has deep intellectual roots, and I demonstrate that many notable philosophers and scientists either endorsed or were sympathetic to it. Significantly, these panpsychist views often coexist and correspond quite closely to various aspects of participatory philosophy. Human society is viewed as an important instance of a dynamic physical system exhibiting properties of mind. These properties, based on the idea of participatory exchange of matter and energy, are argued to be universal properties of physical systems. They provide an articulation of the universal presence of participatory mind. Therefore I conclude that participation is the central ontological fact, and may be seen as the core of a new conception of nature and reality." (

Thesis Title: Participation, Organization, and Mind: Toward a Participatory Worldview.

Book: David Skrbina. Panpsychism in the West. MIT Press, 2005

David Skrbina is a student and continuator of Henryk Skolimowsky's work on the Participatory Mind

"The astrophysicist John Archibald Wheeler may have been the first to announce, in an articulate way (in the early 1970s), the idea of the Participatory Universe. He wrote, "The universe does not exist 'out there' independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are participators. In some strange sense this is a Participatory Universe."

In the early 1980s, drawing from the insights of Wheeler, on the one hand ("In some strange sense this is a participatory universe"), and building on the insights of Teilhard de Chardin ("We are evolution conscious of itself"), I have developed the theory of the Participatory Mind. This theory, on the one hand, attempts to vindicate the claims of the New Physics about the participatory nature of the universe; and, on the other hand, attempts to fill the missing dimension in Teilhard's opus — which wonderfully describes the unfoldment of evolution but misses the role of the mind in the whole process. Consciousness is one of the key terms in Teilhard's story. But strangely, it is consciousness as if there were no minds. The theory of the Participatory mind provides an epistemological foundation to Teilhard's cosmology. The participatory theory of mind maintains that our world is the creation of our mind. But not in a solipsistic manner a la Berkeley (esse-percipi), but in a participatory manner: we have become aware that we can elicit from reality only that much as our mind is capable of conceiving. This is precisely the sense in which we say that we dwell in a participatory universe. We elicit what is potentially 'out there' in continuous acts of participation. Participation is of the essence not only in our cognitive acts but also in our social activities and political endeavors. Tell me what you participate in and I will tell you who you are; and what the meaning of your life is. We become that in which we participate. As we participate so we become. If we participate all the time in trivial matters, we become trivial persons." (

Bernard Stiegler: Constructing new desires for the contributive society

On the New Desires of Post-Capitalism:

"Notwithstanding his rather bleak diagnosis of contemporary society, Stiegler is not pessimistic with regard to the future. Whereas today’s capitalism is headed for destruction, it is precisely in the digitalized networks through which it tries to control the populations that a new kind of economy is emerging, one that is not only inventing new modes of production like open source and peer-to-peer, but that is also slowly creating a new economy of desire that could lead to the invention of new ways of life, new modes of individual and collective existence. A new society could arise on the same technological base that is now still predominantly destroying the social bonds. The digital networks might be the prime catalysts in the transformation from today’s consumer society into what he calls a ‘society of contribution’. In this context he talks in this interview about technologies in terms of pharmaka (a term derived from Plato and from his teacher Derrida) that can act both as a poison, destroying sociality and proletarianizing human existence, as well as a medicine, producing social ties and deproletarianzing human existence."



Bruno Theret, on the tradition of 'civil socialism'

The peer to peer movement differs from the traditional socialist movement in that it does not rely on the state, but on autonomous developments within civil society. Such a movement was prefigured by what Bruno Theret calls the tradition of civil socialism. Very interesting French-language essay.

The essay by Bruno Theret is at

Theret also refers to three historical traditions necessary to develop these ideas further: 1) the pre-marxist socialism of Pierre Leroux, very strong in the revolutions of 1848; 2) the federal or guild socialism of Karl Polanly, author of the landmark book The Great Transformation; 3) the contemporary neo-communautarian theory of Michael Walzer.

Evan Thompson, on the enactive theory of consciousness

Title: Human Consciousness: from intersubjectivity to interbeing


Evan Thompson contrasts three approaches to human consciousness. He finds that both the cognitivist and the connectionist approaches rely on a undue separation between a reprentational mind and the world it represents. The enactive approach, pioneered by Varela and others, on the other hand, is based on a structural coupling of the brain, the body, and its environment.

"Human consciousness is not located in the head, but is immanent in the living body and the interpersonal social world. One’s consciousness of oneself as an embodied individual embedded in the world emerges through empathic cognition of others. Consciousness is not some peculiar qualitative aspect of private mental states, nor a property of the brain inside the skull; it is a relational mode of being of the whole person embedded in the natural environment and the human social world."

More by Evan Thompson at

Jeff Vail, The Problem of Growth: Hierarchy vs. the Rhizome

Five-part essay by Jeff Vail, who also wrote the Theory of Power:

Jeff Vail:

""The Problem of Growth" addresses what I see as the critical problem facing humanity: the structure of our civilization, its inherent need to grow (and therefore its unsustainability), and how we can fix the problem realistically. My proposed solution is, by definition, quite radical, because it rejects the prevalent problem-solving mechanism of modern technology: that we can use technology to continually mitigate the symptoms, rather than take the difficult (but, as I will argue, necessary) step of actually identifying and addressing the underlying problem."

