P2P and Deliberative Democracy approaches compared

Excerpted from an article Michael Brooks with as main theme: “what’s needs to be done in terms of social change”:

“Michel Bauwens, an independent writer and researcher based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, articulates an open peer-to-peer (P2P) politics that extends the practices of open information cultures to a broader political project. P2P politics builds on a model of deliberative democracy, and a culture where there is a dynamic interplay of all three sectors: private, commons, and government. Could this approach transcend an ossified debate on progress by shifting the debate into new terrain?

P2P culture has generated tremendous value in the development of the Internet. Projects such as Linux, open source codes and the open architecture of the net have been built on a communal openness that supports the market transactions found online. Bauwens argues that P2P carries with it an implicit political agenda; a political agenda that protects and expands on the open space created in the P2P economy and a new model of social infrastructures that sustain independent P2P workers.

Bauwens articulates an integrative and transcending progress narrative. He embraces the critiques of Illich and Schumacher and follows many of their political leads, however his P2P theory is grounded in the global information economy; the most current trend in the consumer dream. Bauwens supports many activists, and social and financial innovation movements recognizing that they are in sync with his P2P mission. P2P theory is both a process of re-localization, as advocated by the counter-progress theorists, and deep global integration, as articulated by the most optimistic visions of social and informational technologies.

“Deliberative democracy theorists are fascinated by ways of deepening democracy and turning it into a practice beyond simply voting. They advocate for creating a community context and practice for solving collective problems and addressing policy challenges.”

Deliberative democracy theorists are fascinated by ways of deepening democracy and turning it into a practice beyond simply voting. They advocate for creating a community context and practice for solving collective problems and addressing policy challenges. The deliberative democrats mirror a P2P ethic in the civic sphere. Archon Fung, a deliberative democracy theorist based at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, argues that deliberative democracy is about how communities can best position themselves to sustainably solve problems. Fung contrasts two primary conceptions of democracy with the goal of the deliberative process:

The first is majority rule. On this conception, a society is democratic when collective decisions reflect the views of the most numerous. The second is accomplishment. On this less common view, a democratic society is one that has the power to achieve the common aims of its citizens

Part of this process, according to Fung, is how we establish and agree on what those goals are. Deliberative theorists focus in practice on creating forums where community members can come together in a spirit of mutual respect and engage in substantive policy discussions. For example, some Scandinavian countries have experimented with citizen input on budget and other key priorities. Even China has developed certain receptivity to deliberative decision-making, according to Mark Leonard’s reporting in What Does China Think.

Both P2P and deliberative theorists ask a lot of us. Both approaches want us to play a substantive role in shaping our economic, cultural and political lives. Illich and Schumacher wanted the same. They opposed “outsourcing” value creation and social bonds to large bureaucracies outside of grounded communities. Integrating modes of progress will access a broader range of human capacity and inclination than those proposed by the consumer dream. However, the counter-progress critique is being validated in some of the most globally integrated, complex and abstract aspects of the world economic system. Integrated progress asks us to open our perception of who we are in community, markets, relationships, decision-making and politics.”

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