Issue no.97
Spring '09


Parallel visions of peer production
Phoebe Moore and Athina Karatzogianni
The ‘parallel visions’ proposed by the contributing authors to this issue are
intended to challenge the dominant themes of capitalist organisation and
production through an in-depth look at peer-to-peer production and the
development of software and sharing – a movement which, the authors
argue, is based on new visions for value systems, ethics and governance. We
have organised their contributions into sections based on the relevant aspects
of these economies in order to look into the politics of how these networks are
governed, the likelihood of new avenues for worker organisation, and the
possibilities for entirely new models of economies that can be classi•ed outside
the hegemony of contemporary neoliberal capitalism.


The ethical economy: Towards a post-capitalist theory of value
Adam Arvidsson
Social production has risen on the agenda of the social sciences. Yet most
observers have been reluctant to confront the question of the value of these
practices. Instead they have mostly been characterised as ‘free’, ‘common’ or
beyond value. This article argues that far from being free, social production
abides to a particular value logic, an ‘ethical economy’ where value is related
not to the input of labour time, but to the ability to give productive organisation
to a diffuse connectivity or, which is the same thing, to transform
weak ties into affectively significant strong ones. The article concludes that
progressive politics should work with this new emerging value logic.


Knowledge-based society, peer production and the common good
Cosma Orsi
This article investigates the societal conditions that might help the establishment
of peer-to-peer modes of production. First, the context within which
such a new model is emerging — the neoliberal knowledge-based-societies —
is described, and its shortcomings unveiled; and second, a robust argument is
provided for the moral legitimation of an alternative societal vision, including
two structural policies that are likely to facilitate the establishment and
further development of peer-to-peer practices.


The hacker movement as a continuation of labour struggle
George Dafermos and Johan Söderberg
Examining the way in which capital exploits the volunteer labour of free software
developers, this article argues that there is a historical continuity between
hackers and labour struggle. The common denominator is their rejection of
alienated work practices, which suggests that corporate involvement in the
computer underground, far from inhibiting further struggles by hackers, may
function as a catalyst for them.


No measure for culture? Value in the new economy
Steffen Böhm and Chris Land
This paper explores articulations of the value of investment in culture and
the arts through a critical discourse analysis of policy documents, reports
and academic commentary since 1997. It argues that in this period, discourses
around the value of culture have moved from a focus on the direct
economic contributions of the culture industries to their indirect economic
benefits. These indirect benefits are discussed here under three main headings:
creativity and innovation, employability, and social inclusion. These are
in turn analysed in terms of three forms of capital: human, social and cultural.
The paper concludes with an analysis of this discursive shift through
the lens of autonomist Marxist concerns with the labour of social reproduction.
It is our argument that, in contemporary policy discourses on culture
and the arts, the government in the UK is increasingly concerned with the use
of culture to form the social in the image of capital. As such, we must turn
our attention beyond the walls of the factory in order to understand the contemporary
capitalist production of value and resistance to it.


Exploitation of the self in community-based software production: Workers’ freedoms or firm foundations?
Phoebe Moore and Paul A. Taylor
Free and open-source software (FOSS) communities constitute an arena in
which thousands of users voluntarily explore design codes, spot bugs in codes,
and make contributions to the code in a fashion at odds with the otherwise
hugely competitive software market. This computerisation movement emerged
as a challenge to the domination of such behemoth firms as Microsoft and
IBM, and is portrayed as having a revolutionary ultimate goal: ‘to provide
free software to do all of the jobs computer users want to do’ (Free Software
Foundation, 2008). We ask to what extent FOSS actually challenges the
orthodoxy: does ego-less programming of the information bazaar really free
participants from the stuffy pews of the cathedral, and challenge the essence
of capitalism?
Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the
restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world,
with the world and with each other.


Class and capital in peer production
Michel Bauwens
The aim of this paper is to make the case that peer production offers a
unique chance to transcend capitalism, and that peer-to-peer movements
represent the succession of industrial-society based socialisms. The paper
describes the salient characteristics of peer production before going on to
explore whether it is ‘transcendent’ or ‘immanent’ to the market system, concluding
that it is both in that it creates a new form of capitalism and also
points out how that new form might be overcome. Following a review of the
hybrid economic forms emerging today, I formulate the hypothesis that peer
production is actually a hyperproductive mode, forcing for-profit entities to
adapt to its characteristics, thereby further integrating it into the existing
political economy, but not without the transformative effects of its market
transcending aspects. After examining the possible expansion of peer-production
modalities to physical manufacturing, I also examine the class
aspects of commons and sharing-based platforms and hypothesise the emergence
of a new section of capital, netarchical capitalists, who enable and
empower participation, but also monetise it and attempt to control it.


Cyberconflict at the edge of chaos: Cryptohierarchies and self-organisation in the open-source movement
Athina Karatzogianni and George Michaelides
This paper differentiates between different levels of conflict in the opensource
movement and discusses the role conflict and self-organisation play in
the emergence of structures of leadership emergence and the bifurcation into
core and peripheral groups and soft control by cryptohierarchies; in the different
levels of group polarisation and conflict between communities negotiating
their identity, strategy, coordination and complexity; and lastly, in the
dynamic relationships between hierarchies and networks. These dynamics are
forcing open-source communities to exist at the edge of chaos, and to constantly
engage in lines of flight and resistance from the system of global control,
while ignoring current capitalist practices and ‘growing their own’
models of self-organising knowledge creation and exchange.


A definition and criticism of cybercommunism
Tere Vadén and Juha Suoranta
When ÎiÏek (2002b) defines his idea of cybercommunism using an adaptation
of the Leninist formula ‘Socialism = free access to internet + the power
of the soviets’, he omits the crucial part about electricity. The cybercommunist
idea that the information society is more ‘spectral’ and ‘malleable’ than were
the previous ‘crudely’ economical societies conceals the question of what types
of communities it favours. The political economy of cybercommunism also
demands an analysis of the material conditions of cyber-freedom that can be
conceptualised, for instance, in terms of levels of decreasing alienation.

Capital & Class (ISSN 0309 8168)


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