The aims of the P2P Foundation

“There seem to be at least four degrees of cultural development, rooted in degrees of moral insight:

(1) autocratic cultures which define rights in a limited and oppressive way and there are no rights of political participation;

(2) narrow democratic cultures which practice political participation through representation, but have no or very limited participation of people in decision-making in all other realms, such as research, religion, education, industry etc.;

(3) wider democratic cultures which practice both political participation and varying degree of wider kinds of participation;

(4) commons p2p cultures in a libertarian and abundance-oriented global network with equipotential rights of participation of everyone in every field of human endeavor.”

I’m often asked to summarize our aims and activities. Here is an attempt I undertook for the ORGZine of the Open Rights Group.

(the above blockquote is from John Heron)

Michel Bauwens explains the aims of the P2P Foundation:

A succinct way to summarize the activities of the P2P Foundation would be to say that we ‘peer produce’ knowledge about peer production.

Peer production is any activity where people freely aggregrate to create common value and constitute a commons of knowledge, code or design. We believe that this constitutes a true revolution in the “relations of production”, because it institutes freedom in the core ‘economic’ sphere, which hitherto has been marked by a kind of “feudalism”. Indeed, while markets can be said to have instituted new social relations in production and distribution, inside corporations, workers are still dependend for their livelyhoods, and bound by relations of obedience, or command and control. In peer production, we freely allocate our energies and skills. Peer production communities are building crucial new institutions such as the above-mentioned knowledge commons, a new type of ‘for-benefit associations’ which protect these commons and enable their infrastructures of cooperation (think of the ubiquitous ‘FLOSS Foundations’ that accompany most open source projects), as well as enterpreneurial coalitions of market players, which create ‘value on top of the commons’.

In the last few years, peer production has moved from the field of ‘immaterial’ production, to the field of ‘material production’, i.e. open design for distributed manufacturing, which more or less famous examples like the Arduino ecology of open hardware, the WikiSpeed open source car and many other examples. This is so because on the one hand, any material aspect has an knowledge aspect … Physical things need to be designed (open design), accounted for (open book management and open accounting) and supplied (open supply chains). In doing so, it is encountering the ‘distribution of capital goods’. First of all machinery such as 3D Printing and CNC Milling, but also a broader array of machines that allows us to imagine global networks of microfactories that are linked to global open design communities; and secondly through distributed financing mechanisms such as social lending and crowdfunding.

Our point of view therefore is that there is a great ‘horizontalisation’ of human cooperation going on, and a fundamental shift in our methods of production, which we have documented in the report, A Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy ( A this horizontalisation is meeting the resistance of the existing institutional arrangements, we get a hybrid (‘diagonal’) transitional economy of both top-down adaptation (open innovation, crowdsourcing, co-design and co-creation practices) but also the bottom-up creation of entirely new ecologies of value creation and distribution, such as the Fora do Eixo network of cultural producers in Brazil (

For this transition to occur, and to exclude no human being from its benefits, it is crucial to enact universal broadband access, but also the strongest possible ‘rights’, as well as any supportive measures to insure participation in the common value creation. This supposes in our vision, a transition to a Partner State model, ‘which enables and empowers social production’, the commonification of public services (enhanced participatory control by stakeholder and user communities), and public-commons partnerships. There can be no further expansion of the field of peer production without the co-evolution of new forms of ‘peer governance’ and ‘peer property’.

Documenting this transition is what the P2P Foundation is about. We do this through a wiki with nearly 19,000 articles which have been viewed 20m times, and a blog which together with our other resources reaches about 26,000 people per day. We strongly support digital rights, and open and free technological infrastructures which are the pre-condition for the P2P transformation of our societies. However, we are less a ‘activist’ organisation, than a ‘productive’ organisation, interested in interconnecting individuals and groups that are actively creating a new social reality.

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