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Video of the day: Dmytri Kleiner on Germany’s treason scandal

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Stacco Troncoso
3rd August 2015


Activist and software developer Dmytri Kleiner gives his perspective on Germany’s treason scandal to RT International.

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Video, Videos | No Comments »

Video of the Day: The Promise of the Commons

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Kevin Flanagan
2nd August 2015


“For thousands of years, different ideologies have come and gone, but one that has always endured, even if it is now being steadily eroded, is that of The Commons — cooperatively managed lands and lifestyles that worked for the common good. The Commons encouraged decentralisation and relationship — healthy relations between people and between people and place. Natural systems and human needs together created symbioses which employed, sustained and nurtured both.”

“Well over half of the world’s population lives on traditional lands to which they have no formal title. They live as most people throughout history have always done. But, in a rapidly privatising, wealth appropriating world, their rights to critical resources are being steadily eroded by corporate interests. This translates to their sustainable and even restorative use of those lands being supplanted by short-terminism and extraction. Helping to solve their problems may well solve our problems — whilst also giving us something to pattern our own communities on.”

Originally Posted – http://permaculturenews.org/2014/06/07/promise-commons/

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Posted in Featured Video, Videos | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: The More-Than-Human Commons: commoning is caring

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Michel Bauwens
28th July 2015


A really excellent and well-written (draft) essay on the implications of the commons for how we relate to each other and to other natural beings:

* Source: The More-than-Human Commons : From Commons to Commoning. Patrick Bresnihan. Forthcoming Chapter in Space, Power and the Commons, Routledge.)

Excerpted from Patrick Bresnihan:

“Where the more-than-human commons departs from other interpretations is in recognizing how the starting point is not an individual subject separated from other people and the world around them, but a relational subject who is always already caught up in a world that is intimately shared . This understanding is not based on an ideal but on the materially and socially constituted relations and practices that tie humans and non-humans together within a particular collective or territory. If we talk of ‘use-rights’ in the commons then these must be contingent on ongoing participation in the production and care of the commons understood as the entire collective of humans, animals, artifacts, elements that are necessary to maintain life processes. This meaning can already be found in the roots of the word ‘commons': ‘com’ (together) and ‘munis’ (under obligation). First, this tells us that the commons is produced together, reflecting our inter-dependence, the assumption that our world is already shared. Second, and arising from this, the obligation that such inter-dependence demands of us. The commons is not a ‘thing’ that we have access to because we hold a title deed or authorization, but something that is ours because we produce and care for it, because we common.”

The Social Commons as a perspective on the commons:

“A second perspective on the commons that has become popular within and outside the academy shifts attention away from the so-called ‘natural’ commons, focussing instead on the emergent possibilities of the ‘social’ or ‘immaterial’ commons. These include the knowledge and cultural commons (Hyde 2010), the digital commons and peer-to-peer production (Bauwens 2005) and the biopolitical commons (Hardt & Negri 2009). While the political perspectives that inform these analyses differ, they all assume an analytic distinction between the ‘immaterial’ commons and the ‘material’ commons. In his article ‘Two Faces of the Apocalypse’, for example, Michael Hardt describes the difference between anti-capitalist activists and climate change activists at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen (Hardt 2010). While the former insist that ‘another world is possible’, the latter adopt the slogan: ‘There is no Planet B’. Hardt traces these different political positions to their contrasting notions of the commons. On one hand, anti-capitalists consider the commons as a social/economic commons, representing the product of human labor and creativity, including ideas, knowledge and social relationships. On the other, environmental activists speak for the ecological commons, identified as the earth and its ecosystems, including the atmosphere, rivers, forests and forms of life which interact with them. Hardt argues that the former does not operate under the logic of scarcity, while the latter does. While the first perspective on the commons emphasizes the natural resources on which we all rely, the second emphasizes the social resources that have become increasingly central to contemporary forms of capitalist accumulation. In the first case, nature (commons) is a stock of bio-physical resources which, as Hardt identifies, is subject to the logic of scarcity, bringing us into the domain of liberal political economy and the institutions of formal and informal property rights. In the second, nature is no longer represented as a material background limiting human activity but becomes something malleable and infinitely reproducible, subject to re-combinant technologies and human creativity. This is the domain of neoliberal political economy and the fantasies of contemporary capitalist (re)production (Cooper 2007). The problem with this distinction is that we end up with one form of the commons that appears to be asocial (excluding the socially productive and reproductive labor of humans involved in caring for the ÔnaturalÕ resources they rely on), and another that appears to be anatural (excluding the material limits and properties of more-than-human bodies involved in the (re)production of the ‘social’ commons). While the distinction between the material/natural commons and the immaterial/social commons can be analytically helpful it tends to be over-stated, obscuring the continuity and inseparability of the material and the immaterial, the natural and the social.” (https://www.academia.edu/11778318/The_More-than-Human_Commons_From_Commons_to_Commoning)

