Book of the Day: With P2P Towards a Post-Capitalist Society

de-wereld-reddenDe Wereld Redden. Met P2P naar een post-kapitalische samenleving. Michel Bauwens en Jean Lievens. Houtekiet / Oikos, 2013

This book achieved its third printing in a very short time in the Flanders (Flemish) region. French translation is already secured.

Please note: the original Flemish title for the book is “De Wereld Redden”, which translates to “Save the World” in English. The working title in English is“With P2P: Towards a Post-Capitalist Society”.

Also note that the following short chapter summaries were written for the purpose of presentation, and are not translated book excerpts. An English translation of the book has not yet been produced.

Presentation and summary:

Our present-day society is based upon the absurd notion that material resources are abundant and immaterial ideas scarce. We behave as if the planet were infinite, and exploit the earth in ways that endanger the survival of the human species. On the other hand, we build artificial walls around human knowledge to impede and prevent and sharing as much as possible.

The peer-to-peer model, inspired by the open source movement and used by Wikipedia (knowledge), Linux (software) and Wikispeed (design), wants to turn this logic on its head. According to Michel Bauwens, P2P-networks, open source, crowd sourcing, fablabs, micro-factories, hackerspaces, the maker movement, the sharing economy, and urban agriculture (among others) are all new phenomena forming patterns that lead us towards a post-capitalist society, one in which the market will be subsumed to the logic of the commons.

Just as feudalism developed within the womb of the Roman slave society and capitalism then developed within feudalism, we are now witnessing the embryo of a new form of society gestating within capitalism. In order to save the world, we need a re-localisation of production and an extension of global cooperation in the fields of knowledge, code and design.

Chapter 2: the Politics of P2P

How will this transformation towards a new form of society, in which P2P will become the dominant mode of production, take place? What are the social and political forces that will help determine this transition? How will the ‘old world’ resist change and hinder the new emerging world? Will this transition be smooth, or will it be a revolutionary process?

michel-bauwensMichel Bauwens considers P2P to be the ideology of a new class of knowledge workers, holding the same appeal that the ideas of socialism had for nineteenth century industrial workers. The first political expressions – from the Swedish Pirate Party and the Greek Potato Movement to the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo – are still in their infancy. In addition, these new political formations need to find progressive partners to collaborate on building a program which defends and promotes the interests of the immaterial and material commons. In this chapter, Bauwens also tackles the role of the state, which needs to transform from that of welfare state to partner state.

Chapter 3: P2P and Spirituality

Bauwens explains in this chapter how the transition towards distributed networks will also have great consequences for spiritual development. Spiritual expressions and religious organizational structures cannot be understood outside of the historical and social structures in which they originated and developed. Tribal religious forms like animism and shamanism didn’t have developed hierarchical structures, as they arose within a social framework of egalitarian relationships relying on kinship. The large, organized religions originating in highly hierarchical societies are defined by complex hierarchical structures. There is only one truth to which members must obey. The Protestant reaction was characterized by democratic features reflecting the values of a new urban bourgeoisie, representing mercantilism and a nascent industrial capitalism. “New Age” reflects modern capitalist practices, where even spiritual experiences have become consumer goods. If this is the case, how would peer to peer dynamics change spiritual and religious expression and their organisational forms?

Chapter 4: the Philosophy of P2P

Jean-LievensFor Michel Bauwens, the P2P-movement is a progressive, integrative emancipation movement. Bauwens rejects methodologies which explain phenomena from only one point of view, and believes that we need to take into account not only the objective but also the subjective elements in their interdependency. At the same time, his integral approach is a form of truth philosophy: according to Bauwens, truth needs to be constructed contributively, and every object needs to be approached from as many angles and perspectives as possible. However, this integral approach also poses dangers, as shown by the reactionary nature of the ideas of Ken Wilber.

Chapter 5: The P2P Foundation

This chapter explains the history and methodology of the P2P Foundation as a new kind of ‘collective organic intellectual’, which is appropriate for the networked age.

Chapter 6: a Biography of Michel Bauwens

This chapter explores the personal history of Michel Bauwens, and relates the story of what led to the creation of the P2P Foundation, as well as the evolution of his thinking about social change and seeing P2P as the leverage for achieving this change.

Appendix: The Story of the book

Michel Bauwens and Jean Lievens met at the Free University of Brussels in the latter half of the nineteen-seventies, where they were active in the student movement. More than three decades later, the ideas of P2P brought them together again. Now in their fifties and confronted with a broken system that threatens the survival of the human species, they consider the transition towards a P2P society to be the way out of the present crisis.

More information

This book is based on 12 hours of interview conducted by journalist Jean Lievens with Michel Bauwens, and is divided into six chapters: the Economy of P2P, the Politics of P2P, P2P and Spirituality, the Philosophy of P2P, the P2P Foundation and a Biography of Michel Bauwens.

216 pages, ISBN 978 90 8924 254 9

2 Comments Book of the Day: With P2P Towards a Post-Capitalist Society

  1. AvatarJosh Davis

    I suggest that you consider Levellers Press and/or Collective Copies as publishing partners for the English (US) version. I recently got a copy of Building Co-operative Power, published by Levellers and printed by Collective Copies, and it has got top-notch design and production. And if you need any help with copy-editing/proofreading, please let me know. cheers!

  2. Pingback: Mapping the Emerging Post-Capitalist Paradigm and Its Main Thinkers –

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