Progressing on the p2p political front

I would like to offer the following update on how I see the transformation towards a more p2p-oriented world occurring.

A first way of looking at it, is looking at alliances, and I have covered this here, in a previous article on “Towards a Grand Alliance of the Commons”.

Here, I want to offer a different perspective, focused on “what should we do when”. Are there phases in the potential process of transformation?

I believe the first and foremost priority is to work constructively on the new future, and this means building open infrastructures and commons wherever we can, to make these practices sustainable over time, and to do this in such a way that the autonomy and peer to peer dynamics in our open infrastructures and commons are maintained in a maximal way.

I have mapped the progress and evolution of open infrastructures, in every domain of social life, here in this mindmap.

It must be clear however that the building of such a counter-economy will take time, will have to make substantial compromises with the existing dominant logics, and may only fully explode rapidly in times of social and economic dislocation.

Here’s where the second step comes in, which I discussed in the alliance of the commons article, cited above. The constructive P2P forces must find connection with mobilized social movements. These movements presently have a weakness, because most of the old alternatives, i.e. a orientation towards the role of state, has become problematic, for different reasons that we won’t go into here. In other words, many progressive social forces can be mobilized to protect past gains against the frontal assault to dismantle the social aspects of the state, but they have a much harder time formulating integrated policy alternatives. In my opinion both the industrial era right, but also the industrial era left, are in crisis, and lack an appropriate vision and politics for our times.

This is what the p2p vision can offer to social movements, a set of believable practices and visions, and concrete possibilities to construct sustainable alternatives, in the here and now but also as a programmatic vision of the proposed future.

For this, it is not sufficient to point to local initiatives, which at this stage are only seed forms, but we must be able to formulate concrete policy proposals, that can be offered to the world of policy and politics and can be adopted and promoted by existing institutions as well as new institutions as yet to be created. This is why I am working, with David Bollier, Silke Helfrich, and others, on a important Berlin Commons Conference, where we will bring representatives of social movements and policy makers togethers, to start constructing a Commons-oriented Policy Framework. (November 1-2 , 2010)
We will achieve this by internetworking people active in existing social movements, sympathetic policy makers, and bring them into contact with p2p and commons pioneers, so as to learn from each other, but also propose and infuse the experience of already existing p2p-oriented social alternatives, and how they can be helped and sustained through policy, funding, etc ..

Once this infusion of the commons and peer to peer into social movements and amongst sympathetic policy makers is a reality, and this may of course take a few years to mature, we may see the adoption of policies at various levels of the state and government. Think of the city of Linz declaring itself a Open Commons region, as an example of this trend (though at this stage, I have no details on that particular initiative yet).

Beyond punctual adoption of pro-commons policies what we want to achieve in a next phase is a “reform” of the state, towards more of a Partner State model, whereby public authorities empower and enable the social production of value by civil society, and in this way sustains a wide variety of commons-oriented institutions and practices. This transitional form could be seen in the same way as the experience of the post-WWII welfare state, a historical compromise based on the strength of the social movement, but within the existing dynamics of a capitalist world-economy.

Obviously, my own point of view is that such an achievement would not be enough, and not sustainable in the long run, so that effectively, what we want to reach ultimately is a transformation of the state, as guarantor of a commons-based civilization. The state remains the guarantor of an existing mode of production and distribution of social value, and for a thorough commons transformation to occur, we will need fundamentally different state formations.

But we can’t jump the gun, both the constructive movement, the mobilized social movements, and the policy network need to be developed and strengthened for this to happen. The whole process will take several decades, but the success of our call for the Berlin Commons conference shows how mature the time is already and how many people are already grasping and grappling with commons-oriented practices and policy formulations.

Since 2008, the p2p transformation of our world, and of associated human mentalities, is occurring at a much faster pace than anticipated. We have to be ready to grasp these opportunities as and when they occur, while not loosing track of the larger time frame of change.

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