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Leading Churchmen in Britain call for a more equal and sharing society

photo of Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana
28th January 2015


The Church of England has spoken out in trenchant terms about the extreme inequality that defines modern Britain, arguing today that moral principles and sharing should underpin the foundations of society.


imgIn a new book of essays to be published next week, the archbishops of Canterbury and York warn that the poor are being left behind in a country that is increasingly dominated by “rampant consumerism and individualism” since the Thatcher era. The church leaders caution politicians that they are selling a “lie” that economic growth is the answer to Britain’s social problems, contending that the fruits of growth should be distributed in a way that reduces inequality between the rich and poor.

The essay in the book by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reportedly argues that conventional market assumptions such as ‘trickle down’ economics have failed, and rejects the idea that Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ of the market will ultimately right social wrongs.

An interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper broadly outlines the leading churchmen’s views on the need for a more equal and sharing society. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that the book draws heavily on the writings of William Temple, the Archbishop of York and then Canterbury in the 1940s, which are credited with laying the foundations for a just post-war society and the welfare state. Sentamu quoted one passage of the book to the paper, in which Temple argued that the art of government was in finding ways to bring together the interests of individuals with those of society at large, such as through universal access to healthcare or education.

As Sentamus explains in the Telegraph interview: “Temple was right; you judge the well-being of any society by how it cares for those who are vulnerable. If it is the survival of the fittest that’s what I call living in the jungle and I don’t want to live in the jungle – this is supposed to be a civilised society. It seems to me if it is to do with the health of the nation and the well-being of the nation every citizen really ought to be at the same table and not some taking more.”

Arguing for a new and more equitable distribution of wealth in Britain, Sentamu adds that this has got “nothing to do with being socialist” or adhering to a prescribed economic ideology. “What it has got to with is: ‘Is this how God has created us?’ Has he created us to be people who go to Black Friday to fight with each other because they want the biggest bargain? No – that’s the rule of the jungle, we left that behind.”

In a short video accompanying the book, Sentamu likens the UK economy to a household and claims that no one member should have “too much” when another has “too little”. He says “it will be quite a pity if the powerful, the richest, are the ones that are thriving in our household and some are left behind. For me, therefore, one of the greatest challenges that faces our nation has to do with income inequality.”

He adds that as a household we need to “deliberate on how we must ensure that this income inequality is addressed properly so that everybody flourishes, everybody shares…” Hence the title of the book – On rock or sand – is intended to help us discover the firm foundations and principles on which Britain needs to be built.

This is not the first time that the Church of England has spoken out in defence of a society that shares its wealth and resources more fairly and equitably. In the short video, Sentamu begins by defending the Church’s involvement in politics which he sees as an essential part of public deliberations on how to create a society based on Christian and moral principles, although he stresses that the book doesn’t take a party political position. Sentamu also defends the Faith in the City report published 30 years ago that harshly criticised the Thatcher government’s policies, and explicitly argued for redistributive policies to reduce inequality.

Pope Francis has, of course, also strongly attacked inequality in recent years on a global as well as a national basis. In April, he tweeted that inequality is the root of social evil, and he has called on world leaders – together with United Nations’ agencies – to legitimately redistribute wealth to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb the “economy of exclusion” that is taking place today.

 

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Posted in Commons, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy | 1 Comment »

From Copyleft to Copyfarleft: The need for a Commons-Based Reciprocity License

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
28th January 2015


Reposted from our sister-site Commons Transition. The title of this post is an homage to Primavera de Filippi’s and Miguel Said de Viera’s excellent essay on the subject.


Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses (CBRLs or “CopyFair” licenses) are specifically designed to find a middle ground between the full-sharing Copyleft licenses, such as the GPL, the Non-Commercial licenses, such as those offered by Creative Commons, and the copyright regime which privatises knowledge. CBRLs will provide for the free use and unimpeded commercialization of licensed material within the Commons while resisting its non-reciprocal appropriation by for-profit driven entities, unless those entities contribute to the Commons by way of licensing fees or other means. Our intention is to stimulate wealth circulation within the Commons and strengthen the resilience of P2P as a proto-mode of production with a constructive, rather than extractive, relationship with the corporate sector. Apart from their practical use as off-the-shelf licenses, CBRLs will also highlight the precise interaction between the Commons and the new ethical market sectors, whilst supporting the emergence of a vibrant commons sector that can insure its own livelihood.

