7 Comments The paradox: why p2p marketplaces cannot really be called “peer to peer”

  1. Poor Richard

    Markets and commons are two metaphors that can be applied alternatively (and almost arbitrarily) to any given set of resources+users+rules. The essential distinctions between any two sets of resources+users+rules are not that one may be called a commons and another a market, but the relative degree of asymmetry between users. Relations are more peer-to-peer (P2P) the more symmetrical (i.e. fair, just, equitable, transparent, etc.) they are– either in commons or in markets. The symmetry or asymmetry in either case is determined by the rules which are often a combination of both explicit and implicit. A truly fair market may be more like the stereotype we infer from the terms commons or p2p than a particular commons that is in fact dominated by some minority.

    I realize this is a very broad and abstract generalization but I think it holds up well under case study comparisons.

  2. Chris Cook

    Peer to Peer exchange (which may or may not involve the time delay and credit which gives rise to a monetary relationship) is not the same as Peer to Peer production (which involves a commons approach to the Property relationship).

    Since both modes connect individuals together to a common purpose (albeit requiring different protocols) then I refer to both as ‘Peer to Peer’.

  3. Michel Bauwens

    Markets and commons are not metaphors to be used in mystical fasions, they are concretely defined relational dynamics and interactions. However, yes indeed, they are largely independent of the resource, it is a choice humanity makes about how to deal with a particular resource. A peer to peer commons would be definition strive towards maximal distribution or symmetry, by taking active measures against resulting inequalities. If it fails to do this, it is no longer a commons, and certainly not peer to peer, but a form of hierarchical allocation (think the soviet union, which was formally ‘ownership of the people’, but in reality a hierarchical allocation system). A market can of course also be more or less distributed, though again, without counter-measures markets tend to evolve towards oligopolies. I feel this helps a lot against confusing the various relational and value dynamics (since elsewhere you have argued that markets are commons): http://p2pfoundation.net/Relational_Model_Typology_-_Fiske. A market dynamic can be distributed, but will never be a commons. However, a marketplace, in which all members of a community have access on an equal basis, and which is managed by its community, can be a commons. A commons is traditionally defined as a common resources that is manged by its users. There are no defintions of the commons of it as the selling of commodities for money.

  4. Chris Cook

    The key point underlying this is that exchanges of value between productive individuals and the creation of productive assets by productive individuals acting to a common purpose are two entirely different functions.

    Peer to Peer (people-based) credit is completely distinct from Peer to Asset (asset-based) credit although both are valuable in exchange.

    The requirement – which we were discussing at a Schumacher Institute conference in Bristol; last week on the subject of ‘Social Contracts’ is for a new generation of generic cross-border protocols which enable the creation, ‘clearing’ and settlement of P2P credit, and the design, creation and operation of productive assets held in common.

    The presentations I prepared covered firstly


    the ‘Guarantee Society’ protocol (and Clearing Union mechanism) which redefines the monetary relationship and secondly


    the ‘Capital Partnership’ protocol which redefines the property relationship and enables the creation of a ‘Natural Grid’ of energy production and distribution which enables resource resilience.

    Both are collaborative protocols, and there is no role in either for a rentier middleman who extracts ‘something for nothing’ in the form of economic rent aka interest (money for the use of money) or ‘shareholder value’ profit in excess of cost.

    Neither of these protocols necessarily involves a gift, although I have long said that it is possible – probably with different metrics – to exchange the spiritual and emotional value of giving for conventional forms of value.

    Both of these protocols for creation and exchange of value require a unit of account, and certainly in the transitional economy I envisage, I think we will see the standard unit of measure – so frequently confused with the units of currency exchanged by reference to it – consisting of the only objective absolute there is ie a unit of energy.

    Through introducing, consensually adopting and networking these simple protocols ‘bottom up’ I believe we will see the emergence of a collaborative, decentralised and dis-intermediated knowledge-based and energy-denominated economics of abundance to replace our existing competitive, centralised and intermediated deficit-based (upon bank credit) economics of scarcity.

  5. Chris Cook

    By way of a codicil, you will see that in a credit clearing system people-based credit may be created, cleared (the Guarantee Society) and settled without the use of currency at all – that is of course through the generation of Ripple-style settlement chains, but with the difference being that these chains originate in the value of a promise by a productive individual to provide goods and services in the future, rather than a unit based upon PAST rather than future use of energy and IP.

    I believe this transcends your (quite correct) objection to the market mechanism where commodities are exchanged for money in the form of credit objects.

    As John Law put it, money is not the value we exchange goods FOR, but the value we exchange goods BY. So a market where exchanges are made of ‘money’s worth’ (eg commodities)- on credit terms – by reference to a monetary unit of account are not the same as those where commodities are exchanged for money as a credit object.

    Of course, such people-based credit clearing is made easier through the use of generally acceptable/fungible currency, and that is why equitable access to land and energy-based currency – through equitable sharing of the fruits of the commons – is ALSO necessary.

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