For peer to peer theory to develop, it needs to engage with a variety of discourses on social change, a journey practicing the possibility of a “relational p2p perspective” which can be porous and open to new and alien language and trans-disciplinary and discursive insights, and which can be opportunities for syntheses. In 2011, on the back of completing a Phd dissertation on the alter-globalisation movement and World Social Forum (titled: Alternative Futures of Globalisation), Michel Bauwens and I engaged in this documented on-line dialog in this spirit to interrogate the correspondence between theories, discourses and visions for global transformation / alternative globalization at the World Social Forum on the one hand, and peer to peer theory and vision on the other hand. At the time we called this “From the Crisis of Capitalism to the Emergence of Peer to Peer Political Ecologies” in the anticipation of reaching a synthetic yet thematically diverse theoretical vision.

From this, on an invitation by Rich Carlson to contribute to a book called Critical Posthumanism and Planetary Futures (a Springer publication), edited by Debashish Banerji and Makarand R. Paranjape, we produced a book chapter called “P2P and Planetary Futures”, modified for public use as “Toward a Synthetic Theory for P2P Alter-globalization.” The chapter presents peer to peer theory and practice in the context of alter-globalization and planetary perspectives on change. It begins through a short elicitation on peer to peer theory. It then synthesizes a dialogic engagement between peer to peer theory and nine perspectives on planetary change:

  • reform liberalism,
  • post-development,
  • relocalization,
  • cosmopolitanism,
  • neo-marxism,
  • engaged ecumenism,
  • meta-industrial,
  • autonomism / horizontalism,
  • and co-evolutionary perspectives.

The chapter then presents a synopsis of a ground breaking effort in the application of peer to peer theory, the FLOK (Free Libre Open Knowledge) project in Ecuador, which provides a concrete example of P2P as an alter-globalisation practice, providing a experience base which captures the synthetic nature of p2p interventions.

Learnings:

Overall the engagement between peer to peer and alter-globalisation theory is both complex and fruitful. On one hand it does provide a sifting mechanism to situate peer to peer thinking in a broader spectrum of theory and discourse, and sharpens our understanding of where peer to peer thinking sits in the landscape of planetary change. On the other hand it also broadens out the dimensions of peer to peer thinking and theory, and is a vehicle for what can be understood as a an emerging synthetic theory-practice. The following bullet points provide a synopsis of the engagement between discourse and theory, with the warning that to really understand the intersection of alter-globalization and peer to peer theory and practice, one must look at the deeper engagements in the book chapter, modified paper and on the P2P Foundation Wiki. However, in general we can provide these general insights that a P2P perspective:

  • Disagrees with the Reform Liberalist approach of a reformed capitalism, e.g. promoting ‘green’ capitalism and accepting ‘netachical’ capitalism, which we feel will ultimately lead to a deeper crisis.
  • Sees a synergy with the Post Development discourse through building shared innovation communities and commons, selective de-globalization and the combination of neotraditional and P2P/transmodern approaches.
  • Agrees with much of the Relocalization discourse on the need to re-localize much of our production and consumption, but sees a danger in over-romanticizing the local, or in ignoring the role of global solidarity systems and knowledge commons. Smart localization means ‘Cosmolocalization’.
  • Agrees with the Cosmopolitan discourse’s emphasis on the need to create post-national structures to solve global problems, but would add the phenomenon of ‘Phyles’ and would de-emphasize CSOs and NGO and re-emphasize the critical role of global collaboration communities.
  • Would reframe the neo-Marxist discourse’s commitments to global class formation, into the need for a global coalition of the commons, the forces of social justice (workers and labour movements), the forces for the defense of the biosphere (green and eco-movements) and the forces for a liberation of culture and social innovation (free culture movement), as the constituent blocks of a new hegemony.
  • Agrees with the Engaged Ecumenist view on the need for spiritual awakening, but would argue that secular forms of spirituality which emphasize the unity of humankind, nature and cosmos, are as important as the non-secular. A peer to peer spiritual practice is based on a common exploration of the spiritual inheritance of humankind, independent of, but not opposed to, denominational religious affiliations.
  • Agrees with the Meta-Industrial and Gender perspective that it is vital to take into account all peoples that have historically been excluded, with the female gender as paradigmatic example. A danger exists, however, for a reformed neoliberalism to embrace gender and sexual minorities and replace them with other inequalities and displacements. Therefore a ‘conscious’ P2P approach is needed, aware of both structural externalities and the internal subjective and cultural characteristics which continue to drive inequality.
  • Accepts from Autonomism and Horizontalism the logic of the network form, but argues a global movement requires coherence and needs to draw on the principle of ‘diagonality’. A purely horizontalist orientation, which disowns leadership, embodied responsibility, as well as sequential 4 and programmatic social development, cannot wage an effective struggle in the face of hostile and ruthless state and market forces.
  • Sees itself as eminently compatible with Co-evolutionary viewpoint: in particular because the advent of the P2P projects and communities are inherently global in their cooperative dynamics, and coincides with other scale shifts toward a planetary mode of thinking and action.

 

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