P2P Book of the Year 2011

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The Selection

First Five Thousand Years of Debt

The P2P Foundation Book of the Year for 2011:

1. On Debt, hierarchy and p2p dynamics

  • Debt: The First 5,000 Years. David Graeber. Melville House Publishing, 2011 [1]

Without any doubt, this is the most important book of the year, and not just for the p2p/commons community. Not only is debt the key issue in the present structural crisis, but David Graeber has uncovered how this is a key thread running through human history.

Matt Cropp has an interesting quote on the 'hierarchy' aspect of debt:

"A debt between two individuals thus creates a temporary hierarchical relationship between them, and in societies in which the alienation of relationships pioneered by slavery has been internalized, such debts can then be transfered to, or even originated by, a creditor with no interest at all in the wellbeing of the debtor as long as the debt continues to be serviced. As a result, debts in such societies can make the status of debtor virtually a form of slavery as they are pushed to do things that would have been unthinkable had the need to pay off their debts not been hanging over their heads."

(Reminder, last year's pick was: Civilizing the Economy. A new economics of provision. Marvin T. Brown. Cambridge University Press, 2010 [2]; the whole 2010 list is here [ http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-ten-best-p2p-books-of-2010/2011/01/04]

Sacred Economics

2. Understanding P2P Economics

  • Charles Eistenstein. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. EVOLVER EDITIONS/North Atlantic Books, 2011 [3]

A really great and important book, which also delves into the economics of usury, and pays attention to the anthropological and spiritual aspects of economic ordering.

See: Disintermediation and the P2P Revolution [4]

2.b Runner-Up on P2P Economics

Umair Haque makes the case for a new type of inclusive capitalism, that takes the common good into account.

“So here’s the twenty-first-century capitalists’ agenda, in a nutshell. To rethink the “capital” — to build organizations that are less machines, and more living networks of the many different kinds of capital, whether natural, human, social, or creative. And second, to rethink the “ism”: how, when, and where the many different kinds of capital can be most productively seeded, nurtured, allocated, utilized — and renewed. Put both together, and the promise is for companies, countries, and economies to climb to a higher level of advantage, to scale a steeper apex of achievement.”

(also have a look at: Economics Unmasked: From power and greed to compassion and the common good. By Philip B. Smith & Manfred Max Neef, Green Books, 2011) [6]

Algorithmic Sustainable Design

3. On P2P Urbanism and Design


Øyvind Holmstad:

"With this new toolbox from Nikos we have the tools needed to truly reunite man with nature both through innate biophilic patterns and geometry. To respect and care for nature we have to create nature through infusing all we create with the geometry found in nature, and to obey the laws of nature. A reason why so many don’t care about nature today is that our cities and towns are anti-nature."

3.b Runner up: Open Design

  • Open Design Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive. Bas Van Abel, Lucas Evers, Peter Troxler, et al. BIS Publishers, 2011. [8]

Open Design Now looks at design in the new creative commons, co-creation era. It presents practices, tools, and licensing systems, as open design is a way of designing everyone can participate in. It has been recommended by John Thackara [9]

Telekommunist Manifesto

4. Labor

Dmytri Kleiner argues that capitalism is not compatible with peer to peer.

This book is written for politically minded hackers and artists, especially artists whose work is engaged with technology and network cultures. M

4.b Runner-up: Labor is not a commodity, but a commons

Tom Walker considers employment as a common pool resource, i.e. advocates a labor commons instead of considering it as a commodity to be sold on the market.

Barefoot into Cyberspace

5. Emerging P2P Political and Social Movements

"Will the internet make us more free? Or will the flood of information that courses across its networks only serve to enslave us to powerful interests that are emerging online? How will the institutions of the old world – politics, the media, corporations – affect the hackers’ dream for a new world populated not by passive consumers but by active participants? And can we ever live up to their vision of technology’s, and its users’, potential?"

“Barefoot into Cyberspace is an inside account of radical hacker culture and the forces that shape it, told in the year WikiLeaks took subversive geek politics into the mainstream. Including some of the earliest on-record material with Julian Assange you are likely to read, Barefoot Into Cyberspace is the ultimate guided tour of the hopes and ideals that are increasingly shaping world events."


5.b On the new mobilizations in 2011

5.c Runner-up: Global energy mobilizations

The above is really comprehensive book with many excellent chapters on social movements related to equitable energy provisioning:

“a major contribution to the movement working for a transition from carbon capitalism to an ecologically sound energy system. Its sixty chapters document the present energy crisis, describe alternative technologies, and introduces us to the people who worldwide are fighting for a healthy planet and the recreation of the earth’s commons”

How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest

6. On the revolution in Sharing and Human Cooperation

Jean Lievens has written an extensive synthesis of Yochai Benkler’s new book:

“Here’s a quit extensive synthesis of “The Penguin and the Leviathan,” in my opinion a wonderful book for anyone who is interested in improving and transforming our economic and political institutions.

Human motivation is a subject that ‘makes me tick’. I really enjoyed reading “The Penguin and the Leviathan”, not only because it paints a much nicer picture of “human nature” than the one used by the free marketeers, but also because it gives a glimpse of a future, higher form of society that will be much more based on human cooperation. I think it is important to see that the seeds of this future society are very much present today."