The following text has been extracted from Michel Bauwens’ Commons Transition plan. You can read the whole document here

Today, we have a paradox. The more shareable the license we use in the peer production of free software or open hardware, the more capitalistic the practice of the enterpreneurial coaltion which forms around it. An example of this is the Linux commons becoming a corporate commons, enriching IBM and the like. It works, in a certain way, and seems acceptable to most free software developers, but it is insufficient for the creation of a true ethical economy around the commons. Indeed, the General Public License (and its variants) allow anyone to use and modify the software code (or design), as long as the changes are also put back into the common pool under the same conditions for further users. This is, in fact, technically ‘communism’ as defined by Marx (from each according to his abilities, to each according to their needs) but which then paradoxically allows multinationals to use the free software code for profit and capital accumulation. The result is that we do have an accumulation of immaterial commons, based on open input, participatory process, and commons-oriented output, but that it is subsumed to capital accumulation. It is at present not possible, or at least not easy, to have social reproduction (i.e. livelihoods) within the sphere of the commons. Hence, the free software and culture movements, however important they are as new social forces and expressions of new social demands, are also in essence ‘liberal’. This is not only acknowledged by its leaders, such as Richard Stallman, but also by anthropological studies like those of Gabriela Coleman. Without being terribly tongue-in-cheek, we could say they are liberal-communist and communist-liberal movements, which create a ‘communism of capital’. True to the liberal tradition, they care for the freedoms, but not for the fairness of the conditions in which these freedoms can be exercised. Is there an alternative? We believe there is.This would be to replace non-reciprocal licenses, i.e. those which do not demand direct reciprocity from users, to one based on reciprocity. Technically, we could call it a switch from ‘communist’, to ‘socialist’ licenses’, socialism being traditionally defined as that intermediary stage in which everyone receives according to effort. This is the choice of the Peer Production License as designed and proposed by Dmytri Kleiner; it is not to be confused with the Creative Commons non-commercial license, as the logic is different. The logic of the CC-NC is to offer protection to individuals who are reluctant to share, as they do not wish a commercialization of their work that does not reward them for their labor. Thus, the Creative Commons ‘non-commercial’ license stops further economic development based on this open and shared knowledge, and keeps it entirely in the not-for-profit sphere. The logic of the PPL is to allow commercialization, but on the basis of a demand for reciprocity. We see it as a forerunner of better – or at least broader – reciprocity licenses, as the PPL is geared exclusively to worker-owned cooperatives. The PPL is designed to enable and empower a counter-hegemonic reciprocal economy that combines commons that are open to all that contribute, while charging a license fee fto the for-profit companies who want to use without contributing. Not that much changes for the multinationals. In practice, they can still use the code if they contribute, as IBM does with Linux, and for those who don’t, they would pay a license fee, a practice they are used to. Its practical effect would be to direct a stream of income from capital to the commons, but its main effect would be ideological, or, if you like, value-driven. The enterpreneurial coalitions linked around a PPL commons would be explicitely oriented towards their contributions to the commons and the alternative value system that that represents. From the point of view of peer producers or commoners, i.e. the communities of contributors to the common pool, this would allow them to create their own cooperative entities in which profit would be subsumed to the social goal of sustaining the commons and the commoners. Even the participating for-profit companies would consciously contribute under a new logic. It links the commons to an enterpreneurial coalition of ethical market entities (coops and other models), and keeps the surplus value entirely within the sphere of commoners/cooperators instead of leaking out to the multinationals. In other words, through this convergence, or rather, combination of a commons model for the abundant immaterial resources, and a reciprocity-based model for the ‘scarce’ material resources, the issue of livelihoods and social reproduction would be solved, and surplus value is kept inside the commons sphere itself. It is the cooperatives that would, through their cooperative accumulation, fund the production of immaterial commons, because they would pay and reward the peer producers associated with them. In this way, peer production would move from a proto-mode of production, unable to perpetuate itself on its own outside capitalism, to an autonomous and real mode of production. It creates a counter-economy that can be the basis for reconstituting a ‘counter-hegemony’ with a for-benefit circulation of value, which, allied to pro-commons social movements, could be the basis of the political and social transformation of the political economy. Hence we move from a situation in which the communism of capital is dominant, to a situation in which we have a ‘capital for the commons’, increasingly insuring the self-reproduction of the peer production mode. The PPL is used experimentally by Guerrilla Translation, and is being discussed in various places, for example, in France, in the open agricultural machining and design communities. There is also a specific potential inside the commons-oriented ethical economy, such as the application of open book accounting and open supply chains, which would allow a different value circulation whereby the stigmergic mutual coordination that already works at scale for immaterial cooperation and production would move to the coordination of physical production, creating post-market dynamics of allocation in the physical sphere. Replacing both the market allocation through the price signal, and central planning, this new system of material production would allow for massive mutual coordination instead, enabling a new form of ‘resource-based economics’ Finally, this whole system can be strengthened by creating commons-based venture funding, so as to create material commons, as proposed by Dmytri Kleiner. In this way, the machine park itself is taken out of the sphere of capital accumulation. In this proposed system, cooperatives needing capital for machinery would post a bond, and the other coops in the system would fund the bond, and buy the machine for a commons in which both funders and users would be members. The interest paid on these loans would create a fund that would gradually be able to pay an increasing income to their members, constituting a new kind of basic income. So, to summarize our proposal for the new Commons-Based Reciprocity License, it would allow the free usage of a particular commons on the following conditions:

  • that the entity is a common good institution or enterprise, structurally linked to a social or common good objective through its internal statutes.
  • that the activity or entity is non-commercial.
  • that the for-profit usage of the particular commons is based on reciprocity.
  • small and cooperative, worker-owned enterprises with for-profit activities or goals can also make use of the particular commons governed by a CBRL.

