Commons, Market, Capital and State (5): network vs. state

A contribution from Dimitri Kleiner, followed by a discussion which occured in Facebook:

“Capitalism depends on the State to impose control into the network economy, to choke relations through authorized channels, and thereby capture value that would otherwise be retained by its producers. Points of control are introduce into the natural mesh of social relations. The “Market Economy” is not an expression of freedom it is the imposition of the unfree terms of a physical market-place to society broadly. The distinction between producer and consumer must be enforced so that circulation can be controlled. Hierarchy and authority must have privileged access. The absurd and reductionist idea that the we are to conceptualize our society as a giant market-place is idea born from the imagination of Capitalism. A paradise for the extortionist and the bookmaker. The means of imposing the relations of the market-place on all of society is provided by the State. The State’s traditional role of mediating between the classes on behalf of the ruling class depends on its territorial sovereignty. The State is able to impose control into the network economy depends on the fact that the participants mostly interact within its boundaries, once the network expand beyond the state, it can becomes a threat to the State itself, by undermining the capture of value. The State’s ability to grant title and privilege is based on its ability to enforce privilege with its monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Communications based on global peer networks have a chance to resist and evade such title and privilege. Social relations among transnational, trans-local communities operate within an extra-territorial space, one where title and privilege could give way to mutual interest and negotiation. Modes of production employing structures similar to peer to peer networks, have relations reminiscent of the historic pastoral commons, yet rather than being located in a specific place, create a commons that spans the planet, offering our society a hope for a way out from the class stratification of Capitalism by undermining its logic of control and extraction. Specters of such a potential mode of production can be readily found. Peer networks, such as the Internet, and all the material and immaterial inputs that keep them running, serve as a common stock that is used independently by many users. Free Software, whose production and distribution frequently depends on peer networks, is a common stock, available to all. Free software is produced by diverse and distributed producers who contribute to it because the value they gain when they employ it in their own production is greater than the value of their individual contributions to it. Popular attacks on the rents captured by the recording and movie Industries by users of file sharing technologies show us the difficulties faced by those whose incomes depends on controlling reproduction. Mass transportation and international migration have created distributed communities who maintain on-going interpersonal and often informal economic relationships across national borders. All these are examples of new productive relationships that transcend the currently dominant property-based ones. They point to a potential way forward. Developments in telecommunications, notably the emergence of peer networks such as the Internet, along with international transportation and migration, create broad revolutionary possibilities resulting from dispersed communities with the ability to instantly interact on a global scale. Our lives and relationships no longer need to be confined by territorially bounded nation states. Though coercive elements in the political and corporate hierarchy impose ever more draconian controls to resist our ability to evade such confinement, we can place our revolutionary hopes in the possibility that the scale of change is simply so large that they can never fully succeed. As bold as the emergence of peer to peer technologies, free software and international communities have been, the obstacles to social change are daunting. We must overcome the great accumulation of wealth the Capitalist elite have at their disposal. This wealth gives them the ability to shape society according to their interests. In order to change society we must actively expand the scope of our commons, so that our independent communities of peers can be materially sustained and can resist the encroachments of Capitalism.

Whatever portion of our productivity we allow to be taken from us, will return in the form of our own oppression.”


Chris Cook: The Internet interprets both the State and Rentiers as damage and routes around them. IMHO a market mechanism is an optimal way of allocating reources, and in particular in sharing costs. The requirement is for markets that operate ‘not for loss’ rather than ‘for rentier profit’ and forms of ‘open’ capital which are at the service of sovereign individuals, rather than vice versa…. I believe I have identified the consensual interactive protocols which will enable non-toxic economic interaction on a global scale.

DK: Hi Chris, part of my argument is that the “market” mechanism should be replaced with a “network” mechanism. The analogy of the market is burdened with the capture and control logic of capitalism, a physical market-place is //not// a free space. “Market” mechanism are location rent, barriers to entry, bean counting, enforced divisions between producer and consumer, etc., these are all characteristic features of a market place, and exactly the features Capital wants to impose in to every aspect of society. The sorts of things that we both support, free interaction, co-operative production and sharing do not look like a “market” but rather like a network… And yes, the Internet helps us route around, that is the main point I attempt to illustrate above. Also the Internet can be locked up. And is being locked up, if we don’t organize to defend it, which building the capicity to defend, a capacity which must come from production, &c.

Chris Cook: These are the features of the market we have, but are not the features of a Peer to Peer market. I see the evolution to a P2P market as inevitable, because it ‘out-competes’ the existing intermediated ‘for rentier profit ‘ market. This is what the Co-operative movement calls the ‘Co-operative Advantage’, and IMHO they have been held back for 150 years because they insist on using genetically modified versions of the toxic company form. The fact is that if entrepreneurs, suppliers, customers, and individuals can interact economically without the need for unproductive rentiers – and they can – then existing capitalism will wither on the vine…. Those enterprises – by which I mean economically active individuals and groups of individuals (public and private distcinctions are irrelevant) – who do NOT use P2P methodology will be at a disadvantage to those who do. This competitive advantage is the classic pre-condition (indeed the cause) for the emergence already going on, and which I am observing, probably because I am one of very few looking out for it. IMHO capitalism will undergo a one-off phase transition process not dissimilar to fission, via a ‘Debt/Equity Swap’, and viral spread of what is a new form of ‘open’ capital.

Sam Rose: Some of this is resonant with:

I think an alternative to state and corporate owned means of production cannot be pre-planned. Save for basic practices of sharing, community valuation, and other practices. Implementation of technologies, cultural creation, energy production, food production, etc will be universally unique and local going forward.

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