Michel Bauwens:

A note on the post-capitalist strategy of the P2P Foundation

How to create a Post-Capitalist strategy? As expressed in our previous posts —  where we describe the work of Kojin Karatani—  we agree that the present system is based on a trinity of capital-state-nation, and that this reflects the integration of three modes of exchange. Capital represents a particular market form based on the endless accumulation of capital. The state is the entity that keeps the system together through coercion, law and redistribution (Karatani calls this function ‘rule and protect’), and the nation is the ‘imagined community’ that is the locus of the survival of community and reciprocity. A post-capitalist strategy must necessarily overcome all three in a new integration.

Disrupting Capital Accumulation

Overcoming the capitalist form of the market calls for a disruption in capital accumulation. This can and must be done in two ways:

First of all, as the capitalist market requires labor as a commodity it then follows that overcoming capitalism means refusing to work for capitalism as commodity labor. This is why we strongly advocate for Open Cooperativism: entrepreneurial vehicles where commoners work for themselves and the common good of the larger community and society. This work takes place in democratic associations that create autonomous livelihoods around commons which are, in turn, protected from value capture through membranes such as reciprocity-based licenses. These organizations, focused on commoners and their livelihoods, rather than engaging in capital accumulation, foster cooperative accumulation in service of the commons, through mechanisms in which individual, collective and societal interests converge.

Commons-based open contributory systems are designed so that commoners’ personal motivations can actively contribute to the creation of a common good; as opposed to this being the hypothetical and accidental derivative of generalized selfishness. Measures like a basic income — in conjunction with “commonified” social services— would also substantially remove the compulsion for workers to sell their labor power, while strengthening the capacity to create alternative economic entities. However, in the meantime, we must proceed with the reality that exists today, and create our own funding and resource allocation mechanisms.

The second way to withdraw from capitalism and capital accumulation is by removing our cooperation as consumers. Without workers as producers and workers as consumers, there can be no reproduction of capital. As consumers, we need to design and implement new forms of consumption derived from the creation of open cooperatives. When workers and commoners mutualize their consumption in pooled market forms such as community-supported agriculture and the like, they are not buying products which bolster capital accumulation. Instead, the contribute to the cooperative accumulation discussed above. Therefore, to the degree that we systematically organize new provisioning and consumption systems outside of the sphere of capital, we also undermine its reproduction and capital accumulation. In addition, we create ‘transvestment’ vehicles, which allow for the inclusion of capital but subordinated to the new commons and market forms developed through peer production; this creates a flow of value from the system of capital to the system of the commons economy. Faced with a crisis of capital accumulation, it is entirely realistic to expect new streams of value seeking their place within the commons economy. Instead of the cooptation of the commons economy by capital, in the form of the netarchical capitalist platforms which capture value from the commons, we co opt capital into the commons by subjecting it to the rules of the Commons. Current examples of transvestment strategies are the capped returns model pioneered by Enspiral, or the open value accounting system created by Sensorica.

The Post-Capitalist State

We can also achieve similar transvestment effects with the state! Our strategy for a ‘partner state’ is to ‘commonify’ the state. Imagine that we are able to transform state functions so they actually empower and enable the autonomy of the citizens as individuals and groups. As such, they’d have the tools to create common resources, instead of being passive ‘consumers’ of state services. We abolish the separation of the state from the population by increasing democratic and participatory decision-making. We consider the public service as a commons, giving every citizen and resident the right to work in these commonified public services. We make public-commons agreements so that stakeholder communities can co-govern the public services that affect them. But we don’t ‘withdraw’ completely from the state because we need common good institutions for everyone within a given territory, institutions that create equal capacities for every citizen to contribute to the commons and the ethical market organizations.

From Nations to Commons

In a previous article we have argued that the capital-state-nation trinity is no longer able to balance global capitalism, because it has created a very powerful transnational financial class, which is able to move resources globally and discipline the state and the nations that dare rebalance it. Our answer is to create translocal and transnational civic and economic entities that can eventually rebalance and counter the power of the transnational capitalist class. This is realistic given that peer production technologies create global open design communities which mutualize knowledge on a global scale, and because global and ethical market organizations can be created around such communities. Even as we produce locally, we can also organize trans-local productive communities. These trans-local productive communities, no longer bound by the nation-state, project the need for and require forms of governance able to operate on the global scale. In this way, they also transcend the power of the nation-state. As we explained in our strategy regarding the global capitalist market, these forces can operate against the accumulation of capital at the global level, and create global counter-hegemonic power. In all likelihood, this will create global governance mechanisms and institutions that are no longer inter-national, but transnational (while also avoiding the patterns of transnational capitalism).

The New Integrative Trinity

In conclusion, our aim is to replace the dysfunctional capital-state-nation trinity with the creation of a new integrative trinity: Commons – Ethical Market – Partner State. This new trinity would go beyond the limitations of the nation-state by operating transnationally, transcending the older and dysfunctional trinity and avoiding global domination of private capital. Citizens could develop cosmopolitan subjectivities through these processes, as well as an allegiance to local and transnational commons-oriented communities of value creation and value distribution.”

  • This is the third in a series of articles by Michel Bauwens exploring the current thinking of the P2P Foundation. To see the rest of this series, click here. To read more of our original writing, see our original material category.

5 Comments The Post-Capitalist Strategy of the P2P Foundation

  1. Simon GrantSimon Grant

    So to the point, would love to reply / take forward at length. Hope to. For now, I register here as well my deep engagement with the question of building the tools for an economy that allows people to thrive as they withdraw their labour, capital (intellectual and financial) and consumption from exploitative capitalism

  2. Strypey

    This is a fantastic vision. In a situation where all actors were willing to allow the common good to be pursued, we could just get on with it. However, the responses of the Republican and Democrat elites to the Trump and Sanders campaigns make it clear that there are plenty of actors who would rather let the planet burn than allow global citizens to cooperate in ways that are out of their control. What would a defensive strategy for the commons movement look like, and how do we organise it in parallel with the proactive building process you describe to articulately above?

  3. Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

    The conceptual framework that you provide here is helpful in beginning to envision how we might transcend the present reality of dominance by what you call the “transnational financial class,” and work towards creating structures that advance inclusion, equity and the common good. The first two aspects of your “trinity,” capital and state, are clear enough, but I need to see a more precise definition of what you mean by “nation” in this context.

    Considering how we turn the vision into reality, I fully agree that we must “create translocal and transnational civic and economic entities [and structures] that can eventually rebalance and counter the power of the transnational capitalist class.” You mention “trans-local productive communities,” but even more importantly than that, we especially need to create “trans-local exchange communities” to liberate us from the grip of those who control the allocation and availability of credit through their control of the global interest-based debt-money system which is the cornerstone of the global power structure in today’s world. As we achieve that the way will open up before us to move forward in creating the myriad structures that will comprise the new economy and convivial society.

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