The key exception is that for-profit, shareholder owned enterprises that do not contribute to the particular  commons are required to pay a licensing fee or another form of negotiated reciprocity. The interpretations of the rules, particular cases, and any exceptions, are decided by the democratically elected and managed for-benefit association that is linked to the particular commons.


Title background image by Helen Briggs

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Original Content, P2P Development, P2P Foundation, Peer Production, Peer Property | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Free Software and the Law

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
28th January 2015


* Article: Free software and the law. Out of the frying pan and into the fire: how shaking up intellectual property suits competition just fine. By Angela Daly. Journal of Peer Production, Issue 3, July 2013

From the Abstract:

“Free software is viewed as a revolutionary and subversive practice, and in particular has dealt a strong blow to the traditional conception of intellectual property law (although in its current form could be considered a ‘hack’ of IP rights). However, other (capitalist) areas of law have been swift to embrace free software, or at least incorporate it into its own tenets. One area in particular is that of competition (antitrust) law, which itself has long been in theoretical conflict with intellectual property, due to the restriction on competition inherent in the grant of ‘monopoly’ rights by copyrights, patents and trademarks. This contribution will examine how competition law has approached free software by examining instances in which courts have had to deal with such initiatives, for instance in the Oracle Sun Systems merger, and the implications that these decisions have on free software initiatives. The presence or absence of corporate involvement in initiatives will be an important factor in this investigation, with it being posited that true instances of ‘commons-based peer production’ can still subvert the capitalist system, including perplexing its laws beyond intellectual property.”

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Posted in Copyright/IP, Featured Essay, Free Software, P2P Legal Dev. | No Comments »

De-Colonizing Ourselves So We Can Help Others

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lisha sterling
28th January 2015


Back in September I wrote a post for A Sense of Place, one of the blogs in the Pagan channel at Patheos, that felt particularly appropriate for the P2P Foundation community. At Stacco Troncoso’s invitation, I share that post with you here.


Painting: Goddess Columbia floats overhead as white settlers make their way westward across the frontier towards the dark and threatening unknown lands with wildlife and Indians.

American Progress, painted by John Gast 1872


Today I read an article that made me steaming mad. It was predictable that it would upset me. My co-worker shared it with me telling me how much it angered her. Of course, I had to look. The article was all about how we need to stop encouraging people in less developed countries to be entrepreneurs and teach them instead to be factory workers. Because profit. The argument was that entrepreneurs in developing countries aren’t going to make that much money if they just serve the other poor people in their village, and that real economic progress can only come with economies of scale and industrial jobs. Oh, it sounds really nice, this idea that countries will have more money if they just have more factories, but it is completely blind to lived reality.

There are many problems I could talk about, but I’m going to stick to the ones that are most relevant to the topic of Place-based practice:

  1. The version of prosperity that Daniel Altman, the author of that article, is talking about is not good for the planet and is killing us all.
  2. We need to stop creating greenhouse gasses. We need to drive fewer cars, eat less meat, create less waste, own fewer things. The economy that Altman is talking about is exactly the thing that got us into this mess to begin with. Why would we want to bring people who are living much more lightly on the Earth up to the level of Earth-abuse that Western societies need to learn to live without?
  3. Factory jobs are not flexible and create more problems for families — especially mothers with small children — than the paltry wages they bring can solve.
    Anyone who has lived on a poverty wage in a developed country knows the problems that having a job can create. You lose control of your time. If you are a parent, as if it weren’t enough that you lose time with your children, on top of that you usually have to pay someone else to watch your children while you work. If you are very lucky, you might have a parent or a friend who helps for free, but who is providing for their living expenses? Even if you don’t have children, factory jobs create suffering that comes from being treated like an interchangeable part in the machine of industry.
  4. Expecting people to give up the socially rich, connected community life in their villages to move to the city and get a factory job is just an extension of the colonization process.
    Colonization involves more than just taking over land. It involves telling the people who were in a place already that they have to change the way that they think, live, and act. Colonization starts with the idea in the minds of the colonizers that they have the one true, right and best way to live and that everyone else has to adapt to “progress”.

All of these things touch on the One Gazillion Dollar Question:

How can we live in a way that doesn’t destroy our planet?

I decided some time ago that the first step is to realize that the idea of progress, the key notion that got us into this mess, has got to go. I may sound like a neo-Luddite. I guess I am.

I believe that humans are not just tool-using apes, we are technology-developing apes. Technological development is part of the creativity that makes us tick. But not all technology is progress, nor is it all needed, nor is uniform “progress” necessary across the globe. In fact, one of the things that has saved us up till now, and may save some of our species in the future, is that there is still a diversity of ways that humans live on this planet that ranges from grass huts and hammocks to glass skyscrapers and memory-foam beds.