The commons is not a resource, but a relation:

“A third perspective on the commons does not admit such a distinction and thus takes us in a different direction. From feminist scholars (Federici 2001; Mies & Bennholdt-Thomsen 1999, 2001; Shiva 2010; Starhawk 1982), geographers (Blomley 2008; St. Martin 2009) and historians (Barrell 2010; Linebaugh 2008, 2011; Neeson 1996; Thompson 1993) we learn that the commons was never a ‘resource’. The commons is not land or knowledge. It is the way these, and more, are combined, used and cared for by and through a collective that is not only human but also non-human. That the commons can continue to be identified as a ÔresourceÕ and not as a complex of relations between humans and non-humans attests to the long history of invisibility associated with Ònonrepresentational, affective interactions with other-than-humansÓ (De la Cadena 2010 : 346). The ÔinvisibilityÕ of peasant and indigenous cultures and forms of life has been well documented by historians and anthropologists (Brody 2002; Bird Rose 2006; De la Cadena 2010; Escobar 1995; Linebaugh 2008; Thompson 1993); colonialism begins with the erasure of any existing claims to territory or history on the part of those who are being colonized. The concept of terra nullius refers to the identification of ÔwasteÕ land, or land that has not been inscribed with human culture and production. This term was not just used in the conquest of territories in the ÔNew WorldsÕ but also in the enclosure of common lands, moors and heaths, that took place in Britain during the eighteenth century (Goldstein 2013). Silvia Federici, for example, argues that enclosure relies on the epistemological separation of the social and the natural spheres, the productive and the reproductive. She reads this separation-through-enclosure as something far more fundamental than simply the privatization of land. The relegation of ‘women’s work’ (childbirth, child rearing, cleaning, cooking, caring) to the domestic sphere outside of the ‘productive’ economic sphere represents the ‘naturalizing’ of this kind of labour : “[a]ll the labour that goes into the production of life, including the labour of giving birth to a child, is not seen as the conscious interaction of a human being with nature, that is a truly human acivity, but rather as an activity of nature, which produces plants and animals unconsciously and has no control over this process” (Mies 1998: 45). While reproduction is most often associated with human reproduction and the management of the ‘household’, from childbirth, to childcare and healthcare, cleaning and cooking, reproduction also extends beyond the confines of the house narrowly construed as four walls. Federici herself describes how her time in Nigeria observing and documenting the labor and activity of women in mostly subsistence economies led her to extend the notion of reproduction (Federici 2012): the household, or oikos, was not just a home or family but a wider sphere of communal reproduction that involved direct relations with the land, water, plants and animals, for exampleii. The conclusions that are drawn from these insights is that capitalist enclosure and biopolitical control necessarily involve the de-valorizing and ‘invisibilizing’ of those myriad, situated relations and practices of (re)production that exist between people and the manifold resources they rely on (De Angelis 2007; Federici 2001; Shiva 2010). What is significant is that this understanding of the commons focuses on the particular relations and practices that are characterize the commons as a different mode of (re)production.

