P2P Theory's Positioning and the Transmodern Approaches

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Michel Bauwens:

"I believe that my own interpretation of p2p/commons theory and practice, is that it is a integral/integrative and a 'transmodern' movement, i.e. a movement that wants to preserve and integrate the best of traditional societies (kinship, reciprocity and commoning arrangements, relationship with land and other living beings) , the best of modernity (science, rationality, the welfare state), and the best of postmodernity (criticality towards any form of knowledge, networked and distributed knowledge at cosmo-local scales, affinity-based self-organization, etc..).

This means that elements of premodenity, modernity and postmodernity are worth defending. This sets it apart from the return to identitarian fragmentation proposed by the woke ideology, but also from what is called the IDW. I personally appreciate their defense of the positive aspects of modernity, but see a huge lack of engagement with a future that can no longer be just modern.

P2P Theory and the Intellectual Dark Web

In response to a query by Chong Kee Tan on fb, on 13/12/2020:

"1) the so-called IDW is of course a diverse group, with super pro-market right wingers like Ben Shapiro and Steve Rubin, but also people like Eric and Linday/Plukrose which would have been recognized even 4 years ago as left liberal, associated as they were with civil rights activists, Occupy and the Sanders campaign. But the fact that they are connected under one umbrella is what is significant. They would have fought each other politically, yet they now find it necessary to be on the same side of the anti-woke debate. I'm adding an article by Plukrose explaining their rationale.

And that is most simply put that the critique from the woke side is to such an extent anti-civilisational (not post- civilisational as I would argue the p2p/commons approach is in wanting to overcome class society but anti-civ in the sense of returning before the era of civil and human rights and wanting to establish a hierarchical, racialized and segregationist order, along with opposition to democracy, science, objectivity, xmas <g>, etc .. So essentially what they feel is that the achievements of modernity are in grave danger. And I personally fully agree with that analysis. Given such a danger, they feel people who opposed themselves within modernity, now have a duty to find each other to defend what they agree on despite their differences; these things are the full gamut of civil rights, the capacity for civil discourse, universalism, egalitarianism, the scientific method and objectivity etc ... So far so good. The first problem I see is how they digest the postmodern challenges. My view is that postmodernism 'in general' rightly challenged important premises of modernity, but that the extreme positions went overboard and are absurd. One possible attitude is to sort that challenge out, and to come to a position that aims to integrate modernity and postmodernity (I would argue that also indigenous and 'traditional' civilisations have important aspects we need to retain).

And this is where I see the first failing. Pretty much like Jordan Peterson, they reject the whole postmodern approach, without much nuance, at least that is how I read many remarks I have been able to hear on their podcasts etc ... Peterson for example, sees no difference between the woke and the gulag. The others don't go that far but have a very similar approach which is defending modernism, and not integrating postmodernism.

3) This focus with an exclusively defensive attitude regarding modernism, and a lack of nuance in their critique of PoMo makes the movement not just convervative (in the sence of defending the state of affairs of 2015, and don't be mistaken, thinking that they are nostalgic for the fifties is entirely a BS interpretation), but reactionary. Reactionary is the opposite not of progressive (which would be conservative) but in opposition to revolutionary. Typical for a reactionary point of view is that the revolution already took place in their eyes, and therefore, one must actively fight for a status quo ante.

But just so I'm not misunderstood, I believe both conservatism and reactionary attitudes are entirely legitimate. I actually share a good part of their conservative AND reactionary attitudes in the sense that civil rights, speech rights, non-racial allocation (though I'm okay with limited affirmative action for example) must be defended, and that the racial regulations (all of us in social media are subjected to it), i.e. being racist to 'protected groups' is forbidden, but hate speech against so-called oppressor groups (such as precarious white working class people) is okay and has been weaponized. We must go back to the anti-racist regulations that have been overturned by the woke pressure.

So for me, it is entirely okay to be conservative and reactionary in support of civil rights and anti-racism, I fully support them in these efforts. I am waiting for the left to follow them in that attitude, following the examples of many civil right leaders, Jacobin magazine, Glenn Greenwald, Zizek, Chomsky and the radical feminist movement.

4) HOwever, conservative and reactionary attitudes, if they are exclusive, come with a price. That price is that they are not integrating the postmodern challenges (think of Critical Realism as a typical transmodern approach that marries the scientific method with the best pomo critique). But more importantly, they are not active in the cultural and structural reasons that gave rise to this new racist movement in the first place. They are entirely consumed by this defensive strategy. So even if the Weinstein was an active anti-racist and leftist not long ago, his attention is now exclusively on 'saving democracy', and there is also no attention given to ecological transformation. Mind you, I do understand this motivation, when faced with the fasicst-Nazist threat in the thirties, once the military onslaught began, all democratic capitalist forces, and their socialist opponents (apart from a very tiny handful of Trotskyists), joined in an emergency-driven alliance.

But times are different, capitalism is now creating unprecedented social inequity, and the very survival of humanity and many living beings is at stake. So today, we cannot have the luxury, of merely fighting the new illiberal and racist threat, we must actively couple this defense of civil rights and equality (which needs of course to be improved, but all stats show that a cross-racial and class alliance approach would yield many more advantages than the mere redistribution of elite spoils advocated by the woke ideology)

5) In conclusion, i.e. my own tactical and strategic conclusions ? First of all, democratic and civic rights must be defended against the current onslaught, and so yes, I am in solidarity with all forces that defend these rights, which are absolutely essential for all workers and commoners; this must now include forces that used to be on the other side of the political spectrum, and this is a tactical and strategic alliance which does not include and forced agreement on the aspects of modernity that commoners must rightfully try to overcome.

But the second aspect is just as important. The social and ecological situation is too dire to stop there. This means that, we must walk and chew gum at the same time. As we defend our hard won civic rights , and the achievements of modernity and the valid critiques of healthy postmodernism, and I would add and include, the positive sides of both indigenous and even traditional class societies (every historical period has things that we need to transcend and include, and things that we must forcefully reject), AT THE SAME TIME, we must simply continue the constructive work of building commons, on adapting market and state institutions so that they start working for the interests of commoners, and on achieving the eventual shift to a commons-centric society and form of civilization.