Access via

Kazys Varnelis on how network culture differs from postmodernism

In "The Meaning of Network Culture", the author offers a cogent analysis of network culture compared to the earlier digital culture associated with postmodernism. He covers issues such as the evolution of the subject and discusses how networked publics affect democracy. I'm adding this as a key essay, as I've never seen a clear treatment comparing the emergent p2p culture with postmodernism.

Access via

Roberto Verzola on Undermining vs. Developing Abundance

The above link contains long excerpts of two important texts developing a philosophy, politics and economics related to abundance.

For more context, see

1. Verzola, Roberto, Undermining Abundance (Counter-Productive Uses of Technology and Law in Nature, Agriculture and the Information Sector)(July 14, 2008). INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS AND ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE, Gaelle Krikorian and Amy Kapczynski, eds., Zone Books, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

2. Verzola, Roberto, Studying Abundance. Draft at

3. Verzola, Roberto. Essay: 21st-Century Political Economies: Beyond Information Abundance. by Roberto Verzola. International Review of Information Ethics. Issue No. 011, Vol. 11 - October 2009 [1]


"As a result of the relatively low cost of digital reproduction, a global transformation is occurring in the nature of products and processes and in types of goods and services. Arising from information abundance, this global transformation is making the phenomenon of abundance a major field of study, not only for economists but also for other social scientists and physical scientists as well. This essay proposes an economic definition of abundance and a typology of sources of abundance. It argues that real economic abundance can come about only when the demand for a good is finite and the plentiful supply makes the abundant good affordable enough to all members of society. It lists an abundance-nurturing ethic as a major goal of abundance management, and encourages economists to make abundance together with scarcity their conceptual point of departure. Finally it links the phenomenon of abundance to the concept of the commons."

Raoul Victor, on Free Software, the sharing culture, and Marxism

The Visibility of the Revolutionary Project and New Technologies


Raoul is the pen name of a French socialist activist. His thesis is that the widespread emergence of sharing practices makes possible a visioning of what a non-capitalist future would look like, something hitherto impossible, and on of the key sources for the failure of radical social change efforts. This is a key text from within the Marxist tradition.

Free Software and Market Relations


This essay defends the idea that free sofware is a germ of what the future society may look like, and is translated from a debate within a French Marxist group.

Marxism and Free Software, an analysis by Raoul Victor


The author examines three questions: 1) To which extent is Marxism confirmed by the reality of free-software? 2) To which extent is Marxism questioned by this reality? 3) Which relation between class struggle and free-software?

"Marx did not know computers, nor software. But the reality of the contradictions that gave birth to free-software is a perfect confirmation of his vision of history. But that is not all. Free-software is also an evidence of the Marxist idea that the post-capitalist society can be a worldwide non-merchant society, and not a bureaucratic wage-slave society, for example. Finally, it confirms the Marxist conviction that communist ideas are not the product of some brilliant individual brain but the movement of capitalist society itself. Even if many hackers still think that "Marxism" means a hundred million deaths in the 20th century, they are acting, without knowing it, some of the basic ideas of the true Marxism.

To which extent is Marxism questioned by the reality of free-software? For Marxism there is no possibility of development of a communist economic form within capitalism. The revolutionary class, the working class, is an exploited class, without power on the economy. It cannot have the power to build a new social organization without making first a political revolution, contrary to the past where the revolutionary class, the bourgeoisie, for example, had built its economic power within feudalism, within the old society. Graham Seaman, in a mail in the English list said that this idea "doesn't seem to be ever explicit in Marx. But it certainly seems to be taken for granted by every communist after Marx".

Marx wrote about the workers cooperatives, which were an important part of the workers movement in the 19th century. He said that the capitalist-worker relation was to a certain degree eliminated inside the cooperative. But he insisted on the fact that they remained prisoners of the surrounding capitalist world, that the workers were in fact their own collective capitalists and that they would not resist to the development of the trusts and monopolies. Marx never developed a theory about a possible coexistence between capitalism and lasting, stable germs of communism.

In that sense, if we understand free-software as germs of a communist society, it contradicts a specific aspect of Marxism. But many questions remain: 1) Can these germs easily coexist with capitalism? 2) Is a war between the two worlds avoidable? 3) Can these germs develop to the point of supplanting capitalism? 4) Is this possible without a political revolution?"

The Debate in French continues, at ; ; all these discussions take place at

Gene Youngblood on the Internet and the Crisis of Social Control

An absolutely brilliant essay on creating an alternative society through internet socialisation and cooperation, but which tackles the subjective changes that need to take place.



Excerpted at: Radical Change Presupposes Radical Will‎‎

Bauwens & Kostakis on Open Cooperativism and Creating Capital for the Commons


Two prominent social progressive movements are faced with a few contradictions and a paradox. On the one side, we have a re-emergence of the co-operative movement and worker-owned enterprises which suffer from certain structural weaknesses. On the other, we have an emergent field of open and Commons-oriented peer production initiatives which create common pools of knowledge for the whole of humanity, but are dominated by start-ups and large multinational enterprises using the same Commons. Thus we have a paradox: the more communist the sharing license used in the peer production of free software or open hardware, the more capitalist the practice. To tackle this paradox and the aforementioned contradictions, we tentatively suggest a new convergence that would combine both Commons-oriented open peer production models with common ownership and governance models, such as those of the co-operatives and the solidarity economic models.