It’s time for us to stop thinking that improving the lives of others means making them live more like us. It’s time to start asking what technologies people in “less developed countries” can teach us about. It’s time to start asking what people who don’t have 9-5 jobs think of as the most important goals in their lives. It’s time to start asking what kind of improvements they want to see in their homes, in their villages and the wider world. And then its time to figure out how we can learn from the best parts of their lives.

The US uses more energy per capita than any other nation on Earth. US households use more electricity, more gas and more water than households in other countries. Even more than the most wealthy European countries! Why?! Look around and start asking how you can live a better life right where you are. How can you spend less of the earth’s resources? How can you spend more time with your children? How can you get to know your neighbors better?

Once you’ve figured out how to be a little bit less harsh on the planet and nicer to your kids, the next big step is to look around and see if you can stop supporting the industrial economy that’s destroying the world — entirely.

Oof! There, I said it.

I don’t even know if it’s possible. Can we, people who live in North America, Europe, or the more developed nations of the East actually find a way to disconnect ourselves from the machines of industry that have destroyed our planet and our lives? We’re going to have to find a way if we are to survive, because, frankly, it’s the factories that are using far more resources than the homes and cars are. It’s the stuff we buy. It’s the places we work. It’s the way we build for war and then go to war and feed other people’s war. It’s the way we strip minerals from the ground. It’s the way we frack the ground to get the last drops of natural gas.

We are destroying the world and telling other people that they are “poor” unless they are destroying the planet with us. That’s completely nuts. It’s time for us to forget the idea that the life we live represents “progress” and find new ways of thinking.

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Posted in P2P Spirituality | No Comments »

Book of the Day: eGaia by Gary Alexander

photo of Guy James

Guy James
27th January 2015


eGaia by Gary AlexanderI was fortunate enough to meet Gary Alexander, a New Yorker living in East Anglia, UK, at the Open Everything meetup in Cloughjordan, Ireland in the autumn of last year (2014) and was party to the discussion of some of the ideas contained in this book, although with all that was going on we didn’t have too much time to get into them in any depth. However his book sounds very interesting; my mammoth reading list means I haven’t had time to read it yet but I present it as something which may be interesting to the P2P community.

A short summary by Keith Parkins of the basic economic structure proposed in the book:

“In eGaia, three interlocking economies described

– local co-operative
– regional
– global

Within the local economy, everything is on a sharing basis, no money, people are expected to keep in balance,and contribute their fair share. It goes one stage further than granting a Basic Income.

For what the local economy cannot supply, will source from either regional or global economy, for which a financial exchange takes place, using a digital currency, there being a regional and global currency.

If one of the businesses operating within the local economy requires money, it goes to the regional bank. Free money is created (ie interest free), when paid back, the money self-destroys. The economy is not built on drbt.

Additional accounts are kept of ecological footprint of every transaction.

Businesses innovate to offer a better service, not to gain a competitive advantage as not in competition, and will share their innovation.

All carried out by means of smart phone apps.”

There is an interesting interview with Gary here at medium.com on his background and how he came to write the book.

There is a review of the book here at the Open University website (the organisation for which Gary Alexander used to work).

Keith Parkins has commented that although the basic structure of his proposal, that of self-organising autonomous networks, seems solid, there are in his opinion some naive assumptions and misunderstanding of economics in the book. Probably the best thing to do is to read it yourself and form your own opinion as there seems to be enough good ideas in it to form the basis of discussion – you can obtain the book (buy printed copy or free ebook) from Gary Alexander’s ‘Earth Connected’ website here.

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Posted in Featured Book, P2P Books | No Comments »

Commoners in Transition: Janice Figueiredo

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Stacco Troncoso
27th January 2015


Reposted from our new Commons Transition web platform “Commoners in Transition” features exclusive global-P2P oriented interviews with people working on similar subjects, worldwide.


Our News and Articles section features interviews and articles involving Commoners in Transition, or, individuals and teams working together towards increasing the viability of the commons. Here, we present an interview with Janice Figueiredo, who was part of the FLOKSociety project launched in Ecuador. Janice spoke to us about her own experience collaborating with and learning from the indigenous people of the region.

Street

What is your background, and how did you get involved in the project in Ecuador?

I am a Brazilian citizen who has lived abroad for about 20 years, both in the United States and in Europe (Paris, France). I worked at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) as IT project manager until 2009, when I decided to radically change my life and started placing my actions, work and studies in areas that, in my understanding, have the potential to genuinely transform the world into a more inclusive and fairer place. I directed my interests to researching the fields of collective intelligence, collaborative movements, P2P dynamics, the commons, the open and sharing society, social business, complementary currencies, sustainable development and poverty reduction, having a particular interest in exploring alternative models to the conventional economic paradigms based in centralization and scarcity.

I spent most of 2012 in Brazil, and got actively involved with several P2P-related projects in Rio de Janeiro, where I currently live. I joined academic research groups on the Collaborative Economy and Peer Production in Brazil, carried out collaborative projects in Rio’s favelas, took part in civil society and social movement initiatives that proposed commons-oriented alternatives for the planet (such as the People’s Summit), and got involved with different projects related to the sharing economy in Brazil.