As Peter Linebaugh explains, “[t]o speak of the commons as if it were a natural resource is misleading at best and dangerous at worst, the commons is an activity and, if anything, it expresses relationships in society that are inseparable from relations to nature. It might be better to keep the word as a verb, rather than as a noun, a substantive” (Linebaugh 2008: 279). This is why the noun ‘commons’ has been expanded into the continuous verb ‘commoning’, to denote the continuous making and re-making of the commons through shared practice. In this way the commons is not a static community that exists a priori or a society to come a posteriori but something that is only ever constituted through acting and doing in common. At the heart of this relational, situated interdependence of humans and non-humans is not an impoverished world of ‘niggardly nature’, nor an infinitely malleable world of Ôtechno-nature,Õ but a more-than-human commons that navigates between limits and possibilities as they arise (Bresnihan forthcoming). Nor is the more-than-human commons a pre-modern ideal that has been lost or marginalized. It arises wherever there is an immediate and intimate understanding that the world is shared, that human and non-human life is interdependent. This not an ideal norm but a materially and socially constituted reality that has been documented in many different settings (Linebaugh 2008; Scott 1990)

There are new fields of research that can help us to decipher what is going on in the more-than-human commons. These include the work of anthropologists examining indigenous cosmologies and relations with nature and territory (De la Cadena; Escobar 1999; Viveiros Castro 1998; Rose 2004), as well as post-humanist and vital materialist theory (Barad 2003; Bennett 2010; De la Bellacasa 2010, 2012; Papadopolous 2010, 2010a) that help shift the methodological and epistemological lens away from subjects and objects to the relata, the relations that constitute our world (Barad 2003). These rich literatures can help us disrupt the liberal humanist epistemologies that both individualize and place humans at the centre of world-making processes. In terms of the more-than-human commons this also means making an intellectual leap into contexts where social and material resources are already immediately and intimately shared between humans and non-humans.”

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Posted in Commons, Featured Essay, P2P Collaboration, P2P Epistemology, P2P Subjectivity, P2P Theory, Peer Production | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Open Source Finance Hacking

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
27th July 2015


“The hacker drive for de-alienated self-empowerment throws up tricky issues. As people with a hacker impulse gain confidence, they can become increasingly intolerant towards conventions, but also towards institutions like large welfare systems, which are viewed as being alienating in their own way. When combined with the individualistic streak, this can make for a libertarian political impulse. At its best, that can be a left-leaning libertarianism concerned with how to empower the underdog from the bottom up, showing solidarity with those in less empowered positions, similar to anarchist mutual aid. In its negative incarnation, though, hacker culture can fetishise personal liberty, a conservative ‘don’t tell me what to do’ libertarianism associated with people who already have power and who do not particularly go out of their way to help spread it. We see this in the likes of libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, who says ‘fuck you’ to authorities, but without really offering much empathy to those who are not empowered, skilled, or connected enough to be as bold as he.”

* Article: Open source finance hacking: The potentials and problems. Brett Scott. Spanda Journal, Special Issue: Spanda Journal special issue on “Systemic Change”, VI, 1, June 2015. Edited by Helene Finidori.

This essay is part of a throroughly excellent special issue of the Spanda Journal on systemic change edited by Helene Finidori, In case of more interest for the issues in this essay contact the author at please contact the author at Twitter https://twitter.com/Suitpossum and or check the blog at: http://suitpossum.blogspot.co.uk/

An excerpt from the introduction, by Brett Scott:

“The global financial system is a notoriously opaque and alienating complex. The system is implicated in social injustice and ecological destruction around the world, and the key financial institutions, such as banks and funds, wield unhealthy levels of political power. The financial sector – that cluster of institutions that sit in the centre of the financial system – have at least five problematic dimensions.

Firstly, the financial sector routinely steers money into projects that are hardwired to breach planetary ecological boundaries. It is thus premised on ecological unsustainability. Secondly, it is an active agent of inequality. Not only do financial professionals reap outlandishly large salaries, but financial instruments like shares and bonds are conduits for powerful cartels of investors to direct money into the powerful corporate sector, often in ways that do not benefit ordinary people.

Thirdly, even if you do not believe that the sector creates inequality, it exhibits high levels of complexity and opacity, which, when combined with the fact that the system is highly interconnected, translates into high levels of systemic risk, the ability for financial crashes in one country to shake the entire global economy.