6.b Runner-up: Rethinking Darwin to uncover the Evolutionary Roots of Morality

  • David Loye: 1) Darwin's Lost Theory: BRIDGE TO A BETTER WORLD; 2) DARWIN’S 2nd REVOLUTION; Benjamin Franklin Press, 2010


Tikkun's Dan Levine writes:

“When most people think of evolution, the first thing that comes to mind is either survival of the fittest or selfish genes. Yet the psychologist and system theorist David Loye argues this is a misreading of the gist of evolutionary theory and the intent of that theory’s founder. Loye founded the Darwin Project, with a council of over sixty natural and social scientists, to promote the view that moral development is at the heart of evolution.

6.c Runner-up: The sharing revolution amongst contemporary youth

"Share or Die is the first collection of writing from Generation Y about post-college work and life in the 21st Century. ... A new economy based in collaboration rather than competition is growing, and young people are at the cutting edge. Unsatisfied with their parents’ communities, 20-somethings are using technology to build an entire infrastructure of social entrepreneurship dedicated to using less and sharing more. Share or Die chronicles some of these projects and gives readers the tools they need to join this new economy."


7. What about power and governance in the P2P era?

* Tim Gee. Counterpower: Making Change Happen. [18]

“Tim Gee is an activist, a blogger and a campaigns trainer. His first book Counterpower: Making Change Happen is published today. It looks at the strategies and tactics that have contributed to the success (or otherwise) of some of the most prominent movements for change, from India’s Independence Movement to the Arab Spring. He discussed the ideas in the book with NLP’s Ed Lewis."

Mobilizations and occupations are never sufficient:

"To maintain their dominance, elites need people to accept their ideas, they need a flow of finance and they need instruments of coercion to enforce their will. Demonstrations can help turn opinion against a ruling elite. But it is by undermining the flow of finance and the physical ability to enact laws that a movement really begins to show its might. In the book I call these three categories of resistance ‘Idea Counterpower’, ‘Economic Counterpower’ and ‘Physical Counterpower’. If we use all three we improve our chance of success." [19]

7.b Runner-up: internet governance

Clay Spinuzzi says this is an excellent book on the network form:

“He’s interested in the question of global Internet governance; “the problem of Internet governance has produced and will continue to produce institutional innovations in the global regulation of information and communications” (p.2). The Internet, he says, puts pressure on the nation-state in a number of ways:

7.c Transparency as the new default

"why the anti-WikiLeaks backlash is futile. The transparency movement is not going away."

Radical Gardening

8. Nowtopian efforts in arts and urban gardening

George McKay in Stir magazine:

“Radical Gardening is about the idea of the ‘plot’, and its alternate but interwoven meanings in the garden. There are three. First there is the plot of the land, the garden space itself, how it is claimed, shaped, planted, and how we might understand some of the politics of flowers. Then there is the plot as narrative or story, whether historical or contemporary. The book draws on a small but persistent tradition of writing which sets itself against the dominant narratives of gardening. I trawled through many old and new anarchist and socialist magazines and leaflets to find some of these. Third, there is the notion of the plot as the act of politicking, sometimes a dark conspiracy but more often a positive, humanising gesture in a moment of change. So the ‘plots’ of Radical Gardening are the land itself, the history of the struggle, and the activism of the political conspiracy."

8.b Runner-up: the peer production of art

  • Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, Gregory Sholette, Pluto Press, 2010 [23]

This book directly addresses the peer production of art, and how this dark matter could move from the current ‘free labour’ and precarity position in the art world, to become its core.

A summary from the publisher:

“The premise of this book is that the formal economy of contemporary art is dependent upon a previously suppressed sphere of informal, non-market, social production involving systems of gift exchange, cooperative networks, distributed knowledge, and collective activities, which is becoming increasingly visible and potentially threatening to the symbolic and fiscal cohesion of high culture, especially in its most politicized form as interventionist art.

8.c. On the Situationist tactic of ‘detournement’


Insect Media

9. Towards alternative P2P Infrastructure

  • Insect Media. An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. Jussi Parikka. University of Minnesota Press,2010 [25]

Jussa Parrika‘s book looks at how the internet and media are extensions of animality, rather than of our humanity:

9.b Runner-up: building blocks for an interconnected Collaborative Civilization

  • Report: Fast Thinking. a Research and Education Network Renaissance. Gordon Cook. Volume XIX, No.s 11-12, XX, No.s 1-5 February – August 2011 [26]

Gordon Cooks maps out the building blocks for an interconnected Collaborative Civilization

9.c Runner-up, a reader on the continuing IP wars


A classic reader with best-of-class essays on the topic.

Planning with Complexity

10. The new epistemologies and spiritualities


A review by Larry Susskind:

“In their extraordinary new book, Planning With Complexity (Routledge, 2010), Judith Innes and David Booher make the case for a new way of knowing and deciding. They call this new approach collaborative rationality. Instrumental rationality — the traditional way of making the case for what needs to be done and why in the public arena — has given way to collaborative approaches to generating and justifying decisions.

10.b Jose Arguelles’ Manifesto for the Noosphere

  • José Argüelles. Manifesto for the Noosphere: The Next Stage in the Evolution of Human Consciousness. Evolver Editions/North Atlantic Books, 2011.


by Jose Arguelles:

“We must enlarge our approach to encompass the formation taking place before our eyes … of a particular biological entity such as has never existed on earth-the growth, outside and above the biosphere, of an added planetary layer, an envelope of thinking substance, to which, for the sake of convenience and symmetry, I have given the name of the Noosphere." –Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man