I have a B. Sc. in Computer Science, a M. Sc. in Strategy and Marketing, and have completed post-graduate courses in the area of Sustainable Development.

In September 2013, Michel Bauwens – who I first met in Brazil in July 2012, on the occasion of the Rio+20 UN meeting – invited me to be part of the research team that would be producing public policy recommendations for a transition to a Social Knowledge Economy in Ecuador. I immediately accepted the invitation!

Workshop

You visited a lot of urban commons communities in Quito. What is your summary of their experiences and concerns ?

My research area, “Open infra-structures for collective life”, explored how citizens and communities could benefit from as well as take an active part in the building of a Social Knowledge Economy. On the one hand, we investigated how communities could, in an autonomous way, create and maintain mutualized infrastructures needed for their lives, such as housing and food systems. On the other hand, we explored how knowledge systems could be created and governed by communities.

The principles of solidarity and cooperation are deeply rooted in the Ecuadorian culture. Several community needs are achieved through autonomous practices whose origins come from the traditions of the Indigenous quechuas. The most well-known of these initiatives are mingas. These are community works towards common goals that have been extensively used in both urban and rural areas to supply the needs of the communities, such as improvement of roads or communal areas, and energy provision, and also as a means to cooperate among families, such as in the case of the building of a house. La minga de la quiteñidad, a yearly community-led event held in some Quito neighbourhoods, chose to promote recycling in one area (December 2014).

Through mingas the main values of the Andean indigenous culture are expressed: union and solidarity among communities. Mingas are seen as a huge celebrations where work, food, collaboration and accomplishments are shared. Ranti-ranti is another solidarity practice intrinsic to the Ecuadorian culture. It represents the concept of reciprocity and abundance: “I give to you because Nature has given to me”. Trueque is a practice of exchange used at open food markets, where sellers exchange what hasn’t been sold among themselves. Randimpa are open spaces self-organized by communities, where discussions and decisions about the community take place.

We visited several initiatives that follow the principles of self-governance that develop and nurture cooperation within their communities. I will mention two of them: the first, “Comuna Tola Chica” represents a group of 400 people that live and work in a communal manner. The community tries to preserve its cultural roots through the development of local projects, such as the School of Traditional Knowledge, and to stimulate ecological and sustainable local projects like the building of a local communal house made with super-adobe construction. All decisions concerning the Comuna are taken in a collective, participatory way, through assemblies open to all residents. Land ownership is communal and all comuneros have the same rights over the lands.

A second project that illustrates cooperation is “Alianza Solidaria”. This project was launched to tackle the lack of access to quality and affordable housing, and was expanded to the building of an autonomous, cooperative community capable of solving their own problems in a cooperative way.

One of the main concerns I’ve noticed among communities is that these principles of solidarity and cooperation are being lost; there are far fewer mingas now than in the 1970’s.

Several individuals suggested that people have become more individualistic and competitive as a result of being influenced by the values promoted by capitalism; people engage less and less with traditional solidarity practices. Another concern observed is that newer indigenous generations no longer want to learn quechua, dress using their traditional customs or preserve their culture, as the media propagates the idea that what comes from the Western world (Europe and the United States) is better and represents the values of a more developed people.

Silchos

You also worked with indigenous communities and coordinated a policy paper that was written by indigenous activist scholars themselves. What were the results, and how was the paper received ?

At FLOK meetings conducted during the process, the subject of “Ancestral Knowledge” was the one that raised the greatest interest and the most questions from the communities and academia.

Among the 17 policy papers, the “Ancestral, Traditional and Popular Knowledge” paper was the only one written by a group composed exclusively of local, Ecuadorian people. That paper discusses and proposes policies on how to preserve, manage and implement traditional and ancestral knowledge and practices, respecting the diversity of cultures and nationalities of Ecuador.

Ecuador has a total of 14 nationalities and 18 pueblos, and it was quite a challengeto embrace such a diversity of visions and traditions in a single paper. Initially, we engaged 5 indigenous scholars and activists from different ethnicities, each one deeply involved with the subject within their communities, to collectively write a first version of the paper. Later on, we realized the paper should also contemplate non-indigenous visions, such as those of the Afro-Ecuadorian community.

The current version of the paper is the product of a collective work developed by indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, mestizo and white Ecuadorian scholars and activists. This composition of multiple visions, all from local actors, gives a unique strength to the paper and its policy recommendations.

The policy paper presents proposals for the management of ancestral, traditional and popular knowledge in five main domains: 1) ancestral, traditional and popular knowledge must be declared heritage of the communities and peoples; 2) intercultural, bilingual education must be promoted and strengthened; 3) promotion of proper management of knowledge about biodiversity and traditional and ancestral agricultural practices; 4) strengthening of the relationship between the territories and knowledge and 5) strengthening of traditional and ancestral practices of governance.

What is your overall view of the FLOK process and what are your expectations for the future?

