A reprint of an editorial in P2P News 87, with some updated comments at bottom.
In my view, it is definitely an expression of the left, but, it has the potential to solve the important contradiction between equality and liberty, and thus, to encompass sincere liberals in its embrace. Before the emergence of peer to peer, it really seemed that equality and liberty could not be realized at the same time, that one could only be developed fully at the expense of the other. You could either develop equality, using the state for redistribution but at the expense of inequality-creating individual liberty, or promote liberty, at the expense of equality, as the neoliberal regime is currently doing. I think that it is plausible to say, in parallel with the contrast evoked by George Lakoff below, that the left promoted equality, and that the contemporary right says it promotes liberty.
With the emergence of P2P however, we now know that there is a social formation, a way to produce and govern, where both liberty and equality are integrated, both re-inforcing the other.
The emerging peer to peer left, is different from the old left in an important respect, something that is missing in George Lakoff’s comparison, and that is the following. The old left relied on the state, for reforms, or for revolution, as proposed by respectively social-democrats and Stalinists. That state was either based on the transfer of sovereign rights to the state, in the democratic polity, or to a authoritarian state, again respectively for the two political forces above. The ‘people’, respectively voluntaritly, or involuntarily, ‘delegated’ their autonomy to the state.
But the new peer to peer left is, will be, not focused on the state, but on the Commons. The core of peer to peer is the autonomous development of civil society, to which the market and the state become servants. Peer to peer is about ‘absolute democracy’, i.e. about extending autonomous and democratic governance (peer governance) to the largest extent possible, beyond politics, into the realms of production (peer production) , co-created culture and participative spirituality. The state, still serves the common good where necessary, but has to provide at least neutral arbitrage between the market and civil society.
The peer to peer left is a direct emanation of civil society, and not of sections of the state apparatus. Unlike the people, the multitude does not delegate its autonomy, except in the special circumstances where autonomous peer production and peer governance is unlikely to occur or difficult to realize. The Commons is primary, the State and the Market are secondary.
I would like to add the following. Elsewhere, I have pointed out the contrast between the logic of hegemony, with 2 power blocs confronting each other for state power (the anti-capitalist workers movement’s strategy), eventually negotiating a reform. The new logic of affinity is more about continually changing network relations depending on the different common projects or struggles that are attempted. In such a context, it makes more sense to look for common ground on an ad hoc basis, and lots of new and innovative alliances become possible.