Following the relational typology of Alan Page Fiske http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Relational_Model_Typology_-_Fiske, there are four intersubjective modes which have existed cross-culturally and historically: equality matching (gift economy), authority ranking (feudal-type structures), market pricing, and communal shareholding (according to us: P2P). Societies have always been a mix, but it can be argued that historically we have seen a succession of dominant forms: the gift economy in the tribal era, authority ranking in feudalism, market pricing in capitalism, and my hypothesis is that communal shareholding forms may dominate in a future ‘P2P-oriented era’.
But if they have always co-existed, it may be illusory to aim for a stateless and marketless society, rather, we should expect states and markets to continue to exist in some form or other, but informed and trans-formed by P2P principles. A current example is fair trade, a form of market that aims to become independent of pure power relations by negotiating with both producers and consumers. I consider the new forms of social entrepreneurship, and even base of the pyramid approaches of inclusional capitalism, to be part of that general trend, whereby market forms are starting to be informed and transformed by the partnership principle (of course, in the current context, subsumed to various degree to the dominant economic logic still).
The open questions is therefore: can we have markets without the unsustainability of the capitalist format and its attendent biospheric destruction and social and psychic dislocation?
Perhaps one thing we can do is learn from pre-capitalist markets?
This is why I find the following passage by Robert Brenner so interesting, because it explains the different place of the market in the non-capitalist forms of society that preceded ours.
Mute summarizes Brenner’s position:
“Exchange-based production existed in many pre-capitalist societies before taking root in early modern Europe.Because pre-capitalist societies are fundamentally agrarian, both exploiters and direct producers have access to their own means of subsistence. ‘As a result’, writes Brenner,
their survival and reproduction is not dependent on the sale of their products on the market; consequently they do not have to compete in terms of productive powers.
Under these conditions, ‘the market exerts no pressure toward the continual revolution of the means of production’. According to Brenner, ‘[t]he increase of relative surplus labor cannot become a systematic feature of such modes of production’. Brenner also notes that there is a bias in pre-capitalist societies toward the realisation of ‘absolute’, as opposed to ‘relative’, surplus value. Because labour is compulsory for serfs and slaves, lords and masters tend to extract additional surplus labour by lengthening the working day or extending the corvée, rather than through technological innovation. As a result, there is little reason to invest profits in the development of productive forces. ‘Rather than being accumulated, economic surplus is here systematically diverted from reproduction to unreproductive labor’.
Brenner, following Marx, argues that capitalism emerges only when labourers are both free to sell their labour power on the market as a commodity, and compelled to do so in order to survive.”
So at the very least, we can see that markets have existed, and can exist, but subsumed to another dominant economic model, which is an important point to prove. Of course, as pointed out by Brenner, in a feudal model, its benefits will be used largely by the dominant class in that system.
A market in a peer to peer society would of course have to be beneficial first of all to the peer producers themselves.
We do not really have a model for this, apart from peer-arbitraged fair trade, which benefits cooperative producers (and not peer producers), but the Linux economy shows us the emergent practice of benefit sharing, i.e. companies that benefit from the peer producing commons give back to it by sustaining the infrastructure of cooperation for that peer production to occur. This is good as far as it goes, as it does not by itself put an end to the biospheric destruction mechanism caused by the infinite growth mechanism that is contemporary capitalism. So much more thinking and practice is needed, i.e. the practical development of alternative ecologies of exchange, for such non-capitalist markets to emerge.
Resources on transforming markets:
– Market, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Market (and its equity aspects)
– Markets without capitalism, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Markets_without_Capitalism
– Non-capitalist markets, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Non-capitalist_Markets (and the view of Gesell)
– Reforming Markets, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Reforming_Markets
– Market Socialism, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Market_Socialism and Self-managed market socialism
– Market aspects of open source, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Open_Source_-_Market_Aspects
– Open Market, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Open_Market
– Market 3.0, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Market_3.0
Resources on transforming capitalism:
– P2P Capitalism, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/P2P_Capitalism
– Cooperative Capitalism, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Cooperative_Capitalism
– Natural Capitalism, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Natural_Capitalism
– Capitalism 3.0, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Capitalism_3.0
– Open Capital, http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Open_Capital (and the Open Capitalist Project)