FLOK is a pioneer project, as this is the first time in history that a series of policy documents was produced in a collaborative way to propose, at a national level, a transition to a new economic and societal model based on open and shared knowledge, on the commons, on traditional and ancestral practices and on peer-to-peer production. Producing these documents in such a short time (8 months) was a big challenge. The work represents an integrated view, framed within the Ecuadorian legal system, and resulted from an intense collaborative process that involved meetings with Ecuadorian experts from civil society, academia, government and constant exchange with international experts in each area.

I see this first FLOK experience both as a seed that has been planted, as well as a threshold that has been crossed: a first attempt to provide an alternative model to the capitalist system has been proposed, and this work – not only the document, but the entire process that allowed the production of the documents – can be a source of inspiration to any person, city, civil society collective, region, and can be replicated, modified and adapted according to different contexts and needs. A threshold has been crossed in the sense that an integral proposition has been done for an entire society.

Needless to say, it was a very rewarding experience to be part of the project.

For the future, I expect the commons-transition movement to grow and to strengthen. And that different initiatives, with different flavors, will start to sprout. In the past year, many people showed a lot of interest in the FLOK process – not only during the time we were in Ecuador, but afterwards as well. The world needs profound changes; this is no longer an option, but a necessity. The human being is intrinsically generous and solidary – every culture has solidarity practices that became more and more lost with the individualistic and competitive behavior modeled by capitalism. A commons-transition movement is a real possibility to rescue human cooperation and solidarity and a path to reach harmony with Nature.

Team

Images by Kevin Flanagan

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Posted in Activism, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Gift Economies, Original Content, P2P Lifestyles, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Sociofobia

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hartsellml
26th January 2015


Book: Sociofobia, El cambio político. César Rendueles

Link: Sociofobia

 

Description

Geert Lovink:

“At a conference in Barcelona in June 2014 I ran into Madrid-based critic César Rendueles who told me about the success of his book Sociofobia, El cambio político en la era de la utopia digital in the Spanish speaking world, published late 2013. On the cover it reads: “the ideology of the network has generated a diminished social reality.” Rendueles (b. 1975) used to work for the cultural organization Círculo de Bellas Artes and now teaches at Complutense University, Madrid. I would characterize Rendueles’ approach as that of a straight forward academic, without the customary doubt, double meanings and postmodern cynicism, amplified by a clear populist-left set of demands (inspired by Latin-America) to re-nationalize public infrastructure, in this case the mix of telecom, knowledge production, education and media. This southern European variety of “cybersocialism” stands in contrast to the Blairist “third way” that originated in northwestern Europe and accepted limited state intervention in economic ownership. It is also distinct from a “commons” approach, where the commons are governed by an undefined coalition of “stakeholders” in which the real power of both monopoly corporate players and the state is obscured. Instead, Rendueles focuses on a more traditional analysis of economic and political institutions, one that may pave the way for political transformation in the technological field.

Why hasn’t Sociofobia been translated yet? Of course one can blame the slow politics of the publishing world with their outdated copyright system that hampers free cultural exchange within Europe and the absence of a subsidy system for translations of crucial cultural texts within the EU realm. How can Italian readers find out about the lively “post-Snowden” debates in Berlin? Should I perform the usual public self-criticism, admitting that I once preferred the sensual Italian over the harsh Spanish language – and now bear the consequences? Having said which, the book will come out in German (Suhrkamp) and in the United States – two years late.” (http://networkcultures.org/geert/2014/10/25/conversation-with-spanish-social-critic-cesar-rendueles/)

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Posted in Featured Book, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

SELC and Shareable Kickoff Campaign to Save Seed Sharing in the U.S.

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Stacco Troncoso
26th January 2015


SaveSeedSharing

Reposted from our friends at Shareable, please share the following article, written by Cat Johnson, as widely as possible.


Neil Thapar first encountered seed issues in law school when he worked with the Center for Food Safety against genetically-modified food. But it was a season spent working on an organic farm in Santa Cruz, California when he began to understand, first-hand, the importance of seeds as a foundation of our agricultural system. He explains, “When I came off the farm I said, ‘If I’m going to be a lawyer, I’m going to be a lawyer doing things that I think are making a positive difference.’”

Thapar is now the point person for Save Seed Sharing, an advocacy and education campaign to protect and promote seed sharing in the U.S. He’s leading the campaign for the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC)—where he’s a staff attorney—and campaign partner Shareable.

At the heart of the seed issue, which started in June when agriculture officials in Pennsylvania cracked down on the Joseph T. Simpson public library’s seed library, is that a number of states are now applying laws meant for big, commercial seed producers to small, citizen-run seed libraries. According to SELC, “in order to give out member-donated seeds, the Simpson Seed Library would have to put around 400 seeds of each variety through impractical seed testing procedures in order to determine quality, germination rate, and so on.” The concern among seed activists is that seed libraries (about 300 in the U.S.) will be regulated out of existence if this trend continues.

“The goal [of seed sharing],” says Thapar, “is to preserve and promote genetic diversity by having people grow tons of different plants all over the place rather than having one single crop being grown on a massive scale that becomes more and more susceptible to a shock to the system and it will be harder and harder to recover from.” He adds, “It represents a strategy that we have to follow if we want to develop a more resilient agricultural system.”

