[p2p-research] IMPORTANT, seven pathways to social power

Kevin Carson free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com
Mon Nov 9 20:24:12 CET 2009

On 11/6/09, Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 at gmail.com> wrote:

> It concerns an excellent conceptual article on political strategies for
> emancipation, by Eric Olin Wright, see
> http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/22074

> I'd like to make an important point here, is peer to peer transversal to
> these systems, i.e. it can be applied to all as a component, and I think
> that is certainly the case; but is it also something different, say, an
> eight strategy. I do think Eric is probably unaware of the kind of vision
> and culture that is emerging out of the new world of peer production.
> Both can be true I think, especially since I see the peer to peer dynamic
> operating in the context of a hybrid economy.

I agree.  But I think the most natural place for P2P is in a society
organized into some combination of peer-networks and decentralized
markets.  In David Ronfeldt's schema, what we have is a society based
on hierarchical institutions (states and state-allied corporations)
with markets only allowed to function within the interstices of a
structure based on such hierarchies.  Dissolve the corporate state and
its functions into civil society, and what you're left with is
individuals freely associating and cooperating via whatever expedients
seem best to them individually.  That means, IMO, that a thousand
flowers will bloom, with all sorts of ad hoc organizations, mutuals,
peer-networks, bazaars, etc. proliferating llike crazy.

> [edit] 1. Statist Socialism
> In traditional socialist theory, the essential route by which popular power
> - power rooted in associational activity of civil society - was translated
> into control over the economy was through the state.

Actually, the dominant strand of early classical socialism was simply
"associational activity of civil society"; state socialism, in which
the state was the primary vehicle for such associational activity,
only gradually eclipsed the other variants.

Non-state versions of associational activity were dominant in the
Proudhonian version of socialism, in Warren's American offshoot of
Owenism, and in the later American individualist anarchism that fused
Warrenism with the free banking theory of William Greene and the free
land theory of J.K. Ingalls.  Non-state versions of socialism also
persisted in the anarcho-collectivism of Bakunin and the
anarcho-communism of Kropotkin.  Marx and the Soc Dems lost a
considerable amount of hide in their battles with the Proudhonists and
Bakuninists in the IWMA.

> [edit] 2. Social Democratic Statist Economic Regulation
> The second pathway for potential social empowerment centers on the ways in
> which the state constrains and regulates economic power (Figure 3). Even in
> the period of economic deregulation and the triumph of ideologies of the
> free market at the end of the 20th century, the state remained deeply
> implicated in the regulation of production and distribution in ways that
> impinge on capitalist economic power.

> Statist regulation of capitalist economic power, however, need not imply
> significant social empowerment. Again, the issue here is the extent and
> depth to which the regulatory activities of the state are genuine
> expressions of democratic empowerment of civil society. In actual capitalist
> societies, much economic regulation is in fact more responsive to the needs
> and power of capital than to the needs and power generated within civil
> society.

I would argue that this is, in fact, the tendency of almost all
economic regulation of the kinds described in the previous paragraph.
Even Friedrich Engels, perhaps the most statist of the state
socialists, considered state ownership of industry and central
planning as only necessary criteria of socialism--not sufficient
criteria.   The defining characteristic of socialism was the political
and economic power of the working class.   The kinds of
nationalization of industry and central planning that took place under
Bismarck's "Junker socialism" and the "gaslight socialism" of the
Fabians might, potentially, grow into genuine socialism if the working
class managed to seize control of the state.  But so long as
capitalists retained control of the state, the mixed economy would
simply be an instrument by which the capitalists, acting through their
state, managed the capitalist economy in their own interests.   And
that's almost entirely what the "progressive" mixed economy, under the
American New Deal and European social democracy, has amounted to:  the
capitalists acting through their executive committee to clean up their

Kevin Carson
Center for a Stateless Society http://c4ss.org
Mutualist Blog:  Free Market Anti-Capitalism
Studies in Mutualist Political Economy
Organization Theory:  A Libertarian Perspective

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