Fourthly, the sector hosts a particular culture of finance. This tends to be portrayed in the press by pictures of obnoxious traders swilling champagne, but the much deeper issue is the pervasive denial of agency and responsibility found in the sector: Financial institutions like to portray their profession as an apolitical agent of economic efficiency, rather than accepting the highly political nature of allocating credit and facilitating investment processes around the world.

Fifthly, there is the process called financialisation. In basic terms it is the creeping sense that the culture and drives of the financial sector are taking over many aspects of life previously untouched by it, turning everything into investable and tradable commodities. Thus, land and atmospheric pollution rights become parcelled into land investment funds and commodity investment baskets, while people’s life insurance policies get parcelled into structured investment products for hedge funds to speculate on.

These trends, when taken together, have a way of creating ever more alienating and obscure financial phenomena, which appear incomprehensible and uncontrollable to the average citizen. Take, for example, high-frequency algorithmic trading, portrayed by those involved as a force for rational efficiency, but creating hitherto unknown levels of systemic risk.”

* Discussion: Applying the concept of open source to finance

Brett Scott:

Open source culture thus might be a useful way of framing the initial broad changes we might want to see in the financial system. After all, we are stuck within a massively powerful incumbent system, and need to find ways to build anew from that starting point.

Software code is used to build rule systems that steer energy into activating hardware towards particular ends. So, extending this as an analogy, what might financial ‘code’ look like? A financial system, in a basic sense, is supposed to distribute claims on human energy and resources (‘money’), via financial instruments (often created by financial intermediaries like banks), into new economic production activities (‘investments’), in exchange for a return over time.

Here, for example, is a rough financial circuit: A person manages to earn a surplus of money, which they deposit into a pension fund, which in turns invests in shares and bonds (which are conduits to the real world assets of a corporation), which in turn return dividends and interest over time back to the pension fund, and finally back to the person.

Shares and bonds are extractive financial conduits that plug into a corporate structure, but if you look for how they are coded, you’d discover they are built from legal documents that are informed by regulations, acts of parliament, and social norms. They are supported by IT systems, payments systems and auxiliary services.

But it takes more than clearly-worded documentation to be able to create financial instruments. The core means of financial production, by which we mean the things that allow people to produce financial services (or build financial instruments), includes having access to networks of investors and companies, having access to specialist knowledge of financial techniques, and having access to information. It is these elements that banks and other financial intermediaries really compete over: They battle to monopolise relationships, monopolise information, and to monopolise specialist knowledge of financial techniques.

And indeed, that is why production of financial services mostly occurs within the towering concrete skycrapers of the ‘financial sector’, spinners of webs of financial code that is mostly unknown to most people. We have very little direct access to the means of financial production ourselves, very little say in how financial institutions choose to direct money in society, and very little ability to monitor them. We have, in essence, an intense concentration of power in financial intermediaries, who in turn reinforce and seek to preserve that power. And while I may be happy to accept a concentration of power in small specialist industries like Swiss watchmaking, a concentration of power in the system responsible for distributing claims on human society’s collective resources is not a good thing. It is systematically breaking our planetary hardware, whilst helping to fuel a culture of bland individualistic materialism in increasingly atomised communities.”

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Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Essay | 2 Comments »

Book of the Day: Conflicts in the Knowledge Society

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Michel Bauwens
26th July 2015


* Book: Conflicts in the Knowledge Society: The Contentious Politics of Intellectual Property. Sebastian Haunss.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013

Excerpted from a review by Eden Medina:

“In Conflicts in the Knowledge Society, Sebastian Haunss studies the most visible movements that have challenged international intellectual property (IP) regimes. He positions the growing politicization of IP as part of a more expansive process of social change that social theorists have historically associated with the transition from an industrial to a knowledge society. Haunss opts to use the phrase “knowledge society” instead of such terms as information society or network society because knowledge society is “the most generic term, capturing the central element that distinguishes these societies from earlier forms” (p. 4). According to Haunss, four factors have increased the politicization of IP in recent years: the increasing economic importance of knowledge-based industries; the growing internationalization of IP issues; the greater attention IP issues receive in non-specialist and high-level forums; and the trend toward personalizing IP rules so that they affect end users as well as producers and sellers. Though Haunss does not list the signing of the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as a causal factor, the treaty plays an important role in his analysis.