For the Save Seed Sharing campaign, SELC is partnering with Shareable, Richmond Grows, several other organizations including Seed Matters, SeedSavers Exchange, and concerned citizens. The campaign is designed to educate people about seed sharing issues, support seed sharing communities, and reform overzealous seed laws. The campaign goals are:

  • Educate stakeholders about how seed laws apply to seed sharing through seed libraries.
  • Build public awareness and grassroots support for seed libraries.
  • Empower local stakeholders to engage in policy advocacy to support seed sharing.
  • Remove legal barriers to seed sharing through seed libraries.
  • Support seed libraries that face regulation under seed laws.

The tactics to be taken for the campaign are as follows:

  • Research and publish analysis of 50 state seed laws.
  • Create an online petition campaign directed to state agriculture departments to raise awareness and support for changing seed laws as they apply to seed libraries.
  • Publish articles and engage with the media on issues related to seed sharing.
  • Organize state coalitions of the seed advocates to work on policy changes to support seed libraries.
  • Create policy recommendations, including sample legislation, for changing seed laws to create clear legal space for seed libraries and seed sharing.
  • Create legal resources and offer legal advice to seed libraries who face regulation under state seed laws.
  • Offer educational materials on how seed laws apply to seed sharing.
  • Attend meetings with regulators to negotiate alternatives to regulating seed libraries under seed laws.

Key resources for the campaign are an online petition urging state officials to protect seed libraries from inappropriate regulation; an in-the-works guide to seed libraries that will include best practices, how to start a seed library, how to introduce people to the concept of seed libraries, and how to train seed librarians and library users; and a set of policy recommendations for people to use to change seed laws and engage city and state officials in supporting seed libraries.

For Thapar, the best case scenario for the campaign is to gather 10,000 signatures on the Save Seed Sharing petition; pass laws in at least two states this year that amend the seed law to support seed libraries and explicitly exempt seed libraries from seed laws; and that other states look to those laws as models and incorporate the changes into their state seed laws. Ultimately, what he would like is that this becomes the new standard for what a seed law is and that the amended draft gets put into the Revised Seed Law, a model bill that the Association of American Seed Control Officials creates.

“If we could get an explicit exemption in there,” says Thapar, “that would really have a lot of effect in terms of protection and the stability that seed sharing would have moving forward.”

Please sign the petition today to help protect seed sharing in the U.S.

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Posted in Campaigns, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Food and Agriculture, Open Content, P2P Collaboration, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Podcast of the Day: Brewster Kahle and Matt Senate on the Revival of the Green Range Progressive Farming Tradition

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Stacco Troncoso
26th January 2015


Reposted from Shaping San Francisco

Description

young-ags“January 14, 2015 , panel on “Home on the Grange”:

“Grange Future” celebrates the history and contemporary expression of ‘the grange idea.’ From the 19th century populist movement that backed the early campaign for an “information commons” in the form of Rural Free Mail delivery, to public banking and Farmers co-op banks, this vital movement is re-emerging to confront information and agricultural monopolists of our own era. Severine von Tscharner Fleming leads a panel discussion with the Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle and Matt Senate from the Omni Commons and Sudo Room Hackerspace.”

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Posted in Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Featured Podcast, Food and Agriculture, P2P Lifestyles, Podcasts | No Comments »

Top P2P Books You Should Have Read in 2014 (1): The return of the cooperative commonwealth

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Michel Bauwens
25th January 2015


Our book of the year is Humanizing the Economy by John Restakis. See why below.. I can truthfully say it’s one of the most important books I have read in the last ten years.

2014 was definitely the year of the commons – cooperative convergence. Two objective trends especially since the systemic economic crisis of 2008 are the revival of the commons, mostly driven through peer production; AND a revival of cooperatives and cooperativism, which had been subjected to a certain decline and even a neoliberal degeneration in the period since the 1980’s. What was new in 2014 is that these two sectors started talking and looking at each other. At the P2P Foundation, we call for a new synthesis in the form of open cooperativism, i.e. cooperatives which consciously and structurally co-produce commons, as pioneered by the Catalan Integral Cooperative or the Allianza Solidaria in Quito.

The best record of this, which we don’t count as a book, is the following report of a in-depth convergence conversation by leading commoners and cooperativists:

* 0. “TOWARD AN OPEN CO-OPERATIVISM. A New Social Economy Based on Open Platforms, Co-operative Models and the Commons. A Report on a Commons Strategies Group Workshop Berlin, Germany, August 27-28, 2014. By Pat Conaty and David Bollier. CSG / Boll Foundation / Foundation pour le Progres de l’Homme, 2014.

We strongly urge everyone to read this.

