Three Competing Societal and Economic Models in the Age of Peer Production

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A summary of my p2p ideas, September 21, 2013, Quito

- Michel Bauwens

See also the companion page: Transition Proposals Towards a Commons-Oriented Economy and Society


Three Models of Value Creation, Redistribution and Economic Development


This is written as a framework for the project in Ecuador, to frame a transition to a open commons knowledge-based society.

It will be continously improved around the following structure:

  • value extraction models both material and immaterial
  • dominant class structure
  • knowledge logics
  • solidarity models
  • social movements and balance of power
  • dominant model of capitalism / dominant alternatives
  • forms of democracy / participation

The key idea is to distinguish the condition of the p2p/commons/sharing practices under the dominance of financialised cognitive capitalism, and a more genuine civical/ethical model centered around the commons

Analysis of the Three Models

1. Under conditions of proprietary capitalism

  • Workers create value in their private capacity as providers of labour
  • Deskilling of workers production knowledge; creation of managerial and engineering layers which manage collective production on behalf of the owners of capital
  • Codified knowledge is proprietary and the value is captured as IP rent
  • Owners of capital capture and realize the market value, partial redistribution in the form of wages
  • Under conditions of capital-labour balance, the state redistributes wealth to the workers as consumers and citizens
  • Under contemporary conditions of labour weakness, the state redistributes the wealth to the financial sector and creates conditions of debt dependence for the majority of the population

2. Under conditions of emerging peer production under the domination of financial capitalism

  • Civic voluntary contributors, paid labour and independent enterpreneurs create value codified in common pools of knowledge, code, and design
  • Capital owners realize and capture the market value of both contributors and labour; proprietary network and collaboration platforms capture and realize the attention value of the sharers/contributors
  • Capital owners profit from the benefits of disaggregated distributed labour (crowdsoursing)
  • Capital co-create through the financing of labour and platforms, the continued accumulation of common pools of knowledge, code and design ; under conditions of precarity for the voluntary civic contributors and unsupported commons-oriented enterpreneurship
  • Commons are managed by for-benefit institutions which reflect the balance of influence between contributors, labour, and capital owners, but continue to expand the common pools; the commons sector lacks solidarity mechanims to cope with precarity; civil society is still derivate to the market and state sectors
  • The state weakens its public service and solidarity functions, in favour of its repressive functions and subsidizes financial capital ; the state only minimally co-creates the conditions for commons-oriented peer production, and redistribution to financial capital continues

3. Under conditions of strong peer production under civic dominance

  • Civic voluntary contributors and autonomous cooperative labour create codified value through common pools ; labour and civic reskilling occur through commons-oriented distributed manufacturing which places value creators at the helm of distributed manufacturing and other forms of value creation
  • Commons contributors create cooperative commons-oriented market entities that sustain the commons and their communities of contributors
  • Cooperative and other commons-friendly market entities co-create common pools but engage in the cooperative accumulation on behalf of their members; commons contributions are codified in their legal and governance structures; Enterpreneurial coalitions and phyles (structured networks of firms working around joint common pools to sustain commons-producing communities) .
  • Societal mutual coordination of production through open supply chains direct the market activities
  • The commons-enabling for-benetif institutions become a core civic form for the governance of common pools; the associated market entities create solidarity mechanisma and income for the peer producers and commoners, supported by the partner state
  • The state, dominated by the civic/commons sectors becomes a Partner State, which creates and sustains the civic infrastructure necessary to enable and empower autonomous social production
  • The market becomes a moral and ethical economy, oriented around commons production and mutual coordination, supported by the Partner State functions
  • The market sector is dominated by cooperative, commons-oriented legal, governance, and ownership forms; the remaining profit-maximizing entities are reformed to respect environmental and social externalities, including redistribution of extracted 'commons-benefits'
  • Governance mechanisms are reformed towards commons-orientation and multistakeholder governance models; ownership models are reformed from extractive to generative models
  • The Partner State model renews public service provision, solidarity mechanisms and social care through the commonification of public services and public-commons partnerships
  • Social redistribution takes place through basic income provisions and reduction of necessary labour participation to create conditions for civic contributions and a contributory economy

Transition Proposals

see also for consolidated and expanded material: Transition Proposals Towards a Commons-Oriented Economy and Society

The State

  • The State becomes a Partner State, which aims to enable and empower autonomous social production, which it also regulates in the context of common good concerns
  • The State strives to maximal openness and transparency
  • The State systematizes participation, deliberation, and real-time consultation with the citizens
  • The social logic moves from ownership-centric to citizen-centric
  • The state de-bureaucratizes through the commonification of public services and public-commons partnerships
  • Public service jobs are considered as a common pool resource and participation is extented to the whole population
  • Representative democracy is extented through participatory mechanisms (participatory legislation, participatory budgetting, etc..)
  • Representative democracy is extented through online and offline deliberation mechanisms
  • Representative democracy is extended through liquid voting (real-time democratic consultations and procedures, coupled to proxy voting mechanisms)
  • Taxation of productive labour, enterpreneurship and ethical investing is minimized; taxation of the production of social and environmental goods is minimized ; taxation of speculative unproductive investments is augmented; taxation on unproductive rental income is augmented; taxation of negative social and environmental externalities is augmented
  • The State sustains civic commons-oriented infrastructures and ethical commons-oriented market players
  • The State reforms the traditional corporate sector to minimize social and environmental externalities
  • The state engages in debt-free public monetary creation and supports a structure of specialized complementary currencies

The Ethical Economy

  • Creation of a commons and common good oriented social / ethical / civic / solidarity economy
  • Ethical market players coalesce around commons of productive knowledge, eventually using peer production and commons-oriented licenses to support the social-economic sector
  • Ethical market players integrate common good concerns and user-driven and worker-driven multistakeholder in their governance models
  • Ethical market players move from extractive to generative forms of ownership; open, commons-oriented ethical company formats are privileged
  • Ethical market players practice open book accounting and open supply chains to augment non-market coordination of production
  • Ethical market players create a territorial and sectoral network of Chamber of Commons associations to definte their common needs and goals and interface with civil society, commoners and the partner state
  • With the help from the Partner-State, ethical market players create support structures for open commercialization, which maintain and sustain the commons
  • Ethical market players interconnect with global productive commons communities (open design communities)and with global productive associations (phyles) which project ethical market power on a global scale
  • The ethical market players adopt a 1 to 8 wage differential and minimum and maximum wage levels are set
  • The mainstream commercial sector is reformed to minimize negative social and environmental externalities; incentives are provided that aim for a convergence between the corporate and solidarity economy
  • Hybrid economic forms, like fair trade, social enterpreneurship, B-Corporations are encouraged to obtain such convergence
  • Distributed microfactories for (g)localized manufacturing on demand are created and supported, in order to satisfy local needs for basic goods and machinery
  • Institutes for the support of productive knowledge are created on a territorial and sectoral basis
  • Education is aligned to the co-creation of productive knowledge in support of the social economy and the open commons of productive knowledge

The Commons Sector

  • Creation of commons infrastructures for both immaterial and material goods; society is seen as a series of interlocking commons, that are supported by an ethical market economy and a Partner State that protects the common good and creates supportive civic infrastructures
  • Local and sectoral commons create civil alliances of the commons to interface with the Chamber of the Commons and the Partner State
  • Interlocking for-benefit associations (Knowledge Commons Foundations) enable and protect the various commons
  • Solidarity Coops form public-commons partnerships in alliance with the Partner State and the Ethical Economy sector represented by the Chamber of Commons
  • Natural commons are managed by public-commons partnership and based on civic membership in Commons Trusts

More Information