The book is organized into seven chapters, including an introduction and a conclusion. Three chapters document case studies of highly visible challenges to IP regimes. This includes studies of software patents in Europe, the access-to-medicines movement, pirate parties in Germany and Sweden, and the history of Creative Commons (CC) licensing.

Haunss provides the analytical context for these case-study chapters with two preceding chapters: one on the history of international IP and the other on theories of the knowledge society. These history and theory chapters constitute slightly less than half the volume.
The history chapter traces the politicization of IP fromthe high and late Middle Ages to the signing of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886) to TRIPS. The chapter also introduces the reader to copyrights and patents, two of the more contested forms of IP at present, and offers an overview of the different narratives that have been used to justify IP rights historically (e.g., personal rights narratives and different forms of the utilitarian argument).The next chapter focuses on social theory. Readers who are already familiar with the work of such scholars as Daniel Bell, Manuel Castells, and Nico Stehr may wish to skip this chapter given that it is mostly a synthesis of previously published work on the knowledge society. Those who are unfamiliar with these theories, however, may and Haunss’s detailed discussion highly useful. In essence, Haunss wants readers to understand how different theorists have described processes of change and con?ict as societies move from economies grounded in industrial forms of production to economies grounded in the production of knowledge.

The book then turns to a series of four case studies in three chapters. The first case-study chapter addresses the controversy surrounding software patents in Europe. Haunss mobilizes an impressive corpus of source materials to build his argument, including 170 newspaper articles published in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Poland, several hundred primary source documents, 25 interviews, and a questionnaire he distributed to actors involved in the controversy. The software patent con?ict of 1997–2005 centered on whether the European Patent Of?ce (EPO) should allow the patenting of software. The EPO and the European Commission felt that this would harmonize European legislation with that of the United States and Japan and remove what Europe’s large industrial associations perceived as an economic disadvantage. The push to make software patentable, however, triggered a counter-response from a diverse set of actors, including the newly formed Federation for Free Information Infrastructure, the EuroLinux Alliance, and the free and open-source software community. These oppositional voices lacked ties to the relevant policy organizations and had less experience and fewer resources than the industry proponents. Yet, they prevailed.According to Haunss, the opposition groups succeeded by creating a “frame bundle” that formed the basis of a collective identity and held together a diverse set of actors from different political, institutional, and personal backgrounds. In this sense, his book draws from, and sits in conversation with, the work of such legal scholars as Amy Kapczynski (2008), who used the frame mobilization literature in sociology to explore how acts of interpretation can spur collective action in the context of IP.”

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Posted in Copyright/IP, Featured Book, P2P Books | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Reconsidering the University Invention Ownership Model

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Michel Bauwens
24th July 2015


* Essay: Reconsidering the Bayh-Dole Act and the Current University Invention Ownership Model. By Martin Kenney and Donald Patton.

From the abstract:

“The current model within which universities own the inventions made by their researchers was enshrined in the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. This paper finds that the current system, in which universities maintain de jure ownership of inventions, is not optimal either in terms of economic efficiency or in advancing the social interest of rapidly commercializing technology and encouraging entrepreneurship. We demonstrate that this model is plagued by ineffective incentives, information asymmetries, and contradictory motivations for the university, the inventors, potential licensees, and university technology licensing offices (TLOs). We suggest that these structural uncertainties lead to delays in licensing, misaligned incentives among parties, and delays in the flow of scientific information and the materials necessary for scientific progress. The institutional arrangements within which TLOs are embedded have encouraged some of them to become revenue maximizers.

We suggest two invention ownership models as superior alternatives to the conventional model. The first alternative is to vest ownership with the inventor, who could choose the commercialization path for the invention. For this privilege the inventor would provide the university 5 percent ownership stake in any returns to the invention. The inventor would be free to contract with the university TLO or any other entity that might assist in commercialization. The second alternative discussed is to make all inventions immediately publicly available through an open source strategy or, through a requirement that all inventions be licensed non-exclusively. Both alternatives would address the current dysfunctional arrangements in licensing university technology .”