Our top book about the cooperative commonwealth tradition is paradoxically a book that appeared in 2010, but that strongly deserves a second life with its second print run this year. It is the marvelously well written book by John Restakis, entitled “Humanizing the Economy”, which places cooperativism in its historical tradition, and presents innovations such as solidarity cooperatives. Learn there about the cooperative tradition in Emilia-Romagna and the innovative Seikatsu movement in Japan. Since, John Restakis has developed a much stronger understanding of the commons and worked with the P2P Foundation and myself on the commons-cooperative convergence. The evidence of this lies in our P2P-Foundation published e-book on the Commons Transition, which has strong chapters by John Restakis on the convergence of the commons economy, the partner state approach, and the cooperative economy. Finally, our own book, “Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy” co-authored by Vasilis Kostakis, gives a detailed vision of expectations related to this cooperative commons economy: will it fullfill its promise, of fall victim to the forces which extract its value for purely private benefit of large multinationals of netarchical capital?

1. Humanizing the Economy. Co-operatives in the Age of Capital. by John Restakis. New Society Publishers, 2010

1. 1. b eBook: COMMONS TRANSITION: POLICY PROPOSALS FOR AN OPEN KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY. By Michel Bauwens and John Restakis. P2P Foundation, 2014

* 1.1.c. Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy. By Vasilis Kostakis and Michel Bauwens. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

The second trend, the revival of the commons, produced two very important book this year, by David Bollier and Jeremy Rifkin.

David Bollier’s book is a very well written general introduction of what ‘commoning’ means for human life, comparable to these great classics like The Gift by Lewis Hyde; Jeremy Rifkin’s book may not go deep enough in the problematic transition, but gives a great historical introduction to changes in the modes of production, and why the commons is now an economic fact, destined to grow not just in the so-called ‘immaterial’ economy, but also in the physical economy, through the ‘margical cost’ effects of distributed energy and 3D printing.

* 2. Think Like a Commoner. A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. by David Bollier. New Society, 2014

* 2.1. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. by Jeremy Rifkin. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

More good books on the Revival of Cooperativism:

* 3. Capital and the Debt Trap. Learning from Cooperatives in the Global Crisis. By Claudia Sanchez Bajo and Bruno Roelants. Palgrave MacMillan (2013)

“The recent financial crisis has had a devastating impact around the globe. Thousands of businesses have closed down and millions of jobs have been cut. Many people have lost their homes. Capital and the Debt Trap explains how key economies have fallen into a ‘debt trap’, linking the financial sphere to the real economy, and goes beyond, looking into alternatives to the constant stream of financial bubbles and shocks. Overlooked by many,cooperatives across the world have been relatively resilient throughout the crisis. Through four case studies (the transformation of a French industrial SME in crisis into a cooperative, a fishery cooperative in Mexico, the Desjardins Cooperative Group in Quebec and the Mondragon Group in the Basque country of Spain), the book explores their strategies and type of control, providing an in-depth analysis within a broader debate on wealth generation and a sustainable future.”

* 3.1 e-Book: Democratic Wealth: Building a Citizens’ Economy. Ed. by Stuart White, and Niki Sethi-Smith. openDemocracy and Politics in Spires, 2014

“Democratic Wealth’ is a collection of essays that challenges the poverty of thinking around economic policy, particularly after the 2007 financial crash. It explores the renewed interest in republicanism and suggests this as a framework to shape an economy that serves the common good. It is a selection of articles from a series published by openDemocracy and Politics in Spires, a blog run by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

* 3.2 eBook: Alternatives To Capitalism: Proposals For A Democratic Economy. by Robin Hahnel, Erik Olin Wright. New Left Project, 2014

“New Left Project’s new e-book, Alternatives to Capitalism: Proposals for a Democratic Economy, is now available for download.
In it the leading radical thinkers Robin Hahnel and Erik Olin Wright take on the crucial but all-too neglected question: what kind of society should we be fighting for instead of capitalism? Hahnel favours ‘participatory economics’. Wright advocates ‘real utopian socialism’. Alternatives to Capitalism puts these practical proposals through their paces in an in-depth, frank and extremely instructive debate about the central question of our time.”

* 3.3 Gary Alexander. eGaia Growing a peaceful, sustainable Earth through Communications. Published by Lighthouse Books, ISBN 0907637248 (2nd ed. 2014)

A updated second edition. See here for reviews.

* 3.4 Co-operatives in a Post-growth Era. Creating Co-operative Economics. Edited by Sonja Novkovic and Tom Webb. Fernwood Pubn. (with Zed Books), 2014

“Featuring a remarkable roster of internationally renowned critical thinkers, this book presents a feasible alternative for a more environmentally sustainable and equitable economic system. The time has never been better for cooperatives everywhere to recognize their own potential and ability to change the economic landscape.”

* 3.5 Robert Costanza and Ida Kubiszewski. Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future: Insights from 45 Global Thought Leaders. World Scientific, 2014

“The book offers a broad, critical discussion of what a sustainable and desirable future should or can be, with chapters written by some of the world’s leading thinkers, including: Wendell Berry, Van Jones, Frances Moore Lappe, Peggy Liu, Hunter Lovins, Gus Speth, Bill McKibben, and many more.”

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Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, Open Models, P2P Books, P2P Business Models, Peer Property, Sharing | 1 Comment »