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Selected citations on peer property

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
7th December 2012


Original sources are listed here:

“The commons breaks with the individualistic vision as conceived by the capitalist tradition, a vision that has progressively transferred the idea of rights to individual people. The commons take inclusion and everyone’s equal right to access as its starting point, while property and the idea of the state that upholds it is based on a rivalry of goods, and thus on exclusion and concentration of power in institutions that insure and protect it. The commons try to situate themselves outside the subject-object reductionism that would lead to their commodification. The commons cannot be commodified (because they cannot be transferred, or alienated), and they cannot be the object of individualised possession. And so they express a qualitative logic, not a quantitative one. We do not ‘have’ a common good, we ‘form part of’ the common good, in that we form part of an ecosystem, of a system of relations in an urban or rural environment; the subject is part of the object. Common goods are inseparably united, and they unite people as well as communities and the ecosystem itself.”

- Joan Subirats

“Imagine a world where property is owned because it is being well stewarded rather than ownership being a priori to stewardship. Much of the worst behavior we see in the economy would be impossible, because the second any firm stopped stewarding their properties for the benefit of the larger community, they would no longer own their properties (intellectual or otherwise). In this world ownership is derived from good stewardship, rather than the other way around.”

- Alan Rosenblith

“Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase “proceeds of labor”, objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning. … labor [will] become not only a means of life but life’s prime want

- Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme

At the center of the digital revolution, with the executable bitstreams that make everything else possible, propertarian regimes not only do not make things better, they can make things radically worse. Property concepts, whatever else may be wrong with them, do not enable and have in fact retarded progress. In the network society, anarchism (or more properly, anti-possessive individualism) is a viable political philosophy … because defection is impossible, free riders are welcome, which resolves one of the central puzzles of collective action in a propertarian social system.

- Eben Moglen, in his essay Anarchism Triumphant

“In Roman law, property, or dominium, is a relation between a person and a thing, characterized by absolute power of that person over that thing….Human beings can have relations with one another. But what would it mean to have a ‘relation’ with a thing?….[But,] Imagine a man trapped on a desert island. He might develop extremely personal relationships with, say, the palm trees….and, if he’s there too long, he might well end up giving them all names and spending half his time having imaginary conversations with them. Still, does he ‘own’ them? ….Clearly, then, property is not really a relation between a person and a thing. It’s an understanding or arrangement between people concerning things.”

~ David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

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