The coming crisis of capital accumulation, and its solution (Response to Adam Arvidsson, 2)

We are restating Adam Arvidsson’s analysis of the Crisis of Value, in our own words, also thinking on how it may be eventually solved.

1. The Crisis of Value

It is now possible to create all kinds of use value without, or with only a minimal, intervention of capital. We are dealing with post-monetary, post-capitalist modes of value creation and exchange, that are both immanent, i.e. embedded, to the market, but also transcendent to it, i.e. operating outside its boundaries. Two, capital is increasingly dependent, and profiting in all kinds of ways, from the positive externalities of such social innovation. Three, the full , partial, or hybrid peer production models that we discuss above, may be collectively sustainable as value creation processes, but do not offer a direct solution for the income and survivability of the participants.

So the challenge can be described as follows: 1) we have a process of social innovation which creates mostly non-monetary value for the participants; 2) we may have an increasingly huge gap between the possibility of creating post-monetary value, and the derivative exchange values that are realized by enterprise; 3) the participants engaged in such passionate production and innovation, mostly cannot find in such processes an answer to their own sustainability.

Hence, the impossibility to realize more than just a small partial monetary value, from the point of view of most commercial players. Increasing precarity for the participants of social innovation. In other words, the current market model does not have a reverse process of redistribution for the value that is being created.

This might of course be a temporary crisis, but we do not believe it is. The reason is that the market can only indirectly and partially provide monetary compensation for processes which are not motivated by such compensation. What we need therefore are more general redistributive processes that allow society and the market to give back part of the value that is being so created. One possibility is the further development of transitional labour market measures (protect the worker, not the job), which recognize the flexibility and mobility of contemporary careers. But this needs an important add-on development: the realization that contemporary workers are moving not just from job to job, but also from jobs to non-jobs, and that in fact, what is most useful and meaningful for them (and the market, and society) are not the paid jobs for the market, but the episodes of passionate production. It seems to me therefore that a more general measure, not linked to the job, but conceived as a repayment for, and enabler of, social innovation, is needed. The name of that general measure is most probably some form of basic income.

2. Different value systems, different economies, different measurement systems

Whether or not such measures materialize, peer production and social innovation are there to stay. We will in all likelyhood have at least two competing economies, or even three.

The first one is the market economy for scarce physical goods. It is likely that this part of the economy will have to cope with the increasing presence of open designs, and therefore, will be more and more a form of built-only capitalism, based on commons-derivate business models. Note that in this sector, the property rents (copyright, etc…) might dramatically decline, and hence the associated profit rates as well.

The second part of the market economy will be the market for attention, that will realize part of the value of the sharing economy, and can provide some kind of return to the peer producers.

Then there will be the non-market, non-monetary part of the economy. It will increase in value and scope, but not create additional monetary streams. In other words, no matter how many reputation schemes, wealth acknowledgement systems, or collective quality-control schemes might be developed, this is not directly linked to any monetization by the market economy. It will feed it indirectly, but will never be fully monetized. This is a fact we have to learn to deal with, and have to reorganize our political economy around. As I argue above, I expect that communities will develop various forms of gifting, sharing and exchange, as well as a number of affinity or community based currencies to measure such value. And in addition to that, some general form of redistribution or monetary repayment may have to be created.

1 Comment The coming crisis of capital accumulation, and its solution (Response to Adam Arvidsson, 2)

  1. AvatarJohn Nilsson

    This problem also has some resemblance to the problem Henry George talked about regarding land value. Land value is created not only by the land owners labor on the land but also from the community surrounding the land. For example, building a railroad station can rise the value of the land surrounding the station.

    This problem of the land owner getting the profits from the value created by the community was suggested to be solved by simply taxing land value. This tax can then be the basis of a citizen dividend.

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