Raoul Victor: P2P in the material world (2): how would a P2P society look like

We continue serializing Raoul Victor’s reply to an Oekonux text by the ‘two Stefan’s”

Today, Raoul Victor asks: Can we imagine what could be peer material production?

Raoul Victor:

Part 3 of the text reads:

Today it is hard to see how material production can be organized according to the logic of information goods… It is perfectly possible that in a dominance or restructuring step the problem on how to embed material production in the peer production mode of production is on a basis which can not be imagined today.”

Maybe that statement is a consequence of the doubts about the possibility of making common material goods non-rival. In any case, I think it is far from obvious. Of course we cannot imagine the concrete details or even important aspects of such a mode of production, but we can imagine what a general framework could be. The development of peer production in the information-numerical sphere allows us today to be much more concrete than could have been any anti-capitalist dreamer even 20 years ago. I even think that is an important theoretical task today. Christian Siekfes’ book, for instance, is part of that effort.

The germ-form theory, for example, relays on the idea that peer production principles can be applied to material production and are superior to capitalistic ones. It is difficult to make such a statement without giving at least elementary concrete visions, even if theoretical, of what that could look like.

From a human point of view, the “efficiency” of a mode of production is measured by its capacity to allow the human material needs to be satisfied. Capitalism has created an extraordinary network (the world market) allowing existent needs to find, some times at the other side of the world, the means to be satisfied. Demand and offer are confronted and interrelated through the market mechanisms. But it is a relation distorted by commercial exchange and the capitalistic logic based of profit.

In the capitalist market, the needs considered are not all the real human needs. These are limited by the necessity to be solvent. If you don’t have money, your needs/desires do not exist in the market, they are not taken into account.

The offer is also limited, restricted: if production can not be sold, sold with profit, it is not done. Non profitable production does not exists in the market. Without profit perspective, fields are lied fallow, factories (even modern ones) closed, workers unemployed.

Only the logic of the capitalist market can explain that to day a child dies from malnutrition every 5 seconds in the world.

A peer society is the only way to interrelate the real (and not the solvent) demand with the real (and not the profitable) potential forces of production, human and material.

We can imagine some general aspects of what could be the cycle of material production, that is including the distribution and consumption aspects (I’ll come back later on that inclusion) according to peer production principles. Since production is orientated exclusively towards the satisfaction of human needs/desires (instead of profit) and the final user is the source of innovation, lets start by “the end”, when the user gets the product.

For most of commonly needed products, we could imagine sorts of “super-markets” (we should say “super non-markets”) where goods are free/gratis. These might also be Internet sites. The nature and quantities of the products taken (instead of bought) would be instantaneously registered and the data sent by Internet to centers at different levels (villages, local, regional, worldwide).

That data would be permanently processed at different levels by a set of softwares in order to generate a list of consumption requirements, including as much information as possible: geographical localization, quantity, qualities, etc. The softwares would be constantly developed and improved integrating the final-user desires, systematically collected, elaborated, processed at all levels. That list would be made available to anyone in the planet, giving an instantaneous and permanent list of all the common consumption “itches” that humans “need to scratch”.

On the productive side, any center of production would thus have a real and large choice to decide what it prefers to produce, having the security that its product will be useful and used/consumed. It could also make propositions of new solutions to present or future needs/desires.

Every production center, in his turn, would express permanently its needs in order to realize its projects and, as for consumption, through Internet, these would be instantaneously collected, processed and put at public use.

These needs/desires include raw material, machines and, of course, human work (not labor). Raw material and machines needs would be processed as the consumption “itches” and put at disposal of the centers of production. Human work needs would also be permanently and instantaneously put at disposal of all human beings. Any person wishing to participate in social production has thus the possibility to choose what she wants to do, or something close to it, as in Free Software. (voluntary self-aggregation).

At that level, the first necessity to create a peer society is the capacity to transform any productive task in a pleasure for the person who does it. (Pleasure does not exclude “effort”: playing soccer is exhausting, for example). Automation is here a key element in order to eliminate or transform what today are repulsive tasks. As producers are the “end users” of the means and ways of production, they should be the permanent masters of innovation at that level, orientated towards Selbsentfaltung development.

Even if many questions remain open, as the distribution on goods which can not be made abundant or “governance” systems, for example, some fundamental aspects of what could be the application of peer production principles to the material sphere can be seriously imagined, and their superiority to capitalist ones easily demonstrated.

One may object that, even if such a vision may seem coherent and materially feasible, it does not say what would be the transition to that full-developed peer society. That is true. But, if you want to imagine a transition you need to know from where to where it goes. If you don’t have any idea about the end of it (or at least a very advanced point), you cannot even think it.

The old formula: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs/desires” may summarize what a full-developed peer society should be based on, since it also summarizes what the peer production principles are. Today we can and must give to that abstract goal a more concrete image.

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