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Posted in Featured Essay, Media, P2P Education, P2P Research | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: How the Student as Producer is Hacking the University

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Michel Bauwens
23rd July 2015


* Paper: Student as Producer is hacking the university. Winn, Joss and Lockwood, Dean (2013) Student as Producer is hacking the university. In: Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age. Routledge.

From the abstract:

“This chapter discusses the Student as Producer project at the University of Lincoln and provides two case studies of how Student as Producer is infiltrating quite different areas of university life. The first discusses Student as Producer in the context of Deleuze and rhizomatic curriculum design, while the second looks at how the project is being applied to the development of an open institutional infrastructure, in which Computer Science students are redesigning and developing the tools used for research, teaching and learning.”

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Posted in Featured Essay, P2P Education, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The Book of Community by lasindias.net

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Michel Bauwens
21st July 2015


* eBook: The Book of Community. A practical guide to working and living in community. (translated by Steve Herrick)Las Indias, 2015.

This is an excellent and downloadable Kindle ebook written by the whole team of Las Indias and translated by Steve Herrick.

The description is followed by some excerpts chosen by Steve Herrick:

“This book, rather than a typical “manual,” should be read as an “advice book.” Its focus is practical, because it was practice that guided our evolution. Like Borges, who “wrote” Quijote in the middle of twentieth century, discovering that “what was coming out of him” was identical to what Cervantes had written, though he had not read him before, we realized little by little that that that we’d learned by trial and error, what defined the lifestyle that we were discovering, followed the steps of a long tradition that began in the garden of Epicurus and which we recognized in our era in the Icarians and the Israeli kibbutz. Still later, we met other communities in the US, Germany and Austria that, with years, sometimes decades, of history, and dozens, if not hundreds of members, that had arrived at very similar lessons and models to ours. They are productive and egalitarian communities that give special importance to conversation, learning, and debate, but also to production in common for the material needs of all.

Because we didn’t start from any concrete model, and because we didn’t have “blueprints” from which to build, we have organically incorporated tools and techniques that go far beyond the scarce current community bibliography. This bibliography is, almost entirely, of North American origin and suffers from the need to “invent” what was invented in South America and Europe long ago: the forms and practices of the housing cooperative. What’s shocking is that by dressing it with new clothes (“ecovillage,” “intentional community”), it can find a market in places like France, Spain, Argentina or Uruguay, where there’s a very long tradition of this kind of cooperativism. In contrast, there is little, by which I mean almost nothing, written half-decently about the topics that we usually share, when we “communards” from different places in the world meet each other: how to create an environment helps everyone to overcome their fears and laziness, how to enter the market, how to integrate new members, how to avoid community self-absorption, etc.
These will be our central topics on the following pages.

We think that communities that share everything have a treasure of valuable experiences for anyone who proposes to strengthen their real community and the people they value and feel close with, by sharing some dimension of life in common, whether it’s the economic dimension, the intellectual, or everyday coexistence. Unfortunately, these experiences are mostly part of the “oral culture” of each community network. They are shared but rarely written down. This book is one of the first attempts to do so in Spanish [originally]. It does not answer to any ideological label in particular, but attempts to collect learning from many communities that do not hide from such labels. It attempts to collect a “communitarian consensus,” but also make its contribution, except that this contribution has more to do with common sense in caring for the people and things around us than with any political or social theory. It is intended for those that are considering joining a community or who want to experience community practices with their friends.

If we’ve done it well, it will save you time and learning that sometimes can be painful. If we made assumptions or left out important things that are not obvious, we hope you’ll write us so we can improve new editions.”

Excerpts, provided by translater Steve Herrick:

* From the introduction

Few words have had as many meanings as “community.” While its medieval origin meant support for the first forms of democratic sovereignty, beginning with the communard revolt of 1520, the term would become synonymous with rebellion and democratic revolt. That is the definition Quevedo uses it with, as does, to a certain point, the subtle and ever-critical Cervantes.

The Encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert went back to its guild meaning, defining it as the “meeting of private citizens who practice the same art or occupation under certain common rules that form a political body,” a definition that prepared it for the extension of its use during “the century of revolutions” to mean any form of local sovereignty sustained by forms of shared property.

Cabet, who was much more popular than Fourier in the 1840s, called his egalitarian colonies “communities,” and by extension called the projection of the social system based on them “communism.” The term was so successful among the “anti-system” thinkers of the time that it came to define movements with little or no interest in creating phalansteries or cooperative communities. In this way, within a decade, “community” and “communism” came to be used in two groups that, while they were not openly antagonistic except on a few occasions, did compete openly with each other for the attention of the restless and malcontents, while their respective propaganda machines ignored each other.

On the Left, it was a few Jewish immigrants, beginning in 1909, who recovered the term to name their settlements in Palestine. Based on sharing goods, work and savings, the “communities” movement will become the largest volunteer social experiment of the century. Paradoxically, it will not revive the word “community” in the rest of the world, but rather, only its Hebrew form: “kibbutz.”
Beginning in the ’30s, however, Tönnies and Weber in sociology and Adler in psychology, developed a definition of community—Gemeinschaft—which, in the ’80s would be expanded to political science and history as “real community.” This distinction was highlighted by Benedict Anderson in contrast to the nation, the “imagined community” par excellence.

Under this definition, a community is any human group united by interpersonal relationships where all members know the others and recognize them as belonging equally; from this belonging, both personal and collective obligations and rights are derived. The family—nuclear or extended—and to a lesser extent, the premodern brotherhoods and guilds, become the model of what “community” means for an educated person.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the word “community” overlapped territorial meanings with ideological characteristics. The importance of dissident religious groups in the culture of the Anglo-Saxon colonization of North America meant that towns and colonies were associated with certain Christian denominations. The tension between the enlightened political values of the young State and the particular beliefs of each church became part of the always-contentious definition of jurisdictions between the states and the federal government. But it also gave a legal basis to a new concept, “community standards,” which reinforced the association between the place of residence and the voluntary acceptance of a fairly relaxed but extensive set of private norms.

The role of “community standards” in Anglo-Saxon America was similar to that of local cultures in Europe: they showed the kind of diversity that the growing national identity made a show of, while still defining the primary group that much of the agrarian population identified with, which provoked the distrust of the enlightened urban classes. But as religious identity was diluted as the primary characteristic of identity in North American culture, the word “community” came to evoke more and more those tenuous obligations of neighborliness that materialized in volunteer work and social assistance organized by churches. Community tended to mean all the people, whether they knew each other or not, that shared a physical or social space. Universities, suburbs, associations of all kinds, and more recently, online networks, came to be defined as communities with their own “standards,” which were now tacit or explicit rules for coexistence and collaboration.

So it is that, by globalizing conversation, community can mean almost anything, on a spectrum from living in the same city to sharing everything. Today, “community” is one of those words that have a positive emotional consensus. But, one should wonder, when two people use it in the same conversation, if they really mean the same thing.

* From the chapter on community culture

The narrative of national culture tries to tell us that we will only feel and completely understand the world from within the nation, which is to say, from within the State that materializes it, or will materialize it. That’s why national culture is necessarily disempowering. Everything that tells us that outside of a given media or territorial environment, or outside of a given set of institutions, we cannot be complete people, learn, understand and feel fully, is nothing more than a constant onslaught against personal autonomy.

Community identity is different. It is the identity of a real community, a mutual recognition between real people who know each other and relate to each other. In every real community, the content of identity changes with each conversation and with each new member, with each incorporation, just as in any family or group of friends. So it does not make sense to promote an identity inwardly. If community identity has a core, it is “what we learn together,” which is to say, something over which we have sovereignty and which we shape.
That is why community culture does not try to approach any “ideal.” It doesn’t even try to convince us that there is nothing better for us that our own community. It simply needs to remind us that we can improve ourselves. The challenge of community culture is to remind us that we can be what we want to be. And that is different for each one, something that each one must define for him/herself. Its main tool is remind us that we can contribute meaning to what we do, with its imperfections, its successes, its ironies and its small tendernesses. From Sunday pastries and small talk, to the study of new disciplines, to success in the market that pays our bills.

It’s all about exalting life to feed the virtue in each person, helping to eliminate fears and quickly overcome failures. But above all, the objective of cultures of communities that work is to affirm each of their members as people who are equally responsible and equally capable of being free. In short, a functional communal culture transmits the idea that the more autonomous each of its members is, the more they will contribute to community as a whole.

* From the chapter on communal life

[…] 2009 was also the first real year of crisis in Europe. Millions of people were left without work. In countries like Greece, Spain or Portugal, thousands and thousands of families lost their houses. Spontaneously, the social network—first, families, and then communities—started to reorganize for survival. Hundreds of small “communes” appeared, houses that were shared between families that had been left without regular income, in which everything that that was obtained went into a common fund. Nobody needed design or certify a sophisticated set of rules. While it was a precarious response to an emergency situation, the “naturalness” of the process is noteworthy. The model already was there, in the cultural inheritance and in the traditions of the working classes.

And that’s really the key: the community is, in point of fact, a sophisticated cultural construction. And what’s more, so are the traditions of sharing that are profoundly embedded in popular culture. When an egalitarian community is born, when we create a new commons to be shared, we’re not starting from zero. We are putting into “production” all that code, all that community rationality that we inherited from the learned reactions and way of managing common belongings in our families. That is why we experience it as “spontaneous,” why it feels “natural,” and why it appears again and again in such different environments all over the world. Our “rationality” is definitively not what Hardin and the neo-Malthusian theoreticians of degrowth attributed to us when they presented the irrational destruction of non-renewable resources as a product of our “nature” and not as the result of over-scaled corporations dedicated to looking for rents at all costs.

No, to understand the shared economy, to work together to manage the needs of all in a community economy, we don’t need great treaties, or consultations with university technicians. We just need to go back home.”

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Posted in Ethical Economy, Featured Book, P2P Books, P2P Collaboration, P2P Lifestyles, P2P Spirituality, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

Chicago Group Aiming to Launch a Chamber of Commons

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
19th July 2015


Missing Chicago
An update from our friends at the Chamber of Commons in Chicago


Born out of a daylong Cooperation 2015 workshop in Chicago in late February, a new organization—the Chamber of Commons—is taking shape. We were privileged that Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation, inspired some 40+ Chicago area social activists with his vision for the new economy in which businesses thrive by supporting each other cooperatively.

Topics included open value accounting, mutual aid networks, the notion of the fair co-op, and the growing need to care for the commons. Our mutual desire to care for the commons spawned the idea for a new organization to support the burgeoning demand for the new economy, a modern update on the Chambers of Commerce of the industrial age.

Cooperation 2015 attendee and journalist, Sally Duros published a Huffington Post article in which she noted the need for commons-minded groups–“fair trade organizations, solidarity organizations, B corps and social entrepreneurs”—to organize under a single umbrella in a quest for a new economy of wellbeing.

At the May 12th On the Table discussion in support of the Chicago Community Trust, we focused on the Chamber of Commons and formed a steering committee to explore organizational options, mission, geographical reach and programming.

We seek to engage other commons-oriented individuals and organizations in dialogue to gain recognition of this initiative and show that a new way of doing business is not only possible but imminent. The time to make this shift is now.

 

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Ethical Economy, Featured Movement, P2P Development, P2P Labor, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Social Media, Politics and the State

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th July 2015


* Book: Trottier, Daniel and Christian Fuchs, eds. 2015. Social media, politics and the state. Protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. New York: Routledge.

Here is the summary of the book:

This book is the essential guide for understanding how state power and politics are contested and exercised on social media. It brings together contributions by social media scholars who explore the connection of social media with revolutions, uprising, protests, power and counter-power, hacktivism, the state, policing and surveillance. It shows how collective action and state power are related and conflict as two dialectical sides of social media power, and how power and counter-power are distributed in this dialectic. Theoretically focused and empirically rigorous research considers the two-sided contradictory nature of power in relation to social media and politics.”

We recommend reading the introduction here at http://fuchs.uti.at/wp-content/introduction.pdf

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Posted in Featured Book, P2P Books, Politics, Social